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Articles Blog

Filtering by Category: South America

Santos, Brazil

Karyn Planett

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. 

Sunkissed Coffee 

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.     

Santa Marta, Colombia

Karyn Planett

Shrine to Simon Bolivar 

A whole host of cities are famous and immediately recognizable as the birthplace of something or someone. For example, there are important historical figures like Benjamin Franklin born in Boston, Massachusetts. The Beatles were all born in Liverpool. You might even recall that Porbandar, India is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. 

Basketball was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. New Orleans is “The Birthplace of Jazz”; Rigby, Ohio, the birthplace of television. Levi’s 501 jeans were definitely born in San Francisco, California.  

Occasionally a major event then carries the host city’s name like the Yalta Conference. And we all remember that Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. 

But, who among us can name the place where the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar, died? Well, if you took as a hint the fact you’ll soon visit Santa Marta, Colombia you’d be a right proper sleuth.

Though born in Caracas, New Granada (currently Venezuela) in 1783 Simón José Antonio de la Santísma Trinidad Bolívar Y Palacios, (Simon Bolivar for short) did pass away in Santa Marta’s La Quinta de San Alejandrino on December 17th, 1830. And even though this sad event occurred nearly two centuries ago, Simon Bolivar lives large in the hearts and minds of South America’s citizens to this day. You’ll hear more as you explore Santa Marta. 

El Libertador 

In his youth, Bolivar was tutored in New Granada. He then undertook his higher education in Spain before returning back to Venezuela. It was about that time he formalized his dream for a united South America, unburdened by the yoke of colonial power. His mission was to create something similar to the United States of America. 

But, as Bolivar’s dream was beginning to take shape, Napoleon announced the appointment of none other than Joseph Bonaparte as the King of Spain as well as of its colonies. This action provided the fuel that fired up Bolivar’s passion to resist foreign control, a flame he then fanned across the continent.

In 1828, Bolivar declared himself dictator through something called the “Organic Decree of Dictatorship”. Though quite successful in advancing his roadmap toward liberation, the title of dictator enraged some of his critics. There was even an assassination attempt. As a result of this discontent, Bolivar abandoned the title and prepared to leave South America to seek exile in the Caribbean or Europe. While doing so, he fell fatally ill. 

Even though the great “Libertador” succeeded in his mission to liberate many South American homelands, he lost his fight against tuberculosis. On December 17, 1830 he passed away at the young age of 47.

Despite the fact his life was shortened, Bolivar’s legacy has lived on for nearly 200 years. And the site of his last moments on this earth, the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, has been declared a “sanctuary of the fatherland” that now houses the Museo Bolivariano. This manicured quinta, or estate, dates back to 1608 when it was founded by Don Francisco de Godoy. 

Beyond Bolivar 

Well, there’s more to Santa Marta than this story. There are the highlights of the town itself. It is the capital of the Department of Magdalena and was founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas, a Spanish conquistador, on July 29, 1525. One of the oldest cities in South America, Santa Marta is an architectural marvel and worthy of a leisurely stroll. 

You should start in the Bolivar Plaza with its Spanish colonial architecture and signature 17th century whitewashed cathedral. Some say Simon Bolivar’s heart is buried within the cathedral walls.

There’s also the former Customs House, from the 16th century, today the Gold Museum with important exhibits of pre-Colombian pottery and gold metalwork from the indigenous Tayrona people.

A meander through the Historic District let’s you peek into the past or sip a cup of world-famous Colombian coffee in a tiny cafe. Maybe sample regional cuisine influenced by African, Spanish, Asian and Arabic tastes using fresh seafood like lobster, goat, chicken, and pork. A real treat is an aborrajado, a delicious cheesy fried sweet plantain. Sugarcane juice is a take-away favorite. 

Just as you’re ready to set sail, locals will be enjoying a stroll along the Bastidas Promenade. Others will be settling in for an evening of music and merriment at the tony beach resort, just a bit out of town, known as El Rodadero. Draped along the Bay of Gaira, it’s got a spot-on view of the setting sun. They might order a tropical smoothie blended from local fruits like cassava, papaya, or dragon fruit. Or they could be discussing some of the claims made by fellow Colombians--that the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta foothills form the world’s highest coastal mountain or that Santa Marta is the “deepest port in the Americas”, or that Santa Marta is, in fact, the oldest city in South America. 

Superlatives aside, this is a pretty spectacular backdrop for a day in the Colombian Caribbean in what’s touted to be “The Pearl” America. 

Salaverry, Peru

Karyn Planett

Portal to the Past 

Plan this day well for there is much to see. And, as we often discover in cities around the world, points of interest are not usually within site of the ship. So get organized, get your stuff, and get going. 

Twin Cities       

Basically, Salaverry is the entrance to Trujillo, known as the “City of Eternal Spring”. It stretches along the valleys of Moche, Virú, Chicama and Chao in a dry, bone-dry patch of landscape preserved by parched winds blowing for much of the year. The “eternal” springtime here, and this should come as no surprise, is warmer than it is in Cleveland so be happy you’re here. 

Happy, too, were the Pre-Incan people who settled here and erected impressive temples, called huacas. Experts estimate that there are approximately 2,000 archaeological sites in the area, enough to make archaeologists leave home and spend years here digging about. 

The Pre-Incan Chimú Nation established their capital, called Chan Chan, here in 1300 A.D., give or take. Almost 11 square miles, it’s considered the most massive Pre-Columbian city in the Americas and for this it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, again due to lack of rain in the region, it’s also the biggest of the world’s mud cities and once home to 60,000 people, maybe as many as 100,000. Perhaps it was the priceless trove of silver and gold held by the Chimú that attracted the Incas who overran the city and conquered her people. Later the Spaniards arrived, that story follows, and within a relatively short period of time much of this treasure was gone. 

Back To The Huacas 

Our attention now turns to the Mochica civilization that pre-dates the Chimú by some seven centuries. Their legacy lives on in the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, two impressive pyramids. Experts estimate there are 50 million adobe bricks in the Temple of the Moon alone. The Temple of the Sun is comparable in size to the more famous pyramids in Saqqara, Egypt. Perhaps 140 million bricks were used in its construction. It experienced a dark chapter in 1602 when looters directed a waterway to flow through the pyramid, cutting it into two sections thus destroying important details. 

The Spanish Arrived 

On December 6th, 1534 the Spanish Conquistador Diego de Almagro rode across these dusty plains to establish their first settlement in the region. He named it “Trujillo” in honor of Francisco Pizarro’s home city. The Spanish left behind an opulent, colonial, walled city rich with decorated balconies, shaded plazas and elegant manor homes. They also celebrated their faith by erecting churches and cathedrals, converting locals and saving souls. Their fortunes came from rice, sugar cane, and row crops like asparagus that’s cultivated and exported worldwide to this day. 

More of the story of the Spanish period unfolds in Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas with its impressive monument honoring heroes of the Independence War. 

When Is A Horse Not A Horse? 

When it’s a boat. True. In the fishing village of Huanchaco, approximately 10 miles from Trujillo, there’s something called “small reed horse boats.”  These curious vessels are called “caballitos de totora”, which means … “little horse of the totora reed”. Fishermen straddle these slender crafts much as a rider would a horse. Today, visitors have the opportunity to watch others try their luck and perhaps even surf a wave or two. 

One need not have as much balance to ride a Peruvian Paso horse, not to be confused with the Paso Fino, because his stride is virtually motionless, without the bouncing normally experienced by other breeds. This is particularly true for the novice rider. Many equestrians declare these horses to be the world’s smoothest-gaited horse. That’s all you need to know unless you’re curious as to why riding this horse is as gentle as sitting on a satin pillow. Well, it’s because of his unique and natural gait, a rhythmic 4-beat pattern of right hind foot, then right front foot, then left hind foot, then left front foot. (Please do not attempt this at home.) It’s called a “footfall” and estancia patrons can determine a young colt’s value simply by the sound of its footfall, without even looking, as a groom leads the animal along a wooden boardwalk. In addition, these animals exhibit an unusual stride where the forelegs paddle outward as the horse moves. 

The history of these extraordinary animals is fascinating. Before the 17th century, virtually all European horses moved in this way naturally, which was terrific because people traveled by horse. Then, the “boneshakers” grew in popularity for they were better suited to pull carts and wagons and work cattle. Meanwhile, the Peruvians coveted their gaited horses that were introduced by the Spaniards. Peru’s geographical separation from Europe fostered a successful purebred breeding program whereby now all colts are born here with this gait naturally.

This is a fascinating destination, you’ll discover, so you best get going. 

