Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Cool article of an expat living in the Vidigal favela


Vidigal is the favela where my husband Rodrigo and I are currently living.

I was lucky enough to have had the chance to house sit here, and then basically handed over a new home shortly after that.  For anyone who has tried house hunting in Vidigal, you can understand my lucky strike!  It’s no easy feat to find yourself a livable, reasonably priced, dwelling here in Vidigal.  The house did have it’s difficulties like having to climb a ladder to get inside, but the view was marvelous! It was everything really.

It’s easy to become wowed by the grandeur Vidigal has to offer as Cariocas and foreigners alike.  As a foreigner, once you start to live here, and I mean really live here  (not be on a long term vacation), you begin to see the hardships people pass in their day to day, and pass them yourself too, view or…

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Ecology as a new form of Imperialism

There is a disturbing pattern in the Anglo Saxon press when the subject is ecology, and in particular when they talk about Brazil’s role in it. Some present the country as a potential savior of the planet but most articles portray it as an irresponsible menace and seek to open the eyes of the world eyes to the “natural disaster” sponsored by its reckless governments.

There is no doubt that there are reasons to be alarmed; the Brazilian Amazonian forest has taken a great beating due to the irresponsibility of powerful lobbies who put their interests above the planet’s health. They are indeed active, aggressive and have a big say in Brazilian politics; this is worrying because what they get away with affects the rest of the world. The crux of the matter is that the world is worried because Brazil is the guardian a resource that is precious for the entire humanity.  There are other countries in similar positions: Saudi Arabia controls a huge percentage of the world’s petroleum, Russia detains gas that is essential for the functioning of Europe, Britain and the US host a banking system that the world depends on,  the United States detains most of the servers that enable the Internet to function, etc.. the examples could fill out this page.

However when we look at this problem from a different perspective: if Brazil detains this crucial, so to speak, ecological capital, the so called “First World” detains a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth. No one needs to be a scholar in history to know that this advantage was obtained by extracting richness from the so called “Third World”, and that this was done with the use of its also disproportionate military power. Also, no one needs to be a scholar in economics to know that if the wealthier countries administered these resources more rationally this would tackle poverty which is the main threat for forests, not only in Brazil.

While we read plenty of articles questioning the ability of the Brazilian government to tackle the environmental issue, we have never heard of any Brazilian organization claiming that Americans and European are bad in managing money and suggest that they have the answer, and that they should perhaps step in for the good of human kind.

When one looks into the hard facts one sees that the worst time for forest devastation in Brazil was in the seventies, when the country was under a dictatorship and no one could protest against anything. The regime was sponsored guess by who? the United States of America and their allies who did not want Brazil to follow Cuba’s steps. As democracy returned and established itself the rhythm of the  forest devastation decreased, Brazil is now the biggest investors in the world in forest protection. Obviously a jungle with continental dimensions is difficult to control and there are problems, but not to the alarmist extent that one reads in many ecological articles about Brazil.

The Amazonian forest is still bigger than Europe, there are an estimated seventy tribes who have never had contact with white people, its rivers are still unpolluted despite their being a good deal of foreign factories next them beginning to throw waste into their waters. But a point that needs to be made here is that contrary to popular knowledge the forest actually tends to expand due to the excess of Carbon dioxide in the planet’s air.

Yet, some of eco-organizations suggest that Brazilians are incapable of looking after their resources and that the way to save the Amazonian forest is by “internationalizing” it. They are headed by citizens from countries that have destroyed their own forests long ago and their leader, the United States of America, has refused to sign important ecological treaties.

It is our view that countries with failed eco-policies, who have built their wealth exploiting other countries resources with eco-damaging technologies and who have ultimately invented pollution have nothing to teach Brazil or any other country about protecting their forests. Help is welcome when requested, but it seems that many ecologists want more than this. They seem to have an old notion that countries bellow the equator are an extension of their own and that they have a “responsibility” towards them. Perhaps it is time for them to stop teaching and start learning.

A recipe for caipirinha..

