By Stephen Thompson
The Brazilian justice system works slowly, so slowly in fact that many of the biggest criminals are never caught. Brazilian justice is also unjust. Brazil has one law for the rich and another for the poor. According to one lawyer I spoke to, prison is only for PPPs: pretos, pobres e as putas (blacks, poor and prostitutes). If you have money, you can escape from Justice easily in Brazil.

Brazil’s legal system is also a mess. There are many different kinds of courts, the system is understaffed, and lawyers deliberately delay proceedings by appealing even when there is no chance of success. They are allowed to do this. There are many different privileges and corrupt politicians use these privileges to escape justice. For example, when they are caught receiving bribes they they can escape punishment from the Brazilian legislature by resigning. If they are being prosecuted, then the court case must be transferred to another court once they leave office or are re-elected. This is one way that corrupt politicians delay Justice.

In addition, many crimes have a limited time span, after which a person can no longer be tried. Since Brazilian justice is slow, it is often too late to prosecute by the time the authorities finally get it together. In addition, at the age of 70, sentences for most crimes are automatically reduced by 50%.

One shocking example of injustice and inefficiency of the Brazilian Justice system is the former mayor of São Paulo, Paulo Maluf, who is believed to have stolen several hundred million dollars from the government finances, mostly by overcharging on road construction projects in the city. Despite having been prosecuted over 100 times, Maluf has only been convicted once, in a relatively minor case. Last year, he was arrested and jailed for obstructing the course of justice by attempting to bribe or intimidate witnesses. Many people rejoiced and believed prematurely that the Brazilian justice system had finally begun to work. However, the Brazilian Supreme Court had a different view, and argued that Maluf should be released because the witness he had been attempting to interfere with had already given testimony. This extraordinary leniency is very common especially when powerful people are involved. Apart from having friends in high places, Maluf also has a large well-paid team of lawyers who can exploit every loophole in the Brazilian legal system. And there must be a lot of them. Maluf and his like are unbelievably brazen in their denial of the truth. Even after the Swiss financial authorities have delivered a truckload of evidence detailing his money laundering activities in their country, Maluf still steadfastly denies that he has ever had a bank account abroad. The extent of public apathy about this lack of justice is so great that Maluf’s supporters used to praise him by saying he steals but he gets things done”. Some Brazilians assume that all their politicians steal, and hope that at least they spend part of the taxpayers money on public works. Even in the last election, Maluf still received 15% of the vote. With this level of apathy, it is unlikely that the much-needed reform of the legal system will happen soon.

There are just so many other things that need to be done, and the Brazilian political system works very slowly. This is very damaging for the country, because financial criminals know that the chance of them being punished is very small. Some Brazilian legal cases run for decades and are still not resolved.

In a recent interview, the head of the Brazilian Supreme Court described how in his youth, he was approached by an elderly man who had been waiting for 30 years for his case to be judged, and wondered if there was any chance of this happening before he died. Since then, he said, things have got even worse.

If there is hope, it comes from the Ministerio Publico, a government department staffed by proactive lawyers who attack corruption and cartels. These guys keep digging up unpleasant facts that the government wants to hide, for example the connection between the assassination of the Mayor of São Andre and the illegal PT extortion of bus companies.

Brazilian law can also be contradictory, as I found when I applied for my foreigners ID card (RNE). I was asked if I had been working, and warned that though it is illegal to work without an RNE, it is also illegal to be married to a Brazilian and not give financial support. “I have been doing some odd jobs I said” and the police were satisfied!

Stephen Thompson runs “O Gaucho”, a snack bar serving breakfast, juices, smoothies and sandwiches. Galeria 2001, 2001 Avenida Paulista, São Paulo. For an English menu contact

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

Brazil: Saying Goodbye to a Bilingual Kid
How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy

By Mark Taylor
Often there’s a misconception that carnival (or carnaval” in Portuguese) is a week of non-stop partying engaged in by every Brazilian, at the start of which the entire country shuts down.

The reality is quite different though, and different areas of the country celebrate carnival in different ways. São Paulo and Rio do Janeiro have turned the celebration from an art into arguably a science, as it’s centred around the “Sambódromo” in each city. The Sambódromo is an area where various samba schools come to present their show, a little like a walkthrough (or sambathrough) football stadium. Each samba school is judged on various items, such as the costumes, song, band, and float, and highly prized awards are given. The whole matter is taken very seriously, and incredible costumes, floats and dance routines are constructed and practised the whole year round, with a particular focus as carnival approaches. It can be the bane of those who live near a samba school as practices often occur at weekends, are loud, and go on to late at night.

To watch the carnival parade at the Sambódromos you must buy a ticket, and then sit for several hours as each school files past. Alternatively you can pay and get a costume (if you’re early enough) or a T-shirt emblazoned with the samba school’s name, and take part in the parade. Taking part can be a labour of love though, as you will spend a lot of time waiting around for your school to file through the Sambódromo, but it’s bound to be a memorable experience.

The carnival in São Paulo and Rio isn’t just limited to the Sambódromo though, and you’ll often find that bars and night clubs will be putting on special celebrations and parties with some carnival link. The celebrations can last all day, with events during the day for children, often involving costume parties, albeit dressed as say Spiderman or a princess. Often there are bands playing live carnival, samba and ax music.

As you go further north the form of celebration changes, and in cities like Salvador and Recife the more popular image of a week long party takes precedence. These areas can be popular for tourists also, as the cities are often decorated and setup for concerts every night featuring famous Brazilian singers like Ivete Sangalo and Daniela Mercury. Tourists must take care though as it can bring out thieves and pickpockets in extra numbers. When going out don’t take any valuables, even such as a watch. Just keep the bare minimum of cash with you.

