“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.
Almost all Brazilian cities were constructed around a central square which generally includes the main church or cathedral, gardens, cement benches, a fountain and, in many cases, also the city hall and a prison. Frequently, there is also a bandstand that may host musical shows or political speeches. Check some of these cool examples of bandstands – coretos in Portuguese – and feel the nostalgia.
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:
Since the sixties, the small town of Brejo de Deus, in the dry lands of the state of Pernambuco, promotes an Easter presentation depicting the passion of Christ that became (according to its organizers) the largest outdoor show in the world. The town incorporated the spirit of the original Jerusalem and built 4 meter (13 feet) tall ramparts and towers. Today, the comunity, rebaptized as Nova Jerusalém (New Jerusalem), receives around 80,000 visitors every year for an event that is considered an example of efficient organization. The audience moves from stage to stage – nine in total, from Herodes palace to the Golgotha – to watch the 550 actors and extras, plus all sorts of animals, in action. The technical crew is composed of 400 professionals.
It is maybe kitsch, but also unique and a great source of income for a region where there is little water and economy. At least 3 million people visited Brejo de Deus since the first shows, leaving money for the small hotels, shops, restaurants and street vendors.
Have a glimpse of the atmosphere at Nova Jerusalém these days thanks to this (poor quality home video):
One of the greatest art museums in the country, Rio’s Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, just reopened after a three-year remodelling. Its Modern and Contemporary art collections are important, but it’s the 19th century collection, with over 4,000 pieces, that catches the visitors’ attention.
Here are some of the best pieces of the new gallery dedicated to that period, all very epic – or at least theatrical: Continue reading The best colection of 19th century Brazilian art→
Rio, Salvador, Recife or Olinda? Which town promotes the best carnival in Brazil? It is a very arguable question and I reckon I´m not the right person to answer it. You might distrust my response if I told you that I am traveling this week to the Northeast to enjoy my ninth carnival in Olinda and Recife. These neighboring towns on the coast of the state of Pernambuco are among the best places in Brazil for those interested in popular street culture. Olinda and Recife dispute the trophy of best carnival of Pernambuco – or maybe Brazil. Both cities have common cultural features, especially the lead carnival rhythm, frevo, a high-speed march played by brass bands, that includes umbrella-swinging and steps derived from capoeira.
No one in Brazil is crazy to deny that Rio stages the most beautiful samba carnival in the world. Also, I would be dishonest if I did not pay tribute to the exciting Salvador carnival, which brings together a multitude to its streets to sing and dance animated by trios elétricos (trucks equipped with a powerful sound system and a band on top of it) and blocos afros (Afro-Brazilian cultural groups). Both carnivals deserve your attendance at least once in your terrestrial life. Continue reading Recife and Olinda: Brazilian Carnival beyond Rio→