By Ricky Skelton
June 29, 2009

Everybody’s favourite cuddly politician, President Lula recently visited Florianopolis and his visit was notable for a number of reasons, principally for the amount of money that the Federal and State Governments spent in relation to the visit.

Lula visited one of the traditional Floripa seafood restaurants, declaring that everybody who visits the Magic Island should try the Sequencia de Camarão dishes. He didn’t recommend the squid, unsurprisingly, perhaps attempting to preserve the species, but the idea for that sequence is just the same. Plate after plate arrives at your table, garlic, steamed and milanesa, until you really can’t look any more prawns (or squid) in the eye. Just as you are thinking about walking off the prawns with a stroll in the sun along the shores of Lagoa da Conceião, the main course arrives. The fish is usually eaten, the batatas fritas and salada too, but the rice usually goes back to the kitchen hardly touched. Once you have eaten one or two of these sequencias, you learn that when the menu says 2 pessoas, there is often enough for five people.

This immense amount of food surprises first time visitors, so if Lula and his entourage ordered the amount of food specified for each of them, there would likely have been an immense amount of waste. When the money comes out of the public funds to pay for this, there probably wouldn’t have been many complaints, and certainly not when compared to the money spent on the rest of the Floripa trip.

Lula was attending the World Trade and Tourism Council conference, one that has been many years in the organizing. As he arrived, he would have seen the huge adverts on the road out of the airport proclaiming Costão do Santinho to have been voted the Best Large Resort in Brazil this year. No mention of who voted for these awards, but if something smells a little fishy, it might not be your main course. The resort is a monstrosity dominating the corner of a beautiful beach on the Atlantic side of the island, with only surrounding dunes preventing the whole beach being developed. The resort’s owners have had a couple of run-ins with the Policia Federal over the years, for such minor crimes as not taking any notice at all of environmental regulations. Nothing ever comes of these cases though.

As well as spending millions of reais just to bring the gravy train to Floripa, there were a few hidden extra expenses, although not so well hidden that they haven’t made headlines in Brasilia. Being Brazil’s Best Large Resort, you would expect the price of hosting and housing so many conference delegates for the week to be very high. The resort had a new auditorium built especially for the conference. The accounts may not show, but the rent for using this auditorium was apparently unbelievably extortionate. Roughly the same price as it cost for the construction of the thing in the first place. Strange.

President Lula’s government agreed the price though, and will pay the bill using Brazilian taxpayers’ money, so surely all is above board. If this seems to the layman that the government is paying for the improvement of facilities at a privately-owned resort, the layman obviously doesn’t know the intricacies of government business. The fact that the owner of the resort is very good friends with the President of the Federation of Culture, who also happens to be the mother of the President of Embratur and friends with the Secretary of Tourism is completely unconnected of course, but if you would like to try to make connections for yourself, there are not too many dots to join.

Suffice to say that the next time Lula visits Florianopolis, whether he is still President of Brazil or not, he will probably not pay the rack rate for his stay in the Presidential Suite at Costão do Santinho.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu’
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

By Alison McGowan
June 29, 2009

Casa Beleza, as its name suggests, is a beautiful pousada, housed in an exotic mansion which used to be home to the former governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro. Lovingly restored to its former glory in 2008 by present owners, Bindu and Antoine, a documentary filmmaker and musician respectively, the pousada has 3 rooms, two of which look out over the swimming pool and tropical gardens. Santa Teresa itself is a mass of windy cobbled streets and the first time you come to Casa Beleza, you wonder if you have come to the right place, it appears so hidden. Only when you get your bearings do you realise you have the luxury of absolute tranquility, with small monkeys and turtles for company, yet you are only a few minutes walk from all the bars and restaurants.

About the Location
Santa Teresa is a wonderfully hidden part of Rio de Janeiro, perched on a hill between the centre of the city and Zona Sul, where most of the beaches are. Long known for its bohemian culture, and infamous for being home for decades to Ronnie Biggs, of Great Train Robbery fame, the area is a delight of old colonial mansions, and cobbled streets, served by old style trams. The slower, more alternative” pace of life here attracts artists, musicians and writers, many of whom hang out in the numerous bars and restaurants dotted about the place. For travellers who prefer laid back charm and history to being right close to a beach, it’s a wonderful place to stay.

