|Baía das Gatas: festive atmosphere despite financial crisis and swine flu|
The 25th edition of the Baía das Gatas festival begins today. Prospects for festiveness are promising, despite the international financial crisis, the danger of swine flu and the death earlier this week of festival mainstay Biús. The three-day celebration of music, which this year will take place on a new and better-located stage, is expected to draw thousands to the village of Baía das Gatas on the island of São Vicente.
Auto rental companies have no reason to complain this weekend. Island residents, vacationing émigrés and foreigners requiring rent-a-car services often result in a demand that the island’s supply is unable to satisfy, and not even the competition from unregulated renters is able to wither the rental companies’ enthusiasm.
The island’s hotels and restaurants are experiencing a similar situation. August, and particularly the days leading up to the Baía das Gatas festival, is when the greatest number of tourists come to the island of São Vicente in search of beaches, music and fun, even if in the weeks following the movement business drops to near zero.
Local stores and shops also take advantage of this time of year to do business and sell beachwear and summer products.
And, as Baía das Gatas is a festival of the people, informal vendors, small businessmen and van, bus and taxi owners all take the opportunity to do some business. Indeed, as one local resident noted, “even if all you have is 250 escudos, you can still debut a new bikini at the Baía das Gatas festival.”
Vasco Martins, one of the founders of the Baía das Gatas festival, will inaugurate the new festival stage at 7:00 pm today, accompanied by Portuguese string quartet Artzen, with a concert especially conceived to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the event.
The first night of the festival also includes performances by The Kings, Nova Ideia, the Cantar Cabo Verde project (which groups together artists such as Bau, Voginha, Hernany, Naldina Fortes, Gardénia Benrós and Sãozinha Fonseca), Vlú and Splash.
Beginning at 8:00 pm Saturday, French group Tam Tam 2000, Angola’s Yuri da Cunha, Brazil’s Só Pra Contrariar, French Antilles group Face a Face and Jamaica’s Anthony B will do their best to please the crowd. On Sunday, the last day of the festival, the stage will belong to Cesária Évora, Font Flip Unid, Soft, Matthew Lee (Italy), Nancy Vieira and Constantino Cardoso.
Despite the revelry, there are security measures to be taken into consideration in order to ensure that congeniality and conviviality reign supreme at the 25th edition of Baía das Gatas. In order to guarantee festival-goers’ safety, all of São Vicente’s active National Police officers – more than 100 – will be on duty. The contingent was reinforced with 20 officers from Praia and seven from Santo Antão. In addition, the policing of the island’s roads is more complex, due to the recently-opened Calhau-Baía das Gatas road. According to National Police official Tito Barros, there will be “zero tolerance” of traffic law transgressions.
The festival grounds themselves will also merit special attention on the part of the National Police, as, with the new location of the stage, the area in which the public will be circulating is now larger. “We estimate that the daily flow of people will surpass 80,000, which is more than in previous years,” affirmed Barros.
The local Health Department delegation will be present at this year’s festival in order to attend to suspected cases of swine flu (H1N1 virus). According to São Vicente Health Department delegate José Manuel d’Aguiar, health authorities are concerned with the arrival in São Vicente and Cape Verde of a “large contingent” of people coming from countries affected by the epidemic to spend their vacation. The festival itself is “conducive” to the propagation of the virus.
“The fact that we have this large agglomeration of people at Baía will require special attention on the part of health professionals, but it will also require responsible behavior on the part of all,” according to the Health Department delegate.
According to José Manuel d’Aguiar, various work groups will be formed of Red Cross volunteers, nurses, laboratory technicians and physicians, who will circulate around the festival grounds and will have a special section set aside for them in the Red Cross tents.