Coffee, Clube do Futebol, Capital City
It’s really quite simple. Santos is a Brazilian port with three clear reasons for being. The three C’s of coffee, clube do futebol, and the capital city of Sao Paolo. For the record, the port of Santos is in a popular stretch of the country known as Litoral Norte, or as we would say, the North Coast. Along this string of towns and cities, jungles and beaches is a range of attractions and distractions, everything from boutiques to broad sweeps of isolated waterfront with no one in sight. That’s amazing with the megalopolis of Sao Paolo only 40 miles inland. It does seem virtually all 18,850,003 of her citizens (called Paulistanos) find their way here on busy weekends and during the holiday season. They’re more than happy to seek out their place in the sun.
Java. Joe. Jumbo double skinny leaded Frappuccino to go. Whatever you call coffee, you must admit the world is addicted to this global beverage to a degree you can’t get away from even if you tried. And, who’d want to try? So, it’s important to note that Brazil claims it’s the world’s largest producer of this to-die-for-pick-me-up and has been, according to experts on the topic, for more than one and a half centuries. One out of every three cups poured daily around the world can trace its roots, so to speak, back to Brazil. Some believe the story of the bean began in French Guiana when a rather attractive Brazilian officer was sent to abscond with some coffee seeds like a thief in the night. Instead, it’s said, he needed only to flex his pecs to raise the heart rate of the nation’s First Lady who returned his flirtatious advances by honoring him with a floral bouquet that just happened to have coffee seedlings tucked inside. True or not, it’s a great story.
A sadder tale is also told about the millions of African slaves who were shipped to Brazil to toil away in the tropical sun on vast coffee plantations. Their fates were sealed until the dark days of slavery were ended in Brazil. European migrant workers were the next to make up the labor pool for the coffee industry.
Over the years, coffee growers learned too well the boom-and-bust cycle of international markets. Affected by the Great Depression, when Brazil cornered 80% of the world’s coffee market, growers suffered terribly. The millions of dollars that had been flowing into the country dropped and the burgeoning infrastructure funded by tax revenue suffered.
Also, in some areas, the soils played out. Meanwhile, other countries were chipping away at Brazil’s hold on the coffee market by increasing their share. But, even today, the term coffee is somewhat synonymous with Brazil. More than 3 million workers are directly involved in the cultivation. And, for those of you with a nose for nuance, approximately 3/4ths of the production is of the Arabica bean. Join locals in a cup of joe who often drink theirs really sweet, or adocante. Order a small coffee, a cafezinho, and you can lace it with a touch of milk as you wish. All you have to do is ask for it from a caffeinista.
And Speaking of Enjoyment
Football. Brazilians are nuts, wacko, wild about football, what many of us call soccer. So you can forgive them for bestowing on Pele a god-like status worthy of wild adulation and admiration. Probably most Brazilians can even recite his real name – Edson Arantes do Nascimento. They’ll tell you that, for those with an opinion, Pele is believed to be the finest soccer (oops football) player ever to don a pair of cleats or “boots.” Born into a family of modest means, Pele spent his non-soccer time shining shoes. The legend goes on to recount how he was a mere lad of 16 when he scored his first official team goal. Ultimately, he garnered the holy grail of football, the World Cup, and not once but ultimately four times. At 17, he stunned the world by scoring 2 goals in the final game against Sweden. Great, for sure, but locals will quickly add that Pele joined the Santos Football Club in 1956 and ultimately won two World Championships. He was named “Sportsman of the Century” in 2000. And few disagree with this decision especially Nigerians who, while battling each other in a nasty civil war in 1967, called a 2-day ceasefire to watch a static-y broadcast of Pele playing.
What to Do? What to Do?
If you like art and history and culture and politics, a trip to Sao Paulo is a must. But, then again, you could probably spend at least one week here and not even scratch the surface of offerings. The city is massive, vast, huge, stretching from horizon to horizon. A sampling overview will only make you want to return for more.
Soccer, excuse me, football buffs will want to find a well-stocked store offering an array of shirts, wristbands, headbands, water bottles, posters, and assorted logo wear to impress friends back home.