Carnival is also well known for its passionate side, and the government regularly give out free condoms to promote safe sex (25 million being issued this year). This is aside from the other companies that are selling sexy costumes, body paint (for those who find costumes to much of a drag) and even a special antiseptic kissing spray this year (made from propolis, although the jury’s out on whether it has any actual benefit).

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of Brazilians won’t really celebrate at all, and will take the opportunity to either go to the beach or holiday elsewhere. This often means that factories and offices can shutdown for several days, making it hard to get work done or contact people during this period. Public holidays will vary by state.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a fun carnival!

If you’ve got any experiences to recount of carnival 2006 then send me an email to and I’ll post here or in a new article.

Previous articles by Mark Taylor:

Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

This week’s entertainment guide for São Paulo features an Italian restaurant in the city centre, an exhibition of photos of Brazil, a park in Cidade Jardim, this week’s recommended film release, and a roundup of some other upcoming events.

TerraoThose in search of Italian food and a special place to eat it will want to pay a visit to Terrao Itlia. Located at the top of one of the tallest buildings in São Paulo, you are assured of an incredible view both day and night. With three separate areas and a bar there’s also plenty of choice for where to eat, although the same menu is maintained throughout all. The different areas offer a choice of more relaxed eating, a dancing area, and a room for corporate functions (which is opened as a restaurant on busier evenings). Starters are around R$30, main courses R$40-80, and desserts around R$25. Keep an eye out for a fuller article this week on on Terrao Itlia. Valet parking available at Edifcio Italia. Open Monday to Thursday, 3pm – midnight. Friday and Saturday, 3pm – 1am. Sunday, 12pm – 11pm. Av. Ipiranga, 344. São Paulo. Tel. 3257 6566. (Web site has English option, and also currently has a 10% discount coupon)

Pierre VergerThe Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna, MAM) is showing an exhibition of photos by the Frenchmen Pierre Verger, who decide to settle in Brazil. These show the relation between Brazil and the photographer, and his love of the country, in particular Bahia. The exhibition marks ten years since his death. There are more than 290 photos on show, more than half have never been exhibited, which belong to the Pierre Verger foundation in Salvador. Exhibition finishes on the 26th March. Entry R$5.50. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm. Av. Pedro Alvares Cabral. Portao 3. Parque Ibirapuera. Tel. 5549 9688.

Alfredo VolpiIf you’re tired of dodging bikes and skaters in Ibirapuera park, try a visit to Alfredo Volpi park. The main attraction are trails of a kilometre for jogging or walking. The park feels like it’s set in the middle of a forest, which can feel a bit peculiar in the middle of a city. There’s also a lake with ducks, a small playground, and tables for picnics. As intimated, bikes, and rollerskates are banned. Free entry and parking. Open Monday to Sunday, 6am – 6pm. Dogs are only permitted with a leash. Rua Eng. Oscar Americano, 480. Cidade Jardim. Tel 3071 7052.

CapoteContinuing with our Oscar theme, the film recommendation for this week is Capote. Already winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor, it has also been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, as well as Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. The film tells the story of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a writer for the New Yorker who learns about the horrific murder of a family in Kansas. The investigation leads him to prisoners on death row, and he writes a book about their plight, the famous In Cold Blood. His sympathy for them conflicts with the need for closure on the book, which can only come from an execution. The film has been well rated, although is a heavy drama with some violence, inevitable based on the subject matter. Rated 14 in Brazil, R in the USA and 15 in the UK. IMDB’s main page on Capote. Guia de Semana’s page with links to showing cinemas.

A quick summary on some musical events happening in São Paulo. The UK acid jazz group Jamiroquai are coming to Credicard Hall on the 24th March. Tickets range from R$90 – 130. Popular 80s group Echo & the Bunnymen are also coming to Credicard Hall, on the 19th March. Tickets range from R$70 – 160. And those grumpy Northern English rockers Oasis bring their “Don’t Believe the Truth” tour to Credicard Hall also, on the 15th March. Tickets range from R$120 – 250. Rock veterans Foreigner come to Credicard Hall on the 16th March, bringing famous hits such as “I Wanna Know What Love Is”. Tickets range from R$80 – R$200. Tickets either available at Credicard Hall, or from Ticketmaster ( Carlos Santana is coming to São Paulo on the 17th March, in a show dedicated to his recent album “All That I Am”. The show will be located in the Skol arena at Anhembi. Tickets vary from R$150 – R$500, via Ticketmaster ( or tel. 6846 6000.

If you have been to a restaurant, club, park, or anywhere else in São Paulo that you would like to recommend to other readers in future Entertainment Guides then don’t hesitate to contact us!. Also if you would like to submit a weekly entertainment guide for your city we’d be interested to hear from you.

What’s On Guide, February 13 – February 19 2005
What’s On Guide, February 06 – February 12 2005
What’s On Guide, January 30 – February 05 2005
What’s On Guide, January 23 – January 29 2005
What’s On Guide, January 16 – January 22 2005
What’s On Guide, December 13 – December 20 2005
What’s On Guide, December 5 – December 12 2005
What’s On Guide, November 28 – December 4 2005
What’s On Guide, November 21 – November 27 2005
What’s On Guide, November 14 – November 20 2005
What’s On Guide, November 7 – November 13 2005
What’s On Guide, October 31 – November 6 2005
What’s On Guide, October 24 – October 30 2005
What’s On Guide, October 17 – October 23 2005
What’s On Guide, October 10 – October 16 2005
What’s On Guide, October 3 – October 9 2005
What’s On Guide, September 26 – October 2 2005
What’s On Guide, September 19 – September 25 2005
What’s On Guide, September 12 – September 18 2005
What’s On Guide, September 5 – September 11 2005
What’s On Guide, August 29 – September 4 2005
What’s On Guide, August 15 – August 28 2005
What’s On Guide, July 28 – August 14 2005
What’s On Guide, July 7 – July 27 2005
What’s On Guide, June 22 – June 28, 2005
What’s On Guide, June 15 – June 22, 2005
What’s On Guide, June 6 – June 15, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 26 – June 6, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 20 – May 25, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 13 – May 19, 2005
What’s On Guide, May 6 – May 12, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 29 – May 5, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 21 – Apr 28, 2005
What’s On Guide, Apr 6 – Apr 20, 2005
What’s On Guide, Mar 31 – Apr 6, 2005

