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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

Wine and cauim

French Calvinist, Jean de Léry was born in 1534 and died in 1611. As a young man, he was part of an expedition to Brazil and lived here from February 1557 to January 1558. Years later he write an account of that trip and stay in Brazil, published by first time in 1578. The work aroused enormous interest, having successive editions and translations and is of the greatest importance for our history, figuring as a star of first magnitude in Brasiliana Bibliography. The Portuguese translation by Sérgio Milliet is entitled Viagem à Terra do Brasil; Rubens Borba de Moraes says about it: “Lery has an exceptional value as a historical, ethnographic and even musical document. In his book there are two Tupi chants: the oldest documents we have of our American music. In his pages written with a delicious flavor, in the picturesque language nowadays of the 16th century is the whole history of the failed Antarctic France “.

A dozen wine references justify its presence at BVReppucci. One of it seems curious and unusual. Léry speaking about cauim, the famous indigenous drink, says:

“Before I finish this subject and in order for readers to be convinced that if they [the indigenous] had wine at ease, they would wipe the glass gallantly. I will tell you a tragicomic story that in his village told me a mussacá, that is, a good and hospitable family man:

‘Once, he said in his harsh language, we caught a Portuguese caravel by surprise in which, after all the men had been killed and eaten and the existing merchandise collected, we found large vats full of drink which we soon tried to taste. I don’t know what quality of cauim it was, or if you have it in your country; I can only say that after drinking, we stayed for three days so prostrate and asleep, that we couldn’t wake up.’

It is probable that it were vats of good wine from Spain, with which the savages, without knowing it, celebrated Bacchus. It is no wonder then that our man had felt so suddenly stunned.

To people who, in view of what I said above about chewing the roots and corn in the preparation of the drink, get sick and swallow, I remember the way in which wine is made among us. For if we keep in mind that in the places where good vineyards grow, the vineyards, at the time of the harvest, get into the vats and barrels and with their beautiful feet, sometimes in shoes, they hurt the grapes and still dirty it in the presses, we will see that in this process many things happen that are perhaps less pleasant than the chewing of American women. It can be said that wine, when souring and fermenting, throws away all impurity; in fact, cauim is also purged...”

Translated by Google Translate.

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