Cape Horn

Karyn Planett

You’ve sailed a long way, lad. What lies before you now, hovering on the horizon in a rolling grey mist, is one of this great earth’s most iconic landmarks. Cape Horn, it is, and it heralds the furthest southern point in the whole of South America*. A rugged strip of scrabblerock headland lashed by jackhammer waves and stinging winds, it stands as a beacon to those who’ve journeyed far, from sea to sea, to make this epic rounding. And by making this rounding of the fierce Tierra del Fuego archipelago you stand among the storied few who’ve dared chart such a course. You’ve added another patch to your maritime uniform, the one that sports the badges of distant lands. Let it be known now, lad, that you’ve well and truly sailed to the ends of the earth.             

Those Who Came Before Us       

Of course, indigenous Fuegians inhabited this part of the world for a long, long time. But, as far as sightings by Europeans, it was first spotted, possibly, in 1525 by Francisco de Hoces whose ship San Lesmes was in the area because it had been blown wildly off course. Some 53 years later, Sir Francis Drake did successfully sail through the Strait of Magellan from the Atlantic to the Pacific but was then caught in a raging storm that forced his vessel far south. Upon spotting Tierra del Fuego, he believed it to be an island and not another undiscovered continent to the south. Remember, this was all uncharted territory. 

Charles Darwin was here in 1832 aboard The Beagle during his five-year voyage where he gathered data and prepared his thoughts for the Origin Of Species. He penned the following… 

“We closed in with the Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three o’clock doubled the weather beaten Cape Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, and before night sent us a gale of wind fiercely in our teeth. We stood out to seas, and on the second day again made the land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory in its proper form – veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water.”

Pathway to the Pacific       

Man is driven by commerce. Trade dictates the routes. Cape Horn was a necessary obstacle from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th centuries for vessels whose cargo holds were laden with such things as Australian grain and wool. Asian products rounded the Horn, as well. So, too, pioneers seeking passage to the west coast of America, many as prospectors hoping to strike gold in the California hills. 

Though full details are often in dispute, HMS Bounty (of mutiny fame) succeeded in covering only 85 miles over a period of 31 storm-tossed days, before aborting its rounding of the Cape. And those hardships were even before the mutiny of 1759. 

What did signal the end to much of this maritime torture was the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the completion of the railroads that finally connected the east with the west coasts of America. Goods and people were now able to travel between the two without accepting the dangers of rounding the Horn.

Coming Ashore 

This landscape is punctuated by so few manmade objects. Among them though is a small lighthouse, two actually, and a most impressive sculpture. Its paired panels, slightly separated from each other, when viewed at a certain point silhouette the outline of an albatross. This impressive work was created in 1992 by José Balcells, a Chilean, to pay tribute to the many seamen who perished in their attempts to “round the Horn.” 

Some Traditions 

It’s been said that some sailors believe, upon rounding the Horn, they may celebrate this accomplishment by wearing a gold hoop earring in their left ear. Lore goes on to recount that those same sailors are then able to rest one foot upon the table while dining. They are only entitled to rest both feet on the table if they have also successfully rounded the Cape of Good Hope off the southern tip of Africa. 

Tradition aside, it is truly bad form to eat with either foot on the table! The earring is OK. 

Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Cowboy Country

Quick. Name the very first things that come to mind when you think of Brazil. Carnival? The girl from Ipanema? Carmen Miranda? Cowboys? 

What? Cowboys! It may be the Old West in the U.S. but it’s the Old South in Brazil. 

In fact Rio Grande do Sul (sounds Texan already) is the southernmost state in Brazil and, in many ways, more like its neighbors Uruguay and Argentina than Brazil. It boasts Brazil’s highest standard of living, is the center of the country’s wine region, features great Italian restaurants, and claims the world’s longest beach. Called Cassino Beach, it measures something like 130 miles long, give or take a dune or two. How did it get that way? 

Gauchos, Grapes and Gastronomy 

Before Brazil was Brazil, Spain and Portugal vied for dominance in this part of South America. Spanish Jesuits were the first Europeans to arrive. In 1627, they began establishing missions to convert local Guarani Indians to Catholicism, a tale we’ve heard before. The original missions were destroyed by bandeirantes who wanted these indigenous people as slaves and didn’t care whether they were Catholic or not. But the Jesuits bounced back and, within fifty years or so, reestablished the missions. 

By this time merchants, military adventurers, and settlers had begun arriving in the region and the focus was on consolidating territorial claims. 

The Guarani Wars 

In 1680, Portugal founded Colonia do Sacramento across the Rio de la Plata, also known as the Plate River, from modern Buenos Aires. The area around Colonia is in what is today Uruguay. The Portuguese planned to contain the Spanish on the south side of the river. Therefore a search ensued to find a suitable port east of Colonia in order to form a line of defense. This search resulted in the establishment of a fortified village, now the city of Rio Grande, as the companion bulwark to Colonia. The Spanish, of course, weren’t about to take this lying down. However, they were also busy plundering the rest of their possessions so a half-hearted war “raged” for about a century.           

The Cisplatine War 

Meanwhile, the Portuguese were busy populating the region between the two bastions. In 1816, they captured Uruguay and declared it the province Cisplatina, which literally means the province this side of the Rio de la Plata. This then would become part of the Empire of Brazil. But, Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822. Then Uruguay declared its independence from Brazil in 1825, lead by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, and in 1828 succeeded in formally breaking from Brazil. 

From that point on, disputes between the Portuguese and the Spanish morphed from territorial to commercial. 

The Jerky War 

In order to populate the Rio Grande do Sul region, enormous tracts of land were distributed to settlers. In these latifundia, raising cattle became the dominant activity. The Jesuits had brought cattle a century before, but they’d escaped and gone feral when the missions were destroyed. Enterprising settlers, seeing the potential for profit, captured and redomesticated them to create immense herds. Unfortunately the limitations of transportation meant that beef was most efficiently distributed only in a dried form called charqueadas. 

However jerky producers in Argentina and Uruguay were blessed with greener pastures and superior seaports. They soon began producing and distributing a better grade of jerky that became preferred. The gauchos of Rio Grande do Sul asked for trade protection from the central government and, when denied, declared independence from Brazil. That resulted in a ten-year war that ended with the defeat of the rebels but also with the institution of the trade protections originally requested. 

The Port of Rio Grande

Architects of the port city’s original site at the mouth of a river could never have contemplated the growing size of commercial vessels that would call there. So, in 1855, a military engineer was sent to make a plan for increasing the depth of the channel and port area from the current two-meters. He concluded that the task was “unviable”. But in 1875, Sir John Hawkshaw was commissioned to have another go at it. He proposed a pair of two-mile long breakwaters extending out into the sea. His plan was undertaken in 1906 and the resulting Porto Novo, with its ten-meter draft, is where ships enter today. 

The port city still displays touches of Portugal’s colonial past in its architecture and streets. But signs are also visible of the other cultures that have joined the region’s population. People of German, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and African descent have all added to this mélange. 

To celebrate this destination, do as the locals do. Sample a cup of maté (called chimarrão here), the traditional gaucho tea. Also enjoy churrasco, the typical barbecue. And be sure to take home a pair of bombachas, those baggy gaucho trousers. You’ll be pleased at how skillfully they cover a wide variety of personal flaws.

Paraty, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Some say Paraty is a side trip from Rio. A distraction. A “do-it-if-you’ve-already-done-Rio” kinda place. Well, please don’t say that to the locals who firmly believe that their little beauty spot is a destination worthy of a holiday in its own right. And so it is, even though it’s a mere 100 miles from Rio and 125 miles from Sao Paulo. 

A World Heritage Site 

You ask why this tiny beachfront town is worthy of such a lofty title given to them by UNESCO in 1966? It all goes back to the early days when gold was discovered in 1696 in the then world’s richest mines in Minas Gerais. It seemed initially that the production was small enough it could easily be transported to Paraty along a well-worn Guaiana Indian footpath through the nearby Serra do Mar mountain range. The road was called the “Caminho do Ouro” or the “Gold Route” and measured 700 miles. 

Everything changed in the 1800s when gold seemed to flow out of the hills and shipments of this lusted-after treasure filled the creaking holds of countless sailing ships plying the rough seas between Paraty, Rio, and Portugal’s royal coffers. The port of Paraty grew to a population of approximately 16,000 at this time, prospered, and became home to those who profited from this enterprise. 