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Samara Klug Szachnowicz. Samara works in psychology, and has experience of foreigners from travel in the USA and Italy. Read on as Samara tells us about her impressions of foreigners, and gives some helpful advice also.

1. Where are you from in Brazil and what do you do?

I’m from São Paulo (City). I work as a clinical psychologist.

I’ve traveled around the world and have friends all around. I am great with languages (and have foreign patients). Have lived for one year in the US as an exchange student and also when I was 20 I spent 2 months backpacking in Italy all by myself. Like to take cruises but also plane, car, train – however the trip is, I love to travel and see new things, people and places. It’s my very favorite thing to do. I don’t like the way Brazilian women show themselves too sexualized” to the rest of the world.

2. What are the main obstacles for foreigners in Brazil?

Probably the language because Portuguese has one of the biggest dictionaries and too many verb forms and irregularities.

3. What are common mistakes that foreigners make in Brazil?

To try and understand the country and its people too fast and end up getting it wrong.

4. What characteristic of other nationalities strikes you as the most different (eg. sense of humour, formality, dress)?

Commitment (to everything, such as time, promise, work, etc.)

5. Which English accent do you prefer and why (eg. Scottish, American, Australian)?

The American one’s easier for me because it’s the one I was always taught at. But I also have a special taste for the British accent, it sounds very charming and polite.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

This is a hard question… Every place I’ve ever been to was wonderful in its own different way. Maybe Italy could be a favorite for joining beautiful language and people, wonderful countryside as well as beaches, interesting and happy culture and history, great food and lots of diversity from one small town to the other.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Italian, Chinese, American (junk food), German.

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

Beatles, “ALIVE: The story of the Andes survivors”, “Upclose and Personal”.

9. What is the difference between dating a Brazilian and Foreigner (if this applies to you or perhaps a friend)?

Brazilians are more easygoing, whereas foreigners for some reason seem to attach very fast to Brazilian (women at least) and fall in love immediately, wanting to get married, move to Brazil, learn Portuguese, everything they can do to be together, believing we are “the one”.

10. Can you share an incident, misunderstanding or ‘culture shock’ that you have experienced with a foreigner?

Definitely myself, kissing and hugging everyone when I arrived as an exchange student, 15 years old, in the US. Whoever I met or was introduced to, for a while, I couldn’t remember not to kiss and the next day kiss and hug. The first friend I made there couldn’t move when I hugged her the next morning we went out!!

11. What are 2 things you would recommend for a visitor to do in Brazil to better understand Brazilian people and their culture?

An important thing is learning the language, the second one is having Brazilian people to go out with and ask what everything here’s like (regularly, as things occur, and not only once).

If you want to contact Samara her email address is

If you are Brazilian, or know a Brazilian, who has traveled abroad or has considerable experience with different nationalities here in Brazil, we would like to hear from you. Please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to

To read previous interviews in the Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series click below:

Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Elizabeth Sacknus
Geberson Coelho
Rosaly Loula
Andreas Saller
Elvis Renato Barbosa Lima
Bruno Santos
Maria Cecilia Schmidt Maluf
Marta Dalla Chiesa
Cludia Ramis De Almeida
Vivian Manasse Teixeira Leite
Fernando Saffi
Gabriela Kluppel
Patrcia C. Ribeiro
Fabiano Deffenti

By Robin Sparks
A list of 49 things the author (who doesn’t believe in stereotypical lists) now knows about Brazil.

1. Brazilians sing, all of the time, not always on key, but always with heart.

2. Brazilians know all of the words to all the Brazilian songs. And Brazil is one of the few countries that prefers its own music to American pop.

3. Brazilians dance whenever and wherever they can, and they do it well.

4. There is always a party somewhere in Brazil.

5. Public displays of amorous affection are common, especially in restaurants.

6. Brazilians are happy people. Or very good actors.

7. Traditional Bahian food is the soul food of Brazil and is very similar to the soul food of the southern United States. There are many similarites between the two regions actually – not surprising if you consider that the main destinations of slave ships were Brazil and the southernmost states of North America.

8. Brazilians eat a lot of fried food.

9. Fried manioc flour called farofa is served with every meal.

10. Bread is baked fresh daily, but served only at breakfast.

11. Brazilian breakfast: Slices of ham and cheddar cheese tucked inside a split white roll.

12. There is a bottle of fake liquid sugar on every table.

13. Brazilian salads consist of brilliant mounds of grated carrots, beets, and sliced cucumbers.

14. Brazilians love grilled meat.

15. Servings are huge in Brazil, each one more than enough for two.

16. Italian food is popular (and delicious) in Brazil.

17. There are lots of Italians in Brazil.

18. Same as in America, there are a quite a few overweight people in Brazil.

19. Unlike America, there is a disproportionate number of stunningly beautiful women in Brazil.

20. Brazilians have impeccable table manners. Like the French, they rarely touch their food, and between bites, they pause to converse with their dinner companions.

