August 29, 2008

Meet Jeremy Clark from Canada who has visited Brazil several times. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I am 56 years old and am a telecommunications design engineer. My work interest is in HF radio for remote area communications and I teach engineering technology as well. I grew up in Montreal, Canada and later worked in Zambia and Indonesia. My hobbies are amateur radio, squash, cycling, reading and movies. I now live in Toronto, Canada.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

My first trip was an 8 night package deal to Rio de Janeiro in 2003. The next year I returned to Rio for 2 weeks. Then in 2005 I went to São Paulo for 3 weeks, 2006 I went to Salvador for 1 month, then this year 2008 I was in São Paulo during May & June.

My first trip to Rio was a gamble, I guess. I had never visited South America and I thought that Brazil seemed to be a good place to start. I noticed a special travel brochure in our local tourist agency and the package was just a perfect fit. After my first trip, I decided to return on my summer vacations to learn Portuguese and research whether there were possible applications for my radio system in Brazil.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

My first morning, I wandered from the hotel to walk along Avenida Atlntica, on Copacabana beach. It was a Sunday and the whole community was out jogging, walking etc along the boardwalk. I stopped at a small beach caf and had an espresso. The whole scene was just so cool.

4. What do you miss most about home?

I would love to live in Brazil for a year, so maybe when this happens I can answer this question then!

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

When I arrived in Guarulhos from Toronto in 2005, I was supposed to get on a VARIG connection to Salvador da Bahia. Unfortunately, when I went to check in, I discovered that the airport was like a Cecil B. DeMille movie! VARIG had gone bust! Thousands of stranded fliers filled the airport. They gave me a voucher for the flight. I then proceeded to try to get a ticket on TAM and GOL. No luck, so I went to Congonhas. I sat around there from about 11am to about 11pm. Finally a VARIG agent felt sorry for me and they put me up in a hotel and bought me a ticket on GOL the next morning. So a bit frustrating, but everyone else was in the same situation and they did honor their ticket so I was happy. I have learned from my previous foreign assignments to go with the flow and things usually work out.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

My most memorable incident occurred on my first trip. I was on Copacabana beach at Posto 4. I am no surfer dude, but in my mind I am still 25. Anyways I went out too far in the water and got caught in a rip tide. It took me right out and down the beach. Fortunately, an Australian guy saw me and notified the life guard. He came to help me because I had got pretty cold and groggy. Thanks Oz, I would be fish bait! Later that evening, I went to a bar on the beach so happy to be alive. I bought everyone a beer and we all wandered down the beach to sit outside the Help disco where we had dinner. It was so much fun. I regret that I was so stunned when I got out of the water that I did not get a chance to thank the life guard and the Australian.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

Brazil reminds me very much of the province of Quebec where I grew up. People work very hard, but they also know how to enjoy life. I love the food, the music and the language. The country is immense with great geographic contrasts.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

I love the Conjunto Nacional on Paulista in São Paulo. I go to the caf in the Livraria Cultura for a double espresso in the morning. I work on my daily assignments and they also have free wireless. In the evening, I work out at BioRitmo on the top floor. They have a fantastic program of various exercise & spinning classes. Later on in the evening, I like to read all the latest books in Cultura. They have author evenings which are amazing. I met Fernando Morais when he launched his new book O Mago”.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

An amazing thing happened to me on the beach in Barra, Salvador. Prior to my trip in 2006, my doctor told me that my Cholesterol was sky high and I had to take pills for the rest of my life. I decided to put the pills on hold. Anyways a girl on the beach asked me whether I wanted a foot massage. I am a total sucker for such advances so I immediately agreed. Anyways from rubbing my feet, she started to tell me my whole medical history, and my high cholesterol! Boy that was pretty weird. Then she gave me a list of fruit/vegetables that would remedy the situation. I followed her advice and with a few other ideas I learned back in Canada I can report that I am totally back to normal without any pharma!

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

I think Brazilians are very much like Canadians. They love soccer like we like hockey. The one thing I notice in SP, however, is how busy the city is. In Toronto you can wander about at night and never see anyone after 10pm. In SP it is perpetually busy.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

For my first trip, I studied a great book called “Portuguese in 10 Minutes a Day” (Bilingual Books). It was a very easy read and very practical. This was fine for tourist things. I found that when I did not know a word, substituting the French equivalent worked for me.

On my subsequent trips I enrolled in local schools to take formal Portuguese lessons. The classes were generally from 0830 to noon which left me the rest of the day for work activities. I was very lucky to get great teachers and learned fairly quickly. Thanks to Gringoes, I found a wonderful teacher that gave lessons via Skype! During my last trip I realized that I had really begun to internalize the language when I was actually dreaming in Portugus, “aumente carga!!!”… “increase the tension”, Marcus would cry out during spinning class.

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

Treat everything in a relaxed fashion as it comes along. Things will not happen necessarily at the same pace as in your home country. However, everyone is in the same boat and things do work out.

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

I love many things about Brazil. I am very interested in the history, early Portuguese navigators, the aviation industry, Santos Dumont..

The first thing I recommend is to learn a bit of Portuguese. There are so many possibilities now. One thing I do all the time is listening to Brazilian radio stations on the Internet. We also have Brazilian soap operas on TV in Toronto. As I mentioned, I like the Conjunto Nacional in SP. I have walked for miles in SP and was never bored. There are many movie theatres as well which are great. On Sundays, I like the arts & crafts exhibits at Praa Republica. In Salvador, I visited the nautical museum in the Farol da Barra which was awesome. Ancient astrolabs, sextants etc. In Rio, I took several excellent tours given by Rio Hiking. Back here in Toronto, I see every Brazilian movie that comes to town. The Toronto film festival starts in several weeks, so I am going to see 4 new films!

You can contact Jeremy via clarkj@rogers.com.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

August 28, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

This has bothered me as long as I have been in Brazil. It is something I have seen in other countries, and was even given as an example of a “damaged culture” in an article about the Philippines years ago: throwing trash on the street. I don’t mean just where there is no trash can available. I have seen people of all classes casually throw litter from their cars, and as they walk, in almost every location imagineable. When I noticed a well-dressed middle-aged woman throw some paper on the ground outside an upscale shopping mall, I said “Vergonha” and she looked at me like I was nuts. Yet Brazil has a reputation as environmentally conscious. It’s a matter of public health, not just ashetics, I would think.

– Steve

Steve,

I couldn’t agree more with you.

I see people throwing trash on the street all the time. I even saw a McDonald’s bag flying out of a very nice car last week!

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? When you think this might be a problem of education, some wealthy and very well educated people hit ignorance when it comes to environment.