Businessmen built sizeable mansions, called sobrados, and filled them with the trappings of success. One such home is today the Casa da Cultura on Rua Dona Geralda. Early residents celebrated their faith in churches built for the people, yet in a style in keeping with the modest standards of the community. And they covered the sandy streets with a type of cobblestone referred to as pes-de-moleque, which translates into English as “street kids’ feet.” This rugged underfooting wreaks havoc today on spindly spikey heels, challenging Brazil’s babelicious beauties to flip-flop down the streets instead.  

Boom Then Bust. Sound Familiar? 

In time, the mines played out. The road between Ouro Preto and the port grew quiet. Plus, a new road was carved out of the harsh environment toward a new port – Rio. It had to be because unpleasant pirates and bandits forced shippers to search for a safer alternative to Paraty. So, Rio then enjoyed the spoils. Fewer than 1000 residents remained in Paraty. Desperate entrepreneurs switched their efforts to the cultivation of vast coffee plantations, though their days were numbered as well. Once the country’s leaders ended the evil practice of slavery, the coffee industry failed due to the lack of free labor. All this added up to seal the fate of Paraty, which fell silent, trapped in the dusty cloak of time. 

The jungle reclaimed the footpaths and roads leaving Paraty virtually cut off from the outside world, save for the little boats that came and went as they wished. This lasted till the mid-1900s when engineered and laborers constructed a highway between the capital city of Sao Paulo and the coastal cosmopolitan centerpiece Rio. 

Thankfully, within a decade, Paraty was declared a national monument and the central area was protected from major development. That’s why this town today offers some of the nation’s finest examples of colonial architecture and design. Brazilian and foreign visionaries preserved yet transformed old and abandoned houses into galleries and eateries, inns and boutiques. Two examples of traditional architecture are Sobrado dos Abacaxis and Sobrado do Principe. 

What To Do? What To Do? 

It’s fun to wander about the centro historico, which is the turf of pedestrians rather than cars. You must time your journey with precision as, in some sections of town, the high tide washes in to splash across the roadways then back out to sea leaving behind a clean clean clean street that can also be slippery. 

From the pier area at Rua da Lapa, you’ll be able to get your bearings. First, find Santa Rita Church directly adjacent to the town jail. Called “Capela de Santa Rita”, it was built by “freemen” or former slaves in 1722. 

African slaves built a church for themselves and all members of their community in 1725 called Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosario e Sao Benedito, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict. 

The Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remedios, the First Church of Our Lady of the Remedies, dates back to 1646 though it was expanded to its take on its current design in 1873. Maria Jacome de Melo gifted land to build this church and asked in return that no harm come to the indigenous peoples in the area. 

Remember, there are also some 200 beaches in the nearby seaside and offshore islands that add up to 60 or more. If you can’t find a sun-washed, white-sand, palm-shaded beach to suit your fancy than you may as well pack your bikini and fly home. But before you do, ask one of the locals why their town is spelled “P-a-r-a-t-y” and “P-a-r-a-t-I” and pronounced “Pa-ra-CHEE”. You might have to delay your departure because the conversation could take a while if he begins by saying the name is a Guaianas Indian word in the Tupi language that means “river of fish.” Pull up a chair. 

And consider ordering something concocted with the local sugar-cane spirit known as Cachaca. It’s also called cana, doida, garapa, parati and pinga so don’t worry if you get confused. This alcohol bomb dates back to the mid-1600s and the Portuguese settlers and was once a form of currency in the slave trade.  Brazil produces some 4,000 brands and everyone has their favorite. You might, as well, by day’s end.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Karyn Planett

Maté, Meat and Music 

Uruguayans absolutely love life. They’re festive and fun and filled with a quest to embrace each day with some form of excitement, entertainment or enjoyment. Sports, wine, horses. Fashion, food, nightlife. But, there are three things that are absolutely sacred to the people of Montevideo. To fully slip into the routine of a local’s day, you must learn a bit about their passions. 

A Cup of Tea 

Not really. Not like you think, pinkie in the air, little sandwiches. No. Uruguayans, like many of their neighbors in southern South America enjoy the triple-leaded, high-octane, tiger-in-the-tank type of tea spelled “maté” and pronounced “mah-tay.” Not “mate”, like an Australian friend. 

It can truly knock your socks off because it is really strong. Not only is the tea strong because it’s made from the dried leaves of the yerba maté plant, but they use a lot of it for one single serving. A lot! And the leaves are often pulverized into a dusty powder locals call “yerba.” There’s also a more traditional blend with more roughage, but let’s leave that subject alone. 

Everyone has a very particular way of brewing his or her maté. Like the Brits say, “bring the cup to the kettle not the kettle to the cup”.  Well, the Uruguayans have a ritual that’ll put those Brits to shame. And they don’t use china cups, no no. Their maté is consumed from hollowed-out gourds, as well as wooden and ceramic cups. 

They must also have the proper straw, which is called a bomba or a bombilla. Though there are lesser versions, a traditional bomba is made from silver. It’s more a sieve really in case you don’t twizzle your leaves properly. You want only the tea, not sludge. 

Locals fill their gourds half-full with leaves, partially packed. Cover with their palm, invert, return upright, shake the dusty bits that stick to said palm then wipe on designer jeans. They add a pinch of this or a dash of that for flavor or medicinal purposes, then cool water. One doesn’t want to disturb the nutritional components of the leaves, does one? No. Next, they add hot water… just off the boil. Too much water, wrong. Too little water, strong. Cover. Shake. Tilt. Shake again. Let it settle. 

Of course, all the swirling gloms the yerba leaves to one side so the bomba and the water go into the empty portion. The tea drinker’s thumb must rest atop the straw opening while being inserted into the base of the gourd.

Where’s Starbucks? 

Then and only then is it ready to sip. 

At this point, though, the kids have missed the bus, breakfast is cold, and Mom hasn’t even started putting on her make-up. 

Maté is a social ritual filled with tradition. Buy a beautiful gourd with a decorative silver rim, a silver bomba, some yerba tea, sit with a friendly person on a park bench and have them show you the ropes. It’s so South American.

Where’s The Beef? 

Question -- What country has the highest per capita beef consumption in the world? 

Answer – Uruguay with approximately 130 pounds of beef per person per year. Add to that about 42 pounds of poultry and another 13 pounds of lamb and you’ve got yourself some serious carnivores. 185 pounds total per year means about one-half pound of meat consumed by every single Uruguayan every single day. Well, I guess you can skip the crudités. 

For the record, and I do mean the record, Argentineans used to consume an amount of beef annually that basically was the equivalent of their body weight. To make all this dining possible, there are Uruguayan parrillas that are basically steakhouses where the meat is often carved right at your table off long sabers. Try the vacio, a lean cut. And, when dining off the regular menu in traditional restaurants, expect a steak the size of a bicycle seat. 

Of course, the follow-up question is, “Why do Uruguayans eat so much beef?”. Because the meat in this part of the world is among the finest. In fact, in 2011 Russia imported more than one-third of Uruguay’s output of beef. And, it’s reported that most Uruguayan beef is grass-fed and hormone-free per legal guidelines imposed by the government. 

Give Me The Beat, Boys! 

You’ve sipped and supped. Now it’s time for music. These people love a unique Uruguayan music called Candombe. Its origin was probably with the African slaves who arrived by ship in the 18th Century. It was then religious in nature. 

Drums called tamboriles lay down the beat for today’s Candombe street drummers who march together in a drum corps. Other casual groups form along the ramblas and beachfront to play their drums for hours on end. Shouldn’t be long now till you stumble across some drummers for yourself. And, at Carnival time, the whole thing is spiced up with skimpy costumes, a few feathers and sequins and not a lot more. UNESCO recognizes Candombe as a piece of “intangible cultural heritage”. You’ll recognize it as hot hot hot hot hot.


Manta, Ecuador

Karyn Planett

But let’s not call the whole thing off. After all, we’re on our way to Manta, Ecuador where the contemporary “whole thing” all began. And, remember that the term “contemporary” is relative when you’re discussing something as ancient as, well, dirt. If this seems all a bit too confusing just keep reading. It’ll be clear as mud anytime soon. 

What’s In a Name? 

Everyone knows that the country you’ll soon visit is named for the Equator. In case you’ve forgotten your high school geography, the Equator is that imaginary belt that literally cinches the earth’s waistline. It’s the fat part. 

For a more complete definition, read what the Encyclopedia Britannica says. According to them the Equator is the “great circle around the Earth that is everywhere equidistant from the geographic poles and lies in a plane perpendicular to the Earth’s axis. It divides the Earth into the Northern and Southern hemispheres.” It goes on to say that “it serves as a reference line from which latitude is reckoned.”  

