Wines of the Brazilian Sertão

vinicola-ouro-verde-da-miolo-localizada-no-municipio-de-casa-nova-na-bahia-1367854476183_956x500The Juazeiro/Petrolina wine grape-growing belt has close to 25,000 acres of vineyards. It’s one of the only regions in the world with 2 to 3 harvests per year (as opposed to the usual, single harvest). The grape economy generates more than 30,000 direct jobs in the Sertão, where 50% of the rural workers union leadership of Petrolina (Pernambuco) are women. In certain functions they make up 70% of the manual labor workforce. The principal jobs given to them are the “raleio” and the “pinicado”, two techniques used in the thinning of the grape bunches during their development. The most delicate activities rely upon them, women that are helping to transform the lives of their families.

The São Francisco valley is leading the way in the cultivation of grapes in tropical conditions. It’s the only wine ever to be grown in a hot, semi-arid, tropical climate where there’s sunlight for 300 days per year and no winter. All the water needed comes from the São Francisco river, thanks to irrigation technology. And the research related to wine-making being done in the region in the last decade is being led by Brazilians, who themselves are becoming worldwide experts in this emerging field.


While part of the Brazilian northeast goes through the largest dry spell in four decades, vineyards from the Sertão are able to produce up to 10 million liters of wine per year, close to 15% of the Brazilian market. Wine production started in the 1980s and has been gaining visibility in Brazil and abroad. Aside from conquering the European market, wine from the Northeastern region of Brazil goes to the US, Canada, China and also to Africa. The main wines grown in the region are: red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Alicante, Bouschet, Ruby Cabernet, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Syrah) and white (Chenin, Blanc, Moscato Canelli, Moscato Itália, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Verdejo).

The big players took notice years ago and positioned themselves firmly with strategic local partnerships. The situation then becomes a win-win because the market, both in Brazil and abroad, improves and expands while the workers of the Sertão get consistent work, and women bring in a secondary income. All that’s missing now is a Sommelier school on the banks of the São Francisco.

Watch the full report, in Portuguese only, which was also the main source for this article.

Castro Alves – An abolitionist, a republican & a poet

Castro Alves was a Brazilian poet best remembered for his abolitionist and republican poems, and is considered one of the most important Brazilian poets of the 19th century. Alves was born on the Cabaceiras farm close to the town of Curralinho in Bahia which was renamed to the city of Castro Alves in honor of the poet.

In 1862, he entered the Law School of Recife, was involved in an affair with Portuguese actress Eugênia Câmara and wrote his first abolitionist poems: “Os Escravos” (The Slaves) and “A Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso” (Paulo Afonso’s Waterfall), reading them out loud in public events in defense of the abolitionist cause. Even though many Brazilians stood up against it at that time, slavery in Brazil was not officially ended until 1888, when Princess Isabel, daughter of Dom Pedro II, declared it extinct by means of the Lei Áurea (Golden Law).


Alves’s work stands in the late-Romantic aesthetic and is deeply influenced by the work of the French poet Victor Hugo in a movement called condoreirismo, which is marked by the introspection of the Romantic period with a social and humanitarian concern. These concerns led him to the incipient Abolitionism and Republicanism, of whose causes he was one of the foremost representatives.

His poetry is more optimistic in tone than early romantic poets, and is marked by more sensual and physical images than is usual to the Romantic Aesthetic. He was not attached to the (sometimes official) indigenism shown by José de Alencar or Gonçalves Dias, nor had the mal-du-siècle aesthetic of Álvares de Azevedo. As a result of this, his work is usually considered to be late-romantic, tending to the later Realist movement.

Among his best known works are: “Espumas Flutuantes” (Floating Foams), “Gonzaga ou A Revolução de Minas” (Gonzaga or the Revolution of Minas), “Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso”, “Vozes D’África” (Voices from Africa), “O Navio Negreiro” (The Slave Ship).

Seeing in Black and White

“Often called “the capital of black Brazil,” this tropical city swelled with civic pride last month when the local Olodum Afro drum corps played with Paul Simon before a huge crowd in Central Park in New York.