21. Unlike the French, Brazilians drink beer every day. They like their beer cold and go to great lengths to keep it that way.

22. The great equalizer in Brazil is the beach; it’s free and it is where everyone goes when they are not working.

23. Brazilians are lovers, not fighters. For the most part.

24. Life, as most of the world knows it, comes to a screeching halt in Brazil during a futebol (soccer) game, especially those in which Brazil is a contender.

25. Brazil is Argentina’s playground. Argentines treat Brazilians like their poor, country cousins.

26. Brazilians don’t care much for Argentines.

27. Brazilians are mushy and unrelentingly romantic – they like their music soft with lyrics almost always about love. And they can string words together in conversation to make the coldest heart melt.

28. Brazilians speak Portuguese in a rise and fall melody.

29. Loved ones call each other meu amor”.

30. Brazilians aren’t thrilled with America’s political administration – Not one Brazilian said within my earshot, “I sure hope Bush is re-elected.”

31. The rubber flip flop is the national shoe and my feet loved it.

32. One is not supposed to flush their toilet paper in Brazil; instead you drop it into a trash bin next to the toilet. Try not to get stuck in traffic behind the city garbage truck.

33. Brazil is age-blind. Generations mix in play, in life, and in love.

34. Men scratch their private parts in public places. (Sorry, but it’s true)

35. Women buy clothing based on how sexy it makes them look. (I bought a pair of low- cut Brazilian jeans; and they were great as long as I didn’t sit down.) Designer names are not big in Brazil.

36. Even store window mannikins have sex appeal in Brazil.

37. Gender lines are blurred in Brazil – bisexuality is common, or so I was told.

38. Brazil is a huge country, almost as large as the US with an even wider geographical range from rain forest to dry inland to 5,000 miles of coastland to mountains to the world’s largest river to wild flowers so brilliant they can not be reproduced accurately on digital cameras.

39. You cannot identify a Brazilian by his looks – A Brazilian might have the lily white skin and angular features of his German or Dutch ancestors or the deepest dark black skin of her South African forefathers or the olive skin and high cheekbones of their Indian predecessors or the curly dark hair and upturned noses of the Portuguese or a combination of all of these and more.

40. Graciousness, a soft lyrical voice, good manners, humility, generosity, and making the person you are speaking to feel like a million bucks – THESE are the important social skills in Brazil.

41. Doing something nice for someone else with no expectation of payback.this is everyday stuff for Brazilians.

42. Portuguese as it is spoken in Brazil is one of the most beautiful languages on the planet.

43. Brazilians understand Spanish, but few Spanish speakers understand Portuguese.

44. In Brazil “thumbs up” is the most common hand gesture and means “things are great”.

45. The words you’ll hear most often: “Obrigada(o)” – (Thanks) ; “Ta bom” – (Good!) the answer to “Tudo bem?” – (How are things?), “Tudo legal” – (Everything is good! legal! whatever!), and “Gostoza(o)” – (You sexy thing you.)

46. An important phrase to memorize (unless you’re lucky enough that it is not true for you) is “Eu nao falo Portuguese ” – (I don’t speak Portuguese.)

47. Brazilians cannot help smiling; the nonchalant scowl has not caught on here.

48. The cost of living in California is approximately ten times more than in Brazil.

49. The rumor about Brazilian women wearing thong bikinis is true, and if you like small breasts and prominent bundas, you will be very happy in Brazil.

This story was written by travel writer and photographer, Robin Sparks. Sparks has written about expatriates and the places in which they live for over 7 years, logging in time in over 23 countries. Read about her adventures at and Although she has been published in over a hundred magazines and newspapers, Sparks concentrates these days on writing for online media, like where she is on the staff.

Sparks also organizes travel writing workshops. The next one will be held aboard a Turkish gullet while sailing the coast of Turkey in a traditional Turkish gulet. The class will be taught by publisher and editor of Travelers Tales books, Larry Habbegger. If you are interested in being in the class contact Robin immediately as there are only 3 seats left in the class of 8. Sparks is presently in Argentina and can be reached at

Previous articles by Robin:

Brazil: Bohemian ParadiseBrazil: Go South Old Man
Walk Like a Brazilian

By Jason Bermingham
It’s late February on the Tropic of Capricorn. Down the avenue surges a tidal wave of sound – four hundred drums pounding out a two-four beat. Cloaked in iridescent feathers, flapping, leaping, singing, you’re part of this swell. The bite of lemon, sugar, and cane alcohol is on your tongue. The tang of sweat, perfume, and the sea in the breeze. A fiery mulatta perched on the two-story papier-mch float before you spins in impossible circles. Beside her is a black Adonis. Wearing nothing but a sequined G-string, he flaunts his oiled body in Freddy-Mercury style. The samba quickens, your toes clench. It’s two o’clock in the morning, and the party’s just beginning.

Then the phone rings – and you wake up on the couch. The remote control is on the floor, the television screen is a scramble of gray fuzz, and saliva has dribbled onto the collar of your pajamas. Like some transplanted, tropical Dorothy, you’re not in Rio anymore.

When the ringing stops, drowsiness overtakes you. The couch pulls you back into its arms and suddenly the hiss of the TV screen is the roar of sixty thousand men and women in the bleachers. The lights of the Sambódromo are upon you. This time it’s you wearing the G-string, and you’ve never danced so well. People sing your name, a chorus ringing in your ears. You feel dizzy, disoriented. You fall. Someone beautiful, with breath like eucalyptus leaves, catches you. Whispers words into your ear, a language vaguely familiar. Could it be Portuguese?