OK. 

So, it’s found at zero degrees latitude and is just shy of a whopping 25,000 miles long. If you’re smarter than a 3rd grader you know the Equator passes through a total of 13 countries as it circles the globe, and that doesn’t even count the territorial waters of countries in the vicinity. There are three in South America; seven In Africa; and three others cast into the seas. Can you name all 13 countries? The answers are at the end of this article. 

I’m sure, though, that you’ve heard toilet water swirls one direction north of the Equator, the other direction south of the Equator, and straight down when on the Equator. Some believe this is a result of the Coriolis effect while others think the whole thing is poppycock like the BBC folks who feel this doesn’t happen with such a small amount of water. To test the theory, one must stand ON the Equator holding a small bowl with a tiny hole poked in the bottom. Fill it with water and grass clippings (or other flotsam) then watch how it drains a few steps north, a few steps south and directly on the Equator. Or, just ask Mr. Wizard.

The French Geodesic Mission       

You must remember that people long ago did not know all the answers. Now we do. But there was once a heated debate among scientists and the oddly curious (or the curiously odd) about which of the Earth’s circumferences was greater – the one encircling the globe pole to pole or the one on the Equator. This was before TV. 

So, the French were eager to discover the truth, especially King Louis XV. In 1735, this monarch sent one team of men packing off to Lapland in the vicinity of the North Pole. He directed another team, under the command of three French astronomers, to Ecuador. (It wasn’t called that then, but was known as the Territory of Quito.) They sat in the glorious sun eating mangoes as the other team shivered in the snow eating walrus. Truth be known, it wasn’t all that glorious because the second group had to slog through the marshes of Panama … overland from the Atlantic. Ultimately, several of the “sunny” team members made their way to Cuenca and Quito, Ecuador. And did they hit the jackpot! They not only successfully measured the actual size of the Earth (not an easy feat) but their discoveries helped develop the metric system now used the world over. *  

What Manta Has To Offer 

Manta, Spanish for “cloak”, is among the country’s biggest and busiest seaports with cargo ships carrying loads of cocoa and coffee. A vibrant fishing fleet comes and goes in hand-built wooden boats offering the freshest catch – tuna, shark, dorado, and sea bass.

Artisans tempt visitors with hand-carved gourds, colorful blankets, and something called tagua. It’s considered a “vegetable ivory” because it’s made from a nut, thus sparing another magnificent elephant from an untimely demise. This nut is carved into small figures and jewelry.

Of course, the ubiquitous Panama hat is usually the number one souvenir for most visitors. That story could fill tomes so just know that Montecristi is the birthplace of the Panama hat. 

I know. I know. Though these hats are traditionally made in Ecuador, they’re called “Panama” hats because they became famous during the construction of the Panama Canal. As the story goes, President Theodore Roosevelt donned one of these brimmed hats while visiting the project and the rest is history. 

Nimble fingers weave these straw hats from the toquilla plant into varying degrees of fineness that’s directly proportional to the cost. Savvy shoppers count the number of weaves per square inch. Modest purchases might have only 100 while monticristi superfinos, worth more than your first car, have up to a staggering 2500 weaves per square inch and require four months to construct.

You, dear traveler, can snag it from the top shelf in a nanosecond. 

Maceio, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Welcome to what the locals call “Paradise.” That’s their name for this bit of sand that owes its place on the map to its sugarcane past. But that was long ago when the population was small, the beaches were bare of any development, and everything moved at a much slower pace. Today, the tourism spotlight shines bright on Maceio. So let’s take a closer look at some highlights. 

A Few Of The Facts 

Well, first of all, Maceio is the capital of one of Brazil’s 26 states that, together with the country’s one federal district, form the Federative Republic of Brazil. And, it’s been the capital of the state of Alagoas since 1839. Now, it’s also the largest city of this coastal state. Maceio straddles a spit of sand that is flanked by Lake Mundau and a stretch of the Atlantic. Her permanent population numbers approximately 350,000 though that number spikes in season when visitors pour in from around the country and from abroad. They usually arrive in December or January, during Brazil’s summertime, for the warm, tropical temperatures that are ideal for days in the sun. 

“Maceio” is actually a Tupi Indian word that means “the place where the water flows out of the soil” or “the land that covers the marshes.” What it should really be is “land with world class beaches and high-rises for visitors.” There are even urban and often-crowded beaches like Ponta Verde and French Beach as well as those more remote like Sonho Verde. Some say Gunga Beach is actually the prettiest of them all. Of course there’s always Lake Mundau with its celebrated nine islands.    

For those wishing a little less sun and a bit more sights, there’s the village of Marachal Deodoro. Only approximately 12 miles from town, there are shady streets and passageways that seem little changed for generations. 

Other Items of Note 

The Rei Pele Stadium, also called Trapichao, houses more than 20,000 fans usually there to cheer on their favorite football team. Constructed in 1970, evidently more than 45,000 fans squeezed into it for the inaugural match played here, which set the record for the highest attendance. Another important site is the Maceio Metropolitan Cathedral. Its Portuguese name is “Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres” which translates to mean “Our Lady of Pleasures.” Dating back to 1840, it’s located on Pedro II Square. The Cathedral closes at certain hours of the day so be sure to check the times before heading out. 

The Centro section off Praia da Avenida is home to an offering of fine examples of neoclassical architecture including government buildings. There’s also the Praca dos Martirios, a square surrounded by other governmental buildings and the Igreja Bom Jesus dos Martirios church. 

And Speaking Of Manatees 

We were, weren’t we? You know, sailors who’d been at sea a long time became confused when spotting manatees. You can’t really blame them for their blind enthusiasm because it could be only a love-starved sailor who mistook a manatee for a mermaid. Remember, even Columbus was confused, according to legend and lore. Manatees, also known as “sea cows”, are blobby bags of blubber that grow to be 15 feet long, weigh up to 1320 pounds and consume daily up to one-fourth their body weight. According to experts, these not-particularly-attractive animals expel a sizeable volume of gas whilst digesting their strict diet of plant matter and are rather more buoyant due to this unfortunate affliction. Hence, Mother Nature gave them heavy bones as ballast to help them sink. Well there are manatees here in Maceio, native to the Amazon and, if you’re in luck, you just might see one galumphing along beneath the waves. By the way, the Brazilians call them peixe-boi, which means fish-bull. That’s probably how we got “sea cow.” 

On A Lighter Note 

Maceio is famous for its lace. Rendas, as they call it. And those who practice this art form, or craft if you wish, are called rendeiras. This cotton lace is designed into everything from blouses to table linens with the finest form called file. These items make wonderful gifts for those back home as they’re easy to pack and lightweight. The lace, not your friends. And they’ll serve as a colorful memento of your visit to the Brazilian beaches of Maceio. Also, your support for these artists helps members of this community guard these traditions to pass them down to the generations that follow. 

Itajai, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Wilkommen, benvenuto, welcome …

To Itajai,  to Itajai,  to Itajai. 

Sound like the hit song from Cabaret? Well, sing along and discover how you’ve stumbled upon a wee bit of Germany and a smidgeon of Italy right smack here in the South American centerpiece, Brazil.

First of All, Where Are We? 

Itajai, in the coastal area known as Santa Catarina State, is draped along the banks of the Itajai-Acu River where it greets the Atlantic. A combination of factors has led to Itajai port being the nation’s second largest port when you count shipping containers. Not that you would necessarily ever want to do that but this is the benchmark by which “large” is judged. While many cargo ships come and go with great regularity, not so many passenger ships actually call in Itajai. 

Agricultural products from the interior find their way here and are loaded aboard ships bound for the far reaches of the globe. For the record, 80% of the region is rural, the weather is humid and subtropical, and her people are busy with all sorts of agricultural endeavors. 

Visitors who do find their way here, especially from abroad, discover that much of Itajai’s charm lies a bit inland unless they’re happy just to hang out on a glorious beach day after day watching the passing parade of gorgeous people. That, too, has appeal. 

The German Connection 

Of course, the area was populated with indigenous people long before anyone thought about recording their existence. The best estimates are that there were some 5,000,000 living in this sweeping country when the Portuguese explorers waded ashore in the 1500s. Experts identify the Tupi and Gurani as the majority of these peoples. 

African slaves were imported by the overcrowded boatload very early on and right through to the official end of the evil practice of slavery in 1888. Again, without hard numbers, experts believe some 4,000,000 slaves made this terrible journey from the African continent to this fledgling nation.  

