Natal Brazil

Information about the city of Natal, in Brazil.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

October 3rd, holiday in Natal and RN

Starting this year, October 3rd is a Holiday in Natal and in the Rio Grande do Norte. Private businesses like hotels and restaurants should open as usual, but Government offices should be closed.

This Holiday sparkled a discussion in the city, as can be seen at this article by Tribuna do Norte.

Back in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Portugal and Spain merged into one single Kingdom. Portugal had friendly relationships with Holland, but Spain didn't. When the Spanish King ordered that Brazil ceased to negotiate with Holland, the Dutch invaded Brazil and occupied Olinda and Recife, from 1630 to 1654. To consolidade the domination, the Dutch attempted to expand their ruling to neighbor areas (in this process, they also took Natal and founded Fortaleza).

On July 16th 1645, the Dutch soldiers and their Indian allies attacked a church in Cunhaú and killed 69 people who were attending a mass. On October 3rd 1645, another attack, this time in Uruaçu, killed another 80 people; these people were given the chance to survive, provided they accepted to abandon Portugal and Catholicism, and became loyal to Holland and Protestantism; they refused, and were killed.

In 1989, a process started to canonize (declare Saints) those people who were killed. In 1998, the Pope declared some people (those who could be identified) Martyr. In 2000, they were beatified. The process is still going on, but there is no prevision about when they will be Saintified.

So, what's the fuss about?

First off, this is a Catholic celebration; Catholics argue that this demonstration of courage deserves to be remembered (and deserves a Holiday). But, since 1889, Brazil doesn't have an official religion (during the Brazilian Empire, from 1822 to 1889, Catholicism was official; the Empire funded the Church, and in turn had strong influence on the Bishops); Catholicism is still predominant, but Protestantism is the religious group which grows the fastest. So, critics say, there is no need to make this celebration day a Holiday for people of all religions.

Besides, there is the economic factor. Private shops will open, but employers must pay extra to staff; and if anyone needs the Government, will have to wait. Brazil is probably one of the countries with the highest number of Holidays in the World; to name just a few: Sept. 7th was a National Holiday, and so will be October 12th and November 2nd (and on top of that, everyone has 30 days of paid yearly vacations, plus 10 extra days of salary). In such a poor, low productivity country, each Holiday means less welfare in the future.