* * *

This week Brazil kicks off the world’s biggest party – a bacchanal of color, music, and dance from which the country won’t regain consciousness until early March. Unfortunately, many Americans won’t be in Brazil to live out their Carnaval-time fantasies in 2006. With orange-level terrorist alerts, a devalued dollar, and repercussions from the United States’ stringent new immigration policies, the Rio de Janeiro Sambódromo has never seemed farther away. But the essence of Carnaval is spirit, not geography – so if you can’t go to Rio, why not bring Rio to you? This article offers five easy-to-follow steps that promise to transform your living room into a Sambódromo.

While Carnaval is a nationwide festival in Brazil, stretching from the shores of the Amazon River to the villages of the country’s deep south, no place conveys the spirit of revelry as well as Rio de Janeiro’s Sambodrómo. This enormous, concrete runway is the epicenter of Brazil’s Carnaval quake. Globo TV, the country’s largest media group, broadcasts the Sunday and Monday evening parades nationwide, and no matter where you are, all eyes are on Rio.

Note: Rio de Janeiro’s Sambódromo was completed in 1984. The structure, comprising a nearly half-mile long cement strip lined on both sides by massive grandstands, is about as visually appealing as Brazil’s drab capital city Braslia. Not coincidentally, both were designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Neymeyer. Carnaval, however, draws a more colorful crowd than does politics and the austerity of the Sambódromo only serves to draw more attention to the explosive color and energy of the samba schools themselves.

The Sambódromo, however, is a tough party to crash. Tickets are sold-out well in advance, and most tourists are obliged to buy from tour operators or, worse, scalpers. So to make your Sambódromo soire authentic, I suggest tickets instead of invitations. No charge required, but be sure to add color and creativity. You might also trace the evolution of Carnaval from the Middle Ages to your living room. Carna Vale, remember, is Latin for farewell to meat,” one last blowout before the forty days of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday. But of course Carnaval has less religious connotations as well. Especially in Brazil where it has been transformed into a tasty feijoada of Latin culture, African rhythms, and indigenous flare. It is an explosion of joy, sexuality, and imagination that aims to disintegrate social hierarchy and release frustrations.

Each of the samba schools in Rio’s Carnaval parade follows its own theme. This enredo is the unifying motif behind the samba, costumes and floats. To make your Sambódromo come to life, choose a theme as well, and your guests to dress accordingly. Go crazy – feathers, body paint, and glitter. Load up on the confetti. Hand out disposable cameras (what’s a gringo in Rio without a camera?) Teach guests some expressions in Brazilian Portuguese. Boa noite! (good evening!) Estava com saudades! (I’ve missed you!) Viva Brasil! Viva Carnaval! (Long live Brazil! Long live Carnival!). Americans will do things in Portuguese they wouldn’t dream of doing in English.

If you were hoping for a keg party, we’ve got good news. Beer is the drink of choice at the Rio Sambódromo. In fact, Brahma (one of the better known brands) owns the sky box where crme de la crme like Arnold Swarzenegger and Barbara Bush hang out. And for a slightly more dangerous festa, try serving one of Brazil’s best known alcoholic beverages: the caipirinha. Simple and sweet, but deceptive, this mixture of lemon, sugar, and cane alcohol (called cachaa or pinga) is the perfect fuel for a night of samba and a morning of regrets. But beware: one or two glasses and your guests will think they’ve really flown to Rio.

Here’s a per-glass recipe:
1 lime
1 shot of cachaa
1 tablespoon of sugar
cup ice cubes

Wash the lime, then loosen up the juices by rolling it in your hand. Cut into quarters and place the pieces in a glass. Add sugar and crush lime (pulp side up) with a wooden spoon. Finally, pour the cachaa into the glass, add ice and stir. The drink can be decorated with slices of lime. No pinga? No problem. With vodka, the drink is called a caipiroska. With white rum, it becomes a caipirssima.

Carnaval is a loud affair, and at the core of the commotion is samba. First performed at Rio Carnival in 1917, samba’s origins go back much further. Old African rhythms, notably the Angolan tam-tam, provided the basis for its music and distinctive dance steps. With the advent of radio and records, samba caught on quickly and has since become a national symbol. It is the music of the masses. The beating heart of Brazil.
If you don’t know a few hundred drummers to invite to your party, here’s the next best thing: the Rio de Janeiro state government releases a CD every year that features the sambas de enredo that will be played in the Sambódromo. For Portuguese aficionados, all lyrics are included. It’s as close as you can get to the sound of the Rio Sambódromo without leaving the northern hemisphere.

Now for the hard part. Dancing samba is like setting your feet on fire while keeping your upper body absolutely still. More technically, it is a 2/4 dance that incorporates the Latin hip swing with a continuous knee flexing called the “samba bounce”. Brazilian babies can do the samba bounce before they leave the maternity ward. For gringo’s, however, it’s a different story. But it should also be remembered that samba dancing, like Portuguese-speaking, tends to improve in direct proportion to the number of caipirinhas consumed.

* * *

The rest is up to you (and perhaps King Momo, the King of Carnaval). So print your tickets, buy the CD, whip up a few caipirinhas, and before you know it, you’ll have transformed your living room into a do-it-yourself Sambódromo. If the neighbors complain, invite them over. If the police show up, serve them drinks. Yell “Viva Brasil!” at the top of your lungs. Let your legs blur into dance. Before you know it, it’ll be two o’clock in the morning and the party will just be starting. Perhaps you’ll feel dizzy, disorientated. Even fall to the floor. Amid the clamor of beating drums. The bittersweet taste of lime, sugar and cachaa on your tongue. And somebody whispering words into your ear. A language that sounds vaguely familiar. Could it be Portuguese?

