By Stephen Guild
April 29, 2007

It was Christopher Columbus who first brought sugar cane to the New World. Europeans quickly realized the potential of the production of sugar cane, especially in the Portuguese and Dutch colonies, and thus the economy and the society of Brazil were forever shaped by the plantation system, the slave trade and the sugar refining industry.

Sugar Comes to Brazil
Sugar cane is said to have been first planted in Brazil in 1516 by the Portuguese, and very early in the settlement process the colonial office requested a sugar technician. By 1518 the first plantation was in operation, but it was not until the 1530’s that sugar agriculture was firmly established in Brazil. The earliest large-scale production of sugar was in place in 1550, along the Atlantic coast from Bahia and Pernambuco.

Even if sugar was a profitable product, it was not grown in all parts of Brazil. Since the sugar plantations were mainly in the northeast, this part of Brazil became the center of the Brazilian economy during the period between 1550 and 1660. This hundred-year period significantly altered Brazil and its culture.

The Plantation System
The first sugar cane plantations adopted the production techniques the Portuguese had perfected in the Madeira and Canary Islands. The plantation system of Brazil and the Caribbean and the introduction of slavery combined to make sugar production one the drivers for European expansion, colonization and control in the New World.

The plantations were called engenhos (mills), but the term refers to the entire complex of sugar cane fields, the mill and the factory. The estates were large tracts, often granted by the crown or colonial governors, and only a part of them were cultivated in sugar cane. It was a hierarchical society from the slave at the bottom to the owner, the senhor de engenho, at the top. Part of the land was leased and cultivated by lavradors (tenants), and in return for their efforts, they received a certain percentage of the sugar from the cane they had grown.

By the middle of the seventeenth century the Brazilian sugar industry had expanded rapidly with support of the Dutch East India Company, which had seized Pernambuco from the Portuguese in 1630, and with the Dutch importation of slaves from equatorial Africa.

Producing Sugar
The actual processing of the sugar was accomplished by crushing, processing and refining the sugar through a system of mechanical and human labor. An innovation in sugar production, the roller mill, reduced the time and labor needed to prepare the sugar cane, thereby increasing the mill’s capacity. The invention of the three-roller mill was a breakthrough that provided the most efficient way of milling sugar in the early 1600’s. This technology, combined with the production process and a large labor force, made the system work.

It wasn’t long, however, before the early settlers realized they lacked sufficient manpower to plant, harvest and process the backbreaking crop.

The Slave Trade
Sugar became the base of Brazilian economy and society with the use of black slaves on large plantations to make sugar production for export to Europe. At first, settlers tried to enslave the Indians as labor to work the fields. However the Indians were found to be unsuitable as slaves, and so the Portuguese land owners turned to Africa

The first slave ships arrived in 1505 and continued for more than 300 years. Most came from western Africa, where Portuguese colonies had already established trading outposts. By the middle of the 19th century, more than 10 million Africans had been forcibly removed to the New World and distributed among the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean. In fact, 40% of the slaves who were uprooted and transported to the New World came to Brazil.

The Decline of Sugar
In the 1660s, the focus of sugar production began to shift from Brazil to Barbados and other islands of the West Indies. The expulsion of the Dutch from Pernambuco in 1654 and the disruption in trade led the Dutch to focus their capital investments in the West Indies. Sugar production in these islands soon surpassed those in Brazil, and they became the largest sugar producers in the world. As a result, many farms in Brazil changed their product from sugar to tobacco or wine. Cotton also became a big industry that was nicknamed “White Gold,” and in João Pessoa there is a hotel called Ouro Branco. In the 19th and 20th Centuries, coffee took the place of sugar as Brazil’s most important product.

Sugar in Brazil Today
Brazil is among the world leaders in the production of sugarcane, sugar, and ethanol (fuel alcohol). It is among the most efficient of all major sugar producers and exports a diverse number of sugar products. Since Brazil can produce either sugar or ethanol from sugarcane, it is one of the few countries that can adjust rapidly to potential world sugar shortfalls and high international prices.

With a long tradition of high per capita sugar consumption, Brazil ranks fifth as a sugar-consuming nation. In 2000, a little less than half of its cane production was ground for sugar. Today more sugar is produced in Brazil than anywhere else in the world.

The Sugar Legacy
The Portuguese settlers frequently intermarried with both the Indians and the African slaves, and there were also mixed marriages between the Africans and Indians. As a result, Brazil’s population is intermingled to a degree that is unseen elsewhere. Most Brazilians possess some combination of European, African, Amerindian, Asian, and Middle Eastern lineage, and this multiplicity of cultural legacies is a notable feature of current Brazilian culture.

Many of the sugar plantation owners lived in Olinda, where they had fine homes and were part of urban life. Most often, the actual running of the plantation was done by the New Christians and other Jews. In some cases, they were owners and had political, economical, and social influence on Brazil. Sometimes, these Jews were given the titles of nobility, but these positions were not hereditary because the sugar industry was quite unstable.

Joaquim Nabuco, the first Brazilian ambassador to the United States, was the son of a wealthy plantation owner, so he was no stranger to the system and the plantation life. He was also one for the campaigners who eventually brought an end to slavery.

Some of the religious orders that were centered in Olinda were supported by income from the sugar industry. A small plot of land in Olinda was donated by a wealthy local woman, but her donation of a much larger tract of land sustained the Franciscan monastery and their missionary work. The monastery still stands and, one of its chapels is especially ornate because it was largely financed by money from the sugar merchants.

There is even a culinary link to the sugar cane industry. Feijoada, the Brazilian national dish, was originally created by slaves who used the leftover parts – ears, feet, tail – of beef or pork animals, the better parts having been consumed by the managers and owners of the engenhos. Today’s feijoada still is served, even in the finest restaurants, with a choice of these different animals parts, along with the traditional black beans and rice.

Stephen Guild is Executive Editor of Recife Guide. Republished with permission from Tiradentes: The Day of a National Hero

By Lucio Flavio Pinto
April 29, 2009

The most valuable natural resource in Amazonia is its rainforest, which represents one-third of all tropical rainforests on Earth. This is a fact that science has already confirmed. Yet, the most glaring characteristic of the growing human occupation of the Amazon is the destruction of its rainforest. In only half a century, 700,000 square kilometers of virgin rainforest has been lost, the equivalent of the state of São Paulo, the richest sate in the country which produces one-third of Brazil’s GDP, expanding its area three times over. This is without precedent in the history of Homo Sapiens. Whatever comes to be the final result of the economic incorporation of the greatest frontier of natural resources on the planet, one thing has already become definitively clear: never has there been such vast destruction of tropical rainforests.

When, during the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s, the Belem-Brasila highway connected by land, for the first time, the Amazon to the rest of Brazil (before this, people could only travel by water or air), the original forest had not yet lost 1% of its size. Man was limited to riverbanks of navigable rivers and the rare incursion into the interior. He lived off what the rivers offered and collected and extracted some valuable commodities, the most important of which would be rubber from the rubber trees.

In the second half of the 20th century the Amazon remained basically the same paradise that fascinated Euclides da Cunha 50 years earlier: a page out of Genesis that God did not allow himself to write, he transferred this ability to Man, still a secondary element in the dominant natural landscape. Man, however was not able to become a genuine author of this final page of creation: he was an intruder.

As the century passed, this intrusion only worsened. During the 80’s and the 90’s man destroyed 20 thousand square kilometers per year. The all-time record for destruction was broken in 1987: it was 80 thousand square kilometers of dense forest and more than 120,000 square kilometers of other plant life, according to a study by the INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) during this period.

The conscience of regional, national and international communities now questions the sustainability of such an irrational attitude that has driven such destruction for a prolonged epoch (violent destruction beyond the capabilities of all previous human history). The agent in this process acts to exhaust the most valuable resource at its disposal. Not only does it destroy a sustainable resource that can produce valuable commodities. This practice also deals a death-blow to the capacity of the Amazon itself to survive and compromises the forests role in maintaining the Earth’s equilibrium.

Without the forest’s massive canopy the region would be exposed to changes in weather leading to lixiviation and soil compaction, and aggressive transformations, like a dramatic reduction of its exuberant volume of water (for example, resulting in last year’s drought), entering a cycle of consequences that are beyond catastrophic. Furthermore, also lost will be the beneficial service of the vast pan-Amazonian rainforest (the size of which is equivalent to the United States and Western Europe) to absorb massive amounts of the world’s pollution.

The economic and environmental functions that the Amazon can perform are not exclusive, in contrast to the distorted vision that some sectors of public opinion try to portray. Conversationism” cannot be presented as an impediment to market forces. Resolutions to protect the Earth, agreed by international protocols, have created a non-conventional market as huge as the conventional markets that circulate traditional products. The scale of transformation of a certain natural resource depends on the degree of information harnessed by he who has access to the resource. The nose of a snake can be used as a model for a missile that is guided by heat. One snake is worth “x”. One missile is worth one million “x”. He who knows only a little, kills the snake. He who knows more studies the snake and transforms it without destroying it.

The difference, therefore, is knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t fall readymade from trees, like in the system of a collector. Knowledge is a construction. The construction of knowledge in the Amazon is a work that has just begun. The accumulation of knowledge we have so far is insufficient, however impressive it may be, yet it still goes against the ‘model’ of those occupying the region. What science says, these pioneers ignore. They pretend not to hear or are misinformed, so they ignore all suggestions and recommendations.

Scientists are playing the role of a mourner at a funeral ceremony for the destruction of the noble assets of the Amazon, living to cry and lament their helplessness in the given situation, when if people had listened and done differently, all would have come out winners. In the long run, with the application of science, what has been done is a crime against humanity. But, in the short-term, without the wisdom of science, everyone will be killed, retorts the pioneer, imagining that he is god ex-machina of pragmatism, with the knowledge that fits on the head of a match.

What, then, is the solution? Produce more science. Not science circumscribed to science labs, nor to their books and their author, nor to their resumes. Science needs to go out to the frontlines where it is needed in order to plant good seeds (if the seeds do not grow, the science is worthless). Either a scientific revolution is promoted in the Amazon, or there will be no Amazon-not for science, Amazonians, or anyone else.

Investment in science needs to multiply in the region. But not only this. It is necessary to train qualified people in the region itself, to invert the flux of knowledge. There needs to be sufficient investment and infrastructure for centers of study within the region, so that there can be applied knowledge on the ground in the Amazon. These centers-biotechnology, genetic engineering, forestry, hydrobiology, commodities, etc- need to not be confined to a central campus. They need to be spread-out into the hands-on areas of study, in the natural habitat, where these sciences can be applied. Not only for specialization work for post-graduates: but also graduating students, whose courses will take place in contact with the target of their study.

This process cannot take place in precarious conditions: the ‘last frontier’ in science and technology will be in the Amazon, with equipment and personnel. All of this effort is to be oriented toward the construction and implantation of an ecological-economic zoning, not like a virtual game, manned by computers posted in the rearguard, but on the frontlines of history.

Utopia? Certainly. Because the Amazon is one of few places in the world where utopia can become a reality in a short period of time. Finally, it is where utopia is currently being destroyed during all seasons, between the tree-cutting and the burning. Isn’t this where the last page of Genesis is becoming debased by the careless graffiti of man? Alright then, get to work already!

Translated from Portuguese by James Denison and Cassia Leal.

Lucio Flavio Pinto is an independent journalist who has been reporting on the destruction of the Amazon for the past 43 years. He can be contacted at: jornal@amazon.com.br

Previous articles by Lucio:

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By Marilyn Diggs
April 29, 2009

When guests arrive on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), guides adorn their necks with fresh flower garlands. At departure time, the host decorates them with shell necklaces. Polynesian cultures believe that this custom will insure the island visitors’ return. The spell must have worked because here I am again, two years later. My first trip was a whirlwind of digesting historical facts, visiting the signature moai (monolithic stone sculptures), and covering as much terrain as possible. I surveyed the island in a van, on horseback and on foot. This time my stay is more contemplative. I begin where I left off- quietly admiring the orange and violet sunset over the Tahai ceremonial site as a lone drummer beats cadence until the sun vanishes into the Pacific Ocean.

I chose Most tourists see the contest’s location from the Orongo ceremonial cliff. This time I travel to Motu Nui, where the birds still nest today. To get there, our boat slices through deep blue waves and bounces us in the open sea until we reach three islets that look like dots from the Orongo village above. The magnitude of the athletes’ challenge becomes real to me once I see the shore line: spray from the waves spews against the sheer rock of Motu Nui, while a giant, vertical cliff – the starting point for the race – forms the backdrop. The migratory sooty terns circle over us; their eggs safe since missionaries banned the contest in 1864. Still, the reminders of the contest are everywhere on the island – carved on rocks (500 petroglyphs in Orongo alone), painted in caves (See header photo) and even decorating the church faade in town.

An Afternoon on a Sacred Beach
Another high point is swimming at Anakena Beach, on the northern coast. The water is warm and welcoming. After a dip and photos, our guides prepare a banquet lunch under tents on ancient ceremonial grounds. According to legend, King Hotu Matau reached this shore with the initial settlers in a type of catamaran around 450 A.D. Later kings presided over public ceremonies here, during which sages recited from the ancient sacred ronga-ronga wooden tablets. The meaning of their script has been lost and remains one of Rapa Nui’s many mysteries. Anakena’s stone guardians are seven of the most enchanting moai on the island, complete with pukao (red “hats”) and detailed carvings on their backs.

Interviewing Locals Makes it Real
Turning my attention to more recent history, I seek out friendly locals to interview. From 1888 until the 1960s the Chilean government confined the Rapanui to one spot: Hanga Roa. The Chilean Navy held them as virtual prisoners and most lived a scant existence. The quality of life only improved after the islanders received Chilean citizenship in 1966. I hear stories about the hard years from the older residents. The oldest islander, Benedicto Riroroko, who is 90, tells me about his grandfather, the last king. (See photo) Simeón Riro Kainga was assassinated (poisoned) in Valparaiso in 1899 when he went to the mainland to complain about the cruel treatment of his people. In 2006, President Michelli Bachelet returned his ashes to the island and gave Benedicto a Chilean flag. He recalls this emotional event in the Rapanui language which his grandson translates for me. Today proud islanders talk freely about their culture and heritage. During summer festivals they paint their bodies and don straw and feather costumes to re-enact competitions and dances. Some talk about independence.

This time I leave Easter Island with a new, more mature appreciation for its open-air museum, mixture of blood lines, and unique culture. As I gaze at my shell necklace hanging in my study, I can only hope that its magic will work again, and allow me to return once more to the ever-mystifying Easter Island.

Resources
Freeway Brasil: Information and reservations office: 5088-0999;
www.explora.com

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International , a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. Atacama Desert, Chile – I Came, I Saw, I Explored
Journey through the Fjords of Patagonia
Around Brazil: Jap Mountains, When Nature Calls
Around Brazil: Living the Amazon
Brazil: A Spa that Takes Care of Body and Soul
Around South America: Puyuhuapi – Chile’s Patagonian Secret
Around South America: Looking for Adventure in Chile’s Patagonia
Around South America: Road Trip through a Forgotten Land – Aisn, Chile
Conquering Cape Horn
Around Brazil: Hang-Gliding Over Rio
Around Brazil: Sailing in Paraty
Santiago: Gateway to the Chilean Experience
The Enchanting Easter Island
Nature and Nurturing in Chile’s Lake Region
Chilean Patagonia: Going to the Ends of the Earth
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 2
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

April 23, 2009

Sweet Home São Paulo features the musicians Raul Lima, Rodrigo Veloso, Caetano Scatena, and Jason Bermingham. They are playing their regular montly gig tonight with classic rock tunes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

If you’re free, please join them this Thursday, April 23, at Finnegan’s Pub in the Pinheiros neighborhood. The show will start at 9pm. You can sip Guinness at the bar, enjoy the show over dinner out front, or play darts upstairs. Sweet Home São Paulo look forward to seeing many of their friends from around the world – friends who have made their home right here in São Paulo.

Finnegan’s Pub
Thursday, February 23, at 9pm
Rua Cristiano Viana, 358 (Pinheiros)
São Paulo, SP
R$10 cover charge
To reserve a table, call (11) 3062-3232

By Theresa de Souza
April 21, 2009

The purpose of this entry is to give unbiased feedback regarding my personal experience with Rosetta Stone. In no way am I trying to encourage or discourage anyone from using Rosetta Stone.

Background
I recently had the opportunity to try Rosetta Stone for free. I signed up for a session” beginning mid-February and my subscription will end mid-June. Obviously I was delighted to take part, since I am moving to Brazil in June; I signed up for the Brazilian Portuguese session. The session I signed up for with Rosetta Stone is completely online, but has the option to add an Audio Companion, which is a set of CDs containing matching lessons to the online lessons (for an extra fee of US$50). The actual price of an online subscription is US$199.95 for six months of access.

Software/Hardware Needed
– Internet Browser
– Microphone (Not necessary for all of the lessons, but is needed for speaking and pronunciation.)
– Internet Connection
– Rosetta Stone Software (downloaded from site)

The Setup
The software is setup with three different Levels and within the Levels are four separate Units. Each Unit has four separate Lessons; each Lesson has a Core Lesson and consequent mini-lessons consisting of activities such as: Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. One interesting aspect of these Lessons is they build on each other and use what you have learned in the previous Lesson(s). Also, the Lessons are not cut and dry, so to speak. Lesson 1 will have the Core Lesson, Pronunciation, Vocabulary, and Grammar, the user then moves on to Lesson 2. Mixed within Lesson 2 are writing and speaking from Lesson 1. The Lessons proceed this way through Lesson 4, which has activities from Lessons 2 and 3 mixed within it.

If one so desires, the settings can be changed to allow the user to go through all of Lesson 1 together, then move on to all of Lesson 2, etc.

Level 1 consists of the following Units: Language Basics, Greetings and Introductions, Work and School, and Shopping.

Level 2 consists of the following Units: Travel, Past and Future, Friends and Social Life, Dining and Vacation.

Level 3 consists of the following Units: Home and Health, Life and World, Everyday Things, Places and Events.

Breakdown of Lessons
Core Lesson: The Core Lessons consist of 30 some-odd screens. Generally they contain a mix of all the other mini-lessons. As with all the lessons/screens, Rosetta tracks the number you have correct and incorrect throughout; a percentage correct pops up after you have completed the screen and allows you to go to the next lesson.

Pronunciation: For this feature of the software, you must have a microphone hooked up to your computer. The Pronunciation mini-lesson ranges from the pronunciation of individual phonemes and morphemes to the pronunciation of entire sentences. The voice recognition from Rosetta Stone indicates whether or not you pronounced the sound/word/sentence correctly. Another feature on these screens is a “help” button, which brings up a secondary screen containing sound waves of both the native speaker and your own. I believe the idea is to get your own voice and intonation to match that of the native speaker. I, however, have never been able to accomplish this. The first screen indicates I pronounce the prompt correctly, but if I should click on the secondary screen, my sound waves and the native speakers’ never matched.

Vocabulary: Exactly as it sounds, the Vocabulary Lesson teaches vocabulary. An interesting note: Rosetta Stone does not have any translations or instructions. It consists only of pictures and the foreign language for all lessons.

Grammar: The grammar instructions go against everything I live and breathe as an English teacher. Grammar is not taught explicitly but with examples. This concept I found to be the most difficult as some of the connections were very hard to make with why the wording was a certain way. Even though I survived the lessons, I get the strange feeling I am missing a large part of being able to speak on my own.

Writing: The Writing Lessons were useful as the activities made me actually remember how to spell the words. The most difficult aspect of this activity was remembering where the accent marks went. A concept that is extremely foreign to native English speakers!

Listening: Of all the lessons, I consider this to be the most beneficial. The screens consist of pictures but no words. The user has to listen to the speaker and determine which picture is the answer. This, of course, is more like real life. When people are having conversations, the written word is not accompanying the dialogue!

Speaking: Like Listening, I found the Speaking Lesson to be of great help. Many times the user must deliver an answer to the native speaker without the benefit of having the words written out. There was one frustrating aspect to this lesson. In real life, there are many ways to answer a question; in Rosetta Stone, there is only one answer. Sometimes the software wants a simple “Yes” or “No” answer and sometimes it was a complete sentence answer. I still have not figured out any clues as to which it wants and when, other than trial and error.

Reviews: There are two types of reviews on Rosetta Stone. The first is within the lessons and the second comes along as you are completing subsequent lessons and units. The reviews within lessons are valuable tools to see what, if anything, you are retaining as you go along. Every so often, the software prompts “Adaptive Recall” activities; this the second type of review. In my opinion, the name is a little misleading. I assumed these “Adaptive Recalls” were based on which questions/activities I answered incorrectly and therefore, needed help with. I still have not figured out exactly how the software decides to put activities into the recall sections. Many of the sections in the recall, I received 100% during the lesson, while others I received decidedly less and were not included in the recall activities. Also, it felt like the recall activities were always the same; this became extremely boring and repetitive when I wanted to just learn something new. I found the “Adaptive Recall” to be more annoying than anything and decided to skip them most of the time.

Milestone: The Milestones are probably the highlight of Rosetta Stone. At the end of each Unit, a Milestone activity is completed. The activities are setup so that it feels like the user is in the situation at hand. For example, one Milestone is a camping trip. The pictures scroll through the screen and the people in the pictures ask the user questions and have conversations. This activity felt more “real world” than any other. Though, I have a similar complaint to that of the Speaking Lesson: Rosetta Stone recognizes one answer and one answer only.

Pros
Rosetta Stone is extremely user friendly. No instructions are needed; users just click and begin. The lessons are self-explanatory and allow users to learn from the very first screen. Also, the software allows users to skip around between lessons, units, and levels. Getting a low percentage on one lesson does not stop the user from continuing on. The user always has the option of repeating any lessons, units, or levels he or she so desires. To test the ease of use factor, I let my 7 year-old have at it. The result was encouraging; even she could navigate through the lessons and get most items correct.

One of my favorite aspects of Rosetta Stone was the lack of translations. Nothing was translated into English. I found this to be useful as I was required to actually think and process through each and every lesson and screen. In my experience (and I believe research agrees), students learning English do much better without constantly translating into their native language. Also, I found myself processing many of the words and pictures in Portuguese. For example, if a picture of a fish was on the screen, my mind would come up with peixe and not fish.

The pictures and graphics Rosetta Stone uses are certainly a plus. With the exception of pronunciation, each screen has from one to several pictures on it. As mentioned previously, users click on the correct picture when asked a question. Some screens worked the opposite and users have to click on the correct wording for each picture. For the most part, learning Portuguese was relatively pain-free thanks to the innovative pictures used. I often found myself wondering just how they came up with some of the pictures.

Cons
While trying to remain as unbiased as possible, I do have to point out some of the downfalls of Rosetta Stone. The first and most glaring omission is grammar. Although, I previously mentioned this, I feel the need to expound on this subject. Language rules are extremely complicated. After being married to a Brazilian for 7 years, listening to him speak, and having very, very basic comprehension of Portuguese, I still felt the need to ask for help on the grammar rules many times over. In a perfect world, we would see and hear a word used and understand the implications right away. Obviously, learners are less than perfect and may not make one of many connections needed to truly understand the grammar rule being used. Another reason I bring this point up is the fact that I did start with some vocabulary and structural knowledge of Portuguese; I can only imagine how confusing some of the rules must be for someone with zero knowledge of the language being learned.

Rosetta Stone uses a “one size fits all” approach. Some of the lessons I could have theoretically skipped entirely and been none the worse; Rosetta Stone makes no allowances for previous knowledge and/or experience with language. Sometimes this approach is nice in that it makes sure each and every user receives the same language fundamentals, but in my opinion, it is mostly annoying. If I already know what “Sim” means, I really do not need to go through twenty lessons about Yes and No. True, users have the option of skipping lessons, but users won’t know what the lesson is until he or she goes through it!

The price of Rosetta Stone is a big setback, in my opinion. As mentioned earlier, I tried Rosetta Stone free (through my employer) and did not have to foot the $199.95 bill. This may have deeply affected my opinion. If I had paid the $199.95, I am sure I would not consider it a wise investment. There are many free language learning sites and software around and $200 seems extremely steep for this product.

My Opinion
I am grateful I was able to experience Rosetta Stone; no doubt it has given me a multitude of vocabulary and language fundamentals I did not have when I began. In my world though, everything comes down to $. With all the resources of the web, it would seem that one only has to put a little legwork into researching language learning sites to find the necessary lessons. Rosetta Stone has a good foundation, and for the price of free, it was a bargain.

You can read Theresa’s blog at

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By Stephen Guild
April 21, 2009

Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, also known as Tiradentes (Tooth Puller), was the leader of the first organized movement against Portuguese rule in Brazil in 1789.He was born to a poor family in São Jos de Rey, which is now called Tiradentes, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

During his lifetime he was a cattle driver, miner and dentist (hence his name), but it was in his job as a low-level public official that he became aware of the exploitation of Brazilians. He was sent to missions in cities along the road between Vila Rica (the capital of Minas Gerais) and Rio de Janeiro, which was the path most of the gold mined in Brazil took on its way to Portugal. Here he saw firsthand how much gold was leaving Brazil, and he knew how valuable it was.

In his travels he became aware of the ideas that had sparked the French and American Revolution. He organized the Inconfidencia Mineira in Minas Gerais, which advocated complete independence from Portugal. An attempt by Portuguese officials to collect back taxes (not too different from the collection of tea taxes by the British in the thirteen American colonies) touched off the call for a rebellion.

The plans were revealed to the governor by Joaquim Silverio dos Reis, who was a participant in the movement and betrayed the group in exchange for waiving of his due taxes. Tiradentes fled to Rio, where he tried to reorganize the movement. Not knowing who had denounced the group, he went to meet Joaquim Silverio dos Reis in Rio, and Tiradentes was arrested.

The trial lasted almost three years. Tiradentes assumed the entire responsibility for the movement. Ten members of the group were sentenced to death; all of them, except Tiradentes, had their sentences commuted.

On April 21st, 1792 (today the date of a national holiday in Brazil), Tiradentes was hanged in Rio de Janeiro, in the plaza today named Praa Tiradentes. His body was cut into several pieces. With his blood, a document was written declaring his memory infamous. His head was publicly displayed in Vila Rica. Pieces of his body were exposed in the cities between Vila Rica and Rio, in an attempt to scare the people who had listened to Tiradentes’ ideas about independence.

Tiradentes’ martyrdom made him a national hero. Thirty years after his death the king designate of Portugal declared Brazil’s independence and became its first emperor. April 21 is a national holiday.

Republished with permission from

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By Stephen Thompson
April 21, 2009

As of April 19, 2009, Chinese-Brazilian Iron Man athlete Chen Ching Hui, President of Shanghai Infinitum Sports Ltd, will wake up facing the hardest test of his life. Because he will know that today and every day for the next three months, he will have to run an ultramarathon. He has just set out on a journey of a lifetime in order to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity in preventing cancer and other diseases. During the next few weeks, he will run almost 4700 km, from Bari in the south east of Italy to Nordkapp in the far north of Norway, through Italy, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Norway. The Trans Europe Foot Race lasts 64 days and is the longest ultramarathon on earth. Hui will run an average of over 70 km per day, which is equivalent to almost two standard 42km marathons per day. Not bad for a guy in his 50s!

The race begins April 19 in Italy and finishes June 21 inside the Arctic Circle. Of the 68 runners who have qualified, Rui is the only Chinese, and also the only Brazilian, since he now has dual Taiwan-Brazilian nationality. Rui will probably get through half a dozen pair of shoes. If he does get injured, he will have to keep running through the pain if he wants to finish the race. For the next few months, he’ll wake up at 4 or 5 am each day, hit the road by 6 am and run for 7 to 14 hours. To fuel that exertion, he’ll eat at least 7,000 calories a day, including plenty of carbs. That’s three or four times as much as most people need to eat. The youngest runner is 26 and eldest is 74. The majority are from Germany or Japan, most of the rest are from Holland, Switzerland and Scandinavia, with one runner each from Turkey, Korea, the USA and Brazil.

These days, people just don’t take enough exercise. They spend too much time messing around with their computers, playing LAN games or writing things like this. Put simply, they spend far too much time sitting down in front of their computers staring at screens and not nearly enough running round. Why is this bad for us? Simply because the human body wasn’t designed for this, it is designed to function best with frequent exercise. When it doesn’t get this stimulus, it adapts by gradually consuming its muscles, until all that’s left is the useless fat. In recent years, we have seen ever increasing levels of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes due to lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits. Rui is so concerned about this he wants to make a statement by getting more exercise in the next three months than some young people of the computer generation are likely to get in their whole lives.

Born in Taiwan, Chen lived in Brazil for over 10 years, building a highly successful export business. Now he is president of Shanghai Infinitum Sports and Quality of Life Management Ltd, the first Brazilian sports company in China. He has three children with his wife Margaret.

Rui is no stranger to this kind of endeavour: last year he was third placed in the 1150km La Transe Gaule race across France.

On his return, Rui’s company will be holding a race in Shanghai on October 10, to raise awareness about health and prevent medicine in partnership with the China Breast Cancer Foundation. After the race, spectators and runners will be free to explore more than 2400m of recreational activities organised by sponsoring companies on the themes of health, lifestyle and sports. We wish Rui a good run, and hope he’s not too tired to run in his own company’s race when he gets back to China!

This is the official site of the Trans Europe Foot Race: secker.blogspot.com.

Stephen Thompson is Business Development Manager of Infinitum Sports – If God is a Brazilian…
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April 21, 2009

Win a round the world trip for two, plus 49 other prizes!

HostelBookers has been named cheaper than EyeforTravel – and to celebrate, they’re running a fantastic competition featuring 50 prizes.

Partnering with two round the world tickets and selected accommodation (worth up to 3,000!) to one very lucky winner.

For second prize, there’s a Sony HDR-TG3E HD Camcorder up for grabs, plus an iPhone touch (16GB) and iPod nano (8GB) for third and fourth. 16 runners-up will then receive backpacks filled with travel supplies and another 30 entrants will win a compact travel hammock.

The competition will run from 17 April to 8 May. To enter the prize draw, all you have to do is head over to the HostelBookers competition page and answer one simple question: just how much cheaper did EyeforTravel find HostelBookers to be than Hostelworld?

The research – which looked at 600 of HostelBookers and Hostelworld’s budget hotels and hostels over 20 popular worldwide destinations – has also prompted HostelBookers to offer a lowest price guarantee on all their accommodation.

For full details of the lowest price guarantee and a chance to win round the world tickets (and the 49 other prizes), log on to

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April 17, 2009

This week in our continuing Foreigners Through Brazilian Eyes series we have an interview with Vanessa Agricola. Read on as Vanessa 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?

São Paulo. I’m a fulltime freelance screenwriter.

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

Speaking Portuguese, of course, and making Brazilian friends. I see most foreigners hanguing around with other foreigners.

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

Treating people as if they were dumb, flirting with woman as if they were easy, drinking caipirinhas as if they are water, going topless as if they were in Barcelona.

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

I love British humour, also Irish, and French… dry humour in general, but those three make me laugh a lot. As for the Americans, I find it really entertaining how they worry about everything, such as the end of the world.

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

The American accent is the one I’ve learned to speak and understand. I wish I could make the British accent, it sounds chic.

6. Favourite place travelled abroad and why?

Not in Brazil? I love every trip, Europe in general is always amazing, charming, full of history and great wine. But I feel at home in New York, because there are people from everywhere and they all seem to love movies and Brazilian women.

7. Favourite foreign food?

Japanese!

8. Favourite foreign band, book and movie?

I’m too ecletic to make a list of favorites but I love jazz! From Amy Winehouse to those that are dead already: Ella, Louis, Sarah, Miles, the giants. Right now I’ve been on and on with Miss Kittin’s new album (electronic). And something that is always playing at home is Janis Joplin.

My favorite books are Brazilian. Currently I’m in love with books about spirituality such as Aghora, Mysteries of the Dark Moon, The Great Mother… we don’t have those in Brazil. As for literature, who doesn’t feel for Shakeaspeare? And the antique Sci-Fi, such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Clarke, Uma Odisseia no Espao!”.

As for the movies, Woody Allen, Almodovar, Fellini, Tarantino, Orson Wells, Hitchcock… anything from those guys is tremendous. But I have a special thing for the Americans 80’s, comedies, very Hollywood. The other day I saw Rocky II and had a blast, it’s hysterical.

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

Lots! Foreigners take things more seriously, I think, and also are more romantic. Brazilians, on the other hand, are much warmer. But you never know if a Brazilian is going to be there tomorrow or not. There’s no tomorrow in a Brazilian’s life.

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

I was in England, starving, after a 12 hour flight, and a Brit asked me if I was hungry. As a Brazilian I said I wasn’t. As a Brit she said, “Ok, Good night, then”. I couldn’t sleep that night. She was supposed to insist, based on my Brazilian mind.

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

Once in Brazil be with Brazilians. They will tell you what to do and help you understand how everything and everyone works. Getting to know how people function in our world and how our world functions for people is crucial. Not everything, actually most nothing, is based on the rules that you have and you should open your mind to see it shouldn’t be. There are different rules in Brazil: Go with the flow, is rule number one. Leave prejudice at home, surrender to what’s new and have fun.

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 gringoes@www.gringoes.com

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

Ubiratan S. Malta
Brescia Terra
Renata Andraus
Ana Vitoria Joly
Helio Araujo
Adriano Abila
Anderson Ferreira
Sandra Partridge
Samara Klug Szachnowicz
Flavius Ferrari
Daniela Ribeiro
Adriano Gomes
Alexandre
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 Sol Biderman
April 17, 2009

Daniel Carranza in my opinion is the painter with the most refined technical training in Latin America-perhaps in all the Americas. Carranza, born in Argentina, possesses the scope of Goya, who ranges from the ludic” light-filled playfulness of his early tapestry cartoons in the Prado to his dark work, “The Horrors of War.” The mantle of Goya has fallen on Carranza, who uses humans with the heads of animals in his war against the warriors who wage war against the environment.

Daniel Carranza’s works range from playful anthropomorphic figures of birds and deer to sombre paintings that reflect environmental chaos. Emblematic of his attitude towards art engag without appearing engaged is his self portrait where he holds a ball of light in his hand against a dark backdrop as he balances himself on a string–enveloping a fragile equilibrium in a world swinging perilously between ecological destruction and a balanced universe. His work on exhibit in Korea stresses desertification and global warming, yet deflects dire apocalyptic warnings, insinuating a positive future for the planet we live on. His dream landscapes reflect nature in all its tranquility, a spiritual meditative ambience.

The ecologically-focused collection on display in Korea includes his “And Still There’s Life,” with its yea-saying optimistic message that a healthy environment will prevail in the world, symbolized by the vermillion flag attached to the stem of a geranium, the banner flying valiantly in the breeze. Just as Monet reflects the transient light on the same lilies in a pond at different times of day, Carranza captures the nuances of tone of the sky and a lonely tree during the late afternoon and the moonlit evening sky in his Dream Theme (“Dream One” and “Dream Two”).

Carranza as a person is so intense he can light up a match but this intensity is subdued and transmuted into his art, the arresting yellow of the parrot with the body of a man or the cerulean blue behind a 7-point stag anthropomorphized into a man wearing clothes from a cold European clime.

He has been focusing on the environment-in his unique way-since the early 80s when he exhibited in Buenos Aires and in galleries in São Paulo and Rio. Since then his works have appeared in group and one-man shows and in private and museum collections in Europe, Asia, Australia, and important galleries in New York. The government of Australia granted an award to the Argentine-born artist , while the government of his native country donated his work “Quo Vadis” (pictured above), “Where are you Going?” (symbolizing the ship of the world voyaging dangerously from a storm into a drought) to the UN Sustainable Development Department.

His technical expertise is best exemplified in “The Cauldron-Ting” where an anthropomorphic bird with guitar stripped to his back holds a cauldron from which a symbolic branch contains two white flowers while in his other hand a humming bird finds its wings. The shadowed tones of “Wish you were here” (pictured left) captures an almost Bosch-like ambience with a promise of brilliant illumination in the distance (light at the end of the tunnel), while in “What about you.???” tiger-faced soldiers stab a little man in a cage, emblematic of the violence against nature perpetrated by warriors and wars (painting in article header).

The painting “There’s a question” epitomizes the universe in balance borne by a humanoid parrot in Turkish slippers and Soave trousers standing on a magic carpet that lost its magic-overburdened by the dust and sand of desertification. Likewise the globe in “Just a child’s drawing” is borne by a man wearing a gas mask while a being with a man’s body and parrot face bearing a tank of gas attached to its back stands on a newspaper appropriately entitled “Earthnews”.

“Listen to the Music” is a reversion to the artist’s earlier works of playful human figures waving banners-but in this case the figure is standing on a volcano spewing clouds charged with dramatic ecological menaces, while “Dear Deer Blues” (“Did you get it???”) frames a 7-point stag holding a broken bow changing places between hunter and hunted.

If Goya were alive today his paintbrush would rage against the dying of the air and earth and water-just as Carranza wages his subtle, symbol-charged war against such menaces on his quizzical but unequivocal canvases.

Sol Biderman, a former contributor to Time, is a member of the International Art Critics Association, IACA, Paris.

Previous articles by Sol Biderman:

Brazil: Judith Lauand – 50 years of painting
Brazil: Arthur Schlesinger
Around Brazil: I Left My Heart in Arraial D’Ajuda
Brazil: Dolly Moreno – A Great Sculptress of the Americas
Brazil: Stephen Henriques in Manaus
Brazil: The Stunning Abstracts of Renata Rosa
Brazil: Doris Lessing Still Surprises at 86
Brazil Art Review: Raquel Cararo
Brazil Art Review: Guilherme de Faria
Brazilian Art: Rimbaud and the music of colors in Stephen Henriques
Brazilian Art: A tale of 3 Angelicas
Aravena and Aravenism in Chile and Brazil
São Paulo Hotel Guide: L’Hotel