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World March Blog
26 December 2009

Little London

After enjoying the smooth organisation of the events in Sao Paulo and the festive spirit of Rio, part of the Atlantic team travelled to Londrina, in the Southern Brazilian state of Paraná. Together with us travelled the families of Glenda de la Fuente, Atlantic route coordinator of the march, and Ricardo Marcianesi, the coordinator of the march in Rio and Brasilia; Ricardo was the one who got in contact with peace activists in Londrina to organize the march, and connected Londrina to the map of the march.

Londrina is a new city – founded 75 years ago by British settlers, who gave it the name Little London, in Portuguese Londrina. The city grew quickly with the arrival of immigrants from several European countries and continues to be a growing and thriving economy. Lots of Japanese, as well as Brazilians from nearby zones, have also moved in to this city with 500.000 inhabitants and a prestigious University; still, the vast majority of the population is of European descent. The contrast to the northern zones of Brazil, where the indigenous and African descent is prevalent, is striking. As Londrina was founded long after the times where Africans were imported as slaves, the northern pattern of white masters and black servants is not visible here. The indigenous guarani population of Paraná was mostly chased away by the slave-hunters already long before the founding of Londrina, and those who remain today (or have returned – I’m not quite clear on the whole story), live in a reservate where they can live partly in their traditional ways and partly integrated to the system of the city, state and country founded by European settlers. The entire State of Paraná has these characteristics of being European and also affluent in comparison to the average of Brazil.

Our stay in Londrina was hosted by Luis Claudio Galhardi, who has for several years been building a network called COMPAZ – Municipal council of culture of peace, and an organization called Londrina Pazeando, whose objective is “to build a culture of peace and nonviolence in Londrina.” Luis Claudio is a very warm personality who is himself a living example of the culture that the organization wishes to build. This year Londrina Pazeando / COMPAZ organized an event of a human chain, where they “hugged” a lake in a park by the center of Londrina. To circle the entire lake and to cover 2,5 kilometres, they would need 2500 persons: this year they managed to bring 700 persons there on 20.9., during the “week of peace” promoted by the municipality. Next year, we’re hoping this objective will be fulfilled.

We arrived on a night bus (without enough leg space for a certain tall Nordic body) and so first Luis Claudio took us to the accommodation to rest for a while. What a contrast to the routine of big cities it was! Luis had arranged an entire bus for us, though we were only twelve persons, and the bus drove outside the city and in country roads that quickly got smaller until driving carefully over a precarious wooden bridge and arriving to a hideout in a beautiful green valley.

After rest, we came back to the city and were received… by the military police! We’re trying in this small team of marchers to bring each of us to talk publicly so that we can learn, and it was my turn on this first occasion of the day. The situation was a surprise – the reception by the military police and someone in a suit – I had expected that we were going to meet the Mayor and I wasn’t quite sure from where the person in suit was; it appeared that he was some kind of a representative of the Mayor, but why was he here with the military police..? In any case, since we had agreed that I should mention the necessity of the media to change the image they show of the society (since the Mayor used to be a journalist in the sensationalist press), I covered that area besides the usual information about the World March. The person in suit was the Secretary of Security of the municipality, so I had understood it more or less correctly, as he works in the cabinet of the Mayor.

Picture: discussion with the Secretary of Security and the military police

Then, a friendly military police gave us a praising lecture on Londrina, and after discussing with him (and also finding out that even in Londrina there is violence and some problems, though the economic situation of the majority of the population is quite good), in the barracks of the military police we were offered a simple but tasty lunch. In Londrina (I don’t know how it is in the rest of Brazil or Paraná) the military police is a preventive police force, they explained, in contrast to the civil police, which is investigative and works with the judicial system.

From there, we went to see the lake, where Luis Claudio and friends made their human chain. Some other pacifists met us there, including the enthusiastic doctor Ricardo Sahao, who lives just next to the lake and works in the hospital that is also there, by the lake. In the front-yard of the hospital Ricardo has created an inspiring “Philosophical garden” with installations of song words like those of Imagine, and a Tree of human values, and so on.

In the City Hall we were received by the Vice-Mayor, as the Mayor was at that moment in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. A group of young musicians participating in the campaign “Project Happy Child” played to us classical music pieces starting with the “Ode to Joy.” Then Andres spoke a few words, basing his speech on the point that even though one would have their personal problems solved, one should not be indifferent to the problems in the world around one. How could Andres, as a Colombian, be indifferent to the discrimination and problems of the African-descent population in Brazil? How could Brazilians be indifferent when foreign military bases are installed in Colombia, against the will of the majority of the Colombian population? As a North European, I feel that the social problems we have, are often related to indifference and isolation, and if Londrina is a mini version of a North European city, maybe they do have those same problems – people becoming cynical and discriminating?

After some interviews with the press, it was time to march – here the march was a caravan with cars, to a square where before Christmas there was a stage and an event every evening at 19:00 and usually there would be about a thousand people. However, here the tropical rain started pouring. Our caravan rode through the buckets of rain, with the fire department truck leading, all cars lights blinking and our bus with big flags waving from the windows, that at the same time we had to keep closed.

When we came to the square, the rain stopped for a while, so we could take a walk, but there was no people and so we left quite soon after. The square itself was a picturesque place with big shintoist gates, a japanese-style garden and oriental lanterns hanging from the metallic Christmas tree; the square had been founded on the centenary of Japanese immigration to Brazil, 1908-2008, inaugurated by President Lula and Naruhito, the Prince of Japan.

After some playing together and singing in a hall nearby, our evening ended with a dinner of camaraderie, where also Luis Claudio’s sons recorded some interviews of the participants. The sons had been with us the whole day, filming the events, so that we hope to see their videos soon!

Lastly I would like to add that we were greatly inspired by the little comic books which promote peace and nonviolence, that Luis Claudio has written and Elvis Vinicius has illustrated. I’m attaching here an image from one made in 2005; it bears resemblance with a certain logo!

Map of Brazil with streams for other cities walking for peace to Londrina (or from Londrina)

Map of Brazil with streams for other cities walking for peace to Londrina (or from Londrina)

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