…I was in Brazil to partake in a “peace corps” type project which goal was to reach street youth through circus arts workshops. These activities would be a way to teach the children life skills and introduce them to local shelters and organizations that could become springboards to a better future. Having spent a lot of my youth practicing gymnastics and then becoming a coach, I had been chosen, along with other specialists, to oversee the acrobatics portion of the activities. The close bond we developed with the children and the local street workers accelerated our learning of the Portuguese language, our integration to day-to-day life in Rio, and gave us a privileged peek into Brazilian culture.
During my stay, I became close friends with a Brazilian social worker whose bohemian mentality and way of life introduced me to a rich artistic sub-culture that gave me insider access to treasured spots and events. He is the one who gave me the “Posto Nove” rendez-vous, which at the time struck me by its unusual precision, and later fascinated me by its ability to capture all at once what Rio represents to me: acceptance, hospitality, independence and richness of culture. It is only upon returning to Canada that I discovered that the “Posto Nove” at Ipanema beach was not just any meeting place. It gained notoriety in the 80′s, when a well-known politician named Fernando Gabeira was seen strolling on that stretch of beach in a skimpy bathing suit after returning from forced exile to Europe. In the 60′s, he had taken a US ambassador hostage to free political prisoners in Brazil, which at the time was under dictatorship. This controversial man, for his revolutionary actions but also his eccentric personal life, became the figurehead for many generations of left-wing partisans vying for freedom and idealism.