Now, we’re getting to the German part of the story. Of course, it was the Portuguese who planted their flag first. Their countrymen followed in droves over several centuries and added their patina and practices to the gene pool. In their wake came citizens of other European nations with their eye on what they believed was verdant countryside offering the promise of a better life. It wasn’t only the Germans, of course, who packed up their steamer trunks with hopes and desires and sometimes family in tow. The Italians did not want to be left out of this sanctioned land grab nor did those from Spain, the Ukraine and other nations. The immigrant profile was so prevalent here that the Itajai Valley (Vale do Itajai) was also known as the European Valley (Vale Europeu).

A Gentleman named Dr. Blumenau

Dr. Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau, to be exact. He and a dozen and a half other transplanted hopefuls immigrated here from Germany. They quickly set about literally creating a little Bavaria, which he named (wait for it) Blumenau, in their new homeland at the convergence of several rivers. Officially founded in 1850, the early settlers staked their success on the fine soils lining the valley floor. They built half-timbered houses in keeping with the architecture of their mother country, established breweries, and kept their values and traditions alive. Many businesses to this day are operated by German-speaking merchants, with literature printed in the German text, and the language is heard everywhere. This is especially true each October, late in the month, when the town of more than 250,000 people throws an Oktoberfest that’s celebrated with equal enthusiasm to that of their countrymen back “across the pond.”

For the record, Dr. Blumenau served as the colony’s director until he packed up his satchel and sailed back to Germany in 1880. Also note that a short 100 years ago, two-thirds of the town’s population still claimed German was their first language.

Now let’s not discount the impact of others who settled here. The Italians brought their cuisine and crafts. The Spaniards mirrored much of the same lifestyle and traditions as the Portuguese. And it all blended to create the mélange that appears before you today.

It’s best to take all this in with a plate mounded high with grilled bratwurst, boiled potatoes, a helping of sauerkraut, a monster dill pickle and an ice-cold beer from a local brewery. You’ll fit right in with the locals who will be every so happy to greet you and introduce you to their very unique corner of the world.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Pleasure or Punishment? 

Well, that depends on when you got here. Pre-1994 or Post-1994. And, here’s a hint why. Several hints, really. Alcatraz. Australia. Devil’s Island. Robben Island. St. Helena Island. Sadly, this list does go on. But, if you know your geography and history well, you’ll know that each of these remote islands (we’re counting Australia as an island not a continent for discussion purposes) was once a prison. You see it’s so much easier to pack away a pack of prisoners to some distant island where there’s no hope of escape than to keep them incarcerated in developed communities where any inmate who gets away could create great mayhem. For Brazil, Ilha Grande (Big Island) was one such prison island for just shy of one long century. 

The Bad, The Good, and The Ugly 

We’ve touched on part of the bad. But long before Brazilian authorities sent prisoners to Ilha Grande, it was a haven for pirates who preyed upon passing vessels sailing off Brazil’s Costa Verde, including Spanish galleons heavy with South American gold on their return voyage to Europe. The next chapter in this dark tale included slave runners though Brazil freed their slaves in 1831 putting an end to this evil practice. Slaves had been brought to Brazil to toil away either on vast coffee plantations or in the mines north of Rio de Janeiro. 

More rough days were on the horizon for the big island. This time as a type of floating quarantine where patients, many of them European immigrants whom the authorities believed were ill with cholera, were offloaded to languish in what were euphemistically called hospitals. Conditions were abysmal. Patients either recovered during their mandatory 40-day stay and allowed to continue on their journey or they faced their final days in wards scattered about the island. Those with financial means were housed in first class wards. Others in second class, even third class.  

Visitors to the island today must use their imagination to recreate these tales of terror because little physical evidence remains from this time. What does linger long after the prison warden’s keys unlocked the Candido Mendes’ (the “Devil’s Cauldron’s”) last steel doors are stories. Many tales were well known but none more famous, or infamous, than the one about a gang of bad Brazilian Mafia boys named Comando Vermehlo. Seems they were powerful, connected, and ruthless. Some of these wayward lads attempted to escape from the island and several even succeeded. But the escape that sealed the island’s fate as a prison happened in 1985. It was then that a chopper swooped in from the blue blue skies to spring one of these inmates. The authorities decided to close the prison then and there. 

The Good

            The island’s beautiful. It’s got 106 beaches. And there are few cars. 

The Ugly 

Some of the local people will argue that the development that’s occurred has changed the island forever. Remember, the entire island measures only about three times the area of Manhattan. Tourism is up, way up, and with it the head count of visitors. It’s said there are more than 400,000 each year now where not that long ago it was only a couple thousand. And the number of guesthouses and lodges has exploded, by island standards, in order to accommodate those arriving daily by ferry. Well, for those lucky travelers as well as for us, this truly is paradise found.

So why are they and we coming here? For the beaches, definitely. Brazil is a nation of sun worshippers. We’re world explorers. But there are the eco-travelers, as well. They’ve come to tramp what’s considers the number one prize winning stretch of Atlantic coastal rain forest in the entire country. That’s why the island is home to howler monkeys and redheaded Tanagra birds. For the record, these monkeys are some of the New World’s largest monkeys. 

Well, the moist heat of the day will give you the green light to enjoy a doce de leite, the South American sweet treat that’s truly addicting. And all too soon it’ll be time to leave behind this bit of paradise that’s still unknown to much of the outside world.           

Buzios, Brazil

Karyn Planett

“Three B’s”

Or is it four? Maybe more.

Well, right off the top of my head I can count beaches, bikinis, and Brigitte Bardot. So, that’s probably four. Oh, yes, there are also boutiques and boat charters. Bistros, yes there are tony little bistros dotted about because it seems all manner of cuisines are offered here from Italian to Thai, Fusion to French. And the nightlife definitely swirls around the “BP” beautiful people in the ear-splitting eye-popping bar scene. You need only follow the tanned and toned crowd in the micro-minis and teetering heals. 

There’s also mouthwatering beef for those not interested in the morning’s catch from the bountiful seas. For those who would indeed like some fried fish and a chilled local beer there are beach barracas, which are seaside restaurants that are, oh how do we say it, basic. Yes, that’s an apt description of these lean-tos of recycled boards and palm thatch held together with a prayer. Locals do have their favorites that they frequent on weekends or throughout the holidays, moving their collection of flimsy plastic chairs like a human sundial trying to catch every ray of sunshine, and only taking leave occasionally to dash across the hot sand for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. You have the rare opportunity of joining in on this ritual perhaps making some lifelong friends among Rio’s Cariocas who’ve escaped the big city to Buzios in droves.

One last “B” … beach vendors who offer trinkets and souvenirs, fruit and cold drinks from their colorful little pushcarts. Among the offerings – corn on the cob, watermelon juice, even grilled skewers of cheese. They are truly part of the Buzios scene, just like the rest of the cast of characters.

And Speaking Of Characters 

You might wonder how Brigitte Bardot found her way to this little speck of glorious sand. Well, let’s back up a bit to set the stage for her grand entrance. This was simply a pretty sleepy little place about 90 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Yes, the Portuguese discovered it in the early days of the 16th century but not much really happened here save for the pirates and slave traders who added their drama and genes to the pool of local people. Whalers were here, as well, during the 18th century and called this area Armacao das Baleias, which is Portuguese for “the Whale’s Place”. These massive animals flocked here in July and October for mating. Sadly, today, the number of whales has declined. 

For the record, the proper name for this little bit of Brazilian heaven is Armacao de Buzios. And, technically there are three communities included in this area among them Osso (which means bones – another “B” -- in Portuguese), Manguinhos and Armacao. All this is wrapped in the loving embrace of some 27 beaches on a skinny little only-100-feet-wide-in-places peninsula that looks like a blotch of paint dropped from the skies. Twenty-seven beaches, can you imagine? And if that’s not enough for the sun worshippers and eco-seekers, they’re surrounded by a backdrop of the bluest water you ever hope to see and some impressive cliffs and rocky outcroppings.  

Well everything went along swimmingly until 1964 when the aforementioned French bombshell and her hunky Brazilian boyfriend decided to escape the prying eyes of paparazzi shadowing their every move in Rio. So, they got the heck out of Rio and fled to this little fishing enclave. But, as you know, nothing ever goes as planned and they were ultimately discovered. In time, their romance cooled. The “sex kitten”, as she was called, found other distractions so what’s left behind in Buzios today is her bronze statue on Orla Bardot and the predictable comparison to her other love, St.-Tropez.

Developers followed in Bardot’s tracks especially since the world’s attention was now focusing on this steamy mini-hideaway. In the 1980s scores of hotels and villas, apartments and restaurants sprang to life luring in vacationers from Rio and from as far away as Argentina. In season the population swells by three to four times the year-round, permanent count.   

