Carlos Drummond de Andrade – A Nation’s Poet

Carlos Drummond de Andrde (October 31, 1902 -August 17, 1987) was perhaps the most influential Brazilian poet of the 20th century. He has become something of a national poet; his poem “Canção Amiga” (“Friendly Song”) was printed on the 50 cruzados note.

Drummond was born in Itabira, a mining village in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. His parents were farmers of Portuguese ancestry (and remote Scottish ancestry). He went to a school of pharmacy in Belo Horizonte, but never worked as a pharmacist after graduation. He worked in government service for most of his life, eventually becoming Director of History for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service of Brazil.

Though his earliest poems are formal and satirical, Drummond quickly adopted the new forms of Brazilian modernism that were evolving in the 1920s, incited by the work of Mário de Andrade (to whom he was not related). He adopted a Whitmanian free verse, mingling speech fluent in elegance and truth about the surrounding, many times quotidian, world, with a fluidity of thought.

One of Drummond’s best-known poems is his hymn to an ordinary man, “José.” It is a poem of desolation:

Key in hand,
you want to open the door –
there is no door. . .

 Although my personal favorite is called “O mundo é grande” and I will paste and translate it below

“O mundo é grande e cabe
 nesta janela sobre o mar.
 O mar é grande e cabe
 na cama e no colchão de amar.
 O amor é grande e cabe
 no breve espaço de beijar.”

“The world is large and fits
 in this window over the sea
 The sea is large and fits
 in the bed and in the mattress of love
 Love is large and fits
 in the brief space of a kiss.”

Styles & Influences

The work of Carlos Drummond is generally divided into several segments, which appear very markedly in each of his books. But this is somewhat misleading, since even in the midst of his everyday poems or his socialist, politicized poems, there appear creations which can be easily incorporated into his latermetaphysical canon, and none of these styles is completely free of the others. There is surely much metaphysical content in even his most political poems.

The most prominent of these later metaphysical poems is A Máquina do Mundo (The Machine of the World). The poem deals with an anti-Faust referred to in the first person, who receives the visit of the aforementioned Machine, which stands for all possible knowledge, and the sum of the answers for all the questions which afflict men; in highly dramatic and baroque versification the poem develops only for the anonymous subject to decline the offer of endless knowledge and proceed his gloomy path in the solitary road. It takes the renaissance allegory of the Machine of the World from Portugal’s most esteemed poet, Luís de Camões, more precisely, from a canto at the end of his epic masterpiece Os Lusíadas. There are also hints from Dante and the form is adapted from T. S. Eliot’s dantesque passage in “Little Gidding.”

Drummond is a favorite of American poets, a number of whom, including Mark Strand and Lloyd Schwartz, have translated him. Later writers and critics have sometimes credited his relationship with Elizabeth Bishop, his first English language translator, as influential for his American reception, but though she admired him Bishop claimed she barely knew him. In an interview with George Starbuck in 1977, she said:

I didn’t know him at all. He’s supposed to be very shy. I’m supposed to be very shy. We’ve met once — on the sidewalk at night. We had just come out of the same restaurant, and he kissed my hand politely when we were introduced. 

The Carlos Drummond de Andrade Memorial in Minas Gerias

Below is a short video interview of Andrade in his later years which begins with a few lines of poetry and goes into how at an early age, he was fascinated by the printed word even though he didn’t understand every word he read. The shape and the feel of the sounds and the visual of those sounds on paper was something that left its mark on him. He then speaks about his family who lived on a farm then moved to a city in the interior of Minas, where they had social importance. His immediate family was made up of his wife and his only daughter who lived in Buenos Aires. Later he goes into how moving from Minas was something that made its mark on him too, as anyone from Minas is eternally connected to it. Once in the National Library, he began to read about a lot of different subjects and it “made a salad in his spirit” (salada in Portuguese can mean a mixture). Being old and well-known, he says that lots of young people asked him for advice and counsel, even simple opinions yet he never felt quite right about giving these things, not even to himself. When he decided to move to Rio, he was happy to have his childhood friends around him because they were what connected his past with his present. The last part is a poem about Minas, where they show old pictures of him writing poetry. 

