Category Archives: Nature

Damned Ponys and the environmental officer that couldn’t care less: two talk-of-the-week videos

Pôneis malditos!

You cannot miss these two videos. The first is the stickiest commercial aired in a long time on Brazilian TV. A voice in off asks you if you want a car with horse power…or pony power.

You can also see a version with English subtitles.

The second video shows Australian TV interviewing Curt Trennepohl, new Ibama’s president, about controversial dam Belo Monte, in the Amazon. Ibama is the national Environmental agency, but Trennepohl says his job is not to care for the environment, but to “minimize the impacts”, because the country really needs more energy. His two previous predecessor gave up the job exactly because they felt uneasy about approving Belo Monte’s project. The same happened to former Environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva. The huge Belo Monte dam complex, on Xingu river, in the state of Pará, meant to have the third biggest generation capacity – after Three Gorges, in China, and Itaipu, in Brazil – will flood a large forest area and might compromise the life of several indigenous groups. It’s economic viability and efficiency are also questioned. Trennepohl gave the environmental license for its construction in early June.

And, by the way, check this great Washington Post story about the multiple problems that the Chinese are facing thanks to the Three Gorges dam. Read and learn, Trennepohl.

The other life of Franca, the Brazilian shoe capital

The city of Franca is famous for its huge shoe industry.  Over 1.000 factories are responsible for the biggest shoe production of all Latin America. But this big city (330,000 people), on the border of the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, still keeps lots of its traditions, here shown by the amazing pictures by Tiago Brandão, a  local photographic reporter.

The Passion of Christ enacted during last Easter in the São Judas Tadeu church

Continue reading The other life of Franca, the Brazilian shoe capital

Brazil national bird, flower, holiday, anthem…

Sabiá-laranjeira photographed by the great Bart van Dorp/Flickr
Sabiá-laranjeira photographed by the great Bart van Dorp/Flickr

Ever wonder what’s Brazil national…


You might think it is the blue macaw or the toucan. In fact, sabiá-laranjeira (Turdus rufiventris or, in English, rufous-bellied thrush) became the official national bird in 2002 thanks to a presidential decree.

It was probably chosen because of a famous 19th century chauvinist poem by Gonçalves Dias, Canção do Exílio (The Exile Song), that says: “Minha terra tem palmeiras/Onde canta o sabiá/As aves que aqui gorgeiam/Não gorgeiam como lá” (My homeland has palm trees/ Where the thrush sings/ The birds that sing in here/ Do not sing as they do there). It was written when Dias was in Law school in Portugal.

Pay attention to his music – it may have different “accents” depending on the region where they live. In fact, sabiás can also imitate the voice of other bird species. Continue reading Brazil national bird, flower, holiday, anthem…

Brazilian monkeys

Uacari ("Cacajao calvus") photographed by Evgenia Kononova/Wikipedia
Uacari (“Cacajao calvus”) photographed by Evgenia Kononova/Wikipedia

No country has more primate species than Brazil – over a hundred, from the very small saguis and the rare and famous golden tamarin/mico-leão dourado to the big and noisy bugios. They belong to five families: Callitrichidae (marmosets and tamarins), Cebidae (capuchins and squirrel monkeys), Aotidae (night or owl monkeys), Pitheciidae (titis, sakis and uakaris) and Atelidae (howler, spider and woolly monkeys). You can find detailed information about them in Portuguese in the website of the Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Primatas Brasileiros, related to the Ministry of the Environment.

Now, enjoy these wonderful pictures:

Photo by Guilherme Jofili/Flickr
Photo by Guilherme Jofili/Flickr


Continue reading Brazilian monkeys

Maquiné, the cradle of Brazilian paleonthology

Paleontology was introduced in the country by Danish naturalist Peter Wilhelm Lund, that arrived in the country in the 1820s. In the following decades, he visited at least 200 caves in the region of Minas Gerais and described over a hundred species, most of them extinct, such as the saber tooth tiger. Two of his exploits were particularly important: he identified human vestiges of an individual that lived 12,000 years ago, later named Homem de Lagoa Santa, that obviously coexisted with extinct animals; and he described the beauties of one of the greatest caves in the country, Maquiné. But Lund also diligently sent all his finds to Copenhagen and published his works exclusively in Danish – it took almost one  century for them to be published in Portuguese.

