In Tune With the World

Besides a few balloons tied to a sign on a sleepy sidewalk, there was no indication that a festa was taking place inside Fair Trade Décor. But as soon as we entered, we were engulfed by the rhythmic beats of ensemble Nos de Chita and offered traditional Brazilian delicacies such as empanadas and complementary wine supplied by Principe Di Tricase Winery, a local Ramona Valley winery.

The store, which husband-and-wife team Betsy and Jude Paganelli opened two years ago, is the newest spot in Del Mar Village for cultural fun, handcrafted furnishings and decorative arts from around the globe. In fact, they are the first 100 percent fair trade store in the San Diego area.

As we took in the colorful collection of handmade furnishings including hand-woven alpaca blankets from Ecuador, vetiver placemats from Indonesia, and hand-carved higuerilla wood bowls from Peru, Betsy enlightened us that there is much more to “fair trade” than one might think.

The guidelines for membership in the esteemed Fair Trade Federation are set very high. Every product must be made in developing countries through sustainable and equitable trade practices, and the store is audited annually to ensure they practice what they preach.

As members of the FTF, they are also required to provide cultural education to the community. The couple holds regular events tied to the various countries they represent, including the night’s themed Brazilian Cultural Event, which they kept authentic by partnering with the Brazil Cultural Center.

The cultural center, owned by Claudia Lyra from Sao Paulo, started in 2008 with Portuguese language classes and now offers performing arts such as music, dance and capoeira.

Dressed in traditional, colorful garb made from chita fabric, Claudia also performs in the musical group (hence the name Nos De Chita or “we who wear chita”). The female trio plays traditional Brazilian rhythms that Claudia describes as “roots music for Brazilians,” folk songs and dances more popular in quaint villages than big cities.

Claudia’s specialty is bringing the audience into the performance. For one traditional dance and rhythm called Ciranda, four members of the audience hold hands in a circle. “When people needed a break from work, they’d entertain themselves with this song and heal themselves from the pain of working,” Claudia explains. “In villages with lots of fishermen, the wives would sing and dance while waiting for their husbands to return from the sea.”

For another song called Maracatu, the women passed out shakers, drums and bells so the audience could participate. “Everyone was shaping the rhythm,” Claudia says. “It was a cool moment.” Driven by percussion instruments, including Claudia playing a pandeiro (drum tambourine), the audience was transported to Carnival for the evening, until we stepped back outside and realized we were, in fact, still in Del Mar.