The Real Fight for Independence


On May 8th, 2013, Bahian Independence Day, which falls on July 2nd, was officially recognized by the Senate as a date of national importance in Brazil. The recognition doesn’t mean it will become a national holiday but the date does hold an important place in the hearts of Bahians.

While Dom Pedro I was shouting “Independence or death!” on the banks of the Ipiranga river in São Paulo, the war for the independence of Bahia against the Portuguese military was in full swing. In actuality, it not only ended after Brazil was declared independent but it begun before the fight for Brazilian independence had started. The Bahian efforts, in the end, were what sent the Portuguese packing. In fact, Bahian people are proud of July 2nd because it symbolizes the real fight for independence (and not just a mere proclamation of it), where they not only shed a lot of blood and tears, but where slaves and those of native indian descent (caboclos) came together to aid in the fight. It is also where they found themselves outnumbered, by three-thousand Portuguese soldiers versus one-thousand five-hundred on the Brazilian side, and still ended up victorious.

In 1822, the royal courts in Lisbon ordered Portuguese commander Madeira de Melo to take control of Bahia in light of Dom João VI’s return to Europe almost a year prior. The rumors, and later knowledge, that his son, Dom Pedro I,  would not return to Portugal brought about Madeira de Melo’s appointment. With the start of 1823, Portuguese reinforcements arrived in Salvador, dominating the city. Dom Pedro I, then, sent in Brazilian troops, who eventually had to fall back into the Recôncavo region outside the capital city. (Important to note that “Brazilian” here means fighting for Brazil, since almost all the troops actually doing so were Portuguese-born).

Surrounded and with food and ammunition running out, Madeira de Melo requested more Portuguese troops from Europe. It was then that Dom Pedro I sent in the French general and mercenary, Pedro Labatut, to expel the enemies. Labatut had previously participated in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as alongside Simon Bolivar in Colombia. It’s somewhat ironic that a Frenchman would push the Portuguese out of Brazil since it was due to the French invasion that the Portuguese went to Brazil in the first place.

In the Battle of Pirajá, which was a defining moment in the fight for Bahian independence (and, ultimately, that of Brazil), Madeira de Melo took the offense and ended up getting injured. One account of the battle relates the story of a soldier who, while being Portuguese but fighting for the Brazilians, confused the Portuguese troops by giving the sound for them to advance according to a specific battlefield scenario. The only problem was the scenario wasn’t actually happening so instead of advancing, they fell back, at which point the Brazilian troops attacked, winning the battle.

The Portuguese retreated to the city center and soon found themselves weakened, tired, low on firepower, and with a Brazilian fleet (with an Englishman at the command) all but surrounding them seaside. Madeira de Melo and the remaining troops finally fled the country, returning to Portugal while being chased all the way back to Lisbon.

The day that Labatut and his men took back the city was July 2nd, 1823.

The Pernambucan Revolution

This is a cross-post from Eyes On Recife.


“The Pernambucan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of the Priests (due to the participation of the heroic monk, Frei Caneca), was an emancipation movement that emerged on March 6th, 1817, in what was known at the time as the Province of Pernambuco. Among the causes for wanting freedom from Portuguese rule, the main ones were: the regional economic crisis, the Portuguese monarchical absolutism and the influence of the Enlightenment ideas, propagated by the masonic societies.” [1]

Their Own Republic

“For 74 days, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba and Rio Grande so Norte were a republic with their own government, army, navy, constitution, flag and even ambassadors abroad. This short period enforced the recently promulgated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the French Revolution’s defining documents. And the flag that was used in the most important libertarian war of the then-republic is the same that Pernambuco uses today” (minus two of the stars). [2]

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 7.27.23 PM(the republic flag that inspired the current flag)

“On March 29th, a constituent assembly was convened, with elected representatives from all the counties (now known as states), establishing the separation of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers; catholicism was maintained as the official religion (however there was freedom of religion); freedom of the press was proclaimed (a new idea for Brazil); some taxes were abolished; slavery was kept alive.

As the fervor of discussions and revolt against Portuguese oppression increased, Pernambucan patriotism also increased, to the point of using cachaça (instead of wine) in church and a wafer made of manioc (instead of wheat), as a way of marking their identity.” [3]

American Aid?