For some of his work in English, see this post!


Santa Teresa – The Montmartre of Rio

Santa Teresa is the name of a beautiful neighbourhood in the Zona Sul area of the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is located on top of the Santa Teresa hill, by the centre of Rio, and is famous for its winding, narrow streets and rail system which are a favourite of artists and tourists. It has been referred to as the Jardim Suspenso* (Suspended Garden), as well as other equally affectionate names (such as the Montmartre carioca).

The neighbourhood originated around the Santa Teresa Convent, built in the 1750s on the Desterro hill. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century it was an upper class borough, as testified by its magnificent mansions, many of which are still standing.

In 1896, the Carioca Aqueduct, a colonial structure that used to bring water to the centre of Rio, was converted into a bridge for the Santa Teresa bondinho (tram, pictured above). The old tram is still in use today – the only one in Rio – and is a popular attraction among tourists. The ride starts in the city centre, near the Largo da Carioca square, crosses the Arcos da Lapa (old aqueduct which makes up the arcs of Lapa) and goes through the picturesque streets of the neighbourhood. Wonderful views of the city downhill can be appreciated. Initially the tram was green although the habitants of Santa Teresa (or simply “Santa” as the locals call it) complained that it got lost amongst all the vegetation. Now, as you can see from the picture above, it is yellow.

Santa Teresa ceased being an upper class neighbourhood long ago, but it has been revived as an artistic hotspot. It is home to several artists and art studios and galleries. The offer of restaurants and bars is also varied.

One of Santa Teresa’s most illustrious inhabitants was Raimundo Otoni Castro Maya, an art collector who lived in his Chácara do Céu mansion in the neighbourhood. The mansion was turned into a museum (Museu da Chácara do Céu) and its exhibits include works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Jean Metzinger, Eliseu Visconti and Candido Portinari (future post).

Another museum is the Museu do Bonde, which tells the history of the Santa Teresa tram since its origins, when it was pulled uphill by donkeys.

* – It was called Jardim Suspenso here (in Portuguese).

Fernando Gabeira – Scene Stealing Politics


Fernando Paulo Nagle Gabeira (born February 17, 1943 in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais) is a Brazilian politician, author and journalist. He has been a federal deputy from the State of Rio de Janeiro since 1995.

Fernando Gabeira

Fernando Gabeira

He is best known for his book of memoirs. In the book, Gabeira tells the story of how Charles Burke Elbrick, the then-US Ambassador to Brazil, was kidnapped for 78 hours by the Revolutionary Movement 8th of October ( MR-8 ) in Rio de Janeiro, on September 4, 1969. The incident formed the basis of the 1997 Bruno Barreto film Four Days in September (O Que É Isso, Companheiro?), starring Alan Arkin, Pedro Cardoso and Fisher Stevens. The storyline was adapted from the 1979 memoirs of Fernando Gabeira, former member of revolutionary cell MR-8. 

Gabeira was also one of the founding members of the Green Party of Brazil, but left the group in 2002 to join the Workers’ Party. Recently he rejoined the Greens, due to his disappointment with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government, and also because of the way the Worker’s Party was dealing with its remaining far-left members.

Gabeira is a cousin of Leda Nagle, a well-known Brazilian TV hostess. Gabeira has lived many years exiled from Brazil, during the military dictatorship, and returned to his country in 1979. Just after his return to Brazil, a photo of Gabeira wearing a very small knitted swimsuit on Ipanema beach turned into a national scandal. Many years later, Gabeira revealed that his scandalous bathing suit was indeed the bottom part of one of Leda Nagle’s bikinis.

Gabeira has repeatedly voiced his ideological support for the legalization of marijuana.

Chagas Disease – Devolution in the Tropics

Chagas’ disease is a human tropical parasitic disease which occurs in the Americas, particularly in South America (see map below). It is transmitted to humans and other mammals mostly by blood-sucking assassin bugs (Trypanosoma cruzi). Other methods of transmission are possible, such as ingestion of food contaminated with parasites, blood transfusion and fetal transmission. 

Trypanosoma cruzi is a member of the same genus as the infectious agent of African sleeping sickness and the same order as the infectious agent of leishmaniasis, but its clinical manifestations, geographical distribution, life cycle and insect vectors are quite different.


The symptoms of Chagas’ disease vary over the course of the infection. In the early, acute stage symptoms are mild and are usually no more than local swelling at the site of infection. As the disease progresses, over as much as twenty years, the serious chronic symptoms appear, such as heart disease and malformation of the intestines. If untreated, the chronic disease is often fatal. Current drug treatments for this disease are generally unsatisfactory, with the available drugs being highly toxic and often ineffective, particularly in the chronic stage of the disease.


The disease was named after the Brazilian physician and infectologist Carlos Chagas, who first described it in 1909, but the disease was not seen as a major public health problem in humans until the 1960s (the outbreak of Chagas’ disease in Brazil in the 1920s went widely ignored).

Chagas’ work is unique in the history of medicine because he was the only researcher so far to describe solely and completely a new infectious disease: its pathogen, vector, host, clinical manifestations, and epidemiology. Nevertheless, he believed (falsely) until 1925 that the main infection route is by the bite of the insect – and not by its feces, as was proposed by his colleague Emile Brumpt in 1915.

It has been hypothesized that Charles Darwin might have suffered from Chagas’ disease as a result of a bite of the so-called Great Black Bug of the Pampas. The episode was reported by Darwin in his diaries of the Voyage of the Beagle as occurring in March 1835 to the east of the Andes near Mendoza.

Alternative Infection Route

Researchers suspected since 1991 that the transmission of the trypanosome by the oral route might be possible, due to a number of micro-epidemics restricted to particular times and places (such as a farm or a family dwelling), particularly in non-endemic areas such as the Amazonia (17 such episodes recorded between 1968 and 1997). In 1991, farm workers in the state of Paraíba, Brazil, were apparently infected by contamination of food with opossum feces; and in 1997, in Macapá, state of Amapá, 17 members of two families were probably infected by drinking açaí palm fruit juice contaminated with crushed triatomine vector insects. In the beginning of 2005, a new outbreak with 27 cases was detected in Amapá. Despite many warnings in the press and by health authorities, this source of infection continues unabated. In August 2007 the Ministry of Health released the information that in the previous one year and half 15 clusters of Chagas infection in 116 people via ingestion of açaí have been detected in the Amazon region.

In March 2005, a new startling outbreak was recorded in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil, that seemed to confirm this alternative mechanism of transmission. Several people in Santa Catarina who had ingested garapa (sugar cane juice) by a roadside kiosk acquired Chagas’ disease.

Candiru – Vampire Fish of the Amazon

The candiru, also called the carnero fish, is a tiny parasitic catfish that inhabits the waters of South America. They can reach lengths of 1-2.5 in (2.5-6 cm) with a width of 3.5 mm. Their diminutive size and nearly transparent body makes them very hard to locate (not that you would want to). The candiru has sharp bones with a series of spines located around the head used while feeding.


The candiru is found only in the Amazon and Oranoco Rivers of South America. They do not like the sun and tend to burry themselves in the mud and sand of the river bottom underneath logs and rocks.


The candiru has a voracious appetite for blood and will parasitize fish, mammals, and humans. One scientist, while holding a candiru, accidently let it enter a small cut on his hand. It could be seen writhing under the skin towards the vein.

To find a fish, the candiru first tastes the water, trying to locate a water stream that is coming from the gills of a fish. Once such a stream is detected, the candiru follows the stream to its new host and inserts itself inside the gill flap. Spines around its head then pierce the scales of the fish and draws blood while anchoring the candiru in place. The candiru then feeds on the blood by using its mouth as a slurping apparatus and while rasping the long teeth on its top jaw.

When candirus parasitize humans, it is usually only when they are skinny-dipping while urinating in the water. The candiru tastes the urine stream and follows it back to the human. It then swims up the anus and lodges itself somewhere in the urinary tract with its spines. Blood is drawn, and the candiru gorges itself on both the blood and body tissue, its body sometimes expanding due to the amount of blood. This is all said to be very painful for the poor person who has this happen to him or her. Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to remove due to the spines. Amputation of the private areas is the cheapest, and most life-changing, way to remove the fish. Actual surgery is extremely expensive and involves inserting the Xagua plant and the Buitach apple up the urethra. These two plants kill and even dissolve the parasitic fish. If surgery is not done in time, the blockage of the urinary tract will prove fatal. The candiru is the only known vertebrate to parasitize humans.


The candiru has few, if any, enemies at all, as they are feared throughout their geographic range and are given a worse reputation than the pirhana.

Alberto Santos-Dumont – First in Flight

Alberto Santos-Dumont (July 20, 1873 – July 23,1932) was an early pioneer of aviation. He was born and died in Brazil. He spent most of his adult life in France. His contributions to aviation took place while he was living in Paris, France.

Santos-Dumont designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible balloons. In doing so he became the first person to demonstrate that routine, controlled flight was possible. This “conquest of the air”, in particular winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize on October 19, 1901 on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower, made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early 20th century. In addition to his pioneering work in airships, Santos-Dumont made the first public European flight of an airplane in Paris on October 23, 1906. That aircraft, designated 14-bis or Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”), is considered by Santos-Dumont supporters to be the first to take off, fly, and land without the use of catapults, high winds, launch rails, or other external assistance.

Fame & Controversy

Santos-Dumont’s aviation feats made him a celebrity in Europe and throughout the world. He won several more prizes and became a friend to millionaires, aviation pioneers, and royalty. In 1903 Aida D’Acosta Breckinridge piloted Santos Dumont’s airship. In 1904, he went to the United States and was invited to the White House to meet U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

The public eagerly followed his daring exploits. Parisians affectionately dubbed him le petit Santos. The fashionable folk of the day mimicked various aspects of his style of dress from his high collared shirts to singed Panama hat. He was, and remains to this day, a prominent folk hero in his native Brazil.

In Brazil, Santos-Dumont is considered to be the inventor of the airplane, because of the official and public character of the 14-bis flight as well as some technical points. This has traditionally been the official position of the Brazilian government.

The Wrights’ early aircraft could sustain controlled flight, but always used some sort of assistance to become airborne, requiring a stiff headwind, or the use of launch rails. As such, none of the Wrights’ early craft took off under their own power in calm wind from an ordinary ground surface as was achieved by the flights of the 14-bis.


The wristwatch had already been invented by Patek Philippe, decades earlier, but Santos-Dumont played an important role in popularizing its use by men in the early 20th century. Before him they were generally worn only by women (as jewels), as men favoured pocket watches.

In 1904, while celebrating his winning of the Deutsch Prize at Maxim’s Restaurant in [Paris], Santos-Dumont complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch to time his performance during flight. Santos-Dumont then asked Cartier to come up with an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls. Cartier went to work on the problem and the result was a watch with a leather band and a small buckle, to be worn on the wrist.

Cartier today has a collection of wristwatches honouring Santos-Dumont called Santos de Cartier. Publicity involved photographs of Santos-Dumont and his achievements.


Alberto Santos-Dumont – seriously ill, and said to be depressed over his recently discovered multiple sclerosis as well as the use of aircraft in warfare – is believed to have committed suicide by hanging himself in the city of Guarujá in São Paulo, on 23 July 1932. He was buried in the Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro. There are many monuments to his work, and his house in Petropolis, Brazil is now a museum. .

Jogo do Bicho

Jogo do Bicho (“the animal game”) is an illegal gambling game from Brazil. Very popular throughout the country (but mostly in the South-East), the “game” is actually a lottery-type drawing operated on a regional basis by mobsters known as bicheiros or banqueiros (“bankers” who also bank many Carnival contestants). Unlike most state-operated lotteries, in Jogo do Bicho you can bet any amount of money, even a cent. Despite its popularity (and being more or less tolerated, especially in Rio de Janeiro), it is still illegal and those involved may be prosecuted.


The name of the game arises from the association of the drawn numbers with a random selection of 25 animals (to help memorising). Over the decades, superstitious theory has evolved around selecting the proper animal, much of it involving dreams. Horse, for example, can be indicated by a dream of a horse, or by dreams of wheat or milk or naked women. The elephant has come to be associated with death, and whenever there is a fatal traffic accident involving a car with one of the elephant’s numbers ( 45-48 ) on its license plates, the betting is unusually heavy. When the Rio papers published the picture of a derailed locomotive in the 1960s, so many bet on the last four figures of its registration number that the bicheiros were forced to warn that they could not pay off at the usual odds if it won.

Bets & Prizes

Each of 25 different animals is assigned a sequence of four consecutive numbers. Ostrich is 01 to 04, horse 41-44, camel 29-32, and so on up to cow, which occupies 96-00. The most common way to play is to bet one real on an animal. If the last two numerals in the daily state lottery draw form one of the four numbers designated by your animal, the bicheiro owes you 15 reals. For longer odds and higher payouts, you can try to pick the last three or even four numbers exactly, or you can choose a combination of a number and numerals designated by an animal.


Unlike many aspects of the Brazilian culture, the creation of the game is fairly well-documented: originator of the jogo do bicho was one Baron Drummond, a bluff, bawdy, Brazilian-born Englishman, to whom Emperor Dom Pedro II gave a title and the concession to the Rio de Janeiro zoo. To popularize the zoo, the Baron encouraged visitors to guess the identity of an animal concealed behind a curtain, paid off to winners. In time the guessing game became a tremendously popular numbers game, with different numbers for 25 Brazilian beasts.

Tickets were soon being bought by those who hadn’t even visited the zoo. Within months, government authorities made its first attempt to shut down the game. The animal lottery simply shifted to a new habitat in the city centre, an environment in which it has thrived ever since. Rudyard Kipling, visiting Rio in the 1920s, wrote of seeing bookies wandering the streets carrying placards with colourful pictures of animals.

The game became popular because it accepted bets of any amount, in a time when most people struggled to survive a very deep economic crisis. “If you see two shacks lost somewhere in the backlands,” a Brazilian diplomat once observed, “you can bet that a bicheiro lives in one of them and a steady bettor in the other.”

For decades official policy fluctuated between tolerance of the game, fueled by generous payoffs to authorities, and intermittent campaigns to snuff it out. Finally, in 1946, the government outlawed casinos and games of chance, the animal game among them. Nevertheless it survives. Today it is played everywhere in Brazil, but continues to be controlled from Rio de Janeiro by about a dozen bosses.

A crackdown on the game by the police in 1966 nearly paralysed São Paulo. More than 60,000 men were idled. At the time it had grown into a US$500 million-a-year business that employed roughly 1% of Brazils total working force. The crisis was quietly resolved in return for unspecified concessions.

I’ve played several times, its very simple to make a bet and there are bookies usually within a 5 minute drive, depending on where you live. I never won, but at least the odds were a lot better than the lottery in California. 

Below is an advertisement in a local paper from the 1930’s telling the reader which animals are a safe bet for that day and also which are bad luck. 

If you speak Portuguese, I highly recommend the HBO 6-part series Filhos do Carnaval (I’m assuming they have it with English subtitles, although it also played on Spanish HBO under the title Hijos del Carnaval).

Combining the Culturally Rich – BrazIndia

Onward with the recommendations! Normally I’m taking subjects off the top of my head and then going after the information yet there are times when I enjoy wandering around the net to see what pops up or catches my eye. Anything Brazilian catches my eye, of course….and visually speaking, this is true too as I find Brazil to be a very colorfully rich country. Perhaps it is merely the presence of color contrasting against the earthy colors that abound that makes everything pop out. The only other country I know of that has the same spark is India, although color is more connected to religion there than in Brazil.

One after the other, I came into contact with three links that reference Brazil, Brazilians and/or the Portuguese language. It began with a curiousity to know which smaller countries or states worldwide have a Portuguese-speaking community and this led me to Goa, India (pictured below).

Next, I was led to find an audio of video example of how Portuguese-speaking Indians would sound, yet I had no luck although I did come across an “Eyes On India”, if you will, called Indi(a)gestão which boasts itself as the “best and biggest India blog out there written in Portuguese” by Professor Sandra Bose. Now, I haven’t been privy to many India blogs but I’ll gladly take her word for it as it seems like a great introduction (it is available in English too via a built-in Babelfish translation button).

Third, while trying to respond to a question she posed on her site about why an Indian festival called Ratha Yarta is celebrated in June/July in India and January in São Paulo, I found this 3rd site called Festival of India (available in English & Portuguese). Their festival takes place all over Brazil and they cover other Brazilian-Indian related things too. The web design is spot-on and quite inviting. By the way, I have to give them props for the trilha sonora (soundtrack) which is really addictive.

Some Info on Goa, India

Goa is India’s smallest state in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population. Located on the west coast of India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its western coast.

Panaji (also referred to as Panjim) is the state’s capital. Vasco da Gama (sometimes shortened to Vasco) is the largest city. The historic city of Margao still exhibits the influence of Portuguese culture. The Portuguese (led by Vasco da Gama) first landed in Goa as merchants, in the early 16th century, and conquered it soon after. The Portuguese colony existed for about 450 years (one of the longest held colonial possessions in the world), until it was taken over by India in 1961.

Renowned for its beaches, temples and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of international and domestic tourists each year. It also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which is classified as a biodiversity hotspot. One of the most developed states in India, Goa enjoys a high standard of living.

Surf’s Up in Floripa

I’ve never learned how to surf, nor skateboard or anything of the sort, but I do love being in the water, near the sea, sun and sand. There’s a certain admiration I have for those that do surf the big waves and if I had to guess, its probably analogous to riding a motorcycle (which I have done a lot of).

The Low Down

Here’s some info on Florianopolis (or Floripa, as those in the know call it) and it’s surfing culture.

The economy of Florianópolis is heavily based on tourism. The city has 42 pristine beaches and is a center of surfing activity. VEJA magazine, a Brazilian publication, named Florianopolis “the best place to live in Brazil.” As a result of this publicity, Florianopolis is growing as a second home destination for many Paulistas, Argentines, North Americans and Europeans.

Most of the population lives on the island’s northern half. The southern half is more isolated and less developed. Many small commercial fishermen populate the island. Although originally settled by the Portuguese (from the Azores), the city has a strong German and Italian influence, like the rest of the state.

The island is generally considered to be blessed with the best and most consistent waves in Brazil, and in early November of each year hosts what is currently South America’s only ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Championship Tour professional surfing competition. Brazil has played host to many an ASP tour event over the past 30 years. Former contest sites include Rio de Janeiro, Barra de Tijuca and Saquarema, but the past four years have seen the tour set up shop in Florianopolis. Falling towards the end of the tour, the past few years have seen several ASP world champions crowned in Brazil. In 2004 it was Andy Irons, and in 2005 it was Kelly Slater (who had his 2006 ASP World Title already stitched up by Brazil).

Surfing Vacation

NEXUS is a Florianopolis surfing vacation company whos site I recently ran across and I must say, its very well done. Seems like they know what they’re doing and have experienced people throughout their company, not to mention they are in one of the most awesome spots in the world for surfing.

If they have a Surfing for Dummies course, I’m sure to be signing-up next time I’m there!

“Having chosen Florianopolis as its home base, Nexus is able to offer not only world-class surfing with tons of variety and incredible consistency, but also dining, nightlife and extreme sports options to rival those found anywhere else in the world, all in a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty and exotic Brazilian culture. Thus the concept of the Brazil Surf Experience™, which is designed not only to be the ultimate surf vacation, but in addition the chance to experience the many wonders that Florianopolis and Brazilian culture have to offer.”