Journey into the “little paradise” of the Bolsonarists

The only roundabout in Nova Padua.  on the ground you can read a piece of the city's motto: “the little Italian paradise”.  Basically a closed cooperative.

Vincent Catala / VU for M Le magazine du Monde

Posted at 1:52 p.m. yesterday, updated at 2:53 p.m. yesterday

There are several good reasons to go to Nova Pádua (New Padua). Taste the famous southern wines of the state of Rio Grande do Sul – the best in Brazil. Walking in the footsteps of Italian migrants in Latin America, we will come back to it, and take the opportunity to take a selfie in front of this curious sculpture of a giant polenta pan, located at the entrance of the city. And, finally, discover the city of the country which voted the most in favor of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. 92.96% (or 1,770 votes to be exact, against only 134 to his left-wing opponent, Fernando Haddad, from the Workers’ Party , PT): this is the score obtained in Nova Pádua by the former artillery captain who became president.

By choosing overwhelmingly the extreme right, the small town, lost in the mountains of Serra Gaúcha, has suddenly gone from anonymity to celebrity: it has seen crowds of journalists arrive, eager to understand the roots of the vote in the “Cidade Bolsonaro”.

A green setting

A few days before municipal elections in Brazil, the first round of which is scheduled for November 15, the city has regained its calm. On the slopes of the Rio das Antas (“Tapirs River”), the landscape is all of hills and languid hillsides, interspersed with fields, flowering vines, eucalyptus and pine forests. Araucaria, tree symbol of the Brazilian South which has the shape of a giant menorah. At an altitude of almost 700 meters, the air is fresh, the water is crisp. The sunsets have a magical glow.

Just three hours away from the vibrant capital, Porto Alegre, lies another Brazil. A modest land, needy, often suspicious and silent.

Nestled in this beautiful setting, Nova Pádua, a vast rural municipality, covers 102,000 square kilometers (one hundred times Paris) for only 2,500 souls. Life is organized around the small town center, made up of painted concrete houses and buildings. The streets are clean and often empty. The groves, carefully pruned. There we find the town hall, the church, the post office and the grocery store, but also the RodOil gas station, the Bunai bar, the Hotel Del Miro, the Sicredi bank, the Lezi pajama department store. Everything closes at 9 p.m.

On the heights of the Serra, just three hours’ drive from the vibrant capital, Porto Alegre, lies another Brazil. A modest land, needy, often suspicious and silent. At noon, in the few canteens of the city, the inhabitants, disembarked from the hills or from the surrounding businesses, without a word swallow meat dishes in thick sauce. For dessert, we serve small bowls of sagu, this ultra-sweet wine soup garnished with tapioca starch.

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