Category Archives: Culture

Great expeditions to the Amazon

capa AM xx

“Grandes Expedições à Amazônia Brasileira”, written by environmentalist and educator João Meirelles Filho and recently published by Editora Metalivros, is a little gem for those interested in the history of the Amazon region and the very diverse agenda of men and women that explored the region during the last century. The author, that works for Instituto Peabiru, a non profit based in Belém, follows the steps of religious missionaries, Army officers in charge of surveilling the country’s borders, scientists looking for new species and artists in search of inspiration. Among his characters, Silvino Santos, the Amazon first filmmaker, Percy Fawcett, the British explorer that disappeared in the mid-twenties looking for a mythical city in the region, the Cousteau family, sculptor Frans Krajcberg and Botanical painter Margaret Mee.

This is, in fact, a sequel – two years ago Meirelles published a similar book covering 42 expeditions to the Amazon that happened between 1500 and 1930, including those led by writer Euclides da Cunha and naturalists Karl Friedrich von Martius and Johann Baptiste von Spix.

Check some of the amazing images included in the new publication:

Continue reading Great expeditions to the Amazon

Great animation of the Brazilian ultimate Christmas play: Morte e Vida Severina

“Retirantes” (Drought migrants) by Cândido Portinari
“Retirantes” (Drought migrants) by Cândido Portinari

“Morte e Vida Severina”, by João Cabral de Melo Neto, is the most Brazilian of all Nativity plays. Also known as “Auto de Natal Pernambucano” (Nativity play from the state of Pernambuco), it was published in 1955. It is a long dramatic poem depicting the hard life of migrants chased from their homes by the drought and the violence, common in the countryside in the Northeast region.

The book inspired this amazing short animation produced by Miguel Falcão, unfortunately without subtitles. But you can read part of a bilingual version of this poem on “Selected Poetry: 1937-1990”, on Google Books.


Free Brazilian literature online

Photo by Igor Giamoniano/ Flickr
Photo by Igor Giamoniano/ Flickr

Domínio Público is an e-library created by the Brazilian Ministry of education. It allows the download of philosophy and literary classics that are copyright free. It offers Portuguese translations from Shakespeare to Rimbaud and several good Brazilian authors, including the whole production of the great Machado de Assis and some less known children books.

Here is a little list of Brazilian authors you will find there with links to their books. Sorry, guys, I tried to find versions in English and other languages with no success. Personally, I would recommend a visit to dark, mortuary romantic Álvares de Azevedo, to satyrical Bocage, to Lima Barreto, to social observer João do Rio,  and, of course, Machado.


Casimiro de Abreu- Carolina /As Primaveras

Alcântara MachadoBrás, Bexiga e Barra Funda

Manuel Antônio de Almeida – Memórias de um Sargento de Milícias 

Augusto dos Anjos – Eu e Outras Poesias  / Eterna Mágoa 

Álvares de Azevedo – Lira dos Vinte Anos  / Noite na Taverna  /Poemas Irônicos, Venenosos e Sarcásticos 

Artur Azevedo – A Capital Federal

Rui Barbosa – Obras Seletas

Olavo Bilac – Via—Láctea  /As Viagens  / Contos para Velh

Bocage – Sonetos e Outros Poemas

Pero Vaz de Caminha – A Carta

Castro Alves  – Vozes d’África  /Os Escravos / O Navio Negreiro  /Espumas Flutuantes 

Cruz e Sousa – A Poesia Interminável

Coelho Neto – A Conquista

Euclides da Cunha – Os Sertões 

Gonçalves Dias – Canção do Exílio

Bernardo Guimarães – A Dança dos Ossos  /A Escrava Isaura  /A Orgia dos Duendes 

Lima Barreto – Contos de Lima Barreto / O Homem que Sabia Javanês e Outros Contos  / Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma / Diário Íntimo

Machado de Assis – Dom Casmurro  /Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas  / Esaú e Jacó  /Quincas Borba  / Contos Fluminenses  /O Alienista  /Memorial de Aires 

Gregório de Matos – Seleção de Obras Poéticas

Júlio Ribeiro – A Carne

João do Rio – A Alma Encantadora das Ruas


You might also like these posts:  Learn Portuguese for free online / 30 words that separate Brazil from Portugal / Brazilian Babel / So you think you understand Portuguese?