I’ve been criticized by Brazilians for pointing out some of our faults here, and probably this will be another one, but the truth is most Brazilians couldn’t care less about the environment, acting like they weren’t responsible at all.

Of course that doesn’t apply to everyone, such as many things, so why it hurts to acknowledge?

Hopefully it works if we can call up people attention, such as you did with that woman, such as I did with that man on the car: “Porco!”.

“Vergonha” is not enough.

Thanks for coming,

Vanessa

Readers comments:

This is a comment about the Brazilian Trash. This tends to be a cultural thing in Brazil, as many countries that are not of Anglo-Saxon origin take pride in the family and home environment. If you observe, as in Brazil, many homes have walls, fences, etc around them, for security. They also, sort of protect the family from associating with the outside world. That which is behind the wall, family, etc, is more valuable than what is outside the wall… the world which has to be shared with everyone else. Most families in these countries are usually friendly, warm, welcoming, etc. On the flip side is the culture of the Anglo-Saxons, who pride themselves on the appearance of their home, the well-kept streets, lawns, etc. though they may be friendly, they lack the warmth and closeness of the family.

I also have very well educated Brazilian friends who complain about people who throw trash from their cars AND, they also do the same thing. When I remind them, they kind of retreat to that cultural thing that we usually catergorize as, “it’s in the blood” and they reply with; “oh, yes, I wasn’t thinking” or “oh, well,everyone else does it”. So many of them have visited, lived or studied abroad but they always seem to fall into the same attitude of apathy the minute they step off the plane. It’s almost as if they are wired that way.

– Robert Marco

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous questions in this article series:

Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

By Joe Lopes
August 26, 2008

Careful What You Wish For
Like it or not, there was a downside to Diegues’ long-simmering predilection for putting a more contemporary face to Camus’ idyllic vision of Rio, in that every time a beloved screen classic is redone in another moviemaker’s image – Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and Peter Jackson’s King Kong are two examples that come to mind – it stands to be compared (unfavorably, it would seem) with the unassailable original. In that regard, Orfeu was no exception.

To put it bluntly, the Orpheus legend happened to be one of those recurring motifs that have managed, in both theory and practice, to adapt themselves almost too easily to other media – most egregiously to the operatic, cinematic, and theatrical art forms.

For starters, such foreign-born dramatists as Oskar Kokoschka, Jean Anouilh and Jean Cocteau, along with their American counterpart, playwright Tennessee Williams, all drew inspiration from his mythological fable, with varying degrees of success.

Until Black Orpheus made its initial worldwide impact, French poet and filmmaker Cocteau’s classic pairing of Orphe (1949) with his later The Testament of Orpheus (1960) had previously blazed the movie trail, with Sidney Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind (1959), starring Marlon Brando, in turn taking up the slack; it was supposed to have been the film adaptation of Williams’ stage play Orpheus Descending (and a not very good one, at that).

As we might have guessed, there were scores of lyrical versions lying about the opera house, beginning with those of early Baroque masters Jacopo Peri, Claudio Monteverdi, Georg Philipp Telemann and Christoph Willibald von Gluck. In the mid-19th Century, the wildly popular Jacques Offenbach, a German-Jewish migr to Gay Paree, composed a comic operetta on the subject. And in the early twenties, Kokoschka’s Expressionistic play Orpheus und Eurydice was transformed into a modern opera by the Austrian Ernst Krenek, creator of the Jazz-Age hit Jonny spielf auf (Johnny Strikes Up”); while in our own time, an offbeat addition to the standard repertoire (by minimalist Philip Glass) caught movie audiences unaware with an ingenious rewrite of Cocteau’s art film as an operatic tour de force.

There was even a modern dance version, called simply Orpheus (1948), commissioned by Ballet Society of New York, with music by the always-acerbic Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Russian ballet master George Balanchine. These tantalizing tidbits were but the tips of the musical iceberg.

Why, then, would the maker of such distinguished international film fare as Xica da Silva, Bye Bye Brazil, Subway to the Stars and others, risk his already assured motion-picture legacy on a story that, arguably enough, had been better told by others?

“It would be a serious mistake to see Carlos Diegues’ Orfeu as a remake of Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus,” wrote New York University film scholar Robert Stam, in as much as Latin poet Ovid’s update of the oft-repeated tale, recounted in his compilation Metamorphoses, could hardly be termed a mere replica of his predecessor Virgil’s original retelling. “It’s keeping Vinicius’s first idea,” granted Caetano Veloso, “bringing the myth of Orpheus to the Carioca shantytowns, but the ones existing today: there is a strong sense of realism, but at the same time [it] is very much a myth.”

The words “myth” and “realism,” as used here by Caetano, were the cornerstone of Cac’s I-have-to-get-it-right project from the start, its primary purpose for being. These themes were explored in depth in the official statement the Brazilian filmmaker issued just prior to his movie’s New York debut in August of 2000:

“Brazil’s image abroad had been largely associated with Carmen Miranda’s joyful and exotic extravagance. From 1959 onwards, this image has been replaced by the romanticism of Black Orpheus: a happy people, its back turned toward civilization, living, dancing and singing songs in a dreamy landscape. Since then Brazil has changed significantly, and this is what Orfeu addresses. Brazil has developed; it is now the world’s eighth or ninth largest capitalist economy. Yet, at the same time, it is one of the world’s most socially inequitable societies, with a massive gap between the poor and the rich.”

This corresponds closely to Vinicius’ earliest bout with this inflammatory issue. Clearly from the foregoing, it would appear that Diegues (and his home country, for that matter) had taken two giant steps backward in generational time, in acknowledging the appalling lack of progress within Brazil’s socioeconomic sphere – stop me if you’ve heard this before – as well as conceding to the current dilapidated state of the Brazilian union, so eloquently put forth in the latter half of his essay:

“Abandoned by the government, without urban services, hospitals, schools or any other sort of welfare benefits, [the poor communities on top of Rio de Janeiro’s hills] are today infiltrated by drug dealers who strategically control these impoverished areas, creating a state of constant war with the police and amongst themselves.

“Meanwhile, growth and progress have tamed the anarchy of Rio’s street carnival, turning it into an overpowering, for-profit, televised show that takes place in a stadium… Besides Carnaval, new artistic and musical experiments arise from the favelas: a fusion of traditional samba with hip-hop, a new form of political protest carried out by composers of these communities. And it is within this explosive atmosphere, in this steaming pot of fresh human and cultural experiences that Orfeu takes place.”

At the time of its writing, this kind of socially-minded missive would have fallen predictably on deaf ears, as it had for Orson Welles and Vinicius de Moraes early on in their careers. Nevertheless, we can see that it not only had much in common with the Carioca poet’s compassionate 1956 declaration of his indebtedness to Rio’s black population, but a good deal more to do with Glauber Rocha’s now-classic 1965 treatise “An Aesthetic of Hunger,” an indispensable guide to the Cinema Novo mind-set (“[H]unger’s most noble cultural manifestation is violence,” he once touted).

