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the mount

The city of Rio de Janeiro is renowned worldwide for its natural beauty and picturesque landscapes, attracting immense tourist potential. The captivating postcards often serve as a distraction from the profound issues and stories that may lie beneath the lush greenery of the dense forests and natural parks that characterize much of the city. This holds true for Monte Cardoso Fontes, a sacred site for evangelicals located within the Tijuca Forest Park—one of the city's most famous tourist spots and situated in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, linking two of its primary neighborhoods.

In a small opening within the protective grid bordering the Grajaú-Jacarepaguá highway—one of the city's main thoroughfares—lies the entrance to a sacred realm, a sanctuary for spiritual transcendence. A clandestine and unfamiliar place to the general population, it holds profound significance for evangelicals. The Sacred Mount Cardoso Fontes is where the faithful seek closeness to God, where nature manifests itself as both a character and a tool to access the spiritual or extra-physical realm. The site embodies a convergence of Baruch Spinoza's philosophy, asserting that God is nature or within nature, with teachings from the Old Testament. This conceptual amalgamation renders the place, if not overtly special, at least exceedingly intriguing.

The ascent to the hilltop can extend beyond two hours, traversing steep, secluded paths within the forest. Reaching the summit signifies proximity to God, not merely due to elevation but also through sacrifice. Ascending involves fasting and prayer, with sacrifice being the key for those seeking spiritual transcendence to establish a profound connection with the supreme entity. In a departure from mundane concepts, the climb to the highest point may evoke a sensation akin to being in a Fellini movie. Echoes of high-pitched voices in prayer and intense chants emanate from the sacred mount's trees. Unusual scenes unfold in each camp or open space, serving as venues for moments of trance, prayer, rituals, and well-deserved rest.

A pilgrimage to the sacred mount is not driven solely by desire. According to evangelicals who frequent the site, one must receive a divine call or embark on the journey with a specific purpose. Neo-Pentecostalism, a recent strand within evangelicalism, emphasizes the concept of "spiritual war," portraying a Manichean vision of good versus evil, along with the theory of prosperity—where God aids in material prosperity. These distinctive features make the place a unique setting, attracting individuals seeking God or solutions to personal challenges. Some camp for days, fasting to hear from God, while others seek assistance with overdue bills. Miraculous healings further contribute to the sacred Mount's popularity. In such situations, intriguing characters emerge, such as Pastor José Manoel, who, despite suffering from knee pain and limited mobility, now ascends daily to the summit in his 70s after attending the site. Additionally, Pastor Luís, of indigenous Pataxó origin, abandoned by his family due to prejudice against his indigenous identity, has found solace in the evangelical religion and deeply comprehends the relationship between nature and the spiritual world.

Rio de Janeiro boasts the highest evangelical population in absolute numbers in Brazil. This population, representing over 30% of Brazilians, is projected to become the majority religion by 2032, surpassing Catholicism. Since the arrival of the first missionaries in the early 20th century, evangelicalism has acquired distinctly Brazilian nuances, playing a significant role in the nation's history. Observing it closely provides insights into Brazil as a whole and helps explain the current state of the country. The evangelical influence extends not only to the outskirts or favelas of major cities but also permeates government power structures. Leaders from the evangelical community hold key positions in legislative and federal government bodies, shaping controversial laws and sparking debates nationwide.

Amidst all the controversy, the evangelical population, primarily composed of peripheral, favela-dwelling, and low-income individuals, is often portrayed through stereotypes and without depth. The project aims to challenge these stereotypes, offering a nuanced perspective of the faith that genuinely motivates people. The sacred mount, essentially a clandestine space, appears as an endeavor to challenge the dogmas of the religion itself, urging believers to abandon traditional churches and integrate with nature. The visual approach seeks to create a timeless ambiance—a suspension of time for a brief moment to allow viewers to breathe and focus on what truly matters. The mysteries and diverse expressions of nature are interpreted by evangelicals as divine signs, transforming any moment into potent metaphors. The images aspire to immerse the viewer in a journey between the mystical and the real, reminiscent of a Fellini film, as previously mentioned. Understanding this exponentially growing population requires raising questions and altering perspectives to grasp the mindset of others—an avenue to open a window in time and, consequently, comprehend Brazil.

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