Jason Bermingham works as a writer/musician in São Paulo, Brazil. If you enjoy Bob Dylan covers, send him an e-mail at He’ll set you up with a table at his next gig.

To read previous articles by Jason click the links below:

Brazil: Busking in South America
Brazil: Improve Your English – Make Every Sentence a Song
São Paulo’s Liberdade District: Where Latin America Meets the Orient
Brazil: Deconstructing São Paulo
A Good Gig in São Paulo

By John Fitzpatrick
The contest to see who will be the next President of Brazil has already started and is focusing not on President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva but the rival potential candidates from the opposition PSDB party, Jose Serra and Geraldo Alckmin. A battle is raging between the opposing camps, with the Alckmin forces on the defensive as opinion polls show that Serra is the stronger candidate and could even unseat Lula. The PSDB’s big guns – former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the governor of Minas Gerais, Aecio Neves, and the party president, Tasso Jereissati – are believed to favor Serra. Serra has not even said he will stand but Alckmin has jumped the gun, like the hare in the fable, and made it clear that he wants the PSDB nomination. By doing so, Alckmin has given Serra time to watch Alckmin’s performance before making up his mind whether to enter the race. Alckmin has also given Lula the happy prospect of being able to sit back and watch the PSDB become enmeshed in an internal wrangle.

About six months ago everything seemed to be going the PSDB’s way as the country reeled from a constant barrage of revelations about the PT’s involvement in the bribes for votes” scandal in the House of Representatives. The crisis overthrew the PT’s high command, including Jose Dirceu who had acted as Lula’s “prime minister”, and destroyed its image as an honest, ethical party. However, the ongoing Congressional investigations have brought little concrete results and done nothing to improve Congress’s image. On the other hand, Lula’s personal ratings, which fell in the aftermath of the scandal, have started rising. Things are going his way again. The economy is improving, the government is embarking on high profile spending projects and Lula has gained a new confidence. He is expected to announce in June that he will stand again. If things continue as they are at the moment then only a major catastrophe will stop Lula seeking re-election.

As we have said in previous comments, the scandal may have lost Lula much support among middle class people who voted for him in the last election but he still enjoys mass support among his natural constituency in the poorer sections of society and organized labor. At the same time, Lula is betting on having a running mate from the PMDB, the party with the largest contingent in Congress. This is not a foregone conclusion since the PMDB is split over the issue but there are strong chances that Lula’s vice presidential candidate will be from the PMDB.

Alckmin Pushes His Luck
The PSDB is the only party with a credible opposition candidate if the PMDB lines up with Lula. It has two good candidates in Serra, the mayor of São Paulo, and Alckmin, the governor of São Paulo state. Ironically, this wealth of riches could be the party’s downfall since, at the moment, neither potential candidate is prepared to back down and leave the road free for the other. I believe Alckmin is taking a big risk with his current aggressive stance and is deluded if he thinks the Brazilian people will vote for him instead of Lula. Alckmin would be better giving the nomination to Serra and looking ahead to the 2010 election. He is still only in his mid 40s and has plenty of time to make his presence felt on the national stage.

Alckmin’s record is far from solid. He rose to his present position not by his own efforts but by default when he took over from the late São Paulo governor Mario Covas who became ill in office. Previously Alckmin had been Covas’s anonymous deputy. It is true that he was eventually elected in his own stead but, without the Covas link, the chances are that he would still be just a local politician. He lacks charisma, is not well known outside São Paulo and has little popular appeal. To offset this, he has a photogenic wife with a dazzling smile who is regularly featured in the media. However, it will take more than a Brazilian version of Jackie Kennedy to get Alckmin elected especially as Alckmin (like Dan Quayle) is certainly no John Kennedy.

By contrast, Serra is a heavyweight with an imposing record. He was a student activist and exile during the military dictatorship and a founding member of the PSDB. He was elected to the Senate when democracy was restored and was planning and health minister during the Cardoso administration. At the same time, he has suffered several major setbacks. He lost his first attempt to become mayor of São Paulo in 1996 and, of course, he was well beaten by Lula in the last presidential election. However, it would be wrong to blame Serra for this defeat. Voters chose Lula because they had had eight years of PSDB government which was running out of steam and its candidate would have been defeated regardless of who he was. Just as Serra bounced back and won the São Paulo mayoral election against the PT incumbent, Marta Suplicy, he is capable of doing the same against Lula.

Serra Faces Moral Issue
If Serra does decide to stand then he will have to make a public apology of sorts to the people of São Paulo who voted for him in 2004. During the campaign Serra ruled out standing for the presidency and some people actually believed him. If, as expected, he announces in March or April that he will be a candidate he will have to step down from office. He will obviously face a barrage of criticism but I do not believe the São Paulo electorate will hold this against him. I have only heard one Serra voter complain about this possibility and he was a “mineiro” from Minas Gerais state. In any case, the São Paulo press has been preparing the population for the possibility of Serra standing down by presenting profiles and features on the deputy mayor, Gilberto Kassab of the PFL party. (Ironically, Kassab was planning secretary in the team of Celso Pitta who beat Serra in the 1996 contest. Such are the vagaries of Brazilian policies that few people find this odd.)

Since the São Paulo media is mainly anti-Lula, it will defend any local candidate. Whether this support will be as strong for Serra as for Alckmin is not sure. Serra has a reputation as being headstrong and centralizing power whereas Alckmin is more prepared to delegate. This accounts for the strong support Alckmin is said to have among businessmen who would prefer the more steady state governor to the somewhat erratic mayor.

