Roosters in Recife Sing Frevo

The largest Carnival bloco in the world is said to be in Recife and you can find it on Saturday during the week of Carnival in the central neighborhood of São José. It goes by the name of the Galo da Madrugada (The Early Morning Rooster) and it’s pretty hard to miss, just find the giant shiny rooster towering above thousands of people. If you’re more of an observer, perhaps you can find a seafaring local to let you board their boat to watch from the sidelines on the Capibaribe River. However, it’s wise to be aware of what you’ll be missing out on.

The passo is the dance of the frevo, an accelerated polka-like dance best associated with Recife’s Carnival. While there’s no fighting involved in the modern-day frevo-de-rua, its origins point back to the time when knife-carrying capoeiristas traded fighting for dancing and knives for umbrellas. The frevo then spent an entire century marinating under the Pernambucan sun and eventually amalgamating with other styles such as the maxixe, the marcha and elements of capoeira.

If you find luck on your side and end up in Recife during Carnival this year, welcome the weekend with a different kind of rooster and let the frevo give you fervor…which should be easy enough since the two words are related.

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”.

Landless Liberation Movement Leader’s House

No way to know if this figure is right, but the blog that linked to where I found this picture (in PT), said Bruno Maranhão makes R$6,000/month. The house is apparently in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Recife, called Casa Forte. While being ironic, some commentators have said it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong as long as he fights for people who don’t have a home although I’ll leave it there since I’m not too knowledgable on the MST (Landless Movement).

Oficina Brennand – Recife

I was looking at a tourism magazine from Recife called Recife Te Quer, from January of 2008 that a good friend sent me via mail a few years back and I found a really cool building with suggestive sculptures called Oficina Brennand. What follows is a bit on the location and the Pernambucan artist behind it, which I borrowed and translated from the official site. First, a few words on the artist Francisco Brennard, by acclaimed novelist Jorge Amado.

“Today he is unique – him and only him – a Brazilian artist with an assured place in the club of the principal (artists) of contemporary art. Of such importance, that alone he proclaims the universality of Brazilian art.”

Oficina Brennand

The Oficina Brennand came about in 1971 in the ruins of the ceramic factory dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, as a materialization of recalcitrant project of the artist Francisco Brennard. An old brick and roofing factory inherited by his father, installed on a piece of property called Santos Cosme and Damião, it lies in the historic neighborhood of Várzea, surrounded by what remains of the Atlantic Forest and on the waters of the Capibaribe river. The ceramics of São João (the former sugar plantation where the current property lies) became the inspiring source and depository of the story of the Pernambucan artist.

A unique place in the world, the Oficina Brennand can be found in a monumental architectural conjunct of originality, in a constant process of mutation, where the works associate themselves with the architecture to give form to subterranean, dark, sexual, religious, wild and abyssal universe.

The presence of the artist in his continuous work of creation gives the Oficina a daring character, identifying it as an intrinsically alive institution and with a dynamic that leaves the future of the project a mystery, even to the one who is creating it.

Visitation hours are from 8AM to 5PM, from Monday to Thursday and 8AM to 4PM on Friday. The admission fee is R$4.

Eletrodoméstica – Short Film

An inventive portrait of middle class life in Recife, Brazil in the 90s, set at 220 volts. Eletrodoméstica is a short-film by Kleber Mendonça from 2005 which won several int’l awards.

Best Short Film, Huesca Festival, Spain
Jury Special Award, Hamburg Festival, Germany
Best Short Film Critics Award, Recife Film Festival Cine PE, Brazil.

Cordel makes a comeback

The other day, I saw a good post on The Good Blood about Cordel Literature and today when I was browsing the online version of the Brazilian magazine Bravo, I came across a section called “Our Bet” (in PT) in which they bet on who or what will be successful in the near future. For April of 2009, they put their bet on William Paiva, a Recifense (from Recife) who is an animator that has used cordel in his work.

His first full animation (below, in PT) has won awards all over Brazil and is titled “O Jumento Santo e a cidade que se acabou antes de começar” (The Donkey Saint and the city that ended before it began). It’s basically a Brazilian version of the creation story, but here’s a short description from Bravo.

“O (jumento) santo nasce (de uma vaca maculada pelo anjo Gabriel) como uma solução para contornar a desobediência de homem e mulher, que comeram do fruto proibido (o caju) e transformaram o mundo em uma grande bagunça, para alegria de um demônio (lagartixa) e rebuliço entre anjos (de asas borboleteantes).”

“The (donkey) saint is born (from a spotted cow from the angel Gabriel) as a solution to bypass the disobedience of man and woman, who ate the forbidden fruit (the cashew fruit) and transformed the world into a big mess, all to the pleasure of the demon (lizard) and to the uproar of the angels (with butterfly wings).”

Quinteto Armorial – Great instrumentals

My friend from Rio sent me a clip of a Brazilian band I had never heard of (something that is hard to do, as I listen to *a lot* of music), and I’m ever so thankful she did!

Quinteto Armorial was an important group from Recife which formed in 1970. They played what can be called Brazilian instrumental music and during their 10 year career, recorded four LPs. The group was brought together by writer Ariano Suassuna in order to have a band that would play erudite chamber music with popular roots and that is exactly what they did when they fused traditional music from the Northeast with classical. The result is fantastic.

Chamada e Marcha Caminheira

The lure of Recife

Picture 1

“RECIFE, BRAZIL — Luca Sinesi, 36, came here for the first time in 2003, with no idea that this beach-fringed port city would become his permanent home.

“I left the city in 2005, but I missed it so much I was back within six months,” said Mr. Sinesi, an Italian who is now Brazil field director for the British charity International Service. “Recife has a way of life which sets it apart from cities in the south of Brazil.

“Neighbors know each other, help each other, and share living spaces,” he said. “It is common to see people playing music or singing together on a street corner or in a bar, or playing football long into the night in the local square.”

The city, the second-largest urban center in northeastern Brazil, after Salvador, has just over 1.5 million residents. About 2 million more call its sprawling suburbs home.” – NYT (more here)

Cities with the most single women

I was at the bar with some of my male Brazilian friends last night when the subject arose briefly of which Brazilian city holds the title of the place with the most single women. Fast forward one day and I may have the answer. As with most studies, interest levitates towards the most recent research and it seems much of the information found below comes from the census of the year 2000 done by FVG (Getulio Vargas Foundation).

Breaking it all down

“According to the cities researched, the ranking of singles can be organized geographically in the following way: in first place, Salvador (with 45% of the population over 18 years old, 53% of which are women compared to 47% men), next up is Brasilia (41% over 18, of which 51% are men and 49% are women), Belo Horizonte (40% over 18, with 52% men and 48% women), Fortaleza (38% over 18, with 51% women and 49% men), Recife (36%), Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (both at 33%), and closing out the list, tied with 30%, the Southern region of the country, with Curitiba and Porto Alegre.

From what I gather, in laymens terms, that means of all women in Salvador (for example), 53% of them are single. I am not sure why the latter cities did not include percentages of men versus women, as the other cities did. Additionally, I am not certain as to why Recife gets a low percentage here and yet a high number later on (see where it says ’12 women to every man’).

As far as gender, the Brazilian reality is pretty democratic: 48% of the women are single, while the male counterpart is around 52%. In terms of age, singleness is higher among the younger segments of the population: 44% between ages 18 and 24 years old, 30% between ages 25 and 34 years old, 14% between ages 35 and 44 years old, 7% between ages 45 and 54 years old and 5% over the age of 54 years old. The division based on economic class shows a predominance within the middle segments of society. Singles encompass 10% of the upper-class, 33% of the middle class, 44% of the lower class and 13% of…the D class. 

The classes were divided into A, B, C and D without explaining any details of where the cut-off lies. I can only assume class D refers to the destitute and/or homeless, although how they could be counted doesn’t quite ‘add up’ in my mind. (See comments for more on the breakdown) 

The study also researched the leisure habits of single consumers.  The preferred habits of these men and women are as follows: listen to music (89%), watch films on DVD (70%), spend time in shopping centers (54%), take a walk (50%), go to the beach (48%), cook for friends (45%), go to shows (40%), have a barbeque (34%), dine out (33%), frequent nightclubs (31%), go on a bicycle ride (29%), travel on the weekend and frequent (sports)clubs (20%), watch soccer matches in a stadium (17%), go to the gym (14%), go to expositions in museums (11%), fish or go to concerts (9%), practice radical sports (5%) and surf (5%).” – Source (in PT)

Here it is, the breakdown of where they go and yes thats right, where to find them. The difference between “going to shows” and “going to concerts” was not expressed in the study.

Looking for a girlfriend?

“Searching for a girlfriend? According to the study, your chances are higher in Recife (PE), where there are 12 women for each man. And that female friend of yours thats always complaining of a lack of suitors? Suggest that she takes a look in Novo Progresso (PA) or in Álvaro de Carvalho (SP) – which are at the top of the ranking for the highest proportion of men versus women and also the highest level of single men in Brazil.” – Source (in PT)

Solitary in Bahia


The study by FGV listed the Brazilian municipalities with the highest concentration of single women. Of the top 10 ranking cities, eight are located in Bahia. In the capital, Salvador, 51% of the adult female population is unaccompanied. The academics suggest two motives for explaining the phenomenon.  The first is that, while in Brazil the option to be solitary is a phenomenon which is concentrated within the higher classes. In Bahia, cultural aspects among the upper-class make possible the lack of necesity for a traditional ‘bread-winner’. Due to matriarquial tradition within the state, especially influenced by candomblé, women frequently compose domiciles run by the women themselves. “It’s common to find various generations of women within one family living under the same roof”, stated the sociologist Maria Gabriela Ita, from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. “The local culture serves as a means to foster survival without the need for a partner to sustain the household and thus guarantees them the option to remain single”, she says. Migration is another factor that contributed to the high level of single females in Bahia. Among the eight municipalities in the state with the highest numbers of single women, seven are in the interior. They are poor cities, which present an elevated index of populational evasion, notably of the male kind. Traditionally, the men leave their native cities in search of better work opportunities. In the ranking of the ten Brazilian cities with the least concentration of single women, seven are situated in the state of Mato Grosso. There, the opposite phenomenom has occured: the cities of Mato Grosso, through sustaining a prosperous argricultural industry where the principal economic activity is soy, they become poles of attraction for migrants. More work, more men. And, of course, less single women.” – Source (in PT)
Perhaps the research here was done at either an earlier or later time than the other previous sections of this article (as Salvador gets a 51% here while towards the beginning of the article, it gets a 53%).