The heroes of Buzios

Buzios, a small town just a couple of hours’ drive along the coast from Rio de Janeiro, is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Brazil.

In the 17th century, French pirates first sought shelter in Buzios’s quiet coves. Along with the Dutch and the Portuguese, they made it a whaling and slaving station. Slavery, on which the economy was based, is still commemorated by a “slaves’ graveyard” up the hill beside the little fishermen’s church of Santa Ana.

Jump a century and, in 1964, the French returned, courtesy of Brigitte Bardot on an extended holiday. Today the actress is commemorated in the numerous esplanades, night-clubs, and hotels named after her, and in a life-size sculpture. The bronze, by Christina Motta, shows her in the familiar jeans and matelot shirt, straw hat in hand and seated on her suitcase.

In the recent past, until the collapse of the Argentinian economy, Buzios became the preferred holiday haunt of thousands of inhabitants of Buenos Aires while nowadays the town is mostly visited by European and North-American tourists.Many of them will have their photo snapped sitting alongside Brigitte Bardot and will miss a small road — almost hidden and little or no reported — where there is a colorful celebration of human resilience.

It’s a permanent outdoor exhibition that displays soulful portraits — painted by an artist called Wulza — of the “Heroes of Buzios”: all the fishermen who have lost their lives at sea “to feed their family and to keep high their dignity”.

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