Paper ~ Petal ~ Bash

In honor of our upcoming trip I thought we should get our taste buds excited for the food and beverages of Brazil.  [OMG I AM SO EXCITED!!!  Sorry…side note.]  Brazil’s national cocktail is the Caipirinha which is a combination of muddled lime, sugar, and Cachaça served over ice.  Cachaça is similar to rum except Cachaça is made with sugarcane while rum is made with molassas.


Take a good size lime, cut it into 8 wedges, and place 4 wedges in a rocks glass

Add two teaspoons of sugar, mash the lime and sugar with a muddler for 15 seconds

Add crushed ice up to the rim of the glass

Add two ounces of Cachaça, stir thoroughly, and garnish with a lime wedge

Source: / 1 /

Recipe: here

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The Tijuca Forest


The picture above was not taken in the middle of the Amazonian Jungle nor in a remote corner of the Pantanal, it was shot from a helicopter in the middle of Rio de Janeiro. This is the cities highest point, the Pico da Tijuca, located in the heart of the Tijuca forest.

What you see is part of the biggest urban forest in the world, so big that there are still cases of people getting lost there for days in the over one hundred trails that cover it. It is a national park and a big part of it used to be farms only a century ago, and as the vegetation recovered the hills botanists brought trees from all over the world to join in with the local Tropical Atlantic forest.

The only way up the mountain is by a trek of at least one hour and a half through the dense forest. There is a description of one of these walks in Lost Samba: My parents and I used to go there a lot in a time when very few people ventured into the Tijuca Forest. It was, and still is, an exciting adventure.

A poetic flight through Rio


One of the more wonderful things to do, at least from
my point of view, was to go on the ferry and into the
mainland city, the old city that has held such fascination
for so many millenia.
Rio was the destination for the rich and famous, Hollywood,
and the glamorous.  It was also the place to run away to, for
its vastness made it possible to hide forever, from whatever
or whomever you were running.

Traveling through, it is such an unimaginable combination
of centuries, styles and cultures…
My camera’s eye was enthralled with the contrasts and combos,
the most incomprehensible next door neighbors created by
circumstance and availability.
I share some photos, because Words do not suffice.

Rio just goes on and on.  The sidewalks are made of broken
marble from older buildings from the past…puzzled together
to create artful walkways, each street with its own pattern.


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Radio Fluminense FM, the Damned

The video above is a collection of radio vignettes which may seem random and puzzling for the uninitiated; for the initiated they will bring alive an exciting era of Brazilian rock, especially for Cariocas (people from Rio de Janeiro). These were the soundtracks of a generation and will ignite tons of memories, not only the sounds but the record covers compiled by the video maker.

Radio Fluminense was inherited by a rock fan who decided initially to do a sort of pirate radio. In the early eighties suddenly everyone was talking about a radio station that played all of our favorite bands: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull etc.. etc… etc…

We didn’t need record players or cassettes anymore to listen to the music we liked, and couldn’t get enough from it. Alas the party couldn’t last long and soon they were threatened by the record labels and were forced to change their style.

They resorted to playing a new generation of bands: the Police, the Clash, the Cure, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, the Smiths, New Order and so many others that no one had ever heard about but who the music moguls had less problems with music rights, and who I suspect were cheaper to be played.

This was a divider of waters, from then on the bands of the seventies became old school and the new bands became the thing to listen to; the eighties had begun.

In terms of Brazilian music they did the same: they played a lot of new independent bands and launched an entire new generation of Brazilian bands: Titas, Gang 90, Paralamas do Sucesso, Blitz, Lobao, Legiao Urbana, Ultraje a Rigor, the list is extensive. The mainstream would take at least two years to catch up with them and would never get as close to that generation as “the Damned”.

They also were pioneers in having female presenters and in playing Reggae in Brazil. A friend of mine, Nelson Meirelles, was given a slot for the genre. Instead of reaching his targeted audience, the South Zone of Rio where the upper middle class lived he reached the suburbs where a great number of Afro Brazilians tuned into his programme and because of this for years he was the king of Carioca and would end up producing most of the big names of local reggae.

Radio Fluminense marked an era and was instrumental in changing the musical scene in Brazil.

