International Vegetarian Union (IVU)

8 - 14th November 2004
Costão do Santinho Resort & Spa
Santinho Beach - Florianópolis - Brazil

Reflections on the 36th World Vegetarian Congress
- by Gerry Coffey for the Spring 2005 issue of VUNA VIEWS (North America)

Marly Winckler and world-renown songstress Dionne Warwick have a lot in common. They both “Get by with a little help from my friends.” Marly spent two years of her life and called in all her friends’ favors in order to pick up the pieces and make the 36th World Vegetarian Congress-- the first time in South America--a smashing success! Held at the beautiful Costão de Santinho Resort on the Isle of Florianópolis – Brazil, the facilities, overlooking the sea, were spectacular. The varied beauty of Brazil’s landscapes is matched only by its people. No effort was spared to make attendees feel welcome. The diversity of interests regarding animal, human or environmental welfare, were open for discussion and debate on how the advance of vegetarianism can benefit all of them.

Lectures, presentations and food demonstrations --led by world-renown speakers, with simultaneous translations where appropriate—were timely and informative. They were punctuated with food choices that were magnificent in taste and presentation. Each bountiful buffet was a culinary delight. Other thoughtful activities arranged for our indulgence included yoga at sunrise, dancing, cruelty-free fashion shows (viewed by over a thousand people), hikes up the hillside overlooking the ocean, bus trips around the island, and always-- the wondrous seascapes.

The balmy weather wasn’t always quite so, but rain or shine, F.A.R.M. President, Alex Hershaft, took his morning dip. We less hardy ones settled for walking on the beach, running or yoga. The lazy ones slept in but usually timed it so they didn’t miss a fabulous breakfast.
Because the conference was set in such a beautiful resort area, it was difficult to believe the post-conference tours could be more exciting, but trips to Iguazu Falls (“Big Waters”) and Rio were truly awesome. The late American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, summed it up succinctly after witnessing this wonder of nature: “Poor Niagra,” she said. Indeed, whoever decided on the Seven Wonders of the World must not have seen Iguazu. Words and pictures cannot begin to do it justice.

On our arrival in Rio, one of Marly’s friends reported Marly had just called: “Take good care of my children,” she was advised. We “children,” can attest to a job well done! Our hotel in Rio was on the famous Copacabana Beach! Using that as a home base, we took in the sights by day and the nightlife in the evening. A friend of Marly’s arranged for us to see an exclusive “Carnival” (Mardi Gras) rehearsal.

Hundreds of people doing the “Samba” is quite an experience. Eighty year-old George Pelton, from Denver, Colorado, said he didn’t know women could gyrate in so many places at one time. George put everyone to shame the next night at one of Rio’s popular nightspots. He was the “Fred Astaire” of the evening and danced with just about every woman from
the bus;-)

Speaking of which, even the bus trips were lively: VUNA Councilor Dilip Barman kept us in stitches with his corny “Vegan” jokes. (Maybe he’ll share them in a future VUNA VIEWS). Newly elected IVU Deputy Chair, Saurabh Dalal, took on the role of a dutiful shepherd, keeping count of his “sheep” at every bus stop. That was not easy considering he and
several others, including VUNA’s resident “Shrink,” Kay Sheehan, watched the dawn come up a few times.

And though Brazil and its people are an ocean away, the memories will sustain us forever, thanks to Marly and a “…little help from her friends.” If you ever come our way, there’s a “Welcome Mat” out in Alabama.” --Gerry Coffey

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