International Vegetarian Union (IVU)

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

from IVU Online News, December 2004:


The 36th IVU World Vegetarian Congress has come and gone - Brazil is a wonderful country and few of us wanted to come home again. The final tally was about 500 in residence, representing a record breaking number of 32 different countries. The most frequently heard comment was: "this is the best food ever" (100% vegan of course), and many said that the location was the best ever too - the Costao do Santinho was in an idylic spot on Santa Catarina Island where the tree-covered mountains meet the sea. It has glorious beaches, an amazing variety of wildlife along the woodland trails and facilities of a very high standard in the resort itself. Add to that a tantalising choice of up to five lectures and two cookery demos at every session (in a mixture of English, Portuguese and Spanish), plus dance and fashion shows in the evenings, and there really was something for everyone.

But this Congress may turn out to have been of greater significance, and we need to go back a bit to put it in perspective. The previous 35 IVU Congresses have all been inspiring for those fortunate enough to attend them, but just a few have achieved a wider role - 1908, 1929, 1957 and 1975 are the most obvious of those. That last one, 1975, was held at the University of Orono, in Maine, USA, and was the first IVU Congress ever to be held in North America. About 1,500 visitors were in residence, still a record outside of India, and recent commentators have seen it as the launch pad for organised vegetarianism in the region. There were veg groups in North America before 1975 of course, the first being as far back as 1850, but they were generally rather small and isolated, along with a large number of even more isolated individuals. After Orono hundreds of veg societies sprang up, along with a dozens of conferences, festivals and publications - many of them founded by people who first met at that extraordinary Congress.

It doesn't always turn out that way of course - there were high hopes that the 1999 Congress, held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, would have a similar effect for the South East Asian region as that was the first there too, but there were never more than a few ripples from it. This isn't the place to analyse why it didn't reach its full potential but it does remind us that we have much to learn about such things.

The 2004 Congress already shows signs of having a much wider impact than just one week in Florianópolis. Until the last few years Latin America was rather a 'dead' region for IVU and this was the first time that anything on this scale had been attempted there. It was always going to be a gamble, but the IVU International Council provided as much support as it could, both practical and financial. The Council then, crucially, stood back and allowed the Brazilians space to run their own show - the result is that all the vegetarian leaders in Latin America will have gained enormous strength and confidence from the stunning achievement that was Florianópolis 2004.

The Argentina Vegetarian Society led the way by holding their first, and highly successful, National Congress just before the IVU event, now they have the support of the Vegetarian Union of Latin America (UVL), launched during the Brazil Congress and which is already planning another meeting in Bolivia next year. The new Union was announced during the IVU General Meeting by one of the Spanish speaking delegates, demonstrating the solidarity between the Spanish and Portuguese speaking veg communities.

The dazzling cruelty-free veg fashion shows, held during the Congress, attracted huge audiences from outside the Congress itself and are now set to become an annual event in their own right. But the biggest result of this Congress has to be the wonderful number of young Brazilians in attendance, a great inspiration for the future and the Brazil Vegetarian Society (only founded last year) is now well into planning it's own National Congress in São Paulo next year.

We'll have to wait and see if Florianópolis achieves the full 'Orono effect' for Latin America, but the indications are very promising. It is just possible that, in years to come, those of us privileged to be there will be able to look back at the time we witnessed one of those rare moments that changed the course of vegetarian history.

Some comments from those who were there:

"My husband, mother and I would like to express our deep appreciation to all the organizers of the Brazilian world congress. We are Brazilians who live in the United States and traveled to the congress to support it and to become part of the tradition. We plan to be in India in 2006 and Dresden in 2008. Our decision to be at these subsequent events stems largely from our satisfaction with the Brazil congress. While I did hear some grumblings about a few issues, the overwhelming amount of comments I heard were from people who were very impressed with the food, the surroundings, the sessions, the kindness of people and the wonderful opportunity to be among like-minded souls for a week. I can not begin to imagine the enormous task of planning an event of this magnitude and hope that everyone has an appreciation for the planning of an event like this in Brazil. Of course Brazil has many resources and is a beautiful and hospitable country, but "vegan" and "vegetarian" are not household words by any means. To hold a congress there and to organize every detail must have been a difficult task. My family believes that as travelers one has to remain flexible to unforseen events, have a jovial outlook and even a bit of humour should things not always go one's way and maintain a positive experience in one's own right. That is, the congress was not put in place for us to just take from and be passively entertained by. It was a give and take experience where one gets out what one is willing to put in by way of the heart. The congress left us with happy hearts and we returned reluctantly to the United States. Thanks to all our new friends and to the amazing people we met. Thanks for your kindness, your flexibility, your intelligence and your giving spirit. It was a wonderful experience."

'This was the fifth congress I have attended and certainly the most exciting with a fabulous location and the most amazing vegan food. A great selection of talks was included and we were really spoilt for choice. It's fantastic to see that the congress has led to the formation of a Latin American vegetarian group and they are having a congress next year in Bolivia as well as another congress in Sao Paulo. Fabulous news which goes to prove that Marly and Mirian's timing of the event was just right. The most amazing thing for me was to see so many young people at the event who were all eager to find out more. The future of vegetarianism lies with the young and if this congress is anything to go by the future looks very great indeed. Brazil is a wonderful country with delightful and charming people. This is
what congress is all about, everyone has a great time gaining knowledge and meeting friends old and new but most importantly it should act as a catalyst to promote the wider message of vegetarianism. This has been achieved with a resounding success. Well done to Marly, Mirian and their team."

[We] are exhausted and happy to be home again, but very pleased to have the reminiscence of others to hopefully enable us to also share some of the momentous events of the trip that all came about because Dear Marly "picked up the ball and ran with it."

Now having a fraction of a bit more insight as to what it takes to put on an event of such magnitude, my heart goes out to Marly, and to Tina and Kevin and Peter and all those who have come before them who accepted the challenge.

Though the 36th World Congress is now just memories, the next ones are already on the horizon, and now Jashu will pick up the ball and run with it.

I had a fantastic time at the conference and would really like to congratulate Marly and her team for all the effort they put into organising the event. Given the short amount of time it seems they had to organise it, it worked out brilliantly.

This was my first IVU Congress. For me it was an amazing feeling to meet so many people who were vegetarian and vegan. At home there aren´t that many vegetarians and vegans, much less those who are active, proud, happy, energetic and friendly. I learnt so much from all the speakers and the workshops as well as just from talking to everyone casually.

So thank you everyone for giving me the experience to not feel like a freak for being vegan, to not feel alone, to know that it is okay to be vegan and most importantly to meet and get to share such a wonderful experience with you all. Let me know if you head to Oz.

And the catering was fabulous!

I'm back from the Congress and still feeling wonderful. All the good feelings are still flooding in around me as I think of how wonderful everything and everyone was. From the day I arrived and started seeing familiar faces to the day I left having added more to my vegan and vegetarian family, I'm still on this incredible high. Thanks so much to Mirian and Marly for all their hard work. The resort was beautiful, the food was outstanding, the selection of workshops made it difficult to choose which ones to attend at times and the exhibitors were all interesting. I even smile, although I didn't at the time, when I picture us all pulling our luggage up the hill to the last Inn at the end of our tour. Thanks to everyone.
Until next time.

Thanks, Marly, Mirian, and others who helped make the Florianopolis conference a big success! We had some rocky roads to pass through on the post-Congress tour to Rio and the Falls, but overall it was a great and very memorable trip, and big thanks are due all the

Thanks to everyone at the Congress for an excellent (ótimo) time! I had a blast and was sad to leave. I've been thinking about all I learned a lot... and having to speak to myself in Portuguese because there aren't too many others around here who can do so ::sigh:: it was an unforgettable experience, and I hope to see everyone in India (where hopefully I'll even get to speak! woohoo!).

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