Sunset over Bahia

Everyone who goes to Bahia loves it!

Silvio Santos – an amazing Brazilian


If Silvio Santos had been born in America he would have been veneered by generations of businessmen, and held as an example of a self made millionaire.

The guy is amazing, he started his life as a street salesman at the age of 14 selling covers for documents. His talent with people would earn him an invitation to run an on board radio station on one of the boats that link Rio to Paqueta, a beautiful and traditional island in the Guanabara Bay. He served the army as a parachuter and after that he went on to the radio where his talent lead him to present TV Globo’s most popular program in the seventies simply called Silvio Santos.

The show lasted all Sunday and was watched everywhere by everyone. It was as cheesy as one can get but was also captivating and creative although it did imitate TV formulas from the US. His uniqueness was that his audience was not the elite or for clever people; he communicated to the ordinary folk and they responded with love and by making him the most successful presenter in Brazilian history, if not worldwide.

His programs were linked to his sales by credit company called the Bau da Felicidade ( the Chest of Happiness) in a way that one could not differentiate the sponsor with the presenter. This extremely clever idea made him wealthy, so rich that he went on to buy his own TV Channel and to become a TV Mogul.

Silvio never lost his love for the common people and still presents his program with the same vitality in his ripe age of of 82, although he does not stay on air the whole day long. It is still successful and his charm has not been lost. Another amazing fact about him is that his real name is Senor Abravanel and that he descends from a famous Jewish Scolar, who worked for the King of Spain during the inquisition but who refused to convert to Christianity to save his skin.

All in all gentleman in the photo above is a one and only occurrence in the Brazilan gallery of great characters and deserves everyone’s respect.

Brazil: Magical Journey by Macy’s

Brazil makes it big at Macy’s



Three days ago a great happening occurred in the biggest Macy’s department store in America. With a total of 500 VIP guests, Macy’s held the inauguration to it’s new campaign: Brazil – Magical Journey on the top floor of its New York building.

In a collaboration with Francisco Costa, fashion director at Calvin Klein, Isabela Capeto and Cecilia Prado, both Brazilian stylists; this initiative by Macy’s and APEX (The Braziian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency) is important to influence Brazilian products entering the United States.
From May 16th to July 16th, the Macy’s chain is going to offer a chance for Americans to meet the colorful and cheerful designs used in Brazilian fashion. Fashion items such as the Fitinha do Bonfim  (with new interernational name: Brazilets) bags, shoes and clothing signed by designer such as Carlos Falchi, Rachel Roy, Seu Jorge and more, are featured in the stores. Items costa as…

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Malandros and Otarios


The painting above is of an idealized “malandro“, a popular/archetypal/folkloric figure from Rio de Janeiro that summarizes what most Cariocas try to be and how the rest of Brazil sees Cariocas.  He is the wise guy from the Favela who. despite the abject poverty he was born into, by his charm and by his wits lives the great life as Chico Buarque puts it beautifully “walking on his tip toes, as treading on hearts… ”

This mythical Jack Sparrow of Rio’s streets has his opposite, the despised otario, the guy who works honestly, is dim witted, monogamous, sleeps early and is boring. From childhood every Carioca, no matter which class or color, tries to be a malandro while his parents do everything to keep him an otario.

The struggle between malandros and otarios is an old one, the otarios are the descendants of the privileged immigrants who had money to open businesses and to educate their children while the malandros are the descendants of slaves without opportunities, discriminated by the mainstream (the otarios) and who could only fight back through their malice.

This war is universal and good and evil get lost in it, both sides are right and wrong depending on the angle and the occasion. The questions that they bring up are about life itself, what is just and what is unjust? the police or the exploited? the rich or the poor? the religious or the profane? both are  lovable and hateful at the same time, like all of us.

This very brief article will end with a sentence from the Brazilian tropicalist pop star Jorge Ben who presented a cure for malandragem: If the malandro knew how good it is to be honest, he would be honest just by “malandragem. A very good, but hard, path to follow. This could be a great learning for the malandros involved in Brazilian (and world) politics since its begginings; when otarios decide to become malandros, we have a big problem…

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