Cerrado, the Brazilian equivalent of African savanna and Australian outback, is frequently despised. Its trees are small, dry, and the soil is acidic and poor, in contrast with the flamboyance of the Amazonian and the Atlantic rainforest. But don’t be fooled by its discretion. It is home to one out of every 20 species of plants and animals in the planet, including ant eaters, macaws, armadillos, jaguars, guará wolves and gorgeous plants, such as bromeliads, cacti and buriti palm trees. In the Cerrado area that surrounds the country’s capital, Brasília, scientists identified 1,000 species of butterflies and 500 species of bees and wasps, plus 90 different termites.
The image of a gaúcho – the cattle rancher, or his employee, wrangling in the vast fields of the state of Rio Grande do Sul – is invariably associated to two things. First, the mate – or chimarrão -, the hot bitter infusion of a special type of dry, crushed tea, sipped from a cuia, a calabash gourd. The second is his horse.
This wonderful series of images by Eduardo Amorim portray rodeios and daily life in several municipalities of the Southern state: Bagé, Pelotas, Esteio, Santa Vitória do Palmar. This amazing photographer has loads of pictures that you can appreciate on Flickr.
Açaí, cajú (cashew) and maracujá (passion fruit), native from the Brazilian rainforests, conquered the world and can be found in many upscale markets in the developed countries. What could be the next fruit to follow their path? What about ….
1 Bocaiúva (Acrocomia aculeata) – Similar to a tiny coconut, it has different names around the country – macaúba in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, bocajá close to the border with Paraguay, macaíba in the Northeast. Its pulp is very sweet and full of fibers and that’s why it has the nickname of “ox chewing gum”. Learn more about it here (in Portuguese).
Pay special attention to the amazing range and variety of sounds produced by the Lawrence’s thrush (Turdus lawrenci), that imitates the songs of several other species. Also, pay a visit to the recording of the voice of the organ wren (Cyphorhirus arada) , or uirapuru, as it is called in Portuguese, inspired by a Tupi-Guarani word. Found in most of the Amazon basin, he is famous for his long and melodic style, similar to a flute. The uirapuru always sings in the early morning, for a few days per year.
Despite its very wide coast, Brazil has few beaches destined to the practice of naturism. In most beaches, you are expected to keep your bathing suit on (and this includes the ladies’ tops). Topless girls are welcome in some places, but that is not universally practiced, accepted or allowed. Technically, it is still illegal to be naked in public in Brazil, but there is a bill waiting for approval in the Senate that might change that.
So, if you like to sunbathe in your birthday suit, you might have to look for the few isolated spots that offer privacy and total freedom for the practice of naturism. Most of them are regulated by local legislation.
Here is the list of official naturist beaches, organized from Northern to Southern states, in case you intend to vacation “au naturel”:
Compared to some of his neighboring countries, Brazil is practically immune to natural disasters. All Brazilians volcanoes have been extinct for several million years (more about that here). As far as registers go, the country never witnessed a hurricane, although a first cyclone, dubbed Catarina, killed a few people and destroyed 1,500 houses in 2004. Floods are the only recurrent natural drama and produce several deaths every year, but they cannot be attributed to an unexpected amount of rain. Most of the losses are associated to the inadequate occupation of mountains and river banks, plus government neglect.
Even earthquakes are discreet if compared to those registered in another country of South America, Chile. The reason is simple. Earthquakes normally occur in the borders of the tectonic plates, the huge rocks that lay under the surface of the earth. Chile is more exposed because it is on the edge of the South American plate while Brazil is on the middle of the same plate, a much stabler place.
Baianas – those elderly ladies that sell acarajé and other typical dishes on the beach in Salvador – represent all the charm of the capital of Bahia. Every tourist and every politician that visits the town take a picture by their stands that smell of palm oil and Africa.
Now, this postcard is under menace. Last week, the city of Salvador was notified by the federal government that no commercial activities should be allowed on the beaches, to respect the legislation that rules the management of the Brazilian coast (Lei Nacional de Gerenciamento Costeiro). Mayor João Henrique Carneiro protested and is trying to find an alternative solution. Around 650 baianas work in the 51 km coast of Salvador, some of them for over 30 years .
It is, of course, a less than clever way of interpreting the environmental legislation.
Once again, the flood washes up whole Brazilian communities. As I write this, the number of deaths in the state of Rio is over 540 and panic reigns in the cities of Nova Friburgo and Teresópolis. Last year, I wrote a post trying to explain why this happens again and again and again. I really hope not to have to come back to this topic again – but I know I will have to.
Brazil has at least 3,500 species of butterflies – 57 of which are menaced (most of them over hunted for the production of those decorated trays, covered with glass, sold to tourists as souvenirs). Here are some images found on Flickr, for your viewing pleasure. Continue reading Brazilian butterflies→