Beloved poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, in his famous poem “E agora José?” (What now, José?), says:
Key in hand
you want to open the door,
but there’s no door;
You want to die in the sea,
but the sea has dried;
you want to go to Minas
but Minas is no longer there.
José, what about now?
Here, a selection of beautiful doors for José and all those who might need one.
You decided to make a list of all the absolutely must-see Brazilian sites – but don’t know how to begin it? Here is a great starting point.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared 18 Brazilian places of outstanding historic or environmental value UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are a precious guide for those who want to discover the country’s riches. I have visited most of them and couldn’t agree more with the selection.
See below the full list and the UNESCO’s justification for its choices:
The most graphic city in the world becomes middle aged today. Fifty years later, Brasília’s curves, ramps, wide avenues and huge open spaces keep their freshness.
Conceived by architect Oscar Niemeyer and urbanist Lúcio Costa to host the Brazilian federal government, Brasília was custom made to fulfill president Juscelino Kubitschek’s utopia. He dreamed of a modernist city right in the middle of the country, many hundreds of kilometers away from the coast and any major city. It was meant to integrate and develop areas that were scarcely occupied and also to remove the high bureaucracy from Rio, the former capital, a city full of distractions.
To Brasília converge not only all the power, but also all of those prone to mysticism. Many believe the city has a special energy, whatever that means. This legend began with Dom Bosco, the Italian saint that founded the Salesian order in the 19th century. In a vision, he saw a promised land of immense riches that would be the epicenter of a new civilization. It would be built in the next four generations and would be roughly located where Brasília was established. Many Brasilienses believe the capital materializes that vision.
Several esoteric groups congregate in the capital. The most famous is Vale do Amanhecer (Dawn Valley), that believes that we descend from extraterrestrials that colonized the planet 32,000 years ago. These revelations were made by the group’s main founder, known as Tia Neiva, who believed she was the reincarnation of Cleopatra and Nefertiti. Vale do Amanhecer mixes spiritualism, Christian concepts, plus African, Mayan and Roma traditions.
In the following video, a cool summary of the pioneering years of this very peculiar city:
Oscar Niemeyer, the centenary Brazilian architect that gained world fame for his sculptural reinforced concrete buildings, is still producing in an almost compulsive rhythm.
His signature is everywhere – not only in Brasília, the country’s capital and the main showcase of his creativity. During the last decade, he designed at least a dozen new projects, including a couple of museums and an annex for the Serpentine Gallery in the Hyde Park, in London. This week an impressive group of buildings by Niemeyer were inaugurated in Belo Horizonte. They will host Minas Gerais state government headquarters. The project, that cost over R$ 1 billion (US$ 560 million), includes two 15-floor towers and an auditorium. Continue reading Niemeyer at 102
When you think of Baroque, you probably remember the curvy, exaggerated, passionate form of art that blossomed in Europe since the 17th century. You may think of Caravaggio and Bernini in Italy, or the rococo in France, or Bach and Handel in Germany. Less known but equally important was the Brazilian Baroque, that dominated the art scene in the country between the end of the 17th and the 19th centuries.
Although both literature and music incorporated baroque elements, it is in architecture that Baroque really excelled.
Most baroque churches have sober exteriors that contrast with very ornate interior decoration, including chubby angels, birds, vines and a profusion of color. Cities that were rich at the time, thanks to diamonds, gold or sugar trade, such as Salvador, in Bahia, or Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais, could afford to use gold leaves and noble materials and to hire the best artists of the time. Among them, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho (The Crippled, a nickname given in less politically correct times), and Manoel da Costa Athaide (or Mestre Athaide).
Aleijadinho, the son of a Portuguese with a slave, lived in the state of Minas Gerais from 1730 until 1814. His amazing work as an architect, decorator and sculptor has a unique, dramatic style. The details and the realism of his statues, sculpted in wood or soap stone, are particularly impressive when you think of how the Aleijadinho worked: he had to attach his tools to his hands, after he lost his fingers to leprosy. Mestre Athaide was a very influential painter, known for the use of perspective and for the African traits of his angels and saints. Continue reading Brazilian Baroque
The Portuguese colonial style is very consistent – you find its characteristics in houses and churches constructed between the 16th and the 18th centuries wherever Lisbon established its governors. Naturally, early colonial houses are very different from more recent ones. It is almost impossible to compare a baroque church of Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais) and a house in Paraty (Rio). In some cities you can see buildings built with hand painted tiles, soap stone and gold. Others adopted only modest materials. Yet, they have a few common characteristics, such as the doors and guillotine windows – generally framed and rounder on the top -, the contrast of white and bright colors, the iron balconies.These same features can be seen in other former Portuguese colonies, such as Goa, in India, and Macau, in China. By the way, Goa reminds me a lot of Salvador – beautiful coast of white sand, lined with coconuts; a few dishes vaguely similar; some wonderful baroque churches; and, of course, poverty. Not your average Indian poverty, but still. Continue reading Brazilian colonial beauties