A Memento Of Buzios 

Stone Street is a must. In Portuguese, it’s called Rua das Pedras and is about 1200 feet long. Lining it from beginning to end, both sides, are boutiques of beachwear and designer duds, some fine art galleries and handicraft stores, plus a variety of eateries and ice-cream takeaways. You’ll even discover an antique store or two among the contemporary temptations.

Well, soon it’ll be time to return to your stateroom with a notch on your been-there, done-that belt and maybe even a bit of sun to prove it. 

Brazil's History

Karyn Planett

“Hospitality is the greatest delay in Brazilian travel. It is the old style of Colonial greeting; you may do what you like, you may stay for a month, but not for a day.”

So wrote Sir Richard Francis Burton, the famous English explorer, in 1869. Sir Richard was, of course, spot on with his cunning observation for the Brazilians are hospitable, warm and welcoming. Their smiles are infectious and their kindness legendary. This kindness is, in fact, surpassed only by their striking, blended beauty written in their skintones, a rainbow of colors from honey to caramel to chocolate. This, the phenomenon of history’s destiny. It’s a story to be told. 

Portugal Eyes Brazil 

Brazil’s very early history played out, of course, with the native Indians, the Tupi-Guarani. Some seven million lived a very basic lifestyle prior to the arrival at the dawn of the 16th century by the Portuguese navigator Admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral. He had sailed from Europe toward India and landed, instead, on the muddy banks of what is now Brazil. The early attention was focused on Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia. Cabral proudly claimed the land for Portugal. Note, for the record, some historians believe Cabral was not blown wildly off course, as reported, but instead was possibly in Brazil as planned. Or, he may have even been preceded there by other explorers. History is yours for the making and the choosing, it seems. 

Anyway, while all this was going on Amerigo Vespucci sailed into Todos os Santos Bay (home of today’s Salvador da Bahia), and claimed it for Portugal, as well. Within a half century, King João II declared Salvador the capital of Brazil.

Pau do Brasil 

That’s the Portuguese name for the brazilwood tree that was the sought after hot commodity driving the exploration and exploitation of Brazil. From this wood came a valuable red dye that was lusted after in the far reaches of Europe. In time, a more lucrative product came to those with opportunity in their souls … sugarcane. Ultimately, the world’s largest supply of sugar came from Brazil. For the following 150 years, African slaves made up the human cargo that was transported in an armada of ships crossing the Atlantic. Their destiny, their plight was to toil long days in the tropical sun harvesting the cane fields. Meanwhile, sugar barons swooned under the weight of untold wealth multiplying their fortunes through the unfortunate. Heat and hardship took a staggering toll on these slaves who’d already been uprooted from their homelands. 

Then the discovery of gold in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil at the close of the 17th century brought a new product for export. Boatloads of Europeans arrived in a steady stream to play their role in the gold rush. São Paulo flourished. The French, then the Dutch arrived to establish their influence over the city of Recife. Rio came under the control of the French Huguenots from 1555 to 1565 until the Portuguese gained control of the city in 1567. In fact, the country was growing at such a rate that, in 1572, the Portuguese-appointed viceroy actually created two national capitals – the one in Salvador, the other in Rio. 

Some Coffee For Your Sugar? 

Plantation owners in the Caribbean literally cut the heart of out Brazil’s cane sugar success at about the time the country’s gold rush began. Northeastern Brazil was hit hardest by the sugar decline. Rio, on the other hand, grew at an even faster rate because of the gold export that passed through its city. In 1793, Rio became the solitary capital of the Brazilian nation.

But coffee cultivation and production created a new economic chapter. In approximately 1825, migrant workers traveled here in droves to work the coffee fields. In fact, it’s said that one million European immigrants, most of them Italians, came for this very crop. 

More history played out in 1807 when Dom João VI, Portugal’s ruler at the time, journeyed with 15,000 members of nobility to Brazil from Portugal. They’d literally been driven into exile by Napoleon. Ultimately it was Dom Pedro I, Dom João’s son, who became the country’s emperor, granting it independence in 1822. Eventually, his five-year-old son Dom Pedro II took over the throne. Many years later, his daughter Isabel granted the slaves their freedom. And, in 1889, Brazil officially severed it ties with Portugal to become a free and independent nation.

Today’s Brazilians 

They are beautiful, reflecting the uniquely rich blend of Europeans (mostly Portuguese), with the descendents of African slaves and the local indigenous people. Thrown into this genetic potpourri was a massive influx of Japanese people making São Paulo one of the world’s largest Japanese populations outside their country. 

Adding more interest was the Jewish people who fled to Brazil prior to the outbreak of World War II. Thousands of them took refuge here, especially in the southern regions of the country. African descendents settled mainly in the North, around Bahia, where their ancestry is visible on their faces to this day. 

It is this whirlwind of cultures that makes Brazilians seemingly in love with everything. They like their music and their food hot and spicy. Their sun-loved bodies are toned and tuned like a fine symphony, as is visible at any praia, or beach. When it relates to bathing suits, in their opinion… less is more. Copacabana Beach, on any day of the week, will be an eye-popper. And every night of the week, there’s samba blaring out of every doorway. Dine at a barbecue restaurant, a churrascario, or toast the good life with a caiparinha. It’s nice to enjoy Brazilian culture.


The Amazon

Karyn Planett

Try to recall some of the world’s most important geographic record holders. Really important ones, not like … oh … which city had the first McDonald’s? Some come to mind in a heartbeat while others cause us to ponder, scratch our heads, drift back to those darned classes where we had to memorize such things. But just for fun let’s test our memory because, lo and behold, we’re going to visit one of them really soon.

Can You Name Them?

(Answers at the end.)

            The highest point on earth.

            The deepest part of the ocean floor.

            The lowest place on earth.

            The highest navigable lake.

            The biggest canyon.

            The driest spot on earth.

            The wettest.

            The world’s longest river.

Ah-Ha !!!

If you answered “the Amazon” for the last question you are wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!

Oops. Hang on. Maybe you’re NOT wrong. You see it’s rather confusing much like when family members debate over just who it was who started the latest dust-up. Seems no one can agree on ANYTHING. OK, that could be a bit of an overstatement but just know that virtually every reference checked offers different statistics about which is the world’s longest river. So, we’re going with the tried-and-true Encyclopedia Britannica for our info and sticking with them ‘til someone with a red pencil comes along. 

Here’s what good ol’ EB has to say about the Amazon.         

·               Each and every day of the year, the Amazon deposits 1.3 million TONS of sediment into the Atlantic Ocean. 

·               Springtime brings a pororoca, which is a tidal bore that roars upstream traveling up to 15 miles per hour in a wave sometimes reaching 12 feet in height.

·               In peak flood years, the banks can widen to 35 miles, or wider. 

·               The average flow of the water in the Amazon is approximately 1.5 miles per hour.

·               Friagems are cool air blasts that drift north from the South Pole causing average daily temperature in the Amazon to plummet into the 50s Fahrenheit. 

·               In Manaus, it rains from 60 to 120 inches every year, which is a lot of rain! 

·               Along the border with Colombia, 140 inches of rainfall are not uncommon. That’s even more rain. 

·               It’s 4,000 miles from the Amazon headwaters in southern Peru to the sea. (It’s only 2,900 from San Francisco to New York City.) If anyone asks, the distance from Apacheta Creek to the entrance of Marajó Bay is 4,345 miles and that is the current precise distance of the Amazon River as published by a team of specialists from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (who had neat toys to measure these things). Those same people used the exact same instruments and parameters to measure the Nile and, you guessed it, it’s shorter. Shorter, in fact, by almost 90 miles, the distance between your house and a really great shoe store.

·               Other experts, however, claim the Nile is longer. (This is a hotly debated subject so you decide who’s right.) The issues clouding precise measurement include seasonal fluctuation and complicated streambed distribution so you really can see the problem. In all honesty, it does seem a bit tricky this measurement thing. 

·               From the Amazon’s western headwaters in the Andes Mountains, it’s only 100 miles to the Pacific coast. If some industrious person dug a giant trench to the sea, the Amazon could theoretically slice South America in two. But that’s a long trench. 

·               Some trees in the Amazon basin stand 120 feet tall, with the granddaddies of them all soaring up to 200 feet. 

·               8,000 species of insects live in the Amazon. Remember your insect repellent.

·               1,500 fish species swim merrily along in the Amazon. The piranha is the most famous for its flesh-eating fetish. If that’s not enough, there are also vampire bats, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, not us.

