North/Northeast gets flooded

O Globo is saying upwards of 180,000 people have had to leave their homes in 190 Northern and Northeastern municipalities throughout 8 different states. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of the downpours in Santa Catarina late last year.

picture-7

“Tens of thousands have been left homeless by the flooding and mudslides, the worst in more than 20 years. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is due to visit some of the worst affected areas later in the day. Brazil’s normally arid north-east has been battered by a month of rains.

The governor of one of the hardest-hit states, Piaui, has declared an emergency in 19 towns and cities and asked for military assistance to help those stranded by the flooding. In the state of Maranhao, six people have been killed and two are missing, while several major roads have been flooded, civil defence officials say. Torrential downpours have also caused rivers to break their banks in the Amazon region. Forecasters say heavy rains are expected to continue in the north and north-east of Brazil until the middle of the month.” – Source (and video)

picture-6

Jalapão & Chapada das Mesas

Land Rover Brazil put together some great short documentaries (PT) called A Gente Vive Pra Contar Histórias (We Live to Tell Stories), in which artists from different professional backgrounds are sent to a little known place to tell its story in the way they know how. The two videos cover both Jalapão (which you may recognize as its the micro-region where Survivor was filmed, in the state of Tocantins) and Chapada das Mesas, in Maranhão (Brazil actually has 6 chapadas, or plateaus, not 5).

Jalapão

Jalapão is a state park in the Tocantins region of Brazil,about 250 kilometers from the capital, Palmas. It is located in the eastern region of Tocantins. It occupies 34,000 sq km, and the site has received increasing interest among adventure tourism and ecotourism fans.

Found in full transitional forest, it is dominated by scrubland vegetation similar to the savannahs, where waterfalls, rivers with crystal clear waters, rapids and large plateaus make the landscape. It is in this scenario where the dunes of golden sand, up to 30 meters high, stand out, giving the place its name: desert of Jalapão. It would be a desert, if Jalapão were not also a paradise of waters and a place where the presence of flowers and exotic animals jumps to the eye.

For more info on Jalapão, go here.

Chapada das Mesas

There’s not much on Chapada das Mesas as it was only recently designated a chapada in 2005, but I can say there are 22 rivers criss-crossing the area and they make 37 waterfalls. I suggest watching the 20 minute video (link in the first paragraph of this article) and if you don’t speak Portuguese, you’ll still be able to get a good idea of what it is.

For a little more on Chapada das Mesas, go here (and choose the link for Chapada…) to the government site, otherwise to know a little about where to stay and what to do, go here.

Tambor de Crioula

Tambor de Crioula is “a dance with African origins, that is found in Brazil, only in the state of Maranhão. The men make the rhythms by playing rustic “tambores” or drums made of wood and leather while the women, in a circle, sing and dance. The high point of this dance is the belly bump which is the signal for the dancer to be substituted by another in the center of the circle.” – Top Tour.

The belly bump is called a “punga”, for more info on this, go here (in PT)

Here’s a 3-part informative show (in PT) on the dance. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

For more on Afro-Brazilian music and dances, try one of these two research papers. (If you like research papers, try changing the number 256 in the url of the second link above, perhaps to 255, 254, 253, etc. That way, new papers will be shown, although on what topic, I don’t know)

Guaraná Jesus – The Pink Dream

Guaraná Jesus is a Brazilian soft drink produced by Eduardo Lago, a Coca-Cola bottler based in São Luís. The drink is popular within the region, reportedly outselling Coca-Cola, and is made from extracts of the guarana plant, which contains caffeine (sometimes called “guaranine”), theophylline, and theobromine. Lago has noted that “Every Brazilian knows that guarana is a stimulant and that means it stimulates everything”. The drink is named for Jesus Norberto Gomes, the druggist who formulated the drink in 1920. The drink has a pink color, a cinnamon aroma and a very sweet taste, and is marketed with the slogan “the pink dream” The drink is now a brand owned by the Coca-Cola Company.

Apparently, there was recently a public contest to redesign the can. The winner is here

I’ve never tried it and I’m sure that even when I do, I won’t get hooked as I’m not in the habit of drinking soft-drinks, especially with artificial color in them. 

The Only Desert* w/ “Millions” of Lakes

The Lençóis Maranhenses in the Northeastern state of Maranhão is an ecological reserve which occupies an area of 1000 sq. kilometers. Despite much rainfall, the reserve is almost completely free of vegetation.

Composed of large, white, sweeping dunes, at first glance Lençóis Maranhenses looks like an archetypal desert. In fact it isn’t actually a desert*. Lying just outside the amazon basin, the region is subject to a regular rain season during the beginning of the year. The rains cause a peculiar phenomenon: freshwater collects in the valleys between sand dunes, spotting the desert with blue and green lagoons that reach their fullest between July and September.

The area is also surprisingly home to a variety of fish which, despite the almost complete disappearance of the lagoons during the dry season, have their eggs brought from the sea by birds.

The national park status serves only as a means of protecting the area’s ecology; consequently many people are park residents, as is also the case with nearby Jericoacoara. The inhabitants of the park work primarily as fishermen during the rain season. During the dry season, many leave for neighboring regions to work small plots of land.

According to local lore, the region was habitated by Caeté Indians, who woke up one day to find their town covered by sand.

As a general guide to this area, try the park’s official dual language website.

The English-language part seems to have been translated from its original Portuguese by a non-native speaker so hang tight. In the next few days, I’ll try to send them corrections.

http://www.parquelencois.com.br/

For spectacular professionally-done photos of the area, check out this site.

http://www.pbase.com/marciomachado/lenis_maranhenses