Category Archives: History

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

Amazing footage of Rio in the 30s, the 40s, the 50s…

Carnaval de ruaYou may question the narration and its predictable cliches and prejudices, but these historic footages are true gems. Tough to choose a favorite (ok, if you insist, the 1932’s and the 1955’s are the best).

1932 – Includes a pretty disgusting scene where the narrator mentions the “infinite variety of tropical animals” found downtown, while the camera closes on a cute little Black girl. Also to be noted the comment that carioca’s resent the monopoly of the word Americans by those born in the States. Pay attention also on the explanation about the “butterfly industries” and the ornamental black and white stone pavements.

Continue reading Amazing footage of Rio in the 30s, the 40s, the 50s…

Dzi Croquettes – Rio’s revolutionary cabaret

936full-dzi-croquettes-poster “Not men, not women. People”, was their revolutionary motto. They were the Dzi Croquettes, an irreverent androgynous theater company directed by Broadway chorus line dancer Lennie Dale that defied the dictatorship and inspired a whole generation of carioca artists. The so-called besteirol theatre (anarchic, hilarious and politically incorrect) and several slang words and expressions ( Tá boa, santa?) are remnants of their influence.

They became so popular that their performances were finally forbidden, and they decided to tour Europe, where they conquered Paris and even appeared in a Claude Lelouch’s movie. “When I die, I want my show substituted by the Dzi Croquettes”, said legendary diva Josephine Baker. Continue reading Dzi Croquettes – Rio’s revolutionary cabaret

Brazilian meme – Brazil cannot live without honor


A meme is an iconic idea or image, a concept that spreads within a culture. It is sort of a summary of a concept or moment. This post is the first of a series of Brazilian memes. If you have suggestions of similar images, please, let me know.

This litograph – “O Brasil não Sabe, não Pode e não Quer Viver sem Honra” (Brazil Cannot, Would Not, and Will Not Live Without Honour) – belongs to the London Imperial War Museum’s collection. It suggest that men should learn how to shoot to defend their homeland. The museum’s website doesn’t offer any context for this image, but it is easy to guess it was published during the First World War, because the title is a quote of W. Braz, president Venceslau Brás, Brazil’s president between 1914 and 1918 (the country had multiple orthographic reforms since then, so the original stands for Wenceslau Braz), who declared war on the German Empire.



Fordlandia, an American city in the middle of the Amazon

Photo from the archives of The Henry Ford Foundation/ Flickr

The story of Fordlandia, the now-abandoned pre-fabricated industrial town established by American mogul Henry Ford in the Amazon in the late 20s, is revealed by a new documentary directed by Marinho Andrade and Daniel Augusto. The 51-minute production is beginning to tour film festivals.

Ford invested a little fortune in the project on the banks of Tapajós river, close to Santarém, to secure a source of cultivated rubber for his car assembly lines in Michigan, US. The area was a concession of the Brazilian government. At the time, Fordlandia was one of the most modern cities in the North of the country, with a complete water, sewage and energy infrastructure.

Today, Fordlandia is a mere memory –  as the directors put it, it exposes the “ruins of the capitalist dream”. The documentary tries to understand the reasons behind its failure, which include a malaria outburst, the leaf blight that hit the saplings and a workers riot .

This video clip will give you a little taste of Fordlandia’s days of glory and decadence. It is narrated in English, with subtitles in Portuguese, but some interviews in Portuguese lack subtitles in English.

Also, Atlas Obscura has a really nice set of pictures.

Rare videos of Mestre Bimba, Capoeira grand master

Bimba in action

Pelé is the king of soccer. The Gracie family rules in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. In the universe of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, the big name is Manuel dos Reis Machado, aka Mestre Bimba. Born in 1900 and deceased in 1974, Bimba codified the fight, developed a learning method, introduced new elements, such as the uniform (white t-shirt and pants), performed for the governor of Bahia and president Getúlio Vargas and, this way, gained respect for a martial art till then illegal.

There are very few images of Bimba practicing capoeira, playing berimbau and giving interviews. These are some of them:

 This is the full version of 2007 film “Mestre Bimba, a Capoeira Iluminada”:

Continue reading Rare videos of Mestre Bimba, Capoeira grand master