This summer I visited Brazil for my second time. First time I was there it was about six years ago, and I naturally desidered to travel to the most popular places. I visited São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, Parati and a took a road trip on the beautiful Linea Verde. This second time the approach was different, and thanks to my girlfriend, I was able to experience Brazil through its day-to-day routines. There are multiple reasons (big and small) why I love this country and its culture, and here I would like to highlight ten (relatively random) things. Happy to hear your feedback whether you agree with me or if you believe I appear to have travelled somewhere else. ;)
1) Meat Paradise
Probably not saying anything new: most of you know about the quality and delicious taste of Brazilian meat. What surprised me positively though was that I found an overall very high quality of meat and great value for money, from the fast-food places to the high-end ones. Not only churrascarias conquered my heart, but also Argentinean and Uruguayan places, which there are common. As a matter of fact, of the places I was lucky to dine at, in my top-3 I would include:3rd place:
Bar do Argentino (Sorocaba) - http://www.bardoargentino.com.br/
2nd place: Rodeo - Brazilian (São Paulo) - http://www.rodeiosp.com.br/
Winner: El Tranvia - Uruguaio (Sorocaba) - http://www.eltranvia.com.br/sorocaba/
Entrance to the Bar do Argentino (great atmosphere!)
2) Modern Visual Art: graffitis and tattoos
Probably one of the most beautiful things I noticed about Brazil, which gives me an indecipherable sensation of optimism, is all the art I have seen on the streets and on the skin of people. Yes, street art and tattoos proliferate incredibly in the region (especially in São Paulo), and I find this very interesting and exciting. I have found lots of good energy and creativity in many of the art pieces admired. It is evident that behind this there is a natural instinct for 'young' (at-heart) people to express themselves. Furthermore, I believe there's even a subconscious desire to get surrounded by a more beautiful environment. Usually, whenever I visit a new community, wherever in the world, among the various considerations, I try to understand what the local communities consider 'beauty'. Through all my travels (I've passed the 50+ mark of visited countries so far) I realised that no matter in what form, all people search for 'beauty' creations, and desire to be surrounded by it. Architecture certainly often plays a significant part in cities around the world, but also textiles, fashion and many other forms of visual art can help. I believe that Brazilians are naturally covering up for the lack of other types of beauties (like the limited architectural one) with graffiti and tattoos. [My device was not always ready, so I did not take much on camera, but here I will attach a few shots.]
Graffitis were literally everywhere and in any style. I was not that good in catching them on camera.
3) The CPF (Cadastro de Pessoa Física) na nota
The process is simple: all citizens, when purchasing almost anything from a shop/restaurant or else, can leave their Social ID/CodiceFiscale so that all recorded expenses they made will entitle them to receive a small 'cash back' from the government at the end of the year. Now, you might think: "why"? Why such a needed system? Surely it is not simple to implement at the country level, requiring most businesses to abide to it. Well, certainly in Italy we can appreciate the reason. This system pushes the citizen to record all their expenses with the retailer/business (for the appreciated benefit of the yearly cash-back). Hence, by consequence, all retailers/business must record such transaction. End game: businesses tend to do less 'black' and pay more taxes! BOOM! I must admit I love it in its simplicity. If you are thinking "It is impossible to implement in a country that is not used to do this", let me ask you a question: do you know when it was implemented in Brazil? Well, apparently it was less than 10 years ago. Love it!
4) A 'cool' word (nope, not 'saudade')
So much of the culture and the character of a society is patiently and carefully crafted in its language. I could go on talking about the reason why I think Brazilian portuguese is probably the most beautiful language in the world (yes, even more than Italian - but it is a close call), or I could focus on the word that most than any other has Brazil written all over it (i.e., saudade), but today I want to bring to your attention another term, that really caught my attention on this trip. The word is 'legal', and it means 'cool'. Everyone used this word, from older generations to teenagers. But you know what is really 'cool' about that word? It is that it means, as you can easily guess, "legal", as in "permitted by law". Now... that is COOL! Culturally, Brazilians, perhaps without realising it, have clearly correlated a word with a generic positive meaning to a much needed requirement by its same civil society. OK, perhaps you think I am crazy noticing these things, but.... I love it!
5) Music by Sala Espacial
Thanks to 'insiders', I got a chance to attend a very stimulating cultural/musical event which occurred in a small communal house where few artists live together (no need to share the address, as they are moving this month). While at the event, I got to see a great band performing. They are called Sala Espacial and they literally captured me in the matter of seconds. Many were the reasons: they are hyper-creative; they use unusual and fascinating instruments along traditional ones, mixing guitar tunes with didgeridoo effects and all sorts of percussions; they care to build their music on folk traditions, open to blend rock beats with the beats of spiritual rituals such as the ones of Candomblè; they have a small crowd of followers/fans/groupies who enjoy every song with them because of how it makes them feel; the brotherhood created by their music develops in a series of parallel activities of performing arts that people engage in (from contact dance to fire breathing and more...). I felt very content and engaged in that event thanks to them... in some way, it even brought me back at the mood I lived when I attended Burning Man in Nevada in 2014... and for this reason, I am totally a fan of what they are doing and wish them great success. [You can hear for yourself here: https://soundcloud.com/salaespacial/tracks]
If you like them, you can keep up with their work through CircleMe's interest page here: http://www.circleme.com/items/sala-espacial
A concert by Sala Espacial is a multi-sensorial experience within the event itself.
6) The taxi drivers (and the system)
Now, I have taken lots of taxis in my life, and in Brazil as well! One day I would like to quantify this statement somehow. Anyway, let me tell you: taxi drivers in Brazil are just a different level! I am not even talking about their skills, the cost of the fair, the cleanness of the vehicle, or else. I am talking about how kind, calm, relaxed and friendly they are. I know, these are not adjectives you'd automatically associate to a cab driver, but I can confirm a 100% hit-rate for me (and I guess we took at least 7-10 rides) matches this judgement. Getting on a taxi and feeling pleased about how your taxi driver approaches you and aligns to your needs and mood: something to adore and wish for!
7) Wi-Fi as water
No doubt Brazil is doing quite well with digitalisation. I can also imagine that its young population age and the recent economic growth and civil developments have helped. Net-net, Wi-Fi is basically accessible from any public place. Not just talking about restaurants and shopping malls; the service is also available in small fast-food types of shops, in retailers, at the station, and so on... coming from an internet-addict person, working and living in places like USA, UK, Italy, France and Singapore, it is impressive to see Brazil setting the bar on this.
8) Sit back and enjoy the (bus) ride!
Need to go from a São Paolo to a neighbouring city by bus? Air conditioning; reclining seats to such incredible inclinations to make a Singapore Airlines first class traveller reconsider travelling by bus. Drinks offered and (obviously) Wi-Fi! This is perhaps not a type of bus you can find all across the country, but at the same time it is not that special of a bus service to find. A high number of bus services are equipped with such comforts at affordable prices and leave from the main bus stations.
The bus ride from São Paolo to Sorocaba
9) Variety of fruits and juices
Who knows me well, remembers how much I love fruits! You can imagine when I first went to a grocery shop (looking for some tomatoes and zucchine to cook a simple pasta sauce for some friends) and stumbled upon the fruits counter. It was a very small shop and yet in the matter of seconds I spotted at least 10 types of fruits I had never seen before. I tried few of them, but it would require me at least a few trips back to attempt learning about all of them. If you make it there, make sure to try at least some mango, goiaba amarela and pineapple & mint!
This is a very nutritious fruit called 'graviola'.
10) Brazil: a truly beautiful melting pot
So I must end things with probably the most fascinating thing about Brazil for me: the wonderful and impressive multi-ethnicity of the population. White, blacks, asians and indians (as autochthonous populations) mixed to generate new race blends, called Pardos, which includes mullattos, cablocos, juçlaras and more. This unique melting pot (which I believe I have never seen so varied as here) is beautiful to see and to interact with. Yes, "interaction" is a very important part of the equation, because in Brazil, uniquely than other places where you could see similar mixes of races (think of New York City or London), here all people are (and feel!) Brazilian and speak portuguese. They are truly the same by culture and only the appearance distinguishes them. Among the many places I have seen in the world, perhaps it is in Brazil that I found the best integration among different races (which, as you can imagine, still remains far from perfect though). I believe many of us could learn a lot from this.
Now, there are many other (relatively random) things I loved about Brazil and its people, but this post was going to get too long... so let's just leave it at 10 things which I hope will increase your desire to visit this wonderful land. Good travels!