In May of 1817, Antônio Gonçalves Cruz landed in Philadelphia with 800,000 dollars in his bags. His mission was three-fold: to obtain arms to fight Dom João’s army, to convince the US government to support a Brazilian republic in the Northeast, and to recruit some ex-French revolutionaries living in the US to go to Brazil, make a plan to free Napoleon from jail and bring him to Pernambuco to lead their revolt. They agreed but arrived in Pernambuco too late, the revolution was ending. [4]

The End

The fight came to an end when the revolutionaries started finding it hard to fight such a powerful enemy, especially one that was slowly surrounding them. The other “counties” (Alagoas, Ceará, Rio Grando do Norte, etc) started to back off and revoke their support and the Pernambucan supporters started in-fighting due to disagreements on the topic of slavery. In the end, what remained was a single idea, that the Portuguese crown could never again be certain of its strength, loyalty and effectiveness in the Americas.

The 1958 São Paulo Protests

In addition to my São Paulo protests post, I translated this article from Estadão’s archives.

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“At the end of November 1958, residents of São Paulo went to sleep with one bus fare and woke up with another. At the end of that day the city went to sleep with four protesters dead, dozens wounded and 150 vehicles destroyed. The bus riders only found out about the readjustment when they found, on the morning of the 30th, announcements on the windshields of the buses and trolleys with the new fare on it. With the increase in the still of the night, the bus fares went from Cr$ 3.50 to Cr$ 5.00, and the trolleys went from Cr$ 2.50 to Cr$ 3.00 (the monetary note of the time was the cruzeiro, with the symbol Cr$). Aware of the possible reactions, the mayor Adhemar de Barros sent armed police to many of the city’s bus stops. On the days of the protests, Barros was in Rio de Janeiro.

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The first reaction by the population was to complain. But at 10:30am news started to arrive about the first bus and trolley paralyzations by students which went throughout the day. The students of the Liceu Pasteur school stopped a trolley on its last stop in Vila and the other was stopped by students of Mackenzie University on Rua Maria Antonia. During the whole of the morning and afternoon the protests were peaceful. To prove it, Mackenzie students set up a chess table in front of a stopped trolley car.

But the paralyzations took a turn during the evening, when there was more need of public transport. The students had already blocked the buses from making their rounds on Avenida São João. At the same time the shop owners were closing their doors, someone shattered the windows of the Olido movie theater. In several parts of the city the protesters emptied the buses, in others, like at the 14 Bis plaza, the fare inspectors of the now-extinct Metropolitana de Transportes Coletivos Company (CMTC) instructed the bus drivers to go back to their garages.

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With the bus stops more and more overcrowded with people, the Civil Guards were sent to disperse the protesters and to free up the circulation of the vehicles at the Praça da Sé and the Praça Clóvis, the two busiest terminals at the time. The soldiers carried with them, aside from real ammunition, blanks and smoke bombs. When the troops from the Guard Battalion and the Cavalry arrived, around 6pm, they were greeted with sticks and stones by the protesters and they couldn’t stop the buses from being destroyed and put on fire. At 9pm, without being able to disperse the crowd, the troops received orders to shoot rounds into the air. The result was 4 dead, three by bullets, and dozens wounded and arrested.

To clear out downtown, the Mayor’s Office had trucks from the Mogiana Company, from the Department of Water and Sewage and the Department of Highways, to transport people free of cost.

Authorities. Only at 9pm, when the movement had dominated the city, did the authorities meet at the Campos Elísios Palace. At the meeting was the governor Carvalho Pinto, chief of staff Quintanilha Ribeiro, and the Secretary of Justice, Pedroso Horta. On the way out of the meeting, on a televised interview, Horta justified the increase with a reminder that one of Adhemar de Barros’ campaign promises was to get  the CMTC finances back on track. And one of these measures would be by increasing the bus fares.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 12.41.06 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-16 at 12.56.46 PM

On the following day, the paralyzations and the police repression continued. This time it was in front of the Prates Palace, the then-seat of the House of Representatives in the D. Pedro II Park. The protesters went there to demand the lowering of the fares. The councilman Monteiro de Carvalho got up on the hood of a car and explained that the issue of fares was the City Hall’s responsibility. The crowd was dispersed around 7pm with the “blows of police batons on their heads”, according to what the Estado newspaper.

Scrapped. The CMTC with 12,000 employees in financial crisis was scrapped, the fleet wasn’t renewed and they weren’t even able to import parts and accessories for the broken buses. In 1957, with a fleet of 1,333 diesel buses, only 821 actually worked. The company also had 110 electric buses and 210 trolleys that hadn’t been taken off their routes due to the incapability to substitute the fleet.” – Source (PT)

For more on the protests in English, go here.

“Olha o Globo!” – Brothers, Biscuits & Beaches

(with Two Brothers in the background)

Ask any beach-going Brazilian that has been to Rio de Janeiro what images come to mind when they think of Rio and I’d bet Biscoito Globo is one of them. The famous doughnut-shaped powder biscuits are as common a sight as the sunbathers in Ipanema applauding the beautiful sunsets, silhouetted by Two Brothers hill. Speaking of brothers, three from São Paulo deserve some applause, too, as they are responsible for another pleasing sight, one that can be sweet, like catching some rays, or salty, like the sea itself.

The brothers’ success lies in the simplicity of their product. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Two flavors – Sweet or salty
  • Easy to recognize – Always the same packaging
  • Easy to open – Good for kids (though bad for those who want to close it, meaning you should eat them all)
  • Strictly word of mouth – No advertising costs and savings passed on to the customer
  • Great with another favorite – Often sold with soft-drink Matte-Leão (and vendors wear Matte-Leão shirts)
  • Easy to remember – Globo is a name everyone knows

The rest is history (or, at least the next part is)…


According to the Biscoito Globo site, it all started in 1953 when, after their parents separated, the three Ponce brothers went to live with their cousin who had a bakery in Ipiranga, in São Paulo. It was there that they learned to make powder biscuits with their cousin, which were sold on the streets of downtown São Paulo.

In 1954, taking advantage of a large religious conference in Rio de Janeiro, the brothers decided to sell their biscuits in the carioca capital. With their recipe for success, the Ponce brothers foresaw that, given the biscuits characteristics, Rio de Janeiro would be the ideal market for what they were selling.

The powder biscuit was given the name Globo in honor of the bakery contracted to make them in Botafogo. The year was 1955 and the biscuits were sold in the Globo bakery and in seven others, owned by the same people. Realizing the large demand for them, the Ponce brothers started to sell them to other bakery chains and in 1963, they formed a partnership with a Portuguese baker, an expert in breads.


There are other positive aspects that accompany a bag of Biscoito Globo, such as the fact that it’s perfect for making one’s stomach believe it’s fuller than it is. After all, who wants to swim on a full stomach? Other associated benefits mean the customer receives something that is low in calories, low in fat, without neither coloring nor preservatives.

The biscuit vendors are called ‘ambulantes‘ and they can buy a package for 60 cents then turn around and sell it for an average price of R$1 on the beach. A pretty good deal where everyone walks away happy. Since the famous snacks don’t contain the aforementioned preservatives, they aren’t sold to the supermarkets, meaning the customers must seek out the individual vendors if they want to get their hands on the biscuits. On the beaches of Rio, that’s not a hard thing to do because the vendors are omnipresent, the packaging is unique (save for a few imitators), and the holler is the same…”Olha o Globo!”

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

The Great Grape Festival of Caxias do Sul

The Festa da Uva (or, Grape Festival) is a Brazilian celebration of Italian heritage which takes place every two years in the town of Caxias do Sul, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. For close to 80 years, the residents have put on the celebration which usually falls around mid-February, lasting two weeks. As part of the festivities, local producers of food and wine present their best products to the public in an effort to both spread knowledge of their Italian roots and, of course, make a few sales.

The festival started not as a festival, but as an agroindustrial fair back in 1881, which brought together local farmers and producers so they could share ideas and showcase new methods to improve the harvesting of their crops. The fair was created as a means to centralize, even if just for a few days, those that normally worked scattered about in different locations within the region. It wasn’t until June 1st, 1910, that the first train began to run through Caxias do Sul, connecting the city (it was elevated to city status on the very same day) to nearby Montenegro and the state capital, Porto Alegre. The prosperous little city only became more prosperous with the new train since from Porto Alegre, a ship could take salesmen, along with wines, cheeses and other products, to São Paulo.

The new train didn’t just take people to far away places, it allowed others to come to the region such as traders and relatives who instead of just visiting, decided to move there and look for work. With the growth of the local industries and of the city, a Caxias do Sul resident named Joaquim Pedro Lisboa suggested in 1931 that a festival be created to celebrate the grape harvest. The press from the capital called it the “Little Grape Exposition” and though it only lasted one day, it was highly popular and even included airplanes doing fancy moves in the sky. The next year, they decided to do another Festa da Uva and in 1933, they added a new twist, the election of a Grape Festival Queen. In addition, the 3rd offering of the festival included the participation of three neighboring towns, Flores da Cunha, Bento Gonçalves and Garibaldi. The festival didn’t just reach other towns, its message of solidarity spread much further.

Brazil’s own president, Getúlio Vargas, said such bastions of cultural pride were nothing more than “social cysts” because to him they represented a fragmented society. Nonetheless, in Fascist Italy, there was an increasing interest in reconstructing the history of the emigrants. By doing so, such a history could be interpreted as a shining example of how the “Latin race” could contribute to the civilization of the New World, while also urging the Italians abroad to take pride in their ethnic origin. And take pride, they did.

Cleodes Ribeiro, a professor and researcher of Brazilian-Italian culture, describes the festival in the following way…

“If the celebration of the Grape Festival ritual served to proclaim the identity of the celebrants, display the result of their work over more than half a century and claim the status of being Brazilians, their defining characteristics were explained by the vocabulary employed in the symbolic ritual. The speeches, the exhibition and the distribution of grapes, the triumphal procession, the shopkeeper in their costumes, songs, banquets, congress and flags lining the streets, all reflected the efforts of the festival hosts in the process of self-representation.”

It is also important to note that these immigrant clusters in Brazil were not just refined to Italian descendants, nor was Caxias do Sul the only place Italians settled into upon moving to Brazil. These were people who created and sustained models of success that essentially came to replace the master-slave dynamic (of Portuguese descendants and their African slaves) that had encompassed Brazil for so long. To me, these often historical concentrations of once-separate nationalities that all landed in one country and eventually became one people, so to speak, are what makes Brazil so infinitely interesting. Even more so, each concentration retains either strong markers or, to a lesser extent, noticable vestiges of a more cohesive community-based identity. How many other nations can truly say the same of their people?

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

The Saint-Makers, Past & Present

The year was 1985 when Dias Gomes, an important Brazilian playwright, was finally allowed to air his telenovela Roque Santeiro (Saint-Maker). Brazil had just been freed from a military dictatorship that lasted 21 years. The Institutional Act Number 5, known as the AI-5 (*see comments), which was supposedly the military’s response to a fifty-thousand strong march in Rio de Janeiro to protest the murder of a student by a member of the military, had been in effect back in 1975, when Roque Santeiro was originally supposed to air.

Among the consequences of the AI-5 was the censorship of music, film, theater and television, as long as they were thought to be subverting political and moral values. The telenovela Roque Santeiro was based on a theatrical piece, also by Dias Gomes, called O Berço do Heroí (The Hero’s Cradle), which had been censured and prohibited under the AI-5. The telenovela would have been shown in 1975 on the Globo network and already had several episodes recorded, in addition to having already been announced on TV. However, on the day of its premiere, Globo received a government notice censuring the telenovela.

The reason behind the censorship? Apparently, a conversation was secretly recorded in which Dias Gomes assured the person on the other end of the line that Roque Santeiro was just a way to deceive the military, adapting O Berço do Herói for television audiences, with slight changes that would make the military think they weren’t so similar.

The story of Roque Santeiro takes place in the fictitious impoverished town of Asa Branca in the Brazilian Northeast, where the main character, also the namesake of the series, was worshiped as a saint. As an altar boy, he was allegedly killed 18 years prior defending the church, meanwhile a large landowner and the mayor of the town had been profiting off the poor residents from the popularity of the saint and the myth that surrounds him. One day, Roque returns alive and with the mission of saving his people.

WIth a basic understanding of the storyline, one can understand why the military would not want the millions of viewers of Globo’s nightly telenovelas to see the underlying meaning behind a local hero that fights for his people. The interesting thing for me is seeing that when under overt influence of a military decree such as the AI-5, the government saw telenovelas as able to influence the viewers. Fast-forward to present day, to a Brazil that is democratically run and very little mention is ever made of how modern telenovelas, made by powerful people, are influencing the average viewers’s thoughts and beliefs. I wonder if Brazil is in need of a real-life Roque Santeiro to save the viewers…

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

There’s No Need to Fish For Compliments Here

Update: I expanded this article from 2011 to twice the size. Enjoy!


Midway up the coast of Pernambuco, less than 40 miles south of Recife, lies Porto de Galinhas (literally, Chicken Port), one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches. Since 2001, the Brazilian magazine Viagem & Turismo has held an annual contest for its readers to elect the best Brazilian travel options and Porto de Galinhas dominated in the beach category for the first ten years straight, making it the paragon of paradise.

Aside from being located on the Northeast’s serene coastline, with its abundance of beaches, Porto de Galinhas isn’t just pretty to look at. When the high tide pulls out, natural tidal pools are created around the reefs that are both warm and transparent, making them perfect for catching an eyeful of tropical fish. Other activities include either sunbathing or riding dune buggies on the white sands of any of the 10 local beaches, and taking canoe rides through the mangroves.


The founding of the tourism hotspot is perhaps as interesting as the destination is beautiful. It starts with the fact that the largest Brazilian tract of massapê soil (which is very fertile and rich with a reddish-brown color) can be found in the Ipojuca municipality of Pernambuco, within Brazil’s tropical, coastal region. One of the neighborhoods that makes up Ipojuca happens to be Porto de Galinhas. It’s the unique soil, as well as the region’s port, that made Ipojuca the perfect place for the European colonizers to start cultivating and selling sugarcane. In fact, the previous name of Porto de Galinas was Porto Rico, not only due to the wealth it made the local sugarcane barons but also to the large amounts of brazilwood that left the country from its shores, en route to Europe.

So, how did such a pretty place receive such a strange name as “Chicken Port”? Well, there are two theories [1]. The most oft-repeated one says that with slavery in Brazil being abolished in the late 1800s, some slave traders saw a big part of their livelihood being taken away thus they continued importing slaves, albeit in secret. The port soon served as the main point of arrival for illegal slaves in the northeast of Brazil. It is said that the slaves were frequently hidden below the crates of chickens (more specifically, helmeted guinea-fowl, known as galinhas d’Angola, or Angolan chickens, in Portuguese), which were favored for consumption by the Pernambucan upper-class. Upon the arrival of new “merchandise”, one would hear the phrase “tem galinha nova no porto!” (“there’s new chicken at the port!”). This was code for announcing a new shipment of slaves and, with time, the name of the beach eventually changed. The second theory says many of the first African slaves brought to the region were of the Fula people, also known as Pheul, which in French sounds like Poule (chicken).


These Days

Today, the chickens are hand-painted, made of coconut shells and tree trunks, by local artisans to later be bought by the purchasing power and for the viewing pleasure of the many tourists to the region. This wasn’t always so, though, as it was only a few years ago that the local artists decided to find a marketable image that would serve as their golden egg, so to speak.

Chickens are definitely not the only thing being sold in Porto de Galinhas. Aside from the endless beauty of the barrier reefs and the natural pools, there are now resorts, nightclubs and refined restaurants that have moved in and exist side by side with the rustic charm that helped to make this old fishing village so popular in the 1990′s. With all the “development” and changes, I can’t help but wonder where the locals go to “get away from it all”.

Secrets, Guarded and Shared

Recently, I read on a tech site that a Facebook group called Secret London got so big, it had to start thinking bigger, meaning it had to become its own site. Secret London is a group of Londoners who share secret spots with each other in an effort to get to know the London that can’t be found through official channels. This London is about who you know because it’s the ‘whos’ that are the ones that know the ‘whats’ and the ‘wheres’. Anyways, a bit of a discussion is going on as to whether taste is best shared or guarded (best to read ‘guarded’ first).

In the same vein as Secret London, you can bet there exists a Secret Brazil, just not in any official capacity. Practically everyone in Rio, for example, has a secret spot or a favorite place to go to think, to see the sunset, to visit on certain days because they know there’s free admission that day, etc.

The interesting thing about taste is that it’s pretty personal. Socially-speaking, it could be said that taste is non-existent as long as others don’t share the same taste. Saying someone has good taste is also saying that you have enough taste to know such a thing. In terms of the masses and in the same sense as the concept of cool, the labeling of something as tasteful also slowly kills it off. In other words, it gets played-out, over-consumed or in the case of a place, over-crowded, etc. Perhaps it can even lead to a broken window.

So here I am, thinking that I’m giving away all my secrets about Brazil by having this blog/site where I am selective about its content. Upon second thought, I then realize that my purpose here is to show the world that Brazil isn’t just made up of the 4 things I virtually never mention here (Carnival, ‘naked women’, soccer and violence). There’s a Brazil that is little talked about and I’ve made it my job to ‘spill the beans’ (or rather the oranges) about the things and places that should be shared.

Where does Laranjeiras, a neighborhood of Rio, fit in? To make a short story long, I have several friends who call the neighborhood ‘home’ and they all say nothing but great things about it. Those who don’t live there but are from the city of Rio, haven’t ever mentioned the neighborhood to me, as if they never gave it any thought. I’ve only been there once so I don’t have much first-hand experience…but when speaking to my friends, I get the feeling Laranjeiras is a bit of a hidden gem, laid-back, upkept, not too crowded…just right.

Here’s a little background.

“Laranjeiras (Portuguese for orange trees) is an upper-middle-class neighborhood located in the Zona Sul area of Rio de Janeiro. Primarily residential, It is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, having been founded in the 17th century, with the construction of country houses in the valley located around the Carioca River, which bordered Corcovado Mountain. Because of this, the neighborhood was previously called “Vale do Carioca”, or Carioca Valley.

While primarily residential, several important governmental, cultural, and sports institutions and schools make this a bustling neighborhood. Well known landmarks in Laranjeiras include the Palácio Guanabara (seat of the state government of Rio de Janeiro), the Palácio Laranjeiras (official residence of the state’s governor), and the Parque Guinle (Guinle Park), as well as the headquarters and Laranjeiras Stadium of Fluminense Football Club, and Rio’s branch of the Hebraica Social and Sports Club, and several others.

Well-known people that live, or have lived in Laranjeiras include:

  • Cartola, singer, composer and poet
  • Cássia Eller, singer
  • Cândido Portinari, pintor
  • Oscar Niemeyer, arquiteto
  • Machado de Assis, writer.”

– Wikipedia

A lot of history happened in and nearby the ‘Vale do Carioca’, as the region encompassing modern-day Glória, Catete and Laranjeiras once was called. The Vale’s claim to fame comes from the fact that the land used to build the first Portuguese house on Brazilian soil (the ‘house of whites’ where the term ‘carioca’ comes from) was built there where a little later, the failed French colony called the ‘French Antartica’ (lasting from 1555 to 1567) was founded. If the French and their indian counterparts (the Tamoios, with whom they traded and joined in an effort to fight off the Portuguese) had secured Guanabara Bay, today Rio, and all of Brazil for that matter, might be full of French descendents. Think that is far-fetched? A half of a century later, the French had control over the northern state of Maranhão, where its capital São Luis is named after King Louis IX. During the time of the two South American French colonies, France was after its fair share of the Americas (especially after taking Quebec in Canada), an effort they aptly called ‘Nouvelle France’.

As for the name Laranjeiras, it was said to have been bestowed upon the neighborhood by the visiting English author Maria Graham in 1821. She stated there were many orange trees in the area although today there is more evidence to the contrary, that there were many more coffee plants than orange trees back then. Besides, Laranjeiras was the name of a beach, albeit absent of orange trees, near Parati. The theory is that somewhere in the neighborhood of Laranjeiras in Lisbon (which had a garden orchard) lies the origins of its carioca cousin.

I’ll leave you with some photos.