Banished from Diegues’ personal view of Orfeu were those quaint notions from the country’s nationalistic past – the slogan “Brasil, ame-o ou deixe-o” (“Brazil, love it or leave it”) for one. In its place was the grim reality of present-day slum life, which poor people couldn’t very well have banished from view even if they wanted to; filled more than ever before with the stifling cries of hopelessness and despair his pal Vinicius would have been thoroughly ashamed of, not to mention all the blemishes and contradictions a megacity-gone-wild could muster. The Carioca hills were alive, all right, but with the devastating sounds of gunfire:

“It is an ode to the energy, the love and creativity that survive in the midst of violence and misery, within a complex social web where it is easy to identify injustice, but very hard to differentiate good from evil and to draw the line between them.”

– Carlos Diegues

The more things try to change in that persistently troubled corner of the globe, the more stubbornly they cling to life.

Truth or Unintended Consequences
For all the trash talk surrounding reality-TV programming on the tube, the film produced one of those “unintended consequences” we so often hear about but rarely have a chance to participate in or live through.

What Cac ultimately shows us, via his media-savvy finale to Orfeu (after their tragic end, Orfeu and his girlfriend Eurdice are miraculously “reunited” on the small screen), was reflected in the horror that thousands of Rio de Janeiro households witnessed on June 12, 2000, courtesy of the Globo network: before dozens of live television cameras, the notorious Bus 174 incident played itself out in primetime (“an overpowering, for-profit televised show”) by turning a real-life hostage crisis into a soap opera on-demand – a shattering visual climax to a voyeuristic experience worthy of Sophocles himself, let alone one by a Brazilian-born playwright.

There’s no denying the latest chapter in the cinematic life of poet-musician Orpheus (an avatar for poet-musician Vinicius, no doubt) – dusted off anew “whenever the need was seen to reassert high musical ideals against frivolous entertainment values,” in Richard Taruskin’s prophetic distillation of the same – had become a certified box-office success, as it barnstormed its record-smashing way around Brazil.

In the first month alone, over-a-million-plus viewers had flocked to movie theaters to see the colorful pageant of a dreadlock-sporting composer named Orfeu (pop singer Toni Garrido) pound out a ready-made samba on his trusty laptop (and being a poverty-stricken resident of a Brazilian slum, one wonders when and how he learned to use it); indicating that audiences by the boatload identified with the main character’s struggles to make an honest living for himself, amid the chaos and squalor of Rio’s mountaintop villas.

That he also faced down his ex-boyhood chum, the favela’s brutal drug lord Lucinho (Murilo Bencio), in grandiose shoot-’em-up fashion – Orpheus as action-movie hero, no less – never entered their thoughts.

Notwithstanding its director’s adherence to some of the purer aspects of Brazil’s newly revitalized “New Wave” – wherein he once extolled the virtues of, in his paraphrased affirmation of Glauber’s ide fixe (“An idea in your head and a camera in your hand”) that “Brazilian filmmakers [had] taken their cameras and gone out into the streets.in search of the Brazilian people, the peasant, the worker, the fisherman, the slum dweller” – Orfeu pried open the doors to a homegrown “cinema of brute force.”

This, then, became the dominant trait of many of the works featured in the period immediately preceding and after the highly-rated Central do Brasil (Central Station) made the rounds of movie palaces, chief among them the self-titled documentary Bus 174, Madame Sat (“Madame Satan”), and the equally harrowing Cidade de Deus and Carandiru.

The return of the native film-school aesthetic – one that had barely existed at all when Black Orpheus paraded into view – was marked by a return to the exceedingly violent nature of urban street life, first touched upon by Hector Babenco’s chilling portrayal of it, in 1981’s Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (Pixote: Survival of the Weakest).

Diegues was just the fellow to take up the challenge of this modern-day movie trend. With typical Wellesian bravado, his unsentimental reinterpretation of Vinicius’ poetic musical tragedy bore the unmistakable strains of social Darwinism, its own incipient “touch of evil” gone awry, infecting everything and everyone, even those we hold most dear – in this instance, the fair-featured Eurdice (Patricia Frana), accidentally gunned down by the drug lord’s stray bullet.

This sordid reworking, a literal descent into a nightmarish nether-region disturbingly reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno (whose guide, incidentally, was the classical poet Virgil), littered with dead bodies, vile criminal elements and even viler miscreants, is as “dark” as film noir can get (cf. David Fincher’s Seven from 1995, which presents a compelling and just as disturbing North American counterpoint).

In all honesty, there was very little “novo” about this sort of gritty, blood-and-guts-style cinema, although the film did provide some spectacular aerial shots of “Marvelous City” Rio, for what they were worth.

A fundamental point, though, remains unclear: was this really what Vinicius had in mind for a screen adaptation of his play? Would he have applauded the Brazilian filmmaker’s so-called “realistic” depiction of his opus, or, in a more direct manner, would he have slipped out of the movie theater the way he did back in the waning days of the 1950s?

After all, they were fast friends leading up to, and including, the last years of the poet’s life. Before his untimely passing, Diegues had even received the ailing Vinicius’ blessing and consent for a cooperative joint venture that would have displayed his Orfeu da Conceião in the best of all possible lights.

It was only after his sad demise (almost twenty years after, in point of fact), when legal complications involving the confusing copyright issuances to his songs were finally worked out and laid to rest by Vinicius’ remaining kin, that Diegues was able to fulfill his life’s ambition and redo the work in the way “The Little Poet” had intended – or so he would like us to think.

What the rank-and-file Brazilian readily gobbled up, however, others found wanting. It’s now our turn to paraphrase for a moment or two: using Cac’s own words against him, perhaps the picture offered too dystopian a vision of reality for most overseas audiences to identify with. Perhaps prejudice had something to do with it as well.

Perhaps moviegoers abroad simply couldn’t handle the truth about the clear and present dangers of Carioca slum life; or perhaps there was something else that was missing from the film project – something that brought little, if any, recognition to one of Carlos Diegues’ finest directorial efforts to date.