·               The actual Amazon Basin measures 1,725 miles across. That’s just about exactly the distance from Paris to Istanbul, except here you have to paddle.

·               Scientists calculate that approximately 20% of all water draining from this giant Earth of ours, is swept along by the Amazon River.

·               It is believed that there are small bands of what are called “undiscovered” groups of traditional Indian people living in such isolated outposts that they have probably never had contact with anyone other than their immediate group.

·               100 miles out beyond the coastline from where the Amazon empties its fresh water payload, the sea’s salinity is distinctly diluted.

·               Supposedly, the river was named after the mythological Greek warrior women because indigenous women of the Amazon fought against the early Spanish explorers. 

·               But, perhaps the strangest factoid of them all is that, following the end of the Civil War, Confederate soldiers fled to the Amazon to set up a new life. And, again, the experts seem to disagree wildly as to the exact number or if the entire story is just that. But, if you accept this chapter of “history”, somewhere between 100 and 5000 Confederate soldiers, along with their wives and children, settled in the Amazon region. Their destination was called the Lost Confederate City. According to some references, there are even images of Confederate battle emblems carved into the local stone. 

Well, now you should at least have enough info to ask some intelligent questions of experts you meet along the way. Oh, and the answers to the opening questions … Mt. Everest; Marianas Trench; the Dead Sea; Lake Titicaca; the Grand Canyon or the Great Canyon of Yarlung Tsanpo (or Zangbo) along the Brahmaputra River in the Himalayas … again, controversy!; Antarctica where there’s been no rain in Dry Valleys for nearly 2 million years; Hawaii’s Mt. Wailea is one of the wettest averaging 450 inches a year though, in 1982, they recorded 666 inches. What an amazing world we live in, eh? 

Altar do Chao, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Early settlers carving out an existence along the Rio Tapajos believed their tiny fishing village resting at the base of a pair of small hills, one of which resembled a church altar. Over time, they gave order to their community with a grid of narrow streets lining the beachfront with its Plaza as its centerpiece. A productive rubber plantation once covered the landscape that today supports traditional Spanish-style churches, small cottages, and tiny shops. The backdrop is the tropical forest that seems a mere stroll away and the Lago Verde outlet. All this adds up to a popular weekend get-away for visitors as well as residents from Santarem, a short 33 kilometers away.

And Speaking of Santarem

Originally the home to Tapuicu Indians, the area was explored by a Captain Pedro Teixeira and his expeditionary force. It was, however, the Jesuit missionaries who placed the cornerstone of Christianity here in 1661. Ultimately, this growing community was named Santarem in honor of a Portuguese city of the same name. That was in 1758.

One century later, in 1867, a short two years after the end of America’s Civil War, some 110 Confederate soldiers fled to Santarem hoping to begin their lives anew. They brought with them their farming skills and attempted to settle the land. Few were able to make a viable go of it, the others either returned to the US having been granted free passage or succumbed to disease.

The need for rubber was tremendous and Santarem was home to prosperous plantations, which experienced a period of great prosperity followed by a momentous decline. Gold was the next great hope for economic greatness especially in the 1950s when one after another gold rush kept those enterprising men coming to seek their fortune. The lust for gold is still strong across this region. So, too, wealth from the harvesting of hard woods, and everything from jute to nuts. All this adds up to mean that Santarem remains an important economic pulse point for Brazil’s middle Amazon. Perhaps this is why some historians claim that Santarem was during the period prior to the arrival of European settlers one of the Americas’ largest population center. Seems hard to imagine yet that’s what many claim.

The Wedding Of The Waters

Few believe the press regarding the wedding of the waters until they witness this natural phenomenon for themselves. Curiously, the muddy waters of the Amazon River flow side-by-side with the Tapajos River’s clear, green water. Due to the unique characteristics of each, they maintain this separation for a few miles with a distinct line between them though they flow as a single river.

Not far from the busy waterfront, where cargo and produce and loaded onto and unloaded from afar, is a small museum called Centro Cultural Joao Fona, that features examples of Tapajos ceramics as well as documents dating back more than 100 years and artifacts thousands of years. It’s located in the old town hall, dating back to 1867 that also served as even the courthouse and the jail. Built during the rubber boom, this fine building is location on Praca Santarem and features a cool courtyard to retreat from the midday sun.

Further still is the Casa de Farinha where manioc was ground into flour long, long ago. Tapajoara burial urns date back 6,000 years and feature decorations including those depicting humans and animals.

A Walk In The Woods

Nature lovers are naturally drawn to the Santa Lucia Woods, a short 18-kilometer drive from Santarem. Expert guides point out there are approximately 400 native plants here including those with healing medicinal properties, Brazil nut trees and ironwood. Miles of trails lace through the woods, offering a look at the local flora and fauna. Found in the area are such favorites and macaws and parrots even tortoises and tapirs, the Amazon’s largest wild animal. It takes a keen eye and great fortune to actually see these animals in the wild. Remember, much of their habitat has been compromised by slash-and-burn agricultural practices so sightings are rare and wonderful.

On The Beach

On weekends, that’s where you find most Santrenos, the nice people of Santarem. Yes, they pack up the kidlets, the beach balls and the Frisbee and make for Alter do Chao. Fresh local fish are grilled on open fires served with rice and ripe tropical fruits. A tasty brazil-nut ice cream called castanha signals the capper to most family feasts. It’s just another sunny day in the Amazon.

Natal, Brazil

Karyn Planett

Colonies, Confederates and Capoeira 

“The country has been nicely described as a country with its colonies inside it.” —John Gunther, Inside South America, 1967

And Mr. Gunther was right, especially if you expand the description of “colonies” to be more than just pockets of populations.  Let’s look at the geographical component first.

Brazil is so vast, so huge, so great that its fascinating geography defines its profile.  It is South America’s biggest country and covers practically 50% of the continent.  Brazil is so massive, in fact, that only Chile and Ecuador don’t touch on its borders.  Every other country in South America is its contiguous neighbor.  Now those are some pretty impressive stats.

In the southeast of the country is what’s called the Brazilian Highlands, which reach over 4,000 feet in height.  In the west, as well as the north, is the immense Amazon basin that covers more than 40 percent of the entire nation.  The mighty Amazon River winds through the Brazilian landscape for a whopping 4,000 miles, if you consider tributaries.  These virtually impenetrable jungles, the rugged Andes, the River Plate in the south and the Atlantic to the east form a natural fortress, creating virtual colonies within Brazil.

Pockets of Civilizations

Two hundred million people call Brazil home.  It is the world’s fifth most populated country and the bulk of her population resides within 200 miles of the sea.  More than one dozen Brazilian cities boast over one million inhabitants.  In contrast, the Amazon Basin is virtually without people.  And, even though there is one official language, which is Portuguese, there are in excess of 180 native languages spoken across the land.

So, who are all these people?  The indigenous people, called indios and indianos depending on their ethnicity, form ethnic groups that have inhabited this area long before any Europeans arrived.  Over the centuries, many arrived on ships including settlers from Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland.  Millions from Africa followed.  Their communities might be described as mini-colonies. A large influx of Japanese also arrived, as well as people from Syria and Lebanon.  Brazil’s citizens of Japanese ancestry number approximately 1.5 million and, as of 2013, represent the largest group of Japanese outside Japan.  And in 1865, post Civil War America, thousands of defeated Confederate soldiers, known as Confederados, and their families attempted to re-establish an antebellum life by laying down their roots in Brazil in communities called Americana, Lizzieland, and New Texas.  Some historians believe more than 20,000 American Confederados came to Brazil in a twenty-year period from 1865-1885.  With their farming skills, they cultivated tobacco, sugarcane and watermelon.  All this wonderful diversity brings a texture of cultures that is unique to Brazil and forms an important feature of the country’s tapestry.

All this Brings Us to Natal

Natal is the city closest to Europe on the entire South American continent.  It’s no wonder then that it caught the attention of national powers.  The basis of a permanent community took root here in 1597 with the help of Jeronimo de Albuquerque Maranhão who was sent to the area with the mandate to protect Portuguese settlers and prevent the French from interfering with their trade.  Ultimately the Fortress of Three Wise Kings was built.  Soon, this fledgling community you now visit began to grow and was officially founded on Christmas day, 1599 hence the name “Natal”, which is Portuguese for Christmas.

