Tiradentes Day – The Day of a National Hero

“Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, also known as Tiradentes (Tooth Puller), was the leader of the first organized movement against Portuguese rule in Brazil in 1789.He was born to a poor family in São José de Rey, which is now called Tiradentes, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

During his lifetime he was a cattle driver, miner and dentist (hence his name), but it was in his job as a low-level public official that he became aware of the exploitation of Brazilians. He was sent to missions in cities along the road between Vila Rica (the capital of Minas Gerais) and Rio de Janeiro, which was the path most of the gold mined in Brazil took on its way to Portugal. Here he saw firsthand how much gold was leaving Brazil, and he knew how valuable it was.

In his travels he became aware of the ideas that had sparked the French and American Revolution. He organized the Inconfidencia Mineira in Minas Gerais, which advocated complete independence from Portugal. An attempt by Portuguese officials to collect back taxes (not too different from the collection of tea taxes by the British in the thirteen American colonies) touched off the call for a rebellion.

The plans were revealed to the governor by Joaquim Silverio dos Reis, who was a participant in the movement and betrayed the group in exchange for waiving of his due taxes. Tiradentes fled to Rio, where he tried to reorganize the movement. Not knowing who had denounced the group, he went to meet Joaquim Silverio dos Reis in Rio, and Tiradentes was arrested.

The trial lasted almost three years. Tiradentes assumed the entire responsibility for the movement. Ten members of the group were sentenced to death; all of them, except Tiradentes, had their sentences commuted.

On April 21st, 1792 (today the date of a national holiday in Brazil), Tiradentes was hanged in Rio de Janeiro, in the plaza today named Praça Tiradentes. His body was cut into several pieces. With his blood, a document was written declaring his memory infamous. His head was publicly displayed in Vila Rica. Pieces of his body were exposed in the cities between Vila Rica and Rio, in an attempt to scare the people who had listened to Tiradentes’ ideas about independence.

Tiradentes’ martyrdom made him a national hero. Thirty years after his death the king designate of Portugal declared Brazil’s independence and became its first emperor. April 21 is a national holiday.”

Written by Stephen Guild, Editor of Recife Guide

Luiz Braga – Profiles

I’d like to start a series of profiles where I can highlight personalities of Belém, so here’s the first one…

“Luiz Braga was born in Belém, Pará in 1956. He took up photography at the age of 11. In 1975 he set up his first studio producing portraits, advertising and architectural photography. He graduated in architecture in 1983.

In 1987 he was awarded the Marc Ferrez prize for the photo essay A margem do olhar (The edge of the gaze), shot in black and white, in which he produced a portrait of the Caboclo Amazon. Braga has made this region his central theme, particularly his hometown, which is the setting for most of the pictures that have featured in his more than 70 collective and individual exhibitions in Brazil and abroad.

His images, which emerge from the photographic act already full of surreal colours, have, in recent years, given the alteration of the colour standard used in film, begun to receive some light tampering with image treatment programs in order to re-establish the distortions so characteristic of the artist’s work.

In 1991 he received the prestigious Leopold Godowsky Color Photography Award, from Boston University, precisely for the originality and control with which he captures the clash between the natural light and the artificial light of bars, parks and riverboats, always using the distortion of the colour temperature readings of day light balanced film to craft his poetic.” – Source

The Magical Universe of Ver-o-peso Market


“The Mercado is a true museum. A living museum of knowledge, full of colors, tastes, smells, shouts and singing. Popular festivals, religious rituals, handmade products and all of it is a gamut of images of human values which are made real through this chronicle,” explains Luiz.”

Launched in Belém and in SP (São Paulo), it’s available at Livraria da Vila (SP) and at Fox Vídeo and Newstime (Belém), as well as directly from the author 91.32230724 or Editora Modernsign 11.38910002. The book has 98 images within its 132 pages and texts by Milton Hatoum and J. Jesus Paes Loureiro. Sponsered by Natura. Price: R$45,00 (US$20).

Luiz Braga’s main site with examples of his work is here. His email is bragafoto@uol.com.br

The Priest of Pará – Profiles

“Father Henri Des Roziers is a Dominican priest and human rights lawyer working in Pará, one of Brazil’s most violent regions. For the past three years his daily life has been overshadowed by 24-hour police protection. His bodyguard is always just a step away. This has been made necessary by the death threats he receives from those opposed to his work with Pará’s landless communities.

The murder of an American nun, Sister Dorothy Stang, in the same region only two years ago – suggests the danger is very real. As with Sister Dorothy, 78 year old Father Henri, has turned his faith into a lifelong commitment to help those from poor, rural communities. Many who have either little or no right to land, or to justice for human rights violations.

In the Priest of Pará, Nick Maes is given a privileged insight into Father Henri’s life and his faith. He investigates the links between his religious vocation and his job as a lawyer. Why is fighting for the poor in Pará a cause he would give his life for? Nick talks to those who live and work with him, those who support him and those who do not.”

BBC (click to listen to the 20-odd minute audio documentary on Father Henri)

Things of the Earth – Ferreira Gullar

In the early days of my interests, I would go to bookstores and search for anything Brazilian. On one such occasion, I bought a bilingual Xeroxed book of Brazilian Poetry from the 1950’s – 1980’s and from it, I found the following poem. 

Things of the Earth
by Ferriera Gullar
translated by WIlliam Jay Smith

All the things I speak of lie in the city
      between heaven and earth.
All are things perishable
      and eternal like your laughter
      words of allegiance
      my open hand
or the forgotten smell of hair
      that returns
      and kindles a sudden flame
in the heart of May.

All the things I speak of are of the flesh
      like summer and salary.
Mortally inserted into time
dispersed like air
in the marketplace, in offices,
streets and hostelries. 

      They are things, all of them,
      quotidian things, like mouths
      and hands, dreams, strikes,
accidents of work and love. Things
      talked about in the newspapers
      at times so crude
      at times so dark
that even poetry illuminates them with difficulty.

      But in them I see you, new world,
still sobbing, still hopeful. 

The original can be found here.

About the Author (written in 1983)


Ferreira Gullar, poet, playwright, essayist, art critic, and journalist, was born in 1930 in São Luis de Maranhão. In 1951 he moved to Rio. His first book The Bodily Struggle (A Luta Corporal) (1954) established his reputation as a poet who could write with precision about down-to-earth matters. Until 1962 he was in the forefront of the avant-garde. He then began to concentrate more seriously on social problems. An opponent of the military regime established in 1964, he went into exile in 1971 and returned to Brazil only in 1977. In that year he published his Dirty Poem (Poema Sujo), which celebrates every aspect of his native city. He now earns his living as an art critic and as a writer for television.

On his Portuguese-only official site (also where the link for Poema Sujo directs you), there is a nice feature where you can see Mr. Gullar’s favorite pieces and as a bonus, some are narrated by him.

Great article on Brazilian Lit.

I found a great article on Brazilian literature at Salon, along with several interesting comments attached to it. Some of the authors, you may recognize from other posts I’ve done on the site. 

After Carnival, soccer and samba, go deeper into this South American nation via its seductive novels and gritty true-life stories.

By Anderson Tepper

“Where do you start with Brazil, that massive, sprawling swath of South America,a republic founded in 1889 on the principle — or fantasy — of “order and progress,” but forever caught between crashes and calamities, coups and dictatorships? (In 1961, Time magazine wrote that Brazil’s mercurial new president, Janio Quadros, had “burst on the world like Brazil itself — temperamental, bristling with independence, bursting with ambition, haunted by poverty, fighting to learn, greedy for greatness.”) What to make of the national “myth of racial democracy,” the poverty and favelas, the prison riots, the burning Amazon, the new world rising in Brasilia, the population exploding in São Paulo? And what about samba, Tropicália, Cariocas, Carnival and soccer? Yes, soccer: the “beautiful game,” the uniquely Brazilian ballet that gave the world Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, Socrates, Romario and Ronaldinho? And what about Lula, the Landless Movement, Chico Mendes, Sonia Braga and Rio’s dreaded City of God?

I could go on; clearly, when it comes to Brazil, I suffer from a case of mental and sensory overload. I first went there in the summer of 1986, for a graduate-level course at the Catholic Pontifical University in São Paulo, a four-week seminar on U.S. and Brazilian social history and politics. Two decades of military dictatorship were beginning to wind down, though I can’t say I noticed much beyond the classroom and the caipirinha-fueled excursions to samba clubs at night. I did, however, absorb something of the country’s complex past: the Portuguese colonial rule; slavery, and the plantation economies built on sugar and coffee, rubber and cacao; the saga of its immigrants — Lebanese and Syrians, Italians, Germans, Eastern European Jews, and Japanese; the blending of indigenous Indians, blacks, whites and every complexion in between.

After my class, I traveled a bit — to the coast to Santos (where Pelé had played his club soccer), up to Belo Horizonte and, finally, Salvador de Bahia. Along the way, I had my share of adventures: I was mistaken for an Argentine drug-runner in Santos; I spent a night sleeping out on a bench at the Belo Horizonte bus station; I met a transvestite somewhere along the way who took me to her one-room shack (it’s hard to remember — really). And I arrived in Salvador just in time to experience a minor riot, with tanks rolling through a central plaza. But it wasn’t until five years later, after a short vacation carousing in Rio with a friend, that my fascination with Brazil was rekindled and I vowed to seek a deeper connection to the country through its literature. (Needless to say, that trip had been eventful, too: There was the near drowning episode at Ipanema; the snatched passport; the infatuation with “Laura,” an erotic dancer at a Copacabana club called Barbella’s.)

Jorge Amado, Brazil’s most celebrated novelist, was, like the country, larger than life. His novels (“Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon” and “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” were reissued this past fall by Vintage; “Tent of Miracles” and “Tieta” in 2003 by University of Wisconsin Press) burst with energy — rollicking, robust, earthy tales from the northeast port cities of Ilheus and Salvador, of worker strikes, rubber booms and busts, and mulatto beauties. (The film versions of “Dona Flor” and “Gabriela,” incidentally, are classic ’70s softcore fare, starring the sumptuous Sonia Braga.) Amado, embraced in the U.S. during the Latin boom era of the ’60s and ’70s, had been pumping out hardy, proletarian-style novels since the ’30s, though by the ’50s they had turned more comic, lighthearted and bawdy.

The late-19th-century author Machado de Assis wrote stylish, whimsical portraits of modern bourgeois life that made him a literary phenomenon of his time (his novels were often first serialized in popular women’s magazines). Machado de Assis is an original — witty, erudite, deft and acrobatic, and endlessly inventive. You’ll be won over instantly by his “Epitaph of a Small Winner” (1881), republished in 1997 as “The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas” by Oxford University Press, and translated by Gregory Rabassa — a titillating, quasi-philosophical reckoning on a life of missed opportunities, narrated from beyond the grave by the eccentric Brás Cubas himself. De Assis’ novels cleverly anticipated the mental games and mazes of major 20th-century writers like Borges, Cortázar and Kafka.

Speaking of Kafka, equally bewitching is the Brazilian-Jewish writer Clarice Lispector, whose modernist, heavily metaphysical works have often been compared to those of the Czech master himself. Lispector, who immigrated to Brazil from a Ukrainian shtetl in 1920 when she was just 2 months old, wrote some of the most lively, raw and dizzying internal soliloquies of the past century. “I shall be as light and vague as something felt rather than understood, I shall transcend myself in waves, oh God, and may everything come and fall on me, even the incomprehension of myself at certain blank moments,” she rhapsodizes in her first novel, “Near to the Wild Heart,” “for I need only fulfill myself and then nothing will impede my path until death-without-fear; from whatever struggle or truce, I shall arise as strong and comely as a young colt.”

“Near to the Wild Heart,” published in 1944, is studded with pure, gemlike epiphanies of a young girl’s coming-of-age, loveless marriage, and wrested moments of self-discovery. “The Hour of the Star,” released just before she died of cancer in 1977, is a heartbreaking tale of Macabéa Cubasa, a lonely, anonymous typist from the northeast, lost in the hustle and rush of Rio. Even more achingly personal are Lispector’s “Selected Cronicas” and “The Foreign Legion,” which collect her short, flights-of-fancy newspaper dispatches, written between 1967 and 1973. Lispector’s cronicas are a combination of sketches, meditations and portraits, penned as the mood hit her — oblique, almost clairvoyant observations on such subjects as food and travel, motherhood, race, flowers and writerly states of grace.

Lispector, who was raised in the north in Recife before moving to Rio as a teenager, is often criticized for restricting herself to a very cloistered, white, middle-class milieu. (Black maids and cooks do make appearances and, particularly in her cronicas, Lispector can be seen straining to read their thoughts.) But a whole other side of Rio explodes off the pages of Paulo Lins’ novel “City of God,” a sweeping, gritty, shoot’em-up accounting of three decades in the life of one of the city’s most notorious favelas, or slums. Published in Brazil in 1997, “City of God” was a labor of love for Lins, an urban anthropologist who grew up in the neighborhood himself — an exhaustive study that morphed into a novel, became a bestseller in Brazil, and then came to international attention as the acclaimed 2002 hit film by Fernando Meirelles.

Based on stories from Rio’s grim underbelly — as the drug business spiraled into violent turf wars in the ’80s — “City of God,” the novel, reads more like a news flash, a bulletin from the front lines of Brazil’s social ills. Peter Robb’s “A Death in Brazil,” part travel memoir, part current affairs chronicle, arrives in a similar vein, but is chock-full of digressions on national dishes, drinks and folklore, while still managing to cover the historical legacies of fugitive slave communities and the Landless Movement, the sordid fall and impeachment of Fernando Collor, and the rise, stumble and rise again of Lula da Silva, Brazil’s current president. Alma Guillermoprieto’s “Samba” (1990), meanwhile, sways along with the crowds right into the middle of Carnival preparations with the Mangueira samba school of Rio, offering still another glimpse of the overlapping worlds of crime, drugs and poverty, as well as the irrepressible spirit, of the City of God.

At the nexus of music, art and politics, on the other hand, is Caetano Veloso’s memoir, “Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil” (2002). Veloso, the honey-voiced wonder at the heart of the Tropicália movement of the late ’60s, writes passionately and intelligently of those heady days — the anthemlike songs, the collaborations, the protests, the culturally omnivorous and bohemian spirit (even of his poignant encounters with the reclusive author Clarice Lispector). He also writes of the military’s crackdown, his two months in prison and exile in London, as well as the shimmering cast of other artist-iconoclasts of Tropicália: Gilberto Gil (now minister of culture), Gal Costa, Maria Bethania and Chico Buarque, among others. (Buarque, by the way, is also the author of several Kafkaesque novels of his own — most recently “Budapest” (2003), a wordy, cerebral tale of a Rio ghostwriter haunting the streets of the baroque Hungarian capital.)

But, finally, no portrait of Brazil is complete without at least an attempt to fathom the national sport — to surrender to it, exult in it, be transported by it. Take Alex Bellos’ “Futebol: Soccer, the Brazilian Way” (2002). In the lead-up to the 2002 World Cup, Bellos, a British foreign correspondent, immersed himself in the game’s culture as a way into the Brazilian psyche: He travels to Brasilia and the Amazon to catch matches; he attends monster-car soccer rallies; he makes a pilgrimage to the dirt-poor hometown of the gifted but self-destructive dribbling wizard Garrincha; he investigates allegations of fixing and fraud in the Rio big leagues; and he marvels at the sheer pull the sport exerts over the country’s collective self-image. Transcendent beauty, as well as pathos and a mass of contradictions — it’s all there: in the feverish rush of Lispector, the hypnotic voice of Caetano, the pirouettes of Ronaldinho. What more can you ask for from one country?”

Jorge Amado – Son of Bahia

Jorge Amado de Faria (August 10, 1912 – August 6, 2001) was a Brazilian writer of the Modernist school. He was the best-known of modern Brazilian writers, his work having been translated into some 30 languages and popularized in film, notably Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos) in 1978. His work dealt largely with the poor urban black and mulatto communities of Bahia.


On April 6, 1961 he was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Literature. He received the title of Doctor honoris causa from several Universities in Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Israel and France, as well as other honors in almost every South American country, including Obá de Xangô (santoon) of the Candomblé, the traditional Afro-Brazilian religion of Bahia.

Amado’s popularity as a writer never decreased. His books were translated into 49 languages in 55 countries, were adapted into films, theatrical works, and TV programs. They even inspired some samba schools of the Brazilian Carnival.

In 1987, the House of Jorge Amado Foundation was created, in Salvador. It promotes the protection of Amado’s estate and the development of culture in Bahia.

Amado died on August 6, 2001. His ashes were spread in the garden of his house four days later.

Some of his works which are best-sellers.

– Dona Flor and her Two Husbands

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

Tent of Miracles

The Construction of Chico Buarque

One of Chico’s most famous songs is Construção (Construction), in which he literally constructs a song that works on many levels due to the fact that each line can be cut in half and mixed with the ending of another line (it is also “proparoxítona”…see comments). At the bottom, there is a beautifully written duet he wrote which he sings with Nara Leão called Com Açúcar, Com Afeto (With Sugar, With Affection)

Francisco Buarque de Hollanda (born June 19, 1944 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), popularly known as Chico Buarque, is a singer, guitarist, composer, dramatist, and writer. He is best known for his music, however, which often comments on Brazil’s social, economic and cultural reality.

The son of an academic (Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda), Buarque wrote and studied literature as a child and came to music through the bossa nova compositions of João Gilberto. He lived in several locations throughout his childhood, though mostly in São Paulo and Italy. He performed music throughout the 1960s as well as writing a play that was deemed dangerous by the Brazilian military dictatorship of the time. Buarque, along with several of his fellow musicians, including Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, were threatened by the government and eventually left Brazil in 1970. Buarque moved back to Italy, Veloso and Gil to London. He came back to Brazil in 1971, a year before the others, and continued to record albums, perform, and write, though much of his material was not allowed by government censors. He released several more albums in the 1980s and published three novels in the 1990s and 2000s, all of which were acclaimed critically.

Zuzu Angel – Sign of the times

Zuleika Angel Jones, known as Zuzu Angel, (June 5, 1921 – April 14, 1976) was a Brazilian fashion designer.

Zuzu (middle)

When she was a child, she moved to Belo Horizonte, later living in Bahia. Bahian culture and colors significantly influenced the style of Zuzu’s creations. In 1947, she went to live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s cultural capital.

In the 1950s, Zuzu began her work as a seamstress, usually making clothing for close relatives. At the start of the 1970s, she opened up a store in Ipanema, at the same time beginning to exhibit her fashion down American runways. In her fashion expositions, she always harnessed the joy and richness of the colors of Brazilian culture, making a name for herself in the fashion world of her time.

A pioneer in Brazilian fashion, she found success with her style the world over, principally in the United States. In the 1970s, her son Stuart, activist against the military regime, was taken prisoner and killed by agents of the DOI-CODI* (Torture Police) . From then on, Zuzu would enter into a war against the dictatorship for the recovery of her son’s body, even involving the United States, native country of her ex-husband, Stuart’s father. This battle only ended with Zuzu’s assassination in 1976 by members of the military regime; Zuzu’s assassins staged an automobile accident in Rio de Janeiro, in the tunnel that now bears her name. Stuart’s body was never found. Zuzu is also mother of journalist Hildegard Angel.

In homage to Zuzu Angel, Chico Buarque, Brazilian composer and singer, wrote the song “Angélica”. In 2006, a film based on Zuzu Angel’s life was released in Brazil. 

* – DOI-CODI – The largest DOI-CODI, that of São Paulo, had at its peak nearly 250 agents, occupying a large building on Tutóia street. The building gained the infamous nickname of “Tutóia Hilton” (after the Hanoi Hilton of Vietnam) due to the extensive torture which took place in its basement.

Below is a song that was popular in her time, a call to arms against the military dictatorship. Its called ‘Pra Não Dizer Que Não Falei de Flores’ (To Not Say I Didn’t Speak of Flowers, and also known as ‘Caminhando’) by Geraldo Vandré, a Brazilian singer and composer who had to exile himself and who negates being severely tortured even though many say he came back to Brazil a little crazy. 

The chorus goes like this

“Come, lets go
To wait is not to know
Those who know choose the time
They don’t wait for it to happen”