Serra gave an example of his unpredictable style recently when he proposed a law to allow greater control of the exchange rate since the current depreciation of the dollar against the Real is harming some of Brazil’s exporters. Since Serra is an economist, he should know that such an idea makes no sense in a system whereby the Real is floated on the market and trades accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes the first Cardoso administration made was to let the Real trade against the dollar within a narrow range at an unrealistic rate for too long a time. The result was the sudden devaluation in January 1999 when the Brazilian currency collapsed and caused a crisis. Serra later gave lengthy explanations of what he had “really” meant by his latest comment but no-one was interested in his ideas and the damage was done.

The next two months will be crucial for the PSDB. Will it choose Alckmin the hare or Serra the tortoise? If so, will the tortoise turn round and win as it does in the fable? One thing is clear. The party will need to pick its strongest candidate, one who can take on Lula and fight the campaign in a positive way. If the PSDB tries to focus on corruption as an issue then it could find the mud flying back in its face.

Readers comments:

I believe the authors comments are biased and do not reflect the strategical mastermind that Alckmin has proven to be.

Serra has a long-running national career and, yet, was unable to gather unanimous support from his party in the ill-fated presidential candidacy in 2002 and was only elected in the tight São paulo municipal election due to Alckmins support.

The article also fails to mention Alckmins ubiquitous approval ratings in São Paulo, and that notwhistanding that he is only known in São Paulo, he enters the presidential race with 20% of voting intention. Serra, on the other hand, despite Lula’s corruption scandals, remains at the 35% levels he had at the end of the 2002 elections.

— Fabio Dantas Silveira

John Fitzpatrick 2005

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish writer and consultant with long experience of Brazil. He is based in São Paulo and runs his own company Celtic Comunicaes. This article originally appeared on his site He can be contacted at

Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on

Patronizing Brazilians the Politically Correct Way
Brazil: Election Gives Voters Chance to Clean Up Congress
Brazil: João Pessoa – a Victim of its Own Success
No Consistency in Brazil’s Foreign Policy
Brazil: Sitting in the Shadow of Sarney and Magalhes
Brazil: Gentrification Creeps Up On São Paulo
Dirt Flies as Brazilian Parties Aim for Presidency
Brazilians Vote for Guns and Death Not Peace and Love
Brazil’s Gun Lobby Launches Hysterical Campaign Against Arms Ban
Jews and Arabs Find Success in Brazil
Brazil’s Politicians Start Looking Ahead to Next Year
Brazil: Lula Down but Certainly Not Out
Brazil’s Congress Struggles to Cope with Ongoing Crisis
Brazil: Scandal Threatens Presidential Mandate System
Brazil: If Lula is to Survive He Needs to Change His Tactics
Brazil: Many Parties – Few Ideas
Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Helping the Helpless in Brazil
Pinheiros – São Paulo’s Best District
Growing Old (Dis)gracefully in Brazil
Canudos, Still With Us 100 Years Later
The Rise of the Brazilian Empire
Brazil and Portugal – The Samba and the Fado
Brazil – Just A State Of Mind
Brazil: For Lula, is Ignorance Bliss?
Brazil: Pay Day – or Pay Dirt?

By Rita Shannon Koeser
Snowbound In Princeton (Part one)
(The Adventures of 2 Brazilian Students at American Universities)

I like the snow now, but our first winter here was rough”, said Solange, “we didn’t have the right clothes, we weren’t sure how to heat our house properly, and we didn’t know how to keep from slipping and sliding on the ice which soon formed under all that pretty snow. We were wet, we were cold, we were miserable. How could we stay here five years? And that’s not to mention the new culture, new language, new food and everything else that we had to get used to”.

Solange Scorsatto and her husband, Fernando, are Brazilian students who have been studying at universities here in New Jersey for the past five years. Solange is studying for a Master’s degree in statistics at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Fernando is working on his Ph.D in Economics at Princeton University. They are almost finished with their studies and will return to Brazil in June. I wondered what it would be like to be Brazilian and to have to immerse yourself totally in the American lifestyle and in American universities. Would it be hard? Would it be a great adventure? Would it be aggravation? Maybe all of this. In addition to the cultural and language differences, the educational system in Brazil and the United States differ greatly. So, I asked Solange and Fernando if they would relate some of their experiences from a journal they kept during their time here.

Solange and Fernando in the snow

Some samples from the journal…”Not having a maid. How can people survive here without those wonderful helpers” “If you don’t have cable TV, you cannot watch TV” “Some American people don’t know where Brazil is” “A horrible experience with one of my professors” “I miss Brazilian food” “A big drive an automatic car”

Solange and Fernando said that, by and large, their experiences here have been wonderful. They have made lifelong American friends, they like the education they received, and they would recommend studying in American universities to Brazilian students. They especially like New Jersey because. Not only is the “Garden State” renowned for its history, scenery and educational facilities ,but it is very close to New York City. So, those attractions that everyone knows from the movies, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, even those yellow taxis, are very close by.

From the journal again.”What surprised me most about American life was the political corruption here. I thought we only had that in Brazil!!!”

Stay tuned for the further adventures of Solange and Fernando….

Previous articles by Rita:

Brazil: A Woman Ahead of Her Time
Learning English in Brazil’s Outback
Brazil: An Encounter In The Amazon
Manaus and the Rubber Boom

As promised in our previous article, Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography, we are serialising the first chapter of John Mill’s official biography of Charles Miller. Although the book is in Portuguese, this is an English translation for readers. Continuing from Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography Part 3 here is the fourth and final part…

Amongst the Rudge Family memorabilia, there is a photo, somewhat faded by time, which no doubt was the first taken of Charles in 1876, when he was two years old. It was taken by Henry Fox, and in it John Miller can be seen, with his traditional moustache and blazer with the SPR, São Paulo Railway, badge carrying his son John Henry on his shoulders. Traditionally, the British place on the top pocket of their blazers the badge of their company, regiment which they served, school or college where they studied, or even the Club to which they belong.

