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The Portuguese Word with No English Translation

There's a concept among Black Brazilians that I can't quite translate from Portuguese to English.

It is the verb 'aquilombar' (ah-keeh-lom-bar).

Enslaved Africans that rebelled and ran away from the Portuguese colonial plantations founded maroon communities called quilombos (keeh-lom-mohs).

These places of refuge fortified themselves against outside threats, and maintained self-sufficiency in order to survive in the dense jungle far away from Portuguese rule.

Within the safety of quilombos, African music, culture, religion, and even languages, thrived.

I find this safety each year at Feira Preta, Brazil's largest festival celebrating Black arts, culture, and entrepreneurship. In essence, it is an urban quilombo.

Founded by Adriana Barbosa more than 20 years ago, its a space for Black joy, wellness, and resistance through the arts and business.

I have previously hated São Paulo. As the world's 12th most populous city, I always felt lost. But this year, it was different.

Reconnecting with the same friends that welcomed me to Brazil during my first visit in 2019, learning about the city's Black history on walking tours , exploring local museums, eating at Black owned restaurants, attended a fashion show soundscaped by Brazil's oldest Black Carnaval group, tasting wine with a Black sommelier, and buying from Black owned businesses, made me feel so damn good!

To aquilombar in a city like São Paulo is an act of resistance and survival.


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