Friday, December 27, 2013
The Guru of Piriapolis resurrects himself when the sun finally shines with warmth on Uruguay’s Rio de la Plata.
He times his annual resuscitation by the sea with the arrival of hordes of vacationers at the end of spring (December in the Southern Hemisphere.)
The guru also introduces himself as a pai de santo, priest of an Afro-Brazilian spiritualism sect. The white pai offers African-based healing to Uruguayans, who are also mostly white (85 to 90%).
He sets up his table for business by the boardwalk as Piriapolis emerges from a gray, rainy winter and spring.
Some vacationers dressed in sweaters walk past him. Others, wearing swimsuits or shorts, sit on lawn chairs, toasting their skin from white to pink and sipping tea from yerba mate pots (photos, top of story.)
Street vendors crop up for the season. “Pop, pop caramelado,” chants a woman carrying a load of candy coated popcorn.
Most of the vendors hawk their wares politely, Uruguayan style. They say, “Buendia (good day.) Excuse me, senora, I am selling these little cakes.”
Vendors from neighboring countries join them. Belen and “Rod Ro” from Argentina sell bead jewelry as well as purses made from recycled materials, such as candy wrappers (photo right.) Two brown-skinned youths from Bahia in northeastern Brazil hoist racks of hammocks on their shoulders.
Meanwhile, drivers in cars with loud speakers ride past them. Their booming voices announce outdoor festivals, such as La Fiesta de la Paella Gigante (the party of the giant paella), the festival that kicks off the summer season.
Several cooks prepare the paella in a pot that stretches across the width of a street (photo above.) The dish feeds 3000 or more people, who line up for several blocks to purchase their portions. Dinner is finally ready as TV cameras focus on the bulldozer that dumps mussels, clams, and scallops on top of the dish (photo below).
By the time the 17th annual paella fiesta comes around, the salty air in Piriapolis is infused with the aroma of blossoms from Persian lilac trees, jasmine, gardenias, flor de la selva and tilo.
The town has turned into a flower garden. The pinks and reds of hibiscus blend with the violet of wisteria and the purple, blue and pink shades of hydrangea (photo below). In that flowery aura, the guru and pai (father in Portuguese) introduces himself in Spanish as Itar Nere, a messenger of faith and light, who has special powers because he was born in India.
According to the story he tells, he was a year old when his Russian father and French mother vacationed with him in Piriapolis in 1933. His parents were struck dead by lightening on the beach, and a local family raised him.
Eventually he roamed around the world for 30 years with circuses as a juggler and trapeze artist, but he returned to Piriapolis, where he makes a home with his five dogs in a tent outside town.
Itar places bead necklaces on his table, green, red, yellow, blue, white (photo below.) He explains the beads are spiritual guides; each color represents a different orixa (deity) of umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian spiritualism sect. A Jesus nailed to a cross sways on a chain on his chest; to umbanda followers, Jesus is also the deity Oxala. Each umbanda deity corresponds to a Catholic saint and has two names, including one that originated in the Yoruba language.
Practitioners of Afro-Brazilian spiritualism sects in Uruguay support several temples in the capital, Montevideo, as well as Radio America 1450 AM. They also leave offerings on beaches for the goddess of the water, Iemanja: blue and white flowers and beads, candles, cakes, sometimes a sacrificed chicken.
Itar is not just a pai; he also calls himself a curandero and psychic, tells fortunes with shells and tarot cards, and imparts energy from rocks. He offers all of those services in one session for 200 pesos (about $9.30).
He contends there are “tremendous energies” in Piriapolis between the sea and the circle of hills around it. (More than 100 years ago, the founder of Piriapolis, a mystic, said he chose the location to create a resort because of that energy. See upcoming story on Earthy Reporter.)
Itar ends his session with blessings in the names of the Holy Spirit and Pai Ogum. He gazes directly at a client with his green eyes and a third green “eye” made of stone that he wears on his forehead.
“Be happy,” he urges. “Even when you are unhappy, be happy.”
Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter, copyright 2013