Great Carnivals of Joãosinho Trinta

Poster for a documentary about Joãosinho, where he is portraied by Vik Muniz
Poster for a documentary about Joãosinho, where he is portraied by Vik Muniz

Joãosinho Trinta, the former ballet dancer who reinvented Rio’s Carnival, incorporating luxurious elements and extreme creativity to the popular parade, died today. Controversial, he was frequently criticized by traditional sambistas, that felt that his huge, elaborate carnival floats and the use of some extreme resources, like individual flying machines, would hide the talent of dancers and musicians.

These three videos show Joãosinho Trinta at his best, leading escolas de samba Beija-Flor de Nilópolis and Viradouro to multiple Carnival awards. (And sorry – I was very unimpressed by the quality of the footages available on the web.) Continue reading Great Carnivals of Joãosinho Trinta

Unexpected duos

Caetano Veloso and Odair José in 1973

What happens when you mix artists with very different musical backgrounds?  Some are outraged, but most are smitten. Let’s see how you will react to these three videos:

  • Toquinho (Vinícius de Moraes main musical partner and a big icon of Brazilian music) and two of the country’s lead heavy metal guitar players, Andreas Kisser, from Sepultura, and Kiko Loureiro, from Angra:

  • This partnership of the very kitsch Odair José with international star Caetano Veloso was pretty scandalous in 1973. They sing Odair’s “Vou tirar você deste lugar“, a musical reference for those who date prostitutes and promise to come riding a white horse to rescue them.

  • Finally, two huge voices, “classic” Nelson Gonçalves and iconoclastic soul man Tim Maia:

Do you have any additions to this list?

Bündchen, Wonder Woman and a Masp’s favela: mirages in São Paulo

Gorgeous Gisele, indeed

No exaggeration: São Paulo holds more surprises than Batman’s utility belt. Just spent a few days in town that never rests, camera in hand.

First, bumped totally by chance into top model/billionaire Gisele Bündchen at an improvised catwalk at Iguatemy Mall. I have been around presidents, prime ministers and princesses, but few times I saw a similar security apparatus.

Continue reading Bündchen, Wonder Woman and a Masp’s favela: mirages in São Paulo

Tragicomic film translations

a mulher que morreu duas vezes“Vertigo”, the Hitchcock masterpiece with James Stuart and Kim Novak, had its title translated as “A Mulher que Viveu Duas Vezes” (The Woman that Lived Twice) in Portugal – a massive, humongous spoiler. Also, I heard more than once that Portuguese christened “Psycho”, another Hitchcock’s, as “O Assassino era a Mãe” (The Killer was the Mother), an even worse spoiler, but I suspect this one is pure urban legend.

Ah, the bizarre mistranslations cinephiles have to endure!  These are my two favorites:

  • At some point, in the Spanish version o “Pixote”, the 1980s Brazilian classic about homeless kids, someone says that one of the children’s mom lives “en la sombrereria” (a literal translation of “na casa do chapéu“, an expression that means “really, really far away” in Portuguese). So, the translator understood that the lady lived in a hat shop. Later, in the same movie, a transvestite boy asks the main character if he thinks they might have a better future. In the original, Pixote says, no, we are doomed, while in the subtitles he says something like: “sure, Lilica, I am sure we will have a bright future”. This one was certainly a volontary mistranslation that intended to give the scene a more cheerful tone.
  • In the Brazilian translation of “Au Revoir les Enfants”, by Louis Malle, a war story where a Jewish boy hides in a French boarding school, another kid offers him a ham sandwich which the Jewish boy refuses. “Jambon” (ham in French) was translated as “geléia” (jam), destroying the logic of the scene. Continue reading Tragicomic film translations

Brazilian batucada around the world

Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr
Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr

Batucada, the joyful, noisy, fast pace percussive ensemble, capable of speeding up one’s pulse, is gaining the world. You can watch performances of local batuqueiros from Birmingham to Singapore. Check here how very different cultures interpret this African Brazilian tradition.

in Kobe, Japan (Bloco Feijão Preto)

Continue reading Brazilian batucada around the world