But back home, recognition is not always so easy.

This time last year, Olodum’s cultural director, Eusebio Cardoso Ferreira, was recovering from multiple shotgun wounds inflicted by a military policeman.

“Eusebio had packed a suitcase and was on his way to London,” said Alan Trajano, a church human rights lawyer familiar with the case. “But the policeman saw a black man with a bag and assumed he had stolen it from a tourist.”

On one hand, Salvador has recently seen a renaissance in Afro-Brazilian culture. Under coconut palms on the beaches, women in turbans sell snacks whose recipes of palm oil, okra and shrimp trace back to West Africa. The city’s most widely followed religion is candomble, whose gods and Yoruba chants first came from 17th-century Dahomey. At carnival time, Salvador’s cobblestone streets reverberate with African drums and samba lyrics composed in homage to ancient empires in Mali, Angola and the Congo. Council Overwhelmingly White

But in the spheres of civil rights and political power, the lot of Salvador’s blacks seems frozen in amber.

Although 80 percent of Salvador’s population is black or of mixed race, the city’s Mayor and all but three members of the 35-member city council are white. On the state level, the racial equation is the same. The Governor of Bahia State is white and the congressional delegation looks as though it just stepped off a plane from Portugal, Brazil’s former colonial power.”

Source (more here. Article from the year 1991)

A Day in Salvador – via video

In case you saw the article I posted titled “A day and a half in Salvador”, and happen to be more visually oriented, I suggest these great videos on the sights and sounds of Salvador. The videos include notes in English on the location of each sight shown, time stamp and extra info. and they also feature an added bonus of a good trilha sonora (soundtrack) which plays in the background. These are the kinds of intro videos I would make if I were there.

The Ribbon of Bonfim – Souvenir of Salvador

The Fita do Bonfim (Ribbon of Bonfim) which is also known as the fitinha do Bonfim (little ribbon…) is a typical souvenir and amulet from Salvador, Bahia.



The original ribbon was created in 1809, having disappeared by the beginning of the 1950’s. Originally known as the ‘medida do Bonfim’ (measure of Bonfim), its name is owed to the fact that the exact measurements of 47 cm long, the length of the right arm of the statue of Jesus Christ, ‘Senhor do Bonfim’, situated on the high-altar of Bahia’s most famous church. The image was sculpted in Setúbal, in Portugal in the 23rd century. The ‘medida’ was made of silk, with the design and the name of the embroidered saint and complimented with golden or silver tint. It was worn around the neck like a necklace, where saints and medallions were hung, working as a type of currency: upon making good on a promise, the faithful carried a photo or a small sculpture of beeswax representing the part of the body which was cured with the help of the saint. As a souvenir, these ribbons would be acquired, symbolizing the church itself.

No one knows when the transition occurred from the old style ribbon to the new one (worn around the wrist), although the new ribbon was popularized by the street vendors of Salvador around the 1960’s, when it was also adopted by the Bahian hippies as part of their style of dressing.


Sold in diverse colors, the Fita do Senhor do Bonfim possesses a side that few actually know: each color symbolizes an Orixá (or deity of the Yoruba religion). Dark green is for the deity Oxossi, light blue for Iemanjá, yellow for Oxum…Whichever the color, the ribbon holds a symbolic, aesthetic and spiritual representation typical of the Afro-Brazilian culture. Practically speaking, the colors represent various positive words (such as blue for prosperity).


The famous fitas have been used by Brazilian designers locally and nationally in many different ways. Aside from their fashion statement, the user must have three knots tied and if the ribbon falls off naturally, the wishes will be granted. According to

“Multiple chances for a miracle, or chances for multiple miracles, are obtained as the wearer makes a wish each time one of three knots are tied to secure the fita around the wrist.

No wish will be granted unless the cloth is permitted to wear until it disintegrates naturally, and falls from the wrist of its accord. If you remove or cut the ribbon yourself the wishes will not—never?—come true and invites bad luck and misfortune upon you.

If you plan to stay the course and leave the ribbon on, it’s a serious commitment. The typical fita is rumored to fall off after a handful of months, but I’ve read stories of ribbons staying intact for anywhere from six months to two years after they were tied!

There was one Internet source found that said you must never purchase your own ribbons, but only accept them as gifts. Additionally, some sites mention a third party should tie the knots for you, as you make your wishes.”

My personal favorite use of the fita motif is on the canga…


“Hidden Invaders” Documentary – BBC

Over on Get Brazil, there’s a documentary posted which apparently aired on BBC World late last year, which deals with verme (worms) that enter the human body and feed off the host. The problem is especially bad in certain regions of Salvador, where half of the documentary takes place. The first half deals with ringworm and the second half focuses on hookworm (in Minas Gerais). I believe the latter is called bicho de pé (foot bug) in Portuguese.

Here’s the description from Rock Hopper TV, where it is hosted…

“In Brazil, millions of people are infected with intestinal worms. Although there are effective drugs to treat worm infections, they’re not universally available and can’t prevent future infections. Now a team of scientists are trying to develop a vaccine against one of the most damaging parasites, hookworm. It will be the first vaccine against a multi-cellular organism.”

If it gets taken off of Get Brazil for any reason, here’s the direct link. Running time is 45 minutes.

My Take

Well, its definitely not a simple issue. Unfortunately the regions reflected in the documentary are poorer areas where health education is lacking, which leads people to keep hold of their old ways and superstitions rather than accept modern science. Second, new treatments are rarely cost-effective and the charities are too few and far between to help everyone. It could be said that a national donate-extra-pairs-of-shoes campaign might benefit the children of the affected regions more so than the actions of one charity. The other major thing that needs to change is the complete lack of basic sanitation.

As for the opening of the documentary, it tries to connect Salvador as a whole, to the worm problem and in turn, say the effect of the infections are seen in the natural low energy vibe of the people of Salvador…something a bit too generalized for my taste. Other than that, its interesting to watch.

The Diamond Cliffs of Bahia

The Chapada Diamantina National Park (Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina in Portuguese) is a 1,520 km² national park in the Chapada Diamantina region of Bahia state in the Northeast of Brazil. The park is located approximately 400 kilometres inland from Salvador, the capital city of Bahia.

Chapada means a region of steep cliffs, usually at the edge of a plateau. Diamantina refers to the diamonds found there by Germans in the mid 1800s.

Chapada Diamantina earns its place on the list of ecotourism musts in Brazil, as it holds numerous natural records and monuments. Lapão Cave is the largest quartzite cave in the Americas, excellent for experienced rappellers. In addition, there are excellent cave-lakes, some of the best being Poço Encantado and Poço Azul. If you are an experienced cave diver, in search of an adventure, Chapada da Diamantina should be high on your list. Fumaça Waterfall, at 1,020 feet, is one of the highest in Brazil…”

– taken from Brazil Tourism Office (although links within the paragraph above are pictures from PBase by an amazing Brazilian photographer Alex Uchôa)

Raul Seixas – SDBT 4

On with yet one more Singer that Died Before his Time…

Raul Santos Seixas (June 28, 1945– August 21, 1989), was a Brazilian rock composer, singer, and songwriter. He was born in Salvador (da Bahia), Brazil, and died of a heart attack. Every year at Seixas’ birthday, legions of fans, including hundreds of impersonators (many even changing their last name to Seixas as a sign of idolatry) throw a parade as an homage to him in downtown São Paulo.



As a child living near the United States consulate in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia he became fluent in the English language, and was introduced to early rock and roll artists like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis through his contacts with American diplomats’ children around 1956. Elvis’s music in particular was influential in young Raul’s decision to become a musician. At the age of twelve Seixas formed his first group, The Panthers, later changing their name to the Portuguese language Raulzito e os Panteras (“Little Raul and The Panthers”). They appeared on TV Salvador doing covers of Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis, a style of music which was at the time called “cowboy music” in Brazil. They were also the first group in the state of Bahia to play Beatles covers and grow their hair long, as early as 1964.


In the mid-1960s, Os Panteras, already well known as the best rock group in the region, started backing some of Brazil’s most famous pop singers of the time, such as Roberto Carlos and Jerry Adriani whenever they went to Salvador. Impressed with their talent, the stars would always advise Raul to move down south and take a chance in the thriving Jovem Guarda scene.

Following the promises of fame and fortune, the band was transplanted to Rio de Janeiro in 1967. In the following year they released their first and only album on the Odeon label (later EMI-Odeon), which included a Portuguese language version of the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds among many original numbers. Without any publicity, the record sunk and the band disbanded.

After his former bandmates moved back to Salvador, Raul made a living as an English teacher before being hired by CBS, still in 1968, as creative director and record producer. In 1971, tired of writing and producing records by bland, commercial artists, he took advantage of a label director’s vacations and produced Sociedade da Grã-Ordem Kavernista Apresenta Sessão das Dez, an avant-garde album featuring himself, singer Sergio Sampaio and samba artist Miriam Batucada. The record’s mix of Tropicalia, rock and roll and anarchic surrealistic experiments launched Raul Seixas as an icon of Brazilian counterculture.


In the 1970s, Seixas became popular in urban centers such as Rio and São Paulo. Music broadcast on TV and radio was satirical, sarcastic with esoteric themes. References to a wide range of historical and fictional personalities are found within his lyrics: Al Capone, Jesus, Julius Caesar and Shakespeare, for example. Seixas was subject to censorship during Brazil’s period of military rule. Like the music of his contemporaries such as Chico Buarque and others, Seixas’s lyrics hide political messages within double meanings.

1971 also saw the beginning of a relationship with esoteric author Paulo Coelho, who would go on to write lyrics for several of Seixas’ albums, beginning with Krig-Há-Bandolo in 1973. Through Coelho, Seixas was introduced to the work of controversial English mystic Aleister Crowley, which influenced their collaboration. The influence extended not only to music, but also to plans for the creation of the “Alternative Society,” which was to be an anarchist community in the state of Minas Gerais based on Crowley’s premise: “‘Do what thou wilt’ shall be the whole of the Law.” The project was considered subversive by members of the Brazilian military, which imprisoned all prospective members of the group. Seixas and Coelho are reported to have been tortured during their imprisonment.

Seixas was then sent into exile in the United States, where his American wife of the time was living. (Seixas was married five times.) He would later claim that during his exile he had met his childhood heroes John Lennon and Jerry Lee Lewis, although this claim has been disputed.

Perhaps as a result of his drug addiction and alcoholism, the rate and quality of Seixas’ releases slowed through the late-1970s and throughout the 1980s. In later life Seixas suffered from diabetes and pancreatitis. On 21 August 1989 Seixas died of cardiac arrest, the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by his diabetes and not having taken insulin the night before. His final album, A Panela do Diabo, a partnership with fellow Bahian rocker Marcelo Nova (former leader of punk rock band Camisa de Vênus) was released two days before his death.

One of his biggest hits, Metamaforse Ambulante (Walking Metamorphosis)

First there was Burning Man…

Picture this, the chance to bring in the New Year with a five-day dance party on a beautiful beach in Northeastern Brazil. Its real and its called Universo Paralello.

The Burning Man festival that happens every year in the Nevada desert brings out the same types of free spirits as its Southern “counterpart” in Brazil. The Brazilian version (and I use the word version lightly as they have no real connection) can be found on the coast of Bahia, on a secluded beach called Praia de Pratigi in the micro-region Ituberá (Tupi for Sparkling Waterfall), about a 5-hour ride South of Salvador. Universo Paralello (Parallel Universe) has been happening every New Years for the past 7 years. The fesitval itself lasts 5 days and covers every type of trance, dance, progressive and chill-out music available.

Last I read, the ticketing is cheaper if you buy your ticket earlier on. There are three chances to buy, with the price going up (no more than $100 at its highest) little by little until the last chance is announced. Either of these choices are better than paying the elevated price they charge at the door.

As for where to buy a ticket, I only found this email on their very minimalistic official website