In the picture, John Miller is together with his brother Peter, Henry’s daughters, amongst them Guilhermina and Anna Louise and other cousins of the girls. There are two children seated in the middle, one of them being Charles. This picture was taken in the garden at Henry’s home. Unfortunately, mother Carlota does not appear on the picture as she was busy preparing the lunch, as was noted in pencil by her sister, on the back of the picture.

Charles was five years old when his father, a true Scotsman, asked artist F. Pierich for an oil painting of the boy wearing his kilt, traditional Scottish dress. This painting today forms part of the Miller family memorabilia.

In São Paulo, the British Community grew, bringing with them their religion, costumes, typical dishes such as pies (chicken or kidney) their puddings (nuts or fruits), and the punctual five oclock tea. In 1873, the Baron of Mau donated a plot of land to the British Community in the Carmo Road, in the centre of town, where a chapel was built for the religious needs of the comunnity. This chapel, attended by Charles parents received the name of St. Paul’s Church, and became the first Anglican Chuch in South America. In 1966 this traditional chuch was transffered to its present location, Comendador Elias Zarzur Road , in the neighbourhood of Santo Amaro.

During these first years of the arrival of British staff for the São Paulo Railway and other companies, it was rare to find English speaking schools for the children. For Charles Miller’s parents, it was very important for him and his brother John Henry to speak fluent English. As there were no good schools available, they were taught at home. Obviously, Portuguese they would learn naturally, like all the other children born in São Paulo. It was only in 1926 that the first British School was founded in São Paulo, St. Paul’s School, today in Jardim Paulistano, in the Paulista capital.

It was due to difficulties such as this, that John and Carlota Miller decided to send their two sons to study in England. They chose Banister Court School, in Southampton, County of Hampshire, an important commercial center in the South of England.

In the autumn of 1884, Charles and John Henry, together with their older cousin William Fox Rule, son of Joseph Edward Rule and Guilhermina Fox, travelled to England to study. They went aboard the Elba, a Royal Mail and Packet Line ship, that made the route between England and the South East coast the Atlantic Ocean. After making stops at the ports of Rio de Janeiro, Madeira Island and Vigo, they finally reached Southampton on the 29th. July. The trip between the port of Santos and Southampton, on the British Channel took about twenty days, and the rare amusements for the passengers, apart from eating and resting, was the game of shuffle-board, played on the decks. The other main amusement was horse racing, with an improvised mini race course and dices, with wooden horses, and their respective tracks. This was also played on the ship’s decks.

This was young Charles’s first sea trip, and he never imagined that, whilst doing his morning strolls on the decks, chatting with the sailors and visiting new ports, that this shipping company would be intimately connected to him throughout his adult life. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited, known in Brazil as the Mala Real Inglesa, was the first company to have regular shipping services between Brazil and Great Britain. Created in London, in 1839, by James Macqueen, a young enterprising Scotsman, who that same year received a royal grant to operate a shipping line.

Macqueen started his activities with routes to the Caribbean and New York. In 1851, when his shipping line was becoming profitable, he obtained a further grant to extend his packet services from Southampton to Brazil and Argentina. Today, in the archives of the Maritime Musem in London, an old parchment can be found, being the Original Royal Grant Certificate, with the following heading: Granted by Queen Victoria – by the grace of God. Thus, James Macqueen expanded his new routes to Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. That same year, the first ship of the Mala Real Inglesa docked in the port of Santos. Soon the Andes, Magdalena, Arlanza, Asturias, Alcantara, Moselle and Elbe would become household names for the Paulista population.

The book can be found in the main bookstores, such as Livraria Saraiva, Siciliano, Cultura, LaSelva etc. or can be ordered through:

Price: R$37,90 + postage

Previous parts:

Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography
Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography Part 1
Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography Part 2
Brazil: Charles Miller’s Official Biography Part 3

By Stephen Thompson
A time when you had to leave your kids thousands of miles away, whether it’s for work or separation… when time is limited, I want to make the most of it with my daughter.

The Sunday before last, I hired a car and took my daughter to Wet ‘n’ Wild, between Campinas and Jundai on Banderantes. It was the last weekend before leaving for London, and I didn’t know when I would see her again, so I wanted to do something special. Unfortunately, by the time we got there at 1pm it was completely full. So I took a photo from the outside and drove home again.

Wet 'n' Wild, from the outside

From São Paulo, we drove on to Parity. We took the Cunha Road which is especially beautiful with the strong scent of pine forests and many unusual candelabra shaped pine trees, as well as cowboys who work on local farms. Traffic is very light, due to the 10km stretch of dirt roads as you enter the Serra do Mar National Park.

We stayed in a hotel by the bus station for only R$50, and first thing next morning we hired a boat and sailed to a nearby beach, where I drew an aeroplane in the sand and tried to explain to my daughter that I was leaving.

In the afternoon I took her to a beautiful waterfall. I wish we could have stayed there for ever, but I had to go. We stayed the night in the lovely Primavera hotel in São Luis de Paratinga, and I showed my daughter the stars, a rare sight for an apartment reared São Paulo kid.

The next day, taking advantage of the hired car one more time, we drove up to Sunset Square in Alto de Pinheiros, and my daughter played on the swings and slides.

And then it really was time to go. But at least I had some good memories of our last days.

Stephen Thompson runs “O Gaucho”, a snack bar serving breakfast, juices, smoothies and sandwiches. Galeria 2001, 2001 Avenida Paulista, São Paulo. For an English menu contact

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy