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”.

‘Visit Lisbon’ Tries to Shed Stereotype

“Brazilian tourists are visiting Lisbon more and more and for an average of three nights, spending 969 euros (R$2,200), according to Turismo de Lisboa (aka Visit Lisbon), an entity that will be honored on Tuesday in São Paulo. The communications project “Lisboa Convida”, developed last year by Turismo de Lisboa in Brazil, won in the International Public Relations category in the 30th edition of Brazilian public relations contest (with a name that’s too long to reproduce).

The idea is to stop Lisbon’s image from being “a bit provincial” and full of connotations of the past like  “Manuel, the baker and people with mustaches”, says Lusa Paula Oliveira from Turismo de Lisboa. “We’re a city with a strong image, we speak the same language and we’re a formidable entryway into Europe”, she continued to say. The budget for Lisboa Convida in Brazil is close to half a million euro, with the Brazilian market being “extraordinarily important for Lisbon”.

Brazilians are spending around a thousand euro while other foreign tourists to Lisbon spend about 700 euro. Last year, Turismo de Lisboa did roadshows to several Brazilian cities with some local personalities, travel agents, unique brochures geared towards Brazilians, news clippings, events and invites for Brazilian journalists to visit Lisbon.

The end of a novela from TV Globo recorded in Lisbon’s Parque das Nações created a boom in interest and was of great help in presenting the Portuguese capital’s modern side. ” – i Online (in PT)

My Take

We should all visit Lisbon. I would…but I’m just missing the 969 euro. Perhaps they shouldn’t have included that last part. In an article from the Portuguese paper Diário de Notícias, it says Globo stereotyped Portuguese people in the Brazilian novela Negócios da China and that they didn’t even film in the nice and neat Parque das Nações (photo).

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Extending your Tourist Visa

As I get closer and closer to the day when I’ll need to extend my tourist visa (while working on a more permanent means to stay in Brazil), I started reading up on the exact steps needed to stay for an additional 90 days after my initial 90 days are up. The steps you need to take, should you find yourself in my shoes, are listed below.

“Any foreigner entering Brazil must have a passport (valid for at least six months after the date of arrival) and depending on their nationality, a visa. A tourist visa is issued on arrival for some nationalities or obtained from the appropriate Brazilian Embassy or Consulate in their place of residence prior to travelling to Brazil.

Tourist visas are usually valid for 90 days. Visitors can extend their visa by 90 additional days once in any 12-month period at a Federal Police (Polícia Federal) office. It is an offence to stay in Brazil beyond the duration of the visa; individuals who do so will be fined based on the number of days they overstay up to a maximum fine limit. Individuals on 90-day visas may seek a special extension if they require urgent medical attention or if they are involved in certain legal issues, such as being required to testify in court as a witness.

How to Extend a Tourist Visa

The Federal Police (Polícia Federal) is responsible for extending tourist visas.

  • To find a local Federal Police office: Click here

The person will need to fill in a form called a Guia de Recolhimento da União, which contains drop down boxes to choose the appropriate Federal Police office, the service required, full name of parents and address.

The form has a bar code on it that is scanned when payment is made, the Police then stamp the form as proof of payment.

There are no Internet facilities available within the Federal Police offices. However, it is usually easy to find a despachante (administrative facilitator) office nearby providing services for printing off and filling in the form for a small fee.

Applicants should take the stamped Guia de Recolhimento da União form and the following documents to the Federal Police office:

  • A valid credit card (to demonstrate means of financial support)
  • Passport
  • Embarkation/disembarkation card
  • Airline ticket

The applicant will also need to submit themselves to fingerprinting and pay a fee at a branch of Banco do Brasil (Federal Police offices have a branch of Banco do Brasil in the same building).

Officials will take the documents, the application and the receipt proving that the fees have been paid and the applicant will be told to wait. Within a short while, the applicant’s name will be called and their passport will be returned containing a new extended visa stamp and a new date of expiration.

A tourist visa extension can only be made once on any trip to Brazil.”


The Consumer’s Belém – Shop ’til you drop

If in Belém and in need of a cool place to escape the tropical heat (or the 2PM rain), you have a few options to choose from.

Shopping Pátio Belém

There’s the newly-named Shopping Pátio Belém (formally known during 16 years as the Shopping Iguatemi). Located in the Batista Campos neighborhood of the city, it is pretty centrally located and contains the niceties of most modern malls. Once there, you will find 222 shops and one megastore, a food court and 5 cinematic screens playing new releases, and a 5-story parking garage. Their address on a map is here.

Boulevard Shopping Belém

Yet to be completed, the Boulevard Shopping Belém has a completion date of November, 2009. Located a little bit North of central Belém in the Reduto district, it is only 2.4 miles from its competition. The mall will include 250 shops and 4 megastores, a food court, cinemas and a parking garage on par with the Shopping Pátio Belém. Their address on a map is here.

Castanheira Shopping Center

The first mall in the capital of Pará was the Castanheira Shopping Center located in the Castanheira district along the BR 316 (main highway into and out of Belém) on the outskirts of town. It has 153 stores, a food court and 7 cinemas, as well as ample parking. Their address on a map is here.

Now, if you are searching for a shopping district and not a shopping mall, try the Comércio neighborhood nestled in between Cidade Velha and Campina. For handmade crafts, I suggest visiting Ver-0-peso market.

Tourism in Belém is evaluated

I’ve spent quite a bit of time covering places to go, things to do and what to eat without covering any local news. I’ve recently come across several news sites and thus will start to translate local stories here and there.

That being said, I would like to do a piece in the future, on the real state of tourism to Belém, including figures and facts on budgets, plans and numbers of tourists.

“Representatives of FGV (Getúlio Vargas Foundation) are in Belém this week to evaluate the political progress of the development of tourism in the capital.

The visit, that finishes up on the 17th of July, is part of a project by the Ministry of Tourism which selected the 65 main destinations for regional development in Brazil, including Belém. In a 2008 study by FGV, Belém showed to be a great potential within the industry.

This Monday (the 13th), the municipal coordinator of Tourism in Belém, Wady Khayat, was reunited at the headquarters of the Municipal Secretary of Sanitation with a representative from the FGV, to speak about the visit to the city and to the municipal institutions in the following days. Those from the office of the Secretary of Health (Sesma), Sanitation (Sesan), Education (Semec), Finance (Sefin), Eco-museum of the Amazon, CTBel (Transport Company of Belém) and Codem (The Metropolitan Area of Belém Development Company), and other agencies for the districts of Mosqueiro and Outeiro, were also at the meeting. Paratur (Tourism Company of Pará) was also invited to participate in the meeting.

In accordance with Belemtur’s Wady Khayat, the evaluation will look at the actions of the municipality of Belém in relation to tourism, in the areas of health, sanitation and infra-structure. ‘Don’t think of it as a competition between Belém and other cities. What will be seen, is what the municipality did to better receive the tourists. In a way, we are backing them in the search for resources and in the fight for definitions from public politicians within the Ministry of Tourism to prioritize our region. In April, we will receive the authorization to elaborate on our own projections with  Prodetur (Program of Development of Tourism), with tourism projects that have a budget of around US$ 50 million (almost 100 million reals)’, he explained.

The coordinator of Belemtur said that at least US$ 6.6 million, almost 13 million reals, are guaranteed for the allocation destined to the state of Pará for the Prodetur/PDITS. With these resources, the revitalization will be completed on the Steel Market, the Solar da Beira (a building near Ver-o-peso market) and the Municipal Market of São Brás.” – Source (translated from PT)

The Pantanal Express returns after 18 years

Picture 1

“CAMPO GRANDE – After 18 years without service, the Pantanal Train which passes through the municipalities of Piraputanga, Taunay, Miranda, Aquidauna and Indubrasil, with five station stops, will take tourists throughout the region. The idea is to make Mato Grosso do Sul well-known worldwide as an ecotourism location.

One wagon will cater to the economic class, whose ticket to Miranda will cost R$39. The other two wagons will be for tourists (R$77). The executive wagons (with private cabins) will cost R$126, and can count on on-board service. Initially, 282 seats will be available, which may be expanded to 412 seats in accordance with an increase in ticket sales.

The trip between Campo Grande and Miranda should last around 7 hours, with a stop for lunch at the Aquidauana station. While at the Palmeiras station, the train will stop for 10 minutes for some cultural presentations. Every Saturday, at 730AM, the trip will leave from Campo Grande. On Sundays, at 830AM, the train will embark back to the capital (Cpo. Grande).

– The train will be like a brand name which will make the state of Mato Grosso do Sul even more famous as the State of the Pantanal. It is one of the attractions being born with the mission to make us well-known – said the Governor André Puccinelli, side by side with the representatives from América Latina Logística and Serra Verde Express, both responsible for the project.

The train will make its first voyage on Friday, with the presence of President Lula.” – Source (in PT)

Elevador Lacerda – Salvador da Bahia

The Lacerda Elevator is located in the city of Salvador, Bahia. One of the principal touristic points and postal cards of the city, it’s situated in the Cayru Plaza in the neighborhood of Comércio next to the Modelo Market, and connects the Cidade Baixa (Lower City) with the Cidade Alta (Upper City).

The most famous elevator of Bahia transports some 900 thousand passengers per month or around 28 thousand passengers per day at the cost of five centavos per passenger and a duration of 30 seconds.


(circa 1920)

The famous elevator was constructed by the engineer Agusto Frederico de Lacerda, his brother’s associate, businessman Antônio Francisco de Lacerda, creator of the Company of Urban Transport, using pieces of steel imported from England. The work was initiated in 1869 and with two working hydraulic elevators and in 1873, the inauguration occurred at which point it was named the Hydraulic Elevator of Conceição da Praia. Popularly though, it was known as the Elevador do Parafuso (or Elevator of the Screw), and later in 1896, it was renamed as the Elevator Lacerda to honor its maker.

After its inauguration, it started to become the principal means of transport between the two parts of the city. Initially operating with two cabins which nowadays function as four modern electricity-driven cabins that can transport 20 passengers each.

With the original structure, the passengers had to be weighed individually as the weight of all the combined passengers was calculated until the maximum limit was reached. The Baron of Jeremoabo (Cícero Dantas) registered the weight of himself and of other authorities:

“On the 16th day of March of 1889, we weighed ourselves in the elevator, giving the following result: Pinho – 54 kilos, or 3 arrobas and 98 pounds; Cícero – 61 kilos, or 4 arrobas and 2 pounds; Guimarães – 65 kilos or 4 arrobas and 10 pounds; Artur Rios – 73 kilos or 4 arrobas and 26 pounds; and Vaz Ferreira – 115 kilos, or 7 arrobas and 20 pounds.”

For a mini-documentary (PT) on the Lacerda Group and how they helped transform the city of Salvador, go here.

Recife Guide – New link!

Paul, an Englishman who has a thing for Brazil (sounds like someone I know), has created an online guide to Recife. More specifically, as the name of the title here suggests, he loves the Pernambucan Capital and had been visiting on and off for 12 years before taking the plunge and moving there, which he did 4 years back. 

The site, although new, looks promising and I trust the resolve of the owner to make it into a great guide (which includes tours and services). Here’s the link!

Recife Guide!