To be continued…

Copyright 2008 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 10
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 9
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 8
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 7
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 6
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 5
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 4
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 3
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 2
Brazil: “Tristeza Não Tem Fim” (“Sadness Has No End”) Part 1
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 3
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 4
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 3
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 2
Brazil: “Opera” in the Amazon – Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, or The Madness of Foreign Men Part 1
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 5
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 4
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 3
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 2
The Brazilian Beat Goes On: My Own “Best-Of” List of Present-Day Bossa Nova Classics Part 1
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 4
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 3
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 2
Brazil: The “Italian” Composer from Campinas Part 1
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 6
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 5
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 4
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 3
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 2
Bringing People Together: Electronic Voyages to Brazil Part 1
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 2
Misunderstanding Brazil’s National Anthem: A Crash-Course in the Hymn of the Nation
Brecht, Weill & Buarque: The Brazilian Play’s the Thing! Part 1
Theater, the Brecht of Life: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera, Part II
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 2
A Walk on the Weill Side: The Influences on Chico’s “Modern” Street Opera Part 1
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 5
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 4
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 3
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 2
Heitor Villa-Lobos: The Brazilian Bach Part 1
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 11
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 10
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 9
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 8
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 7
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 6
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 5
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 4
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 3
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 2
Two Brazilian Charmers Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 21
Teaching English In Brazil Part 20
Teaching English In Brazil Part 19
Teaching English In Brazil Part 18
Teaching English In Brazil Part 17
Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

August 25, 2008

The St. Andrew Society of São Paulo cordially invites you to the Caledonian Ball. One of São Paulo’s premiere events, the Caledonian Ball, is a wonderful Scottish evening with something for everyone. There will be the Scottish Link Pipe Band and Scottish Country Dancing to Iain MacPhail and his Scottish Dance Band, flown in especially from Scotland. Additional music for dancing will be provided by a DJ throughout the evening.

Where: Grand Hyatt – São Paulo. Avenida das Naes Unidas 13.301
When: Saturday, September 27th at 8pm
Dress: Kilts / Black Tie (dark suit & bow tie are acceptable)
Cost: R$225 per person (R$175 under 30 yrs & over 70 yrs) includes pre-ball canapés and drinks, sumptuous dinner, and first-class wine, whisky, & other beverages

Ticket Deadline: Tuesday September 23rd
Deposit payment to: Banco HSBC. Ac. 14473-32 Ag. 0478. CNPJ 06.071.606/0001-02. Associaão Saint Andrew do Estado de São Paulo”
*Fax or email proof of deposit and attendee names to Rita Juliano (11) 5504 7556 or Rita_juliano@hines.com

Queries: Contact Rita Juliano. (11) 5504 7599 or Rita_juliano@hines.com

In the lead up to the 2008 Ball, The St. Andrew Society will be holding Scottish Country dance practices on:

Thursday, September 18th and
Thursday, September 25th

At the Brazilian British Centre, Rua Ferreira de Arajo, 741, Pinheiros.

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By John Fitzpatrick
August 25, 2008

Foreigners who still see Brazil as a nation in which a tiny elite sits astride the toiling masses struggling to earn a living amid grinding poverty should think again. Believe it or not, Brazil is now a country in which just over half the population – around 100 million people – is officially categorized as being middle class. Statistics published by the FGV business school show that almost 52% of households now earn between R$1,064 and R$4,591 a month and are in the C” class. (These figures amount roughly to US$625 and US$2,700, respectively.) Although this means that statistically speaking these Brazilians are as middle class as any bowler-hatted, brolly-twirling Englishman, Brazil is still far from being a bourgeois nation in the European sense. Moreover, these results certainly do not mean that the poor are no longer with us.

The economist in charge of the study, Marcelo Nri, said the main reasons for this breakthrough were the rise in the formal workforce and the growing economy. Although President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the least middle class person who has ever held or is ever likely to hold the Presidency, he can boast that his policies have lifted millions into the middle class. The survey shows that an estimated 20 million Brazilians have moved up the social scale over the last six years. Lula will be hoping that these new upwardly socially mobile Brazilians will show their gratitude by backing his candidate for the next presidential election – Dilma Rousseff is the current favorite – and his own candidacy if he chooses to seek office again in 2014.

As for ideology, Lula is too much of a pragmatist to feel that he may have “betrayed” his socialist past by turning the workers away from revolution and class warfare and towards bourgeois respectability, a house in the suburbs and a barbecue in the back garden.

Lula certainly deserves credit for overseeing economic growth which has led to record formal employment while implementing social programs which have improved the lot of millions of the poorest citizens. Another contributory factor has been the demographic revolution which has reduced the birth rate, as former finance minister, Antonio Delfim Netto, pointed out. The average Brazilian family had 1.6 children in 2001 compared with 5.8 in 1970.

However, being middle class in a European sense is not entirely linked to income. It means having a status which families will do anything to maintain. The English, in particular, are obsessed with the issue. George Orwell once described his background as being “lower upper middle class”. The Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once wrote with spot-on accuracy: “The moment an Englishman opens his mouth, another Englishman despises him”.

How the middle class cope with genteel poverty is a recurring theme of English literature from Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Orwell, John Fowles and up to contemporary writers like Ruth Rendell. Who can forget Mr. Micawber’s motto which he never managed to live up to and ended up in prison for defaulting on his debt: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six, result misery.”

Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” is a classic example. The decision by the main character, Philip Carey, at the end of the book to renounce all the expectations of his middle class background and marry a simple girl whose father is a waster and mother an illiterate peasant was revolutionary for its time. Maugham’s short story “The Outstation”, set in Borneo in the 1920s, is one of the greatest portrayals of the ridiculousness of the English class system. Snobbery is personified in the character of the colonial official Mr. Warburton who dresses for dinner every evening even though he lives alone in the middle of the tropical forest and reads a six-week old copy of “The Times” at breakfast.

Orwell’s “A Clergyman’s Daughter” covers the plight of the lower middle classes trying to hang onto their respectability, with the clergyman’s daughter, Dorothy Hare, knowing that if things get any worse in her life the next level down is prostitution. The same is true for Sarah Woodruff in Fowles’s classic “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. J. B. Priestley’s superb novel “Angel Pavement” has a memorable scene in which an impoverished middle class clerk, Turgis, decides to kill himself but fails when his gas meter runs out and he has no money to get it going again. This obsession with class and status is probably best seen in “The Diary of a Nobody” by George and Weedon Grossmith which created one of the most unforgettable characters in English literature, Charles Pooter of The Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway and his efforts to maintain his station in society in Victorian England.

In Brazil’s case, being middle class is strictly related to income rather than family background, manners, the school you went to or accent. I imagine level for entry to the middle class was arrived at by multiplying the monthly minimum wage, which currently stands at R$415, by around two and a half times for the lower level and by 10 times for the top level. The fact that an entire family can be regarded as middle class by having an income of just over US$600 highlights how low wages still are in Brazil. In world terms Brazil is in 71st place in terms of per capita income. Even within Latin America, it comes in 19th place, according to the national statistics institute, the IBGE, and the World Bank.

