“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:
Animal trafficking, New Urbanism, habitat conservation, the Amazon…This is a wonderful selection of TED conferences that offer an overview of the main essential environmental topics and issues in Brazil, according to people that understand deeply the main interests and angles involved. All of them have English captions (in case of need, just hit the cc touch on the bottom right of the screen).
1 – Amazon anti-logging activist Zé Claudio Ribeiro describes his struggle and reveals that he was as menaced as Chico Mendes and Sister Dorothy, both killed by loggers and landowners due to their social and environmental activism. Last may, six months after this conference, Zé Claudio and his wife, Maria, were murdered in Nova Ipixuna, a small town in the state of Pará. I understand the police still didn’t identify the murderer.
2 – Paulo Saldiva, that I had the pleasure of interviewing a few times, is one of the main Brazilian specialists in air pollution and its health impacts, which affect in different ways the many layers of society.
3 – Biologist Juliana Machado Ferreira explains how the pet market feeds the illegal wildlife trade in the country, compromising the lives of 38 million animals every year in the country. She is working in a doctorate in Conservation Genetics at Universidade de São Paulo.
4 – Renowned urbanist and serial former mayor of Curitiba, capital of Paraná state, Jaime Lerner discusses the reinvention of metropolitan spaces and how this can improve the quality of life.
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.
This really cool documentary produced by Current TV network takes you to a Kamayurá indians village in the upper Xingu river, in the state of Mato Grosso. You will have an overview of their community, daily life, food and rituals.
You can also find tons of information about the Kamayurá and other native Brazilian groups in Portuguese, English and Spanish on the Instituto Socioambiental portal.
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 musical universe of the Amazon region, that includes rhythms brega, tecnobrega and tecnomelody, is mostly ignored by the rest of the country.
Check here for a sample of musicians of the state of Pará. The most popular is Gaby Amarantos, a Valkyrie that is also known as Beyoncé of Pará, but I would like to call your attention to Dona Onete and the instrumental ensembles, such as Orquestra Jovem de Cellos da Amazônia.
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:
When I travel I like to do a bit of reading before I leave to give me a little better insight into the country or countries I will be visiting. Not so much history texts or political primers, but rather rich novels written by native authors, since translated into English. Or maybe a sweeping historical novel that lays out a chunk of the country’s history in an interesting and provocative manner.
When it comes to Brazil I have been all over the map. I’ve read novels, histories, biographies and social anthropological texts. The country is so vast and diverse. It’s history is brief, but rich with fantastic tales of discovery, anguish, struggle and triumphs. The culture is an amazing amalgamation of immigrants, natives, slaves, gay, straight, rich and very poor. Brazil is a land of survivors, by hook or by crook.
What follows is a list of books worth considering, if you are looking to understand more about Brazil, it’s history, politics, people and culture. It is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it should serve to get you started. Suggestions for additional reading and why are welcome in the comments section – what would you recommend?
In no particular order:
Anything written by Brazil’s native son Jorge Amado. His novels, set in Bahia, are rich in texture, are written in a fun and lush voice and they always have a sexy hue. Consider: “Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon”, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, “The War of the Saints”, or “Tent of Miracles”. There are others.Continue reading Getting to know Brazil – a reading tour→