Lund explored Maquiné cave in 1834, where he found human remnants and petrified animals. It is an amazing speleological complex in Cordisburgo, 120 kilometers from the capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. It has seven huge rooms, connected by hallways – in total,  it has a depth of 18 meters depth and an extension of 650 meters. For millennia the water sculpted the calcium carbonate, producing formats that remind you of bats, bears, candelabra, a huge wedding cake and the atomic mushroom. You can also find a few 6,000 old wall paintings. It has nice pathways and good artificial lighting that allow very easy access. Continue reading Maquiné, the cradle of Brazilian paleonthology

The mythical Jaguar, biggest feline of Americas

Courtesy of the authors

Liana John*

It is easy to see a beast as a link between life and death, but the mythical jaguar goes far beyond and closes the circle by connecting death with life.

Talismans for the newborn

Among the Tupinambas of Brazil, when a male child was born, the father would cut the umbilical cord with his teeth and take the baby to the river for a bath. Then the father would flatten the baby’s nose with his thumb and place it in a small hammock, hung with jaguar claws, beside a small bow and some arrows, so that the child would be courageous and eager to fight. Continue reading The mythical Jaguar, biggest feline of Americas

Tools to compare São Paulo to foreign metropolis

São Paulo has one of the best carbon footprints and great weather – but also the highest criminality and the worst entrepreneurial environment. This is how the Brazilian mega city is portrayed by Cities of Opportunity, a study just published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the biggest accountancy companies in the world. It compares the economic/social/cultural performance of 26 metropolis for 10 major indicators, from innovation to climate, from cost to livability. It is pretty useful for those moving or doing business in one of these urban centers, having to figure what opportunities and challenges they will have to face.

One of the coolest features of the project is Model your City. It allows you to pick the cities and 66 indicators of your choice to build a comparative chart. You can also download the whole document. It is pretty simple to read: the higher the number of points a city has for a certain indicator (between 1 and 26), the better.

São Paulo’s depiction is not exactly kind. In fact it is one of the bottom three, just above Johannesburg and Mumbai, with a little under half the points gathered by New York, that heads the list. Continue reading Tools to compare São Paulo to foreign metropolis

Brazil essentials: 18 Unesco World Heritage sites you must visit

Ouro Preto by Marcelo Costa/ Flickr
Ouro Preto by Marcelo Costa/ Flickr

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:

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia


Continue reading Brazil essentials: 18 Unesco World Heritage sites you must visit

The most beautiful Brazilian waterfalls

Véu da Noiva/ The bride's veil, in Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso state, by Jeff Belmonte/Flickr

One of the divine experiences of traveling along the Brazilian lands is the surprise appearance of little waterfalls along the road. You stop the car, dive into the shower, fill your bottle and go back to the car, dripping, in bliss.

Here is a selection of images of Brazilian waterfalls for your delight. But first, check the list with the 12 most beautiful cachoeiras, according to Guia Quatro Rodas, a tourism guide that is the bible of the country’s tourists. Continue reading The most beautiful Brazilian waterfalls

Krajcberg, the poet of fire

Photos by Manu Dias/ Government of Bahia/Flickr
Photo by Manu Dias/ Government of Bahia/Flickr

Frans Krajcberg, the Jewish refugee that creates beauty from burned hardwood in a small beach of the Northeast, just turned 90. His work is frequently seen as an environmental libel, but it is also the use of nature as a metaphor by someone that couldn’t be in peace with History and humans. “I go to the woods and feel as burned as the trees”, he often says.  “My works are my manifest. The fire is death, abyss. The fire is always with me. The destruction has forms. I am searching for images to scream my revolt.”

Continue reading Krajcberg, the poet of fire