While the upper end of the income figure – R$4,591 – is probably enough to give a family with two children a middle class life style comparable with that of a western European country, I am not so sure the same is true of the lower figure. These figures apply to six big state capitals: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife and Porto Alegre. I know São Paulo well and Rio to a lesser extent and cannot believe that a whole family can live a middle class life in either of these places on just over R$1,000 a month.

In fact, entering the middle class can bring many disadvantages and borderline cases might be better off remaining in the “D” group. This may sound perverse but the reality is that the middle class pays taxes while the working class and those in the informal sector do not. Workers can earn up to R$1,373 before they start paying income tax at a rate of 15% up to R$2,743 when it rises to 27.5%. Contributions to the state pension scheme can range from 8% on a wage of R$911 to 11% up to R$3,038.

Taxpayers get very little for their contributions and middle class people are burdened with additional expenses, usually related to school fees, private health insurance plans and security i.e. living in blocks of flats with round the clock security. All this comes at a price. It can easily cost R$1,000 to send a child to school and the condominium costs on even a modest building can come to R$1,000. A decent monthly health plan for a family can also reach R$1,000.

To pay all this means earning piles of money or taking out loans. As the economy has expanded and price stability has become established, the government has relaxed credit regulations and loans are easy to come by. Bank and finance houses are scrambling to offer loans to working class and middle class families to buy cars, homes and electronic appliances.

This means that a “new” middle class family in Brazil may well have no real assets to fall back on in case of an emergency and may have a long line of debts to be paid off. The magazine Epoca gave a good example of one of these new members of the middle class. She is a 34-year-old manicurist called Josineide Mendes Taveres who lives with her two young children in the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro. She visits her clients in their homes in the rich districts of Rio and earns between R$1,500 and R$2,000 a month. She and her children live in a tiny house (“casinha”) measuring 35 square meters. She has a new 29-inch television with access to cable and a DVD, a dishwasher and stylish clothes. She has just bought a fridge and freezer on credit and is about to buy her third mobile phone which she uses to keep in touch with her clients. Statistically this woman fits in with the definition of the new middle class but no European or American would consider someone living in conditions like this as being middle class.

In fact it might be better to describe these people as “middle income” and forget European ideas of class completely. As Delfim Netto, who oversaw the boom years of the 60s and 70s, put it: “The size of the income is not as important as the fact that the people feel they have made progress. A wage plus readily abundant credit allows them to buy middle class goods.”

John Fitzpatrick 2008

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 http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. He can be contacted at jf@celt.com.br.

Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on www.gringoes.com:

Where is Brazil’s Barack Obama?
Brazil: Lula Loses Some of His Moral Luster
Lost Your Job on Wall Street? Head for Brazil!
Brazil: Lula Loves Investment Grade – Whatever That Is
There’s No Business Like Oil Business – in Brazil Anyway
Benefits of Brazil’s Growth Start to Spread
Let Brazilians Sort Out the Problems of the Amazon
Brazil’s Politicians Set to Cash in on Oil and Gas Discoveries
Brazil: Lula Learns the Lesson of Not Planning Ahead
Cops and Robbers Brazilian Style
Brazil: Oscar Freire – São Paulo’s Street of Dreams
Brazil: Lula Called to Account on Tax
Will Lula Leave Brazil in Safe or Unsafe Hands?
Senate Spits in the Face of the Brazilian People
The Lord Mayor Goes Zapping the NYSE in Brazil
Brazil: Economic Boom – Political Gloom
Around Brazil: Natal – Sun, Sand Dunes and Solitude or Hassle, Hustlers and Hookers
ACM – Brazil Will Never See His Like Again
Brazilians Let Politicians Treat Them as Doormats
Senate Chairman Upholds Tradition of Treating Brazil with Contempt
Brits Turn Their Backs on Brazil
Look Out for the New BBC – the Brazilian Broadcasting Corporation
Navel Gazing in Brasilia – Largesse in São Paulo
Brazil’s Politicians Share the Spoils
Cida – A Brazilian Entrepreneur
Ten Top Brazilian Songs to Download on Your iPod
Lula Lets Brazilians Down by Failing to Exercise His Authority
Brazil: Laid Back Lula Finally Gets His Team (Almost) Together
The George W. Bush PR Show Comes to Brazil
Briefing Bush on Brazil the CIA Way
US Authorities Tackle Brazil’s White Collar Criminals
Brazil’s Opposition Parties Try to End Disarray
Lula Faces Arm-Wrestling Contest with New Congress
Brazil Waits for Lula to Return from Holiday
Around Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba
Brazilians Start to Stand Up for Their Rights
Darfur – Brazil’s African Side Show
Economics and Politics in Brazil – a Tangled Web
Brazil’s Strange Idea of Democracy
Brazil: John Pizzarelli – the Boy from Ipanema
Brazil’s Stock Market: the Path to Riches or Rags?
Brazil: Lula Unlikely to Change Course after His Massive Victory
Brazil: Privatization – Lula and Alckmin Defend the Indefensible
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 2
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin Hits Lula but Lands No Killer Blow
Brazil: Lula Pays the Penalty for Complacency
Brazil: Does Lula Deserve to Win?
Brazil: Cardoso Writes a Poison Pen Letter
Monte Verde – Brazil’s Green Mountain
Brazil’s Gross Disappointing Product
Brazil’s Election – Alckmin Hands Lula Victory on a Plate
Lula Hits Back at Congress
Brazil’s Presidential Election May Not be a Walkover for Lula
Pity the Brazilian Voter
Brazil’s Fainthearts Let the Nation Down
Now is the Winter of Brazil’s Discontent
World Cup brings Out the Best and Worst in Brazil
Brazil’s Big Spender
Brazil: The Dogs of War are Unleashed in São Paulo
Brazil: Self-Righteous Indignation Marks Bolivian Nationalization
Brazil: Lula Still Vulnerable
Brazil: The PSDB Takes the Hard Road
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 3
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 2
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin the Hare Takes on Serra the Tortoise
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 Alice Woolliams
August 19, 2008

Budget Travel from Rio to the Rainforest
With its chaotic cities, glamorous beaches and expanses of rainforest, Brazil is excitingly diverse. Along with the country’s sights and scenery, a lively culture and relaxed, open attitude have helped make it one of the world’s most attractive backpacking destinations.

Thanks to its affordable cost of living and enduring popularity, Brazil is very accessible for budget travelers and there is a wide range of hostels across the country which offer cheap beds and a great place to socialize with other backpackers.

Urban Culture from São Paulo to Salvador
In the south of Brazil sits São Paolo, a cosmopolitan mix of affordable international cuisine, renowned local coffee and a lively arts scene. It’s also home to Brazil’s super-rich, with more helicopter traffic here than any other city in the world.

