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providing a haven in the face of racial inequality and societal hardship. Together, they have created a sustainable lifestyle that continues to prudently utilize the riches of the land around them.
During my visit I saw how the men, women, and children of this community make herbal cough and cold syrup from herbs such as eucalyptus along with ginger and other nearby ingredients. The quilombo was filled with palm trees, and the residents showed us how they make dende, palm oil from the palm fruit (for cooking), as well palm kernel oil from the palm kernel (for skin care). From Yucca Root or Cassava, they make Farinha, a flour that is used in cooking and also as a condiment for completed dishes. They also harvest a delicious local Mel, or honey, made from bees that pollinate eucalyptus and other herbal plants. Each and every ingredient is organic, harvested from their land, and used to sustain the community.
I tell this story, not to exoticize their lifestyle, but to shed light on how we can be so focused on finding our needs in certain forms (for example, in bottles on shelves) that we can miss out on the beauty and provision right under our noses. For the few dozen people who live in this community, their lifestyle is an example of how we can utilize what is around us instead of always looking to physical and digital shelves for our daily needs. This, of course, takes some education and dedication to cultivating the earth around us and to creating a sustainable life.
I finally did find that natural beauty store – but only by happenstance. I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant near Praça de Se, but sadly we missed each other. After looking around our meeting spot, I saw a local mall and decided to go inside. To my surprise, I found a health store, Mundo Verde, which sold Maracujá oil and several essential oils such as amyris, lime, orange, and eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, geranium, and several others. Even with the exchange rate, the prices were still much higher than I was used to paying in the US for similar products (The exception being maracujá oil, which was less expensive).
The other oils that the shop stocked were copaiba balsam and sweet almond oils, but since I use these oils regularly and know what to expect, I did not purchase them because they lacked the scent and color of unrefined, cold-pressed oils. I did purchase some clays (red, yellow and green) as well as 2 delicious-smelling maracujá soaps, assorted herbs such as tanchagem (plantain), gingko biloba, and macela, grape and maracujá powders, and raw honey infused with propolis and lotus extracts.
Since I was just learning Portuguese and even though I picked it up much more quickly than expected due to my Spanish fluency, I still did not know the specialized language of herbs and oils in Portuguese. I relied, instead, on my familiarity with Latin names for herbs, oils, and other ingredients to purchase what I needed, as these were frequently noted on the product labels (thank goodness!).
In the end, I found what I was looking for and so much more. My commitment to self-sufficiency and sustainability has been renewed.