The city of Rio de Janeiro is known worldwide for its natural beauty and picturesque landscapes that attract huge tourist potential. The stunning postcards are often a distraction from the big issues and stories that can lie beneath the green of the dense forests and natural parks that populate much of the city. This is the case of Monte Cardoso Fontes, a sacred place for evangelicals and located within the Tijuca Forest Park, one of the most famous tourist spots and which is in the heart of Rio de Janeiro linking two of the main neighborhoods of the city.
In a small gap in the protection grid that borders the Grajaú-Jacarepaguá highway, one of the main roads in the city, it is the entrance to a sacred world for spiritual transcendence. A secret place and unknown to the general population, but not to evangelicals. It is at the Sacred Mount Cardoso Fontes that the faithful seek to be closer to God. Nature shows itself as a character and also as a tool to reach the spiritual or extra physical realm. At the site, we have the meeting of Baruch Spinoza's philosophy when he says that God is nature or God is in nature, with biblical teachings from the Old Testament. It's this conceptual mix that makes the place, if not very special, at least very interesting.
The climb to the top of the hill can take over two hours and is done through steep, closed paths into the forest. To reach the top means to be even closer to God. Obviously not just for the height, but for the sacrifice. One goes up in fasting and in prayer. Sacrifice is the key for those who want to reach the spiritual transcendence necessary to have greater intimacy with the supreme entity. Bringing perspective to more mundane concepts, the hike to the highest point can feel like you're in a Fellini movie. There are high-pitched voices in prayer and intense chants that seem to be coming from the trees that inhabit the sacred mount. Not to mention the unusual scenes found in each camp or open space that are used for moments of trance, prayer, rituals, and even for a well-deserved rest.
You don't go to the sacred mount only by desire. According to the evangelicals who most frequent the place, it is necessary to receive a divine call. Or if you go with a purpose. Neo-Pentecostalism, one of the new strands within the evangelical religion, has as its precept the “spiritual war”, a very Manichean vision of good against evil and also the theory of prosperity, where God would help you to prosper mainly in material needs. All this makes the place very different, where there are people looking to find God or solve a love problem. There are people camping for days on a fast to hear from God and there are also people who are looking for help to pay a late bill. Not to mention people seeking a cure for the disease, there are reports of people being cured of cancer, or just asking God for a family member with problems to follow the right path in life. There are also miracles which make the mount very visited. It is in these situations that complex and interesting characters are found, such as Pastor José Manoel, who suffered from knee pain and could barely walk, and today, after attending the place, he climbs daily to the top with his 70s. years old. There is also Pastor Luís, of indigenous origin from the Pataxó ethnic group, who, because he was abandoned by his family and suffered prejudice for being indigenous, now finds himself in the evangelical religion and deeply understands the relationship between nature and the spiritual world.
Rio de Janeiro is the state with the largest evangelical population in absolute numbers in Brazil. A population that today represents more than 30% of Brazilians according to the 2014 census, that is, approximately 45 million people. Experts say that around 2032 it will be the religion with the most representatives, surpassing the Catholic which today has a majority. Since the arrival of the first missionaries at the beginning of the 20th century, the religion has taken on very Brazilian nuances and nowadays it is observed and identified in much of the history of Brazil. When carefully observed, one understands a lot about Brazil as a whole and helps us to explain the current situation in which it crosses the country. All this representation is seen not only in the outskirts or favelas of big cities but mainly in the spheres of government power. Leaders occupy legislative and federal government positions with an expressive caucus and constitute controversial laws generating concern and debates throughout the country.
Given all this controversy, the evangelical population, which is mostly made up of a peripheral, “favelados” and low-income population, is usually portrayed on top of stereotypes and without any depth. The project's intention is to break with the usual and try to see through the noise the faith that really moves people. This sacred mount is practically a secret place, and it seems an attempt to challenge the dogmas of the religion itself and abandon the churches and be integrated with nature. The visual approach is intended to create a timeless environment or if time is suspended and for a brief moment we can breathe and focus on what is really important. The mysteries and diverse expressions of nature are interpreted by evangelicals as divine signs and turn any moment into strong metaphors. The ambition of the images is to make the viewer enter a journey between mystical and the real, just like a Fellini film, as mentioned above. It is extremely necessary to understand an exponentially growing population, to raise questions through changing perspectives to understand the thinking of the other. A way to open a window in time and thus make it possible to understand Brazil.