However, budget accommodation is still easy to find, with rates coming in lower than Europe and North America considering the quality. Most of the city’s hostels are concentrated around Rua Augusta and Praca da Republica, although Jardins also has some excellent cheap stays and is a good safe area during both day and night.

The capital, Brasilia, is situated inland from São Paolo and is a fascinating city – it was created and built from scratch in the 1950s. The unique design of the city center and the gleaming, futuristic buildings are an inimitable example of modern urban planning and have led to it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Neatly divided into sectors, the city center is the best place to find a hotel as the rates tend to be the same out in the satellite cities even though the center is a rather safer base for travelers exploring the sights.

To the northeast lies Salvador, which is yet another fascinating example of urban culture and history – its magnificent setting in the bay of Todos os Santos is rivaled only by Rio de Janeiro.

But where Rio’s skyline is dotted with skyscrapers and modern buildings, Salvador’s Baroque churches and cobbled streets reveal the city’s colonial heritage. As one of the most popular destinations in Brazil, hostels are again plentiful in the city.

Tropical Coastlines
With its beautiful sand and beautiful people, Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro (on Brazil’s southern shore) offers the traditional picture-postcard image of Brazil’s beach culture. Home to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer as well as the carnival and a host of raucous late-night discos, Rio is a fascinating mix of culture and hedonistic partying – and Copacabana is one of its most desirable areas.

Cheap accommodation is easy to find in the city and there are some excellent hostels right in Copacabana, offering the perfect base from which to enjoy the beach. In high season (between December and February), however, prices for a room or even a dorm bed can rise steeply, especially during the carnival.

Further south, Ilha de Santa Catarina offers the same beautiful stretches of coast as Rio but in a very different setting. Although some parts of the island have grown into fashionable resorts, Florianopolis retains the region’s natural beauty and low cost of living.

Whilst slightly inland, Florianopolis’ great central location makes it the ideal base for exploring all of Santa Catarina’s charms, with direct bus services providing easy access to both the island’s surf beaches and calmer waters.

Stunning Scenery
At the corner of Paraguay and Argentina, Foz do Iguacu is the world’s largest waterfall and one of its most amazing sights. Set in a subtropical nature reserve packed with unusual species of plants and animals, it’s easy to pass a couple of days exploring and enjoying the park.

Thanks to Iguacu’s renown, hostels are readily available nearby in the center of town or along the road that runs down to the national park. The falls are accessible from both these locations.

Covering over half of the country, the Amazon also offers awe-inspiring scenery and a host of adventures for travelers. Whilst hostels are cheap and ample in Amazonian cities such as elegant Belem and busy Manaus, traveling through the depths of the rainforest and its uninhabited mangrove swamps can be more difficult.

Although milk boats offer independent travel into the heart of the Amazon, there are tours available from nearby cities that often include reasonable accommodation during the journey.

About the Author – Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers, Alice Woolliams traveled around South America via numerous 0 Comments/by

By Rita Shannon Koeser
August 18, 2008

There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the Old South”

– from the opening of the film “Gone with the Wind (1939)

Surprisingly, at a cemetery in Brazil, in the interior of São Paulo state, the pre-Civil War American south is kept alive in songs, music, food and dance. Women in hoop skirts, and men in confederate uniforms eat the foods, dance the dances and listen to the music of the Old South. They come to this cemetery to keep alive the traditions of their ancestors, to recreate some of the traditions of the Old South, and to remember their heritage.

Campo cemetery (pictured below), located outside the city of Santa Barbara dOeste, amidst rolling hills and sugar cane fields, belongs to the members of the Fraternity of American Descendents (Fraternidade Descendencia Americana). There is a graveyard in which about 400 American settlers and some of their descendants are buried. One of the graves belongs to W.S. Wise, a great uncle of Rosalynn (Mrs. Jimmy) Carter, wife of the former president of the United States. In 1972, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter made a visit to this cemetery. The cemetery contains a small chapel, an obelisk with the confederate flag and the names of the original families, and a small museum with photos and artifacts from the original settlers.

The American Civil War (1861-1865), also known as the War Between the States, began when eleven southern states seceded from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy) with Jefferson Davis as their president. They fought against the United States of America (the Union) with Abraham Lincoln as president. A little known story from this war is the emigration, after the war, to Brazil of a large number of the defeated Southerners and how their descendants have kept their heritage alive up to this day. After the south lost the Civil War, the people were demoralized, and many of them looked for a better life in other countries. The emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, an admirer of the United States and interested in developing the cotton industry in his country, actively supported and subsidized this immigration.

The Americans had come to Brazil at the invitation of the emperor, but they stayed because they found a warm welcoming country with a climate similar to their own with soil good for growing cotton and other crops they were used to growing at home. Now, here they lie at this cemetery in Brazil far from their homes in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Texas and others. But their descendents, who live in and around a town called Americana (founded by the Americans) have not forgotten them and do much to honor their memory and keep some of the old traditions alive.

The descendents (called “confederados” in Brazil), through their organization, the Fraternity of American Descendants (Fraternidade Descendencia Americana), have an annual festival called “Festa Confederada” which is held at the cemetery. At this festival confederate flags are flying, traditional dress is worn, and traditional foods such as southern fried chicken, biscuits and gravy are enjoyed. The members play the music and do the dances that were popular in the Old South.

The movie most associated in the public mind with the American civil war and the fall of the Old South is “Gone with the Wind”, a movie from 1939, still very popular. From the opening of the film “There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the Old South. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind”

Look for it also in a small cemetery in Brazil. And you will find it again.

By Laurie Carneiro
August 13, 2008

Here is part 2 of Laurie’s article about her search for the perfect waterfall. To read part 1 click here.

The next day we planned a day trip to the Gruta da Lapinha in Lagoa Santa, which is located approximately 25km from Vespasiano. The car ride to the cavern was memorable – I have vivid memories of being jammed in the back seat with four small children (three of my own and one niece). For most of the trip I was constantly hitting my head on the roof of the car as my brother-in-law never slowed down for any ruts or speed bumps in the road, which were many! Since most cars are small and economical (gas and ethanol have always been expensive in relation to Brazilian salaries) the goal (when needing to travel from point A to point B) seems to be how to fit as many people as possible into the smallest car. Until I learned more about the economic situation (i.e. cost of gas and cars), I wondered if this was a Brazilian idea of family togetherness. Since Brazilians seems to like to be together (the more, the merrier” truly seems to exist here – for almost any occasion) they don’t seem to be bothered by lack of personal space. I understand the mentality and the necessity of this, but for a “spoiled American” it makes traveling by car a challenging experience at times, especially when several nieces or nephews want to come along.

Gruta da Lapinha was beautiful and worth seeing, but my prominent memory from the tour was being called a “gringa” for the first time! As we explored the different areas of the cavern, the guide would pause to explain interesting features. At one point I was engrossed in reading a mounted plaque on the wall and the guide directed a question directly to me in Portuguese. Since I wasn’t paying attention, a girl in the group, yelled, “Hey Gringa!” which got my attention very quickly. The people in the group chuckled, but I was embarrassed. “How did they know I am a foreigner? I didn’t say anything!” I angrily whispered to my husband. (They would not have heard my accent speaking Portuguese, and I had not said anything out loud in English.) I was indignant to be called such a name (in my experience in the states, usually this term is used insultingly or at least in a very derogatory manner by Hispanics towards white Americans). He smiled at me reassuringly and said, “Don’t be upset; she is not insulting you. The girl noticed you are not from around here and this is a common way of addressing a foreigner. Besides, look around you – does anyone else here look like you (i.e. fair skin and blue eyes)? No, so- you are a gringa!” It took me a few minutes to internalize what he was saying and be comfortable with the term and not take offense. Since then I have heard it used many times to describe foreigners and I laugh at myself.

After our cavern trip, we headed back to Irma’s house for a good dinner and some rest which I desperately needed after the harrowing ride to and from the cavern! The next day was a Sunday, and I was relieved to hear plans for a day trip to Belo Horizonte, which was not far from Vespasiano, and that my brother-in-law, Wilson, was not driving. On Sundays, there are Feiras, or street markets set up in the center of the city which carry a variety of different products and lots of artisans. I enjoyed shopping from among all the different vendors, some of whom were willing to haggle with me over prices. The city was pleasant too – a very different kind of atmosphere than Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Somehow, even though it is Brazil’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte has more of a “small town” feel to it. I remember being impressed by the architecture, wide streets, and cleanliness (especially in comparison to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo).

The next day I asked my niece, Tatiana, about the beautiful waterfalls I had heard so much about. My niece told us about the Cachoeiras de Cascatinha located at the Monastery of Santa Barbara in Caraa, about 100 KM away. We decided it would make a great day trip and happily, the trip was entirely on paved road. We ended up in a very interesting place, tucked into the beautiful countryside of Minas. The beautiful church of Santa Barbara (pictured left) is full of interesting history and information. Built during the 1770’s, the grounds include a Neo-Gothic style Cathedral (Igreja Nossa Senhora Me dos Homens) and the Seminary College of Caraa, which was in operation until a fire destroyed most of it in 1968. The well-kept grounds are now open to tourists, and I especially loved the outdoor Stations of the Cross which are built into the hillside near the church. The monks have simple guest rooms for visitors, and the place is pervaded by a sense of peacefulness. I would have loved to stay there for a few days to hike, read, rest, and eat their home-cooked meals, the famous “Cozinha Mineira.” The monks raise their own vegetables and cook on a fogão a lenha (wood stove) for everyone who visits. Their home cooking alone is worth the stop! In the evening, wolves, or Guar, from the surrounding area come in to be hand fed by the monks.

After lunch, we decided to hike up to the waterfalls. The children spotted an animal they had never seen before – an anteater (tamandua) using his long black tongue to eat ants. As we walked toward the waterfall, I noticed how untouched the countryside seemed to be – a perfect place to enjoy nature and get away from the noise and business of city life. We hiked about a mile or so to reach the falls, and the kids wanted to climb to the top, so my husband climbed with them while I relaxed at the foot of the falls and absorbed the scenery around me. The Cachoeiras de Cascatinha are contained in the mountain area which is named “Caraa” because it resembles the face of a giant lying down. When we arrived back at the monastery, I really didn’t want to leave – one day in this special place was not enough – my pace seemed to slow and I really started to relax.

The next day we were ready to begin our trip back to São Paulo – but we wanted to see as much as we could on the return trip so we decided to take some detours on the route home. Since we had such an enjoyable day at Caraa and were so enthusiastic about seeing more waterfalls, Tatiana suggested that we might want to see the waterfalls at the town of São Tome das Letras – Cachoeira da Eubiose. I’m not sure whether she personally had been there or whether a friend had suggested this place. In any case, we said our goodbyes to the family and started on the highway. Eventually, we were directed to turn off the highway onto a hot and dusty dirt road that supposedly would lead us to the town. The road continued on, and for at least two hours we sweated in the heat, rolling down the car windows for air when the car was not shrouded in a cloud of dust. Those two excruciating hours seemed like the longest hours of my life; travel by donkey would have been better, I think. We saw no other cars on that road – just a few people on horseback who looked at us with great amusement. The remote and tiny village of São Tome das Letras was a welcome sight, and we laughed when we spotted “Pat’s Bar” which seemed so out of place. Asking about the location of the cachoeira (waterfall), a person informed us it was located further up the road a few more miles. At this point we looked at each other in despair and almost turned around and went back down the mountain! Figuring that we had come this far, we all decided we should keep going. It would be a shame not to see the falls after all this effort.

We did finally reach the Cachoeira da Eubiose , which were very nice but less than the spectacular sight which was described to us. The kids were only too happy to get out of the car and splash around in the cool water. My husband and son climbed part way up the side of a steep hill to the top of the falls then back down again while I splashed around with our daughters and went walking around on the slippery rocks at the base of the falls. We were careful, but still I slipped, fell, and watched one of my sandals fly off my foot and disappear down the stream. So, bruised and shoeless, but cooled off, I headed back to the car for the very long ride down the mountain and back to the highway. After all, the only way in and out of that town was that dusty, deeply rutted dirt road. (Side note: my husband and I were recently looking at this area on Google Earth and it looks like the road has been paved since we were there!!)

After the “wilderness” trek into and out of the hills, we were happy to see paved road again. Everyone was tired but we pressed on, finishing our day, appropriately, at the city of Ouro Fino. By the time we arrived, we were too tired to do much more than have a quick look around and find a good hotel. Tomorrow, we told the children, we would stop to visit the mountain towns of Monte Sião, Aguas de Lindóia, and Serra Negra on our way back to grandma (Dona Olga’s) home. But that night, we needed a good rest! Our last night in Minas was spent in a nice, very modern hotel – no monkeys, maracuja, wild drivers, caverns, dirt roads, or waterfalls – and we slept well!