Not to be Missed
– samba in Lapa
– trip to Corcovado (Cristo Rendentor)
– walking around Santa Teresa
– Sobre Natural, Bar do Arnaudo and Aprazvel restaurants

* atmosphere of a small private house-party
* eco-friendly with solar heated water and natural spring water
* monkeys, turtles, butterflies and birds
* beautiful swimming pool

Try a Different Place…
… if you have mobility problems or you want to be right by the beach

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on Visit her site at

Previous articles by Alison:

Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Bambu Bamboo Pousada and Spa, Parati, Rio de Janeiro
Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
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

By Stephen Thompson
June 29, 2009

My boss went off on an ultramarathon leaving me with a mad deputy who fired me for promoting his run. I raced to the end of the world…

I work for a running company. I am supposed to be Business Developent Manager. But what do you do when your boss, a running fanatic, switches off his cell phone and goes off to run the world’s longest ultra marathon for two months, leaving you under the command of his deputy, who turns out to be mad, and who fired me for promoting his boss’s this ultra marathon?

Last week I raced to the end of the world to catch up with my boss, Chen Jing Rui, at the end of this race. I had to talk to him about what had been happening in his absence and appeal to him to give him my job back. I aimed to meet up with Chen and the forty plus other runners who had survived to the final stages of the 4700km Italy-Norway Trans Europe ultra marathon in Nord Kapp, the northern most point of Europe. It was a last minute decision and a crazy journey but the inspirational sight I saw when I got there made it worth the time and money spent. The joy of the runners who reached their destination was obvious and I started thinking, I should try this too! Phrases like Never give up, never run away from your dreams, when the going gets tough the tough get going all flew through my head.

To get there I flew from Shanghai to Rovianiemi on the arctic circle in Finland, the “land of the midnight sun” and then drove the rest of the way, 800km, to North Cape. As I rushed through the midnight sunlit night, I worried that I might not get there in time. It was only 800km and I had 12 hours, but the roads got narrower the further north I got. I might not even be able to find them as I did not know the route they would take to North Cape. I also worried that I might not be warmly received. I wondered if I would be sworn at, punched and kicked. Would my actions really cause a diplomatic or military dispute between Taiwan and China, as my manager feared? It seemed absurd but that was the reason for his ferocious opposition to my trip and to my writing about Rui’s race.

I arrived at Rovianemi at 10pm and I drove all night in the sunshine, or should I say, I drove all day, because there is no night there in summer. I arrived just in time to bump into the runners of the Trans Europe foot race on the road in North Cape, the northeastern most point of Europe. They were a funny looking bunch. I saw a runner stuffing a banana down his throat as he ran along, another whose upper body was 45 degrees to his lower body, and several carrying national flags. Then I saw Rui. I took a picture of him from my car, before he recognised me. He came over to talk to me. He didn’t swear at me or punch me, in fact he was very friendly. I told him “jia you” which means “step on the gas” in Chinese. Later I took a picture of him at the finishing line, and he put his arm around me for a shot. Then we had a coffee. He told me that he trained for several years to run this race and that he was lucky to complete it without injury. He said it got boring after a while just running, eating and sleeping every day. But he said he felt a huge sense of achievement at finishing the race and he wants to write a book and commercialise his great journey. He hopes the book will inspire people to strive for their dreams.

The roads in Finland and Norway were very good, with almost no traffic, and the scenery was beautiful. The midnight sun cast long shadows and shafts of golden sunlight over the pine trees, scattered timber farmhouses and occasional reindeer. These latter did not look anything like I imagined from Christmas cards; despite their aggressive antlers they are docile and scared of humans. I took a lot of photos of them.

When I crossed the border into Norway I still had 300km to drive but almost no petrol; the gas gauge was flashing empty. Unlike Finland, the Norwegian gas pumps don’t take cash so I was stuck at a gas station in a small village, too scared to drive on until 6 or 7 very drunk Norwegians lent me their credit card in exchange for a lift home from the pub. Despite being so drunk, they were no more aggressive than the Reindeer!

I didn’t know if Rui would speak to me at North Cape because I didn’t know what Marco had told Rui about our fight. But my boss Rui was seemed very surprised and happy to see me and kept asking me why I had come. First I told him that I was inspired by his determination to run across the whole of Europe on foot and that I wanted to personally congratulate him at the end. I told him that I wanted to help promote his run commercially, to get publicity for our Running company and the charities we support, like China Breast Cancer Foundation. He said he had heard that I had fought with his deputy Marco while I was away and he asked me why. I explained that Marco did not want me to publicise the race because he feared that the Chinese government would get upset about the Taiwan issue; Rui has both Taiwan and Brazilian passports but the website registered him as “country-Taiwan” which is politically incorrect in China, but Marco does not speak Chinese or understand the subtleties of China like I do. I thought that it was unlikely there would be a problem, because even though Rui is Taiwanese, he is a businessman and not a politician. At Nordkapp, Rui agreed with me that the risk of us publicising the event was minimal, and told me I did the right thing to publicise his race. Chen registered as Taiwanese Brazilian but the organises only registered him as Brazilian. But coincidentally, he ran with the number 55, the international dialling code for Brazil.

Then, before I could raise the issue of my job, Rui had to get on the tour bus. We agreed to meet in Shanghai in July. I drove 15 hours back to Rovianiemi. On the way I bought a Metallica CD to keep me awake.

At the finishing line I also met Russel Secker, listed on the race website as American but actually British. His, Marco Oliveira told me to delete it. He was so angry at my insubordination that a week later, he refused to renew my work visa and I had to leave China temporarily. When I returned the following week, I found he had changed the locks and told my clients that I had resigned. He said that as I no longer had a work visa, I had no legal rights and he had no obligation to pay me. This made me really angry and I had sleepless nights, imagining more primitive forms of justice. He wouldn’t answer my calls. Eventually I went to the office to talk to him and the cleaning lady let me in. When he saw me inside, he lost his temper again and began to swear at me. I tried to take my computer away but he stopped me leaving and began to hit and punch me. I called the police who told us to sit down and negotiate calmly. Since then he refuses to talk to me, and only communicates by email.

He tells me that he is consulting his lawyers, even though I was hired without a work contract by a group of investors from Taiwan, Chile and Brazil claiming to represent a company called Infinitum Sports from Brazil. They said they wanted me, a Briton, to help them set up a company in China. But after my fight with Marco Olivera I began to doubt the veracity of their claims. I phoned their company in Brazil and the number does not exist. I could find no CNPJ company registration number. So perhaps I can sue them in Brazil but it’s a long shot, in China I have no rights.

I hesitated a long time before flying to North Cape because I was unsure if Rui would finish the race, I was unsure if he would talk to me, and because it was an expensive flight, as the mid summer sun is popular with tourists. But I think Rui was impressed by my effort to join him. He will be promoting his race in future and he would he happy to have a story about him in Runner’s World or another magazine. I don’t have any rights to sue him or his company. But Rui knows I did the right thing, and he is the big boss. I have to persuade him to pay me for the two months when he went away running, renew my visa and give me my job back. But what ever happens, I have the memories of that delirious race in the mid night sun, and the beauty of those vast northern skies and landscapes, plus the inspiration of those runner’s who never gave up on their goal of the world’s longest and most arduous ultra marathon.

You can contract Stephen via

To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:

Brazil: Run for your life!
If God is a Brazilian…
Amazon Exhibition in Tokyo
Other Places to Speak Portuguese (Apart From Brazil): Macau
Brazilian Music in Translation
China is Quite Popular in Brazil These Days
Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 1
Brazil: What’s in a Name?
Brazil: Go East, Young Man
Brazil: This Is The Life I’ve Always Wanted
Brazil: Stolen Computer
My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 2
My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 1
Getting your Brazilian Steak Fix in China
Brazil: Birth and Dying
Imaginary Voyages to Brazil
Brazil: Probably the Best Country in the World to Live In
Great Brazilian Inventions: The Kilo Restaurant
Brazil: Things you wanted to know… and will never know!
Brazil: Expensive, Trendy, and Extremely Beautiful
Brazil: Not Really British Enough
Package Holidays to Brazil are Back On Track
Brazil: Reverse Culture Shock
Brazil: The Legal System
Brazil: Saying Goodbye to a Bilingual Kid
How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy

By Alison McGowan
June 15, 2009

Bambu Bamboo is a 5 minute drive or a 20 minute walk from the historical centre of Parati, but it is well worth the distance, for those who want tranquility by the river in addition to colonial Brazil. With 12 suites, including 6 lofts with mezzanine floors and 2 bathrooms, the pousada is lovingly run by Ben and Neto, who pride themselves on personal service and do everything to make sure guests feel pampered. The suites themselves are supercomfortable with boxspring beds, wonderful sheets, bathrobes, fridge, room safe and beach towels – plus, unusually for Brazil, tea and coffee making facilities. Add that to the pool, spa, sauna and the massages to die for and we were definitely back in seventh heaven.

About the Location
Parati is a world heritage site, a beautiful cobbled colonial town, with a traffic-free historical centre. Outside festival season at least, it appears to have stopped in time. The original inhabitants were Guaiana Indians, but the present town was founded in 1667.First famous for its sugar mills and its cachaca (sugar cane liquor) production, Parati really came of age during the gold cycle of the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail) was built. This opened up the interior of the country and more importantly gave the state of Minas Gerais access to the sea. It was through the port of Parati that much of the gold and precious stones from Minas passed on their way to Portugal.

If Parati is as well preserved as it is, much is due to its economic isolation in the 19th century, courtesy of the rather efficient pirates hiding out on the neighbouring beach of Trindade, who effectively forced merchants to find different ports. However another reason was the difficulty of access before the 1970s when the coastal road, Rio/Santos BR101, was built. In the last 25 years local tourism has grown substantially and the number of pousadas runs into hundreds, located both inside and outside the historical centre. Many of the original colonial buildings have been refurbished and now house craft shops, restaurants and bars, with live music in the evenings.

Not to be Missed
– walking tour round the historical centre
– boat/schooner trips round the bay
– day trip to Trindade/ jeep trip to the waterfalls
– Pizzaria Rosa dos Ventos next door and Cafe do Canal

* tranquil location outside the historical centre but still walking distance
* super comfortable suites and lounge
* breakfast area by the river
* spa with sauna and massage available

Try a different place…
… if you want to be right in the historical centre

Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on Visit her site at

Previous articles by Alison:

Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
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

By Christoper Wallace
June 15, 2009

It is not often you are asked to accompany two females on a thong bikini shopping expedition. In fact I am pretty sure it would only happen in Brazil. Perhaps it was my virginity to the situation or alternatively my wild imagination which spurred my rapid positive response to their request. Interestingly the string bikini which they sought after is more commonly referred to as the Dental floss” bikini in the land that worships the sun. In fact it has become increasingly difficult to find one piece bathing suits on Brazil’s many beaches. One can even compare their rapid extinction to that of the increasingly endangered Louisiana Black Bear found only in Mississippi. This local knowledge should have sent a warning message through my nervous system to my brain indicating that the shopping trip would not be as pleasing as first thought. However as I entered the mall, all my numb skull mind could think about was that one scene in “Enemy of the State” where big Willy Smith was struggling to remember his wife’s bra size.

It was not long before I found myself sandwiched between two rows of “Sungas” with intense pressure to buy intensified by the advances of yet another extremely attractive sales woman. There were green ones, yellow ones, tiger print ones, tye-dye ones and even special sungas with inflatable package pouches for the Ben Stillers and clientele of “Globo Gym” of this world. The bravest of Brazilians appear to be a unique collection of men who flirt with danger by cladding the holy grail of sungas on their bronze sculpted bodies: the white sunga.

One of my Portuguese school classmates had doubts over the support of the local bikini and was demanding that I follow her openness and seek out a suitable speedo-esque short for myself. If truth be told, her request was not all that unreasonable as the Sunga has become a phenomenon in of itself, leading Brazilian waxing for men to be loosely termed the “Sunga” wax. Technically the Sunga bathing suit is similar to the much feared European Speedo, but it`s supposedly designed for increased comfort, and to better enhance and flatter the area in question. My argument that my current “bermuda” was both comfortable and flattering enough fell on deaf ears as my compatriots protests continued. I did not buy on this particular occasion however if somebody did buy me a sunga, I probably would embrace its minimal coverage and enjoy its freedom while playing my new Brazilian sport; Fresco-ball.

Fresco-ball is a revelation in Brazil. It is one of the few ball-to-hand coordination games that is affordable to all Brazilians and can be admired on any of Brazil’s many wonderful beaches. Depending on your level of experience and vanity, one can purchase fresco bats ranging from cheap wooden Dunlop racquets to cutting edge designer racquets made with unique materials and your own personal design. Fresco-Ball is a game not for the feint hearted and it is quite common to see a loose ball strike one of the many busy beach sellers nicknamed after the type of food he or she sells. The objective is not to beat your partner with a deft stroke but to work together to achieve a very high standard of rally with the ball flying backwards and forwards. The game looks deceptively easy however despite my background in tennis and squash, my partner was less than amused by the quality of my delivery.

A sunga to fresco-ball is like freshly pressed whites to Wimbledon. If you are to be successful in this sport, you must surrender and share all of your dimensions with the rest of the world. So if a picture of me clad in the teeniest of tiniest of sungas happens to appear on Facebook, realise that its sole existence is to aid my blossoming fresco-ball career.”

June 9, 2009

We are currently experiencing problems with the link/form for subscribing to the email newsletter, and also the Forward this Article” link at the bottom of articles – both give an error when used.

In the meantime, if you would like to subscribe to the email newsletter then please send an email to with “Subscribe” in the subject.

We will update when the functionality is restored.

By Marilyn Diggs
June 6, 2009

In the 1960s Embu das Artes became a tourist magnet, especially on the weekends. Located only 27 km from São Paulo, the drive can vary from 30 to 60 minutes, depending upon the traffic. Today it is mostly known as a mecca for handicrafts, both Brazilian and otherwise, as well as rustic furniture and antiques. But, Embu das Artes is more than stores. On a recent trip, I arrived early enough to enjoy the day and accomplish what Id set out to do: tour the Jesuit church, peruse the Indian Museum, eat well and, of course, shop.

Early History
Long before the tourists came, explorers invaded this Indian country in the 16th century. Trailblazers (bandeirantes) in search of emeralds and gold made their way into the interior of Brazil using river systems and by cutting their way through dense forests. Some settled; the original village of Embu was founded between 1555 and 1559 with the name M’Boy, which is Tupi-Guarani for big snake.” Fernão Dias Pais and his wife Catarina Camacho owned a sizeable homestead (fazenda) in the hills. Their son wanted to become a priest, so in 1624 they donated part of their land to the Jesuit order.
Wasting no time, the Jesuits led by Father Belchior de Pontes built a church and relocated the Tupi-Guarani Indians around it to protect them from slave raids. Agriculture took precedence; manioc, wheat, vegetables and cotton thrived, permitting the order to export to Rio de Janeiro and Bahia in 1757. In the 18th century, the village had 261 Indians and boasted a Jesuit residence next to the church. In 1759, the Jesuits, who had become too rich and powerful for Portugal’s taste, were expelled from the country. The Indian population dispersed and by 1873, only 75 Indians and mestizos inhabited the place.

Two Museums Tell the Story
The Museum of Sacred Art, in the former Jesuit residence, connects to the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary (Nossa Senhora do Rosrio) constructed in the 17th century. (See photo to left) The architecture has thick adobe walls and shows the simple Baroque style from São Paulo state. The red oriental, ceiling paintings with gold pagodas reveal the well-traveled Jesuit influence. (See photo below) Two side altars come from the original chapel on the donor’s fazenda.

The museum possesses saint statues with real hair, processional images, furniture, priest robes and relics dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. Visitors see one of the first organs (early 18th C.) in São Paulo and the third in all Brazil, which looks like a box with a keyboard and was pumped by nuns in turn. It is no wonder that in 1939 -1940 this complex earned historical landmark status.

The Indian Museum opened in 2005 and is a short walk from the Jesuit church. Its founder, Walde-Mar de Andrade e Silva, is a local who has lived among the Indians in the National Park of Xingu in the Amazon region. More than just a museum, it is the hub for research and lectures on the Indian culture. Walde-Mar portrays Indian legends in his colorful naãve paintings and reproduces their body art on paper. One section in the museum shows drawings made by the Indians themselves when they were given paper and crayons for the first time. Headdresses, weapons, adornments, dolls, baskets and ceremonial attire give viewers an insight into Indian art and their way of life. This private museum, situated inside a two-story house, has just the right variety of artifacts, beautifully displayed to give the visitor a good orientation to the Brazilian Indian culture.

Art on Every Corner
Embu became an art colony in the 1920s, and today boasts of over 35 studios and galleries for painters, sculptors, metalworkers, woodcarvers and jewelers. On weekends, over 700 exhibitors fill the streets with arts and crafts, often draping their goods inside and outside charming colonial houses around the plaza area. The nearby Cultural Center holds exhibits, dance performances, plays and recitals.

Personally, I prefer going to Embu on weekdays when I can lazily stroll down historic cobblestone streets, admire colonial houses and alleys, and calmly shop. Embu’s dining choices range from top-notch restaurants to snack booths on weekends. Youll be kept busy in the historic center itself, but dont forget attractions further out, like the Sakai Memorial containing ceramics by one of the leading terra-cotta sculptors in Brazil.

Whether on weekends or weekdays, Embu das Artes offers tourists trinkets, treasures and tales of colonial days gone by. With my newly purchased wire tree and its 50 tin birds tucked safely in the seat, I headed back to São Paulo, remembering a time when traffic wasnt an issue.

Museu de Arte Sacra: Largo dos Jesutas, 67. Centro. Tel: (11)4704-2654

More information:

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Full Steam Ahead! Chilean Vineyards by Train
A Trip to Easter Island: Beyond the Obvious
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

June 6, 2009

Meet Alan Williams who will move to Brazil in the next couple of years. 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.?

Alan Williams, from Santa Monica, CA, I am a lighting designer. I was the editor and publisher of STEMS, the magazine of Creative Escapism. I have been in the Who’s Who of poetry 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I have written articles for, Soul Brasil,, Pro Light and Staging News, Sign Builder Illustrated, and Hotel Motel Engineering Society Magazine.

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

First time was 1999, and I got married to my wife Tania Arrais, in Hugo Napoleao, Piaui. I spent 3 weeks that time. Came back in 2002 for one month with my son Kyle, 14, and played the tourist – Fortaleza, Canoa Que Brada, Parnaiba, etc. 3rd time was in 2003-2004 for six weeks, where we spent a lot of time with our family there.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

Humid, hot, friendly, way too many bugs, a lot of parties, very lovely women, great music.

4. What do you miss most about home?

Sleep. Warm water. Screen doors.

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

Exchanging money.

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

My wedding day, and the party on our family farm Campestre, which lasted 3 days, and had over 175 people, the day after Christmas in 1999.

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

My wife, her family, the foor, Antartica Beer, Forro, Batucada, Samba, Futebol.

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

In Fortaleza – Pichana Grill near downtown. Also Telefonica, in Rio for dancing. Wild.

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

One time, my father in law came in to the room where I was napping and laid down on the hammock. After 3 minutes, he started passing gas. I ran out of the room screaming Papai Padog!”. He came out right after me, waving his hand across his nose, going “pu”. The family snapped a photo right then. It was hilarious.

Another time was the Summer carnival in Teresina. We were in the Governors box, courtesy of my cousin Miguel Leao. We were so close to the bands. Ivete Sangalo blew me a kiss. Very cool.

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

Brazil is truly a free country. The USA has far too many rules and laws. We have lost too much of our liberty.

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?

Mais ou menos. There are too many words that I mess up. The key is immersion. That will come in 2 years, when my wife and I make the move to Piaui.

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

Meet the people, avoid tourists. Stay with a Brazilian family

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

I have only been to the airport in São Paulo, so cannot say. Go north, check out Cano que Brada, and other beaches in the Northeast. Next time, I’m heading south, myself.

Here is a poem I wrote:


A river runs through the field of dreams
The clouds hover over endless streams
Of friends and family gathered there
Near Hugo Napoleao, Piaui, Brazil
A secret reserve of endless warmth
A caress. a hug, a kiss, a touch
“All are welcome,” Iracilda would say
Gather round the fire today
Have a Brahma with picanha tonight
Dance to Foro’, and feel all right
Area Leao runs the place
Arrais and cohorts drink and pace
Campestre is Portuguese for Magic, you see
It changed my life
And allowed me to be free

You can contact Alan via

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 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:

Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
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

By Marc Burleigh
Jun 6, 2009

Every fatal plane crash is a tragedy. Usually, though, there are some answers as to what causes them – some keys that can provide closure for relatives and lessons for airlines or plane-makers, very often in the black boxes when they can be recovered.

In the case of Air France flight AF 477, which went down in the Atlantic between South America and Africa early June 1, the chances of finding those answers look very remote. The black boxes, if they survived, are at the bottom of the Atlantic at a depth of anywhere between 3,000 meters and 6,000 meters. Even though French subs on their way can dive that deep, the main problem is that the seabed there is as broken up as the Grand Canyon, and as dark as Hades.

The few pieces of debris that might be recovered could yield some information to investigators, but the big questions are still unsolved. Did a storm do this (though modern aircraft frequently cross storms unscathed)? Was it an explosion (the Brazilian government says that is ‘improbable’)? Was it a defect revealed on the Airbus A330 (one not signalled by any mayday call by the pilot)? Was the plane punctured by hail or a rotor from an engine (though it appears autopilot was switched off before alarms started being sent over depressurisation)?

There is inevitable speculation. Some experts think a piece of the plane, maybe the tail, fell off. Others are certain a co-pilot was left to cope with violent turbulence while the 58-year-old captain took a mid-flight nap. There are suspicions Air France knows more than its saying, based on leaks of what data it already has.

And there is official and corporate caution everywhere, as you would expect in a situation where a French-made plane with US engines has come down in Brazilian airspace with people from 32 nationalities on board.

AFP was the first to break the news that the Air France flight was missing. My alert to the developing story came just minutes later, when a French television client of AFP’s woke me at dawn in my São Paulo apartment to comment immediately in French. I blurrily managed to say the little I learned while being patched through to the studio. And then began days of intense work keeping on top of the story, verifying, relaying, questioning, writing, and giving countless more interviews.

All of AFP’s bureaux in Brazil were involved, providing important information from briefings in Brasilia, interviews with relatives of the passengers in Rio, and we also sent a reporter and photographer to Fernando de Noronha, a spectacularly beautiful but remote Brazilian archipelago deep in the Atlantic that was the closest point to the search at the watery crash site. Paris correspondents with good access to authorities investigating the crash also led the charge, gleaning exclusive morsels and providing around-the-clock coverage. Other AFP operations around the world contributed to a story that touched much of the planet in one way or another.

One of the trickiest tasks was to nail down the facts. Initially, as almost always happens with big airline disasters, the numbers and nationalities of those on the aircraft kept shifting. Brazilians and others with double nationalities, children of uncertain citizenship, people who took the flight at the last minute, or who missed it, divergent crew counts given by Brazilian aviation officials and the airline – all of that eventually settled into concrete numbers. A total of 228 people died; 216 passengers and 12 crew. The suspected location of the disaster also wavered around a little until debris sightings provided firm coordinates.

Around that core of information swirled the speculation. Some of it came from officials (some of that wrong, such as when a red-faced brigadier had to retract his statement that plane debris had been recovered) or recognized experts (who did not agree on the cause, or simply said that a succession of unidentified factors must have occurred).

What was tangible was the grief. It doesn’t matter how many disasters you see as a reporter, witnessing relatives of victims of an event going through the disbelief, the anger, the mourning and the acceptance is a humbling experience, one that makes you confront your own imagination, that what if it were me?” moment. I and my colleagues were firing out crisp information about the accident, but we had to also find a way to measure out the human anguish – to give it the prominence it deserved without letting it wash away the context and content that needed to be given. That is possibly the hardest task any reporter has to do; to strike the balance between looking like a hardnosed observer and of letting through the empathy that lets us – any of us, the reporter or the reader of the news stories – truly understand the catastrophe.

The list of lives that disintegrated in that instant off Brazil’s coast includes an 11-year-old British schoolboy, a 26-year-old member of Brazil’s long-defunct royal family, a Brazilian couple who married just two days earlier, two other newly-wed women from Romania and Spain, a Brazilian Air France flight attendant who had gone home to bury his father two weeks before, and 19 people who were on a vacation paid for by a French company for its best sales staff.

The death of a 34-year-old Swedish woman and her five-year-old son caught the attention of some media after it was erroneously reported by a Swedish daily (and picked up by newspapers in Britain, Brazil and the United States) that she always traveled separately from her husband and other child for fear of a plane crash killing all the family.

Her Brazilian husband later told the BBC’s Brazilian service that he took a separate flight on a different airline with their three-year-old the same day to maximise their air miles. He said his wife almost missed her doomed flight because Brazilian authorities said she did not have permission to fly with her son without her husband’s authorization. He called to sort that out, and unfortunately she caught flight AF 447.

Some of the relatives are refusing to let go in the absence of proof that their son, father, daughter, wife is gone forever. The Brazilian defense minister, Nelson Jobim, pointed out however that the waters the plane fell into are filled with sharks, leaving many pessimistic of finding any remains.

There are also reports emerging of a split, either between the families themselves or between the families and Brazilian authorities. Moves are being made to set up a representative body of the relatives so they can press for information or legal action together. According to Brazilian officials, no such body has been formed – something some of the family members reject.

After dominating the world news for three days, interest in the crash has slipped a little with no new information able to fuel either the speculation or the investigation.

But the puzzle of the crash, and the families’ anger, endure.

Many hopes lie in finding the black boxes, even if chances of that happening are slim.

The data and voice recordings they hold would be a salve to those close to AF 447’s occupants who still don’t know what happened, who cling to guesswork or faith in a world changed forever.

For the rest of us, the information could resolve a frustrating enigma, and perhaps tell us of what to do so we won’t be on the next air disaster — or be among those mourning the ones who are.

Marc Burleigh is an AFP correspondent in São Paulo.

Previous articles by Marc:

0 Comments/by

June 6, 2009

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 your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

Another topic I would like to see addressed is “fofoca” or gossip. Its the Brazilian version of “telephone” where the original story is so distorted by the time it reaches several people. My boyfriend, who is a Brazilian, cannot stand it. He said its attributed to the novelas shown in Brazil, that people live their lives based on that. How do foreigners or any one avoid getting caught up in the fofoca? I have been unknowingly caught up in it among Brazilian people up here. I mentioned my opinion of any situation, I thought in confidence, and sure enough it leaked out. Now I am the bad person, so to speak. Now I keep my mouth shut. How does one distinguish between fact and fofoca?

— Jane

Hello, Jane,

Gossip was not made in Brazil, but Brazilians do gossip, yes. A lot. Don’t you Americans? You guys are the kings of gossip shows. And gossip magazines. There’s also the Gossip Girl book and series! Or is gossip there only regarding celebrities and rich people?

In Brazil, everyone can be in the gossip. Especially people that have ‘different’ opinions… like, apparently you. (Good for you). If you know for a fact that the people you’re with will be talking about what you said and it bothers you… you did well to keep your mouth shut. Don’t give them cause for response.

But hey, you shouldn’t care much. It’s not important. Let them say… whatever. If they disagree with you… let them disagree. If they think you’re bad… let them think. And also, let them go. If you understand where the fofoqueiro is coming from… I have the impression they’re insecure people that have this need to judge other people and feel good about themselves.

If fact or fofoca?… Try this, whatever a fofoqueiro tells you should be confirmed… ignore it.

Thanks for your letter,


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 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 articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Real Estate Scam
Ask a Brazilian: Lacking Change and I Touch Myself
Ask a Brazilian: Tampons
Ask a Brazilian: A Brazilian CV
Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
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