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Brazil Journey Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Street vendors fight for fritter monopoly
Aracruz: An 87 year-old Tupiniquim Indian leader says he can't write and won't vote Canudos: Paulo meets island-dwelling Marciano, who follows a 19th Century messianic leader Salvador: Traditional street vendors want a president who will give them a monopoly on bean fritters Pernambuco: A community descended from escaped slaves fights for access to its own land Eldorado dos Carajas: Where land reform has brought soaring crime Serra Pelada: Small-scale gold diggers win a 10-year mining rights battle Brasil Novo: A remote jungle town longs for electricity and a surfaced road Santarem: Canvassing votes by river boat at the heart of the Amazon jungle Belém: The city where a councillor with one arm is spearheading the fight for disability rights Belém-Brasilia highway: Two days with a trucker on Brazil's damaged and bandit-ridden roads Brasilia: The scavengers who live off the capital's waste Sao Paulo: The city 'island' dwellers who will have to travel for four hours to vote

Report three: Salvador

As Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral travels through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle to find out what 21st Century politics mean in the Brazil that normally goes unreported.

The "baianas" of Salvador hope the election will give them a chance to secure a monopoly on the regional dish they sell in the city's streets.

Baiana Hoqueline Reis, aged 25
Baiana Hoqueline Reis wearing the traditional white dress
Traditionally the street vendors, clad in white dresses, sell the local speciality of acaraje - bean fritters - from wooden boards to passers by.

Clarice dos Anjos, president of the Baianas of Acaraje Association (ABA), says the group is backing electoral candidates which have promised to take to Congress a bill that forbids the selling of acaraje in markets and restaurants.

"This is a big shots' fight, because some politicians are also restaurant owners," she says.

"We want a law that guarantees that acaraje can only be sold in the traditional way, from the baiana's board."

Clarice told me the main weapons of the baianas in their struggle are "the quality of the service and the tradition of the white dress and the board".

Clarice dos Anjos, president of the Baianas of Acaraje Association
Clarice dos Anjos: "This is a big shots' fight"
"But in this struggle we also need a little help from up there," she adds, gesturing heavenwards.

In these elections, the ABA president says she would rather support candidates who are from the current government coalition.

"I'm concerned about who might help my work sector," she says.

"I can't support the opposition, because it's the current government that is able to solve our problems for now. If one day the opposition gets there, we will change our support as well."

Competition

Clarice said that the selling of acaraje has changed over time. Historically, it was linked to African and religious traditions, but now has become a livelihood in its own right.

Baiana Angelica de Oliveira
Angelica de Oliveira: "I don't even watch the campaign on TV"
"To sell the acaraje is nowadays a way of subsistence for the baianas - so we must mix acaraje with politics," she said.

Margarita Souto, one of the baianas, has been selling acaraje for 45 years in the historic centre of Salvador.

She complained that business has become harder in recent years.

"There are a lot of people selling acaraje. Today, if I take 20 Brazilian reals [about £4], I raise my hands to thank to heaven," she says.

The wooden board veteran does not believe that the presidential elections can help to improve the life of the baianas.

"It won't change anything, everything will stay the same."

Optimism

Another baiana, Angelica de Oliveira, who has spent 32 years in the business, also wants limits on who sells the traditional dish.

"Otherwise, the baianas will soon be finished," she said.

Presidential election
First round: 6 October
Run-off: 27 October
Key candidates

Key presidential candidates:

Jose Serra - ruling centrist coalition
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Workers' Party
Ciro Gomes - centre-left Labour Front coalition
Anthony Garotinho - Socialist Party candidate
But she expects little from the presidential candidates. "I don't even watch the campaign on the TV," she said.

Hoqueline Reis, 25, has been selling acaraje since she was 12. She says the baianas need permission to sell their wares in prime spots and better treatment by the city's authorities.

Hoqueline says she has not yet chosen her candidates.

But, unlike her older colleagues, she is more optimistic about the elections.

"I do hope things get better. I don't know if they will, but I hope so," she said.


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See also:

20 Aug 02 | Americas
19 Jul 02 | Americas
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