Ilha do Marajó – Getting away

“Even for Brazilians, who have left almost no nook or cranny of their vast country unexplored, the island of Marajó, at the mouth of the Amazon River, seems a distant and exotic destination.

The size of Switzerland, Marajó abounds with exotic wildlife, jungles, beaches, lagoons, mangrove swamps and flood plains, but has few permanent human inhabitants and is permeated with an end-of-the-world feeling. No wonder then that “At the Limit” – the Brazilian equivalent of the television reality show “Survivor” – was once shot on Marajó.

For the adventurous or curious, though, Marajó and the group of smaller islands that surround it have an almost irresistible appeal. Rarely does nature in all its intimidating majesty seem so close at hand: Two gigantic bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River, confront each other offshore and together shape human life onshore into a battle of another sort, against the stifling exuberance of the tropics.

Which is not to say that conditions on Marajó are necessarily spartan. Yes, luxury is hard to obtain, but in three trips over the last five years, what has impressed me most is how much more welcoming to visitors the archipelago is today than at the time of my first sojourn, in 1978. With the construction of several hotels in recent years, it is now possible to sample the wilds and then return to the comfort of an air-conditioned room and a cold drink.

That’s exactly the routine I followed on my most recent visit, in October. After strolling along an isolated beach, where waves lapped the white sands, I would return to my hotel, the Ilha do Marajó, and relax poolside or play table tennis. After the tide had changed, I would return to the same spot on the beach, only to find that as a result of the eternal struggle for supremacy between the Amazon and the Atlantic, what had earlier been salt water was now fresh water, or vice versa.”

The rest of the entertaining three-page article is at NYT.

According to Notícias da Amazônia, the boat ride to Marajó has been shortened (from 3 hours to 2 hours) thanks to a new departing point and a new boat company (Álamo). Now, one can depart from Estação das Docas on any day (except Wednesday), leaving at 8:30 AM and coming back from Salvaterra (on Marajó) at 4:30PM. Tickets can be bought at the kiosks at the Terminal Fluvial in Estação das Docas or if you find yourself already in Marajó, at the Terminal Hidroviário de Camará as well as commercial centers of Soure and Salvaterra on the island.

Lundú Marajoara – Flirtatious couple dance

(The tourism company which does these boat shows is called Valeverde)

The Lundu, originally a dance done by African slaves in Brazil, also gained popularity among the white middle class and upper crust and became Brazil’s first national dance. Initially though, the Portuguese court and the Vatican itself banned the dance due to its sexual nature yet when the dust settled, it became popular once more. Upon its return, it was still kept hidden from public displays and therefore went ‘underground’, finding followers mainly in three Brazilian states, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and in Pará (on the island of Marajó).

What differentiates Lundú Marajoara from the other styles of Lundú is principally the form of dress, which is also used in the Carimbó. The women present themselves with beautiful long colorful skirts, white blouses, necklaces, bracelets and flowers in their hair. The men wear light blue or white pants and either no shirt at all or a white shirt with Marajoarian designs. Both dancers are barefoot.

A flirtatious couple dance, usually accompanied by a guitar, but sometimes a thumb piano or drums, Lundu is related to the Spanish fandango and other new-world dances like the Argentine Zamba, Cueca and Bolero – they all involve, to some degree, handkerchiefs, castanets, and holding ones’ arms above their heads. The point behind the dance is said to involve a man asking a woman to go to bed with him, although his invite isn’t manifested verbally but rather physically. Initially, the woman is supposed to deny the man but after persistance, she gives in at which point the dance ends.