Previous articles by Laurie:

Brazil: The Search for the Perfect Waterfall Part 1
Brazil: Kite Fighting
Brazil: The Farmer of Serra Negra

August 13, 2008

Meet Jase Ramsey from the USA who recently moved to Brazil to work. Read the following interview in which he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I’m a 34 year old male who was born in the United States. I grew up in the Midwest (Kansas), and have lived on both coasts for work reasons. Most recently, I was living in South Carolina. I have lived in Mexico, Spain, Moldova, and Barbados.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

I arrived in Brazil in April, 2008. I moved here without ever setting foot in the country in order to take a professorship at a business school in Belo Horizonte. Furthermore, I moved here alone without knowing a single person.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Three things; that the percentage of people that speak English is considerably lower than what I had envisioned. Secondly, people genuinely care about me and what I’m doing. Finally, not just is there an incredibly daunting bureaucracy, but the people here accept it.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Efficiency and Air conditioning. Here in Minas Gerias, the weather is pretty stable, and so most people and businesses don’t have either air conditioning or heating. While coming from South Carolina, where it is infinitely hotter than here, I find myself sweating a lot more here; especially in a suit.

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

Not communicating effectively. Even after being here for four months, I feel like my ability to communicate has been reduced to that of a 3 or 4 year old child. For individuals that come here and their livelihood is based on the ability to communicate complex ideas, this is a seriously painful experience.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

After being here for about a month, a colleague, who I didn’t know very well at all, invited me to go with her husband and two other Brazilians to their parents’ home a few hours from the city for the entire weekend. I had heard that Brazilians were notorious for these kinds of invitations that don’t materialize, and thus I accepted. Naturally, I was thinking how is it possible to invite a Gringo to spend the Festival de Junho in their hometown with their family and friends?!?” Well, the day of departure came and indeed off we went (all 5 of us drinking beer in this tiny car whirling through the mountains). Although there were 20+ individuals at their “Sitio”, and only one person kind of spoke English, the entire gang completely welcomed me, and really tried to make sure I was having a good time.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

In continuation from the prior question; the feeling of acceptance based on nothing other than merely being a human in their atmosphere is mind-opening. It gives one pause to think about what the planet could be if everyone were so giving.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

Someone will have to explain to me the Brazilian’s fascination with Sushi, but you can get sushi here in a huge proportion of establishments. So, I guess I’d have to say Kei in Lordes (in Belo Horizonte). The presentation there, as well as, the service is top notch. I also like this little beer place in Savassi called Frei Tuck; handling an amazing selection of beer, but bring your credit card.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

I was living near a lake for the first month here. And one afternoon, I was doing the Gringo thing of jogging alone with my iPod, and came across a dozen pigesqe/rodent looking animals (capivara) in my path. They stared at me, I stared at them, then they all jumped in the lake for a swim. I was laughing aloud thinking, “If only my conservative mother could see me now”.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

I would agree with some past posts on this site that the difference between classes is huge and uncomfortable to witness. While the GDP per capita in the USA is much higher than Brazil, the gaps in wealth here are more dramatic. You see new Ferraris (despite the large, dare I say crazy vehicle tax) at a stop light right next to a guy physically pulling a makeshift cart with cardboard boxes on it.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

Portuguese is going rather okay for me. I work all day in English and that doesn’t help at all. Furthermore, knowing Spanish really well initially helps, but then hinders your growth due to the similarities. The word I mess up on a lot is the preposition “do” or the combining of prepositions and pronouns.

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

An eye-opener for me was the huge cost of living here. A Honda Civic literally costs twice as much here as in the United States. Rent here in the nice districts is at least as much as big cities in the USA. And since access to capital is unbearably high, if you want a car or house, you have to slap down the money in cash. Thus, the concept/hoax that life is going to be great here because things are so cheap is simply not so. I had more material things as a graduate student than I do as a professional here.
13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

Here in Minas, I’d suggest going to Ouro Preto. Classic colonialism is always a good time for most Gringos, and they are very hospitable to tourists. Finally, leave your timidity at the door. If you even attempt to converse with most Brazilians, you will be surprised with how eager they are to chat with you.

You can contact Jase via ramseyjr@yahoo.com.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

By Alison McGowan
August 11, 2008

The Hotel 7 Colinas (7 Hills) is often referred to as a pousada and the atmosphere here is definitely more pousada-like than any normal hotel. Where the difference really comes out is in the extra comforts which come as standard. Bathrooms have great powershowers, and all rooms have fans and airconditioning, cable TV with good reception, a table to work on, telephone, and free wi-fi internet.

Situated in extensive grounds in the heart of the historical centre of Olinda, the 7 Colinas is a blend of well designed new buildings housing the accommodation wings, a fabulous high ceilinged reception in colonial style, plus the original 19th century mansion, where there is now a museum and small cultural centre. From the restaurant and breakfast room you look out over lovely swimming pools surrounded by palm trees and flowers and ceramic sculptures. Altogether it’s a perfect place to relax, read, and write, whilst still being within walking distance of all the sights and restaurants and bars.

About the location
Olinda is a world heritage city, 5 miles north of Recife which appears to have changed little since the 18th and 19th centuries. Like Tiradentes (Minas Gerais) and Parati (Rio de Janeiro) streets are all cobbled, but just to make finding your way around slightly more complicated, streets follow the contours of the hills, and the city is full of steps and nooks and crannies all waiting to be discovered.

Just in the historical centre there are some 17 churches, 4 museums, 2 markets and plenty of other things to see, so it would be well worth hiring a recommended guide, via the hotel, on the first day at least.

Not to be missed
– Festivals during the year, particularly MOMO in September (classical music)
– A guided tour around Olinda and Recife, including the Brennan ceramics factory in Recife
– Pumpkin dishes at the Oficina do Sabor; caipirinhas in the Bodega do Veio grocer’s shop; tapioca in the Praca da Se
– A visit to the hotel’s museum in the original 19th century mansion
– Relaxing by the hotel swimming pools

Getting there without a car
The easiest way is by air to Recife and then taxi (R$45) to Olinda. Arriving by bus in Recife you will have to pay more than R$50 for the taxi to Olinda, and spend an extra hour travelling!

Hiring a car at Recife airport may be a better option on this occasion, and the 7 Colinas actually has space to park your car for the duration of your stay.

Starpoints at the Hotel 7 Colinas
* Quiet location in the centre of the historical centre
* Airy, well appointed, and comfortable rooms
* Swimming pool and jacuzzi surrounded by trees and flowers
* Large car park for residents
* Free wi-fi which works first time!

Try a different place…
– if you like smaller and more personal
– if you don’t want the noise associated with children or small groups.
– if you would really prefer a “hidden” pousada

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on alison@hiddenpousadasbrazil.com. Visit her blog at http://www.hiddenpousadasbrazil.com/.

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada dos Quatro Cantos, Pernambuco
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Estrela do Mar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Vivenda, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Terra, Minas Gerais
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mirante de Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Caju, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada da Amendoeira, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Estalagem Caiuia, Alagoas
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Lagoa do Cassange, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Ponta do Muta, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia