The Indian Museum – Pará

Back when I was living in Pará, I had a chance to visit the Museu do Índio (Indian Museum) in the Solar da Beira building (initially for tax collection), near the famous Ver-o-Peso open-air market. As you walk in, the left side showcases enlarged photos of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon region, most notably, the Xingu people. On the right side, you will find handmade indigenous artifacts for sale in the ‘Koisas do Índio’ store which are retrieved from expeditions undertaken every three months. A trip to visit the tribes that make the artifacts, according to the museum curator I spoke with, requires one to travel by air, boat and foot and routinely take 12 hours one-way.

I came close to going on the next expedition but the plan never quite came together. In any event, I found it to be a nice little part of Belém that I’m sure visitor’s don’t get to see when they visit Ver-o-Peso market.

More Info

For some reason, both sites that have to do with the museum are static pages with dead links.

Museum site (in PT)
Ipiranga Foundation (in PT)

Hoje eu to enjoado

I´m going a little crazy living in Para because I have to listen to this brega song many times everyday…for a month so far. Almost as bad, the youngsters actually find it to be a great song…people even discuss the lyrics. I dont even have the heart to place this under the Music category. Oh and there happens to be a competing song out now, competing for annoyingness. Its called Selinho na Boca but Ill save you from having to hear it.

At least Beyonce is respectable in the overlapped video…oh wait, nevermind.

Mosqueiro Island – Great in the late summer

Ilha do Mosqueiro is about 40 miles from Belém and can be reached via the BR-316 and the PA-391 highways and finally by crossing the Sebastião Oliveira bridge. By car, it’s no more than an hour away and buses leave Belém daily to the island (with a comparable arrival time). To get an idea of where it is, check out these maps on the official site.

Altogether, there are 16 beaches and in the month of July, around 300,000 people from all over Brazil visit the island for its non-salty waters and summer parties. The original holiday-goers were foreigners which, while taking advantage of the Rubber Boom at the end of the 19th century, found value in the island and started to build summer mansions there.

Judging by the photo up top, if you want peace and quiet, Praia do Farol is not what you are looking for, so try the maps to see where other beaches are on the island. I’ll leave you with a little piece of the peaceful part.

(the original song is from Jorge Drexler, called La Edad del Cielo)

Salinas – The way to go for weekend fun


Salinópolis (or simply Salinas, to locals) lies 130 miles up the coast from Belém. It’s the place to be during the month of July (a month off for university students). All in all, there are 12.5 miles of salt-water beaches. The most frequented beach is Atalaia (pictured below), the best for surfing is Marieta, the oldest is Maçarico (although not used for taking a dip), and the most peaceful ones are Pilão and Maria Baixinha.


Throughout the area, one will find rivers (both large and small), lakes, sand dunes and mangroves. One famous lake is called Coca-Cola Lake (pictured below, with people ‘snowboarding’ down the side) due to the sweet, dark and cold water found within. As for the beautiful views, ask around town for where to rent ultraleves (airborn crafts) and bugs (buggies) to take advantage of the area while you’re there.


How to arrive/Where to stay

Picture 4
(Here, you can see Belém in the corner and Salinas marked by an “A”)

As far as how to get there, there are a few options for the 3 hour trip. On wheels, whether by bus, van or car, it’ll cost you about $10. In the case you don’t have your own car, tickets can be bought at the main bus depot in Belém. Once there, you have a choice of hotels and pousadas (bed & breakfast) as well as renting a flat and even staying on a local farm. Important to note, be careful where you park your car, as the tide can change suddenly and you’ll find your car in the water.

The source for most of my information was found at ORM, although translated by me.

Alça-Viária & Bathing at Bica

Pará’s Alça-Viária (lit. Road Ring) is a set of roads and bridges that cross over a dozen huge amazonic rivers which set apart the wealthy metropolitan region of Belém, the misterious Marajó island and the oceanic northeast Pará from the enormous south of the state. Before then, the trip would depend on the will of the rivers’ tides.

This is the biggest bridge of the set and the only one of them suspended by cables. It crosses the 2km-long Guamá river. In its highest part, it measures almost 600m (a third of a mile) from the water below. Some video animations of the project can be found here.


Balneário da Bica

Along the Alça-Viária, at kilometer 33, one can find the small bathing resort called Bica, which is about a one-hour trip from Belém. To get an idea of what it looks like, check out the homemade video. All in all, it has three pools full of mineral water.

Food Staples over 15 years

The Dieese (Departament of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies) reported on the large increase in the price of the cesta básica (lit. “basic basket”, ie. food staples) for the average resident of the state of Pará. Their findings within a 15 year period, since the Real Plan in 1994, showed an increase of 220.25%.

In accordance with the data from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) on the variation of the price index, Belém found a spot among the top three capitals of the country with the highest cost of living. The “basic basket” is comprised of 12 items. Those items include things like beans, tomatoes, bananas, sugar, cooking oil, coffee, French bread, potatoes, milk, butter, beef and mandioc flour.

The Departament also states that the prices are actually increasing at a slower rate than in the previous years, however, the difference in value is larger than ever.

However, in the same 15 year period as the study, certain items have grown to be more expensive than others, such is the case with mandioc flour (412.20% increase); tomatoes (308.57% increase) and bananas (251.14% increase).

– Source (translated from PT)

The Pepper of Pará


Pimenta-do-reino (black pepper) is a flowering vine, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described as black pepper, white pepper, red/pink pepper, green pepper, and very often simply pepper.

Black pepper is native to South India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions, especially in Belém. Outside of Vietnam, Brazil is the largest exporter and producer.

Japanese & Pimenta

“The history of the pimenta-do-reino within the trajectory of the Japanese immigrants in Brazil’s northern region, had the makings of an epic poem. There are registers of its cultivation in Brazil from the 17th century, but the Japanese were responsible for its production on a commercial scale.

The epic poem started in 1929, when Nambei Takushoku Kaisha created the Companhia Nipônica de Plantação do Brasil (Japanese Plantation Company of Brazil) and started the construction of the Acará colony (later called Tomé-Açu). The principal crop was cacau as well as other crops such as the pimenta-do-reino and rice, which were complementary.

In 1935, after frustrated attempts with cacau, it was decided that the Açaizal experimental station would be closed. Such was the destiny of Fukutaro Obana, entrusted with this mission, he would find in one of the corners of the station, three stems of pimenta-do-reino remaining from the 20 stems that Makinosuke Usui brought from Singapore in 1933. The stems were given to Tomoji Kato and Enji Saito who distributed pieces of the plant to their compatriots. By 1945, it had multiplied to close to 800 stems.

With the end of the Second World War, the pimenta-do-reino transformed itself into the “black diamond” of the Amazon – in 1945, it cost 30 cruzeiros per kilo and by the next year, it jumped to 85 cruzeiros. As a consequence of the destruction of the production centers, such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. In 1954, the plantations in Tomé-Açu totaled 332 thousand stems.

But, in 1955, the recuperation of the production centers of South Asia provoked a retraction in the market. In the 70’s, more difficulties; the intense plantation in the Tomé-Açu region provoked the appearance of diseases in the pepper plants.

Some producers went to other regions of the Amazon in search of better pastures. Others decided to develop other crops, while they formed and transplanted new varieties of pimenta-do-reino.” – Source (in PT, no longer available, translated)

Rainfall by any other name…

As you may or may not know, Belém, being a tropical city, gets its fair share of rainfall, in fact it’s almost daily. Usually January to May is when the heaviest rainfall happens, although even during the dry season from June to December, the city has sporadic showers.

Recently, I asked a Belemense if their rainfall there goes by any other name, such as how the Eskimos (Inuits) of Alaska have many names for snow. Apparently, the answer is ‘not really’, although later I was told ‘chuva das 2‘ (‘2PM rain’) is used. As in the rest of Brazil, there are various names for varying types of rain. Let’s go over the different kinds (plus a few related words)…

Chuva – Rain
Chuvisco or Garoa – Light rain
Toró, Temporal or Chuvada – Heavy rain

Tempestade – Storm
Alagamento – Flooding

Now, time for a short clip of the rain in Belém…while the sun is shining.

Tacacá soup – Specialty of Belém

Tacacá may sound funny to the foreign ear but it’s serious business in Northern Brazil, particularly the states of Amazonas and Pará, where it is well loved and widely consumed. It is made with jambú (a native variety of paracress, a flowering herb with slight anesthetic properties), and tucupi (a light yellow broth made with wild cassava), as well as dry shrimps and small yellow peppers. It must be served extremely hot in a cuia (gourd). The dish is said to derive from an local indigenous soup called mani poi.

Traditionally, one doesn’t use any type of utensil to take out the shrimp or jambu, aside from one’s own fingers; but in the interests of being practical, it’s not uncommon to see a small wooden spoon being used.

The Paraense (person from Pará) journalist Raymundo Mário Sobral states, “It is in the tacacá that one recognizes the Paraense. The legitimate way would be to never commit sacrilege by consuming tacacá while using even a toothpick.”

Given that the dish is served quite hot, it became custom around the 1990’s to use a small basket at the base of the gourd, so as not to burn one’s hands.

It is also custom to consume tacacá in the afternoons, purchasing it on a public street at certain points throughout the city of Belém from vendors called tacacazeiras. Serving the delicacy as a main dish, however, is not common.

Ilha de Algodoal – Pará

“Its name is Maindeua Island, but everyone knows it as Algodoal Island. Maindeua has its origin from Tupi which means “Mother of Earth”. The island is also called Algodoal due to the abundance of a native plant called algodão de seda (cotton silk) still found in the region. The fishermen who arrived there in the 20’s were the first to nickname it Algodoal.

Algodoal is also the name of the biggest of all four villages existing in the island. The three other ones are Fortalezinha, Camboinha and Mocooca. Because it’s the biggest, the Island of Algodoal is the main village, the one with the best accommodations and infrastructure for tourists and consequently the one which receives more visitors and tourists. These four villages are separated by portions of marshy ground sectioned in some points by tide grooves.

The island’s 19km² is characterised by the tranquility and its marvelous scenery which attracts tourists from all over the world which are never disillusioned with its beautiful nature. The island’s community is formed by simple and receptive people which live mostly from fishing, subexisting agriculture and lately from tourism. Eletric energy was just introduced to the island in January 2005 and water supply is made through artesian wells which provide exellent quality water.

The existing means of transportation are bicycle, boat (motor or rowing boat) and horse and buggy. No motorised vehicle is allowed in the island.”

Excerpt taken from although I altered the translation to make more sense.

Praia da Princesa (above) – Furo Velho (below)

Here’s a presentation done by a Brazilian television show, in parts, however it seems not all of the show was recorded.

Part 2, Part 3…not available)