Hopes of creating a productive sugarcane operation here were dashed due to the fact the soil was much too sandy.  Therefore, development was stalled for the area.  Its strategic importance came into the crosshairs of military strategists during World War II when the Americans used Natal’s Parnamirim Airbase for the trans-shipment of supplies to the Allies fighting in North Africa.  Throughout the early days of 1944, the Parnamirim base may have been the busiest American air base in the entire world with planes reportedly landing every three minutes.  Natal became a major player in President Roosevelt’s call to become a “Trampoline for Victory.”  In fact, the air base factored into the resupplying of troops in Africa, Russia, Italy, and Normandy, as well as the even more distant battlefields of China and Burma.  All this activity brought many historic figures here including Madame Chiang Kai-shek, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh and celebrities like Jack Benny and Tyrone Power.

Now, You

You, too, have now found your way to Natal.  Your exploration might include the 16th century Fortress of Three Wise Kings or Wise Men -- Forte dos Reis Mago as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral.  The Centro de Artesanato, housed in the former fortress, showcases the talent of local artisans.  The Palacio da Cultura was the former governor’s palace and the Palacio Philip Camarão is another impressive landmark.  For people watching, there’s the André Albuquerque Square.

And, speaking of that, you may wish to seek out a capoeira de roda demonstration.  This rhythmic dance, introduced to Brazil in the 16th century by African slaves, is physical, powerful and almost terrifying in its choreography.  You’ll definitely need a sweet, strong coffee called cafezinho to prepare yourself for this cultural experience.

The Amazon

Karyn Planett

Facts and Stats

Try to recall some of the world’s most important geographic record holders.  Really important ones, not like … oh … which city had the first McDonald’s?  Some come to mind in a heartbeat while others cause us to ponder, scratch our heads, drift back to those darned classes where we had to memorize such things.  But just for fun let’s test our memory because, lo and behold, we’re going to visit one of them really soon.

Can You Name Them?
(Answers at the end.)

  • The highest point on earth.
  • The deepest part of the ocean floor.
  • The lowest place on earth.
  • The highest navigable lake.
  • The biggest canyon.
  • The driest spot on earth.
  • The wettest.
  • The world’s longest river.

Ah-Ha !!!

If you answered “the Amazon” for the last question you are wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!

Oops.  Hang on.  Maybe you’re NOT wrong.  You see it’s rather confusing much like when family members debate over just who it was who started the latest dust-up.  Seems no one can agree on ANYTHING.  OK, that could be a bit of an overstatement but just know that virtually every reference checked offers different statistics about which is the world’s longest river.  So, we’re going with the tried-and-true Encyclopedia Britannica for our info and sticking with them ‘til someone with a red pencil comes along.

Here’s what good ol’ EB has to say about the Amazon.

  • Each and every day of the year, the Amazon deposits 1.3 million TONS of sediment into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Springtime brings a pororoca, which is a tidal bore that roars upstream traveling up to 15 miles per hour in a wave sometimes reaching 12 feet in height.
  • In peak flood years, the banks can widen to 35 miles, or wider.
  • The average flow of the water in the Amazon is approximately 1.5 miles per hour.
  • Friagems are cool air blasts that drift north from the South Pole causing average daily temperature in the Amazon to plummet into the 50s Fahrenheit.
  • In Manaus, it rains from 60 to 120 inches every year, which is a lot of rain!
  • Along the border with Colombia, 140 inches of rainfall are not uncommon.  That’s even more rain.
  • It’s 4,000 miles from the Amazon headwaters in southern Peru to the sea.  (It’s only 2,900 from San Francisco to New York City.)  If anyone asks, the distance from Apacheta Creek to the entrance of Marajó Bay is 4,345 miles and that is the current precise distance of the Amazon River as published by a team of specialists from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (who had neat toys to measure these things).  Those same people used the exact same instruments and parameters to measure the Nile and, you guessed it, it’s shorter.  Shorter, in fact, by almost 90 miles, the distance between your house and a really great shoe store.
  • Other experts, however, claim the Nile is longer.  (This is a hotly debated subject so you decide who’s right.)  The issues clouding precise measurement include seasonal fluctuation and complicated streambed distribution so you really can see the problem.  In all honesty, it does seem a bit tricky this measurement thing.
  • From the Amazon’s western headwaters in the Andes Mountains, it’s only 100 miles to the Pacific coast.  If some industrious person dug a giant trench to the sea, the Amazon could theoretically slice South America in two.  But that’s a long trench.
  • Some trees in the Amazon basin stand 120 feet tall, with the granddaddies of them all soaring up to 200 feet.
  • 8,000 species of insects live in the Amazon.  Remember your insect repellent.
  • 1,500 fish species swim merrily along in the Amazon.  The piranha is the most famous for its flesh-eating fetish.  If that’s not enough, there are also vampire bats, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, not us.
  • The actual Amazon Basin measures 1,725 miles across.  That’s just about exactly the distance from Paris to Istanbul, except here you have to paddle.
  • Scientists calculate that approximately 20% of all water draining from this giant Earth of ours, is swept along by the Amazon River.
  • It is believed that there are small bands of what are called “undiscovered” groups of traditional Indian people living in such isolated outposts that they have probably never had contact with anyone other than their immediate group.
  • 100 miles out beyond the coastline from where the Amazon empties its fresh water payload, the sea’s salinity is distinctly diluted.
  • Supposedly, the river was named after the mythological Greek warrior women because indigenous women of the Amazon fought against the early Spanish explorers.
  • But, perhaps the strangest factoid of them all is that, following the end of the Civil War, Confederate soldiers fled to the Amazon to set up a new life.  And, again, the experts seem to disagree wildly as to the exact number or if the entire story is just that.  But, if you accept this chapter of “history”, somewhere between 100 and 5000 Confederate soldiers, along with their wives and children, settled in the Amazon region.  Their destination was called the Lost Confederate City.  According to some references, there are even images of Confederate battle emblems carved into the local stone.

Well, now you should at least have enough info to ask some intelligent questions of experts you meet along the way.  Oh, and the answers to the opening questions …  Mt. Everest; Marianas Trench; the Dead Sea; Lake Titicaca; the Grand Canyon or the Great Canyon of Yarlung Tsanpo (or Zangbo) along the Brahmaputra River in the Himalayas … again, controversy!; Antarctica where there’s been no rain in Dry Valleys for nearly 2 million years; Hawaii’s Mt. Wailea is one of the wettest averaging 450 inches a year though, in 1982, they recorded 666 inches.  What an amazing world we live in, eh?

Montevideo, Uruguay

Karyn Planett

Maté, Meat and Music

Uruguayans absolutely love life.  They’re festive and fun and filled with a quest to embrace each day with some form of excitement, entertainment or enjoyment.  Sports, wine, horses.  Fashion, food, nightlife.  But, there are three things that are absolutely sacred to the people of Montevideo.  To fully slip into the routine of a local’s day, you must learn a bit about their passions.

A Cup of Tea?

Not really.  Not like you think, pinkie in the air, little sandwiches.  No.  Uruguayans, like many of their neighbors in southern South America enjoy the triple-leaded, high-octane, tiger-in-the-tank type of tea spelled “maté” and pronounced “mah-tay.”  Not “mate”, like an Australian friend.

It can truly knock your socks off because it is really strong.  Not only is the tea strong because it’s made from the dried leaves of the yerba maté plant, but they use a lot of it for one single serving.  A lot!  And the leaves are often pulverized into a dusty powder locals call “yerba.”  There’s also a more traditional blend with more roughage, but let’s leave that subject alone.

Everyone has a very particular way of brewing his or her maté.  Like the Brits say, “bring the cup to the kettle not the kettle to the cup”.   Well, the Uruguayans have a ritual that’ll put those Brits to shame.  And they don’t use china cups, no no.  Their maté is consumed from hollowed-out gourds, as well as wooden and ceramic cups.

They must also have the proper straw, which is called a bomba or a bombilla.  Though there are lesser versions, a traditional bomba is made from silver.  It’s more a sieve really in case you don’t twizzle your leaves properly.  You want only the tea, not sludge.

Locals fill their gourds half-full with leaves, partially packed.  Cover with their palm, invert, return upright, shake the dusty bits that stick to said palm then wipe on designer jeans.  They add a pinch of this or a dash of that for flavor or medicinal purposes, then cool water.  One doesn’t want to disturb the nutritional components of the leaves, does one?  No.  Next, they add hot water… just off the boil.  Too much water, wrong.  Too little water, strong.  Cover.  Shake.  Tilt.  Shake again.  Let it settle.

Of course, all the swirling gloms the yerba leaves to one side so the bomba and the water go into the empty portion.  The tea drinker’s thumb must rest atop the straw opening while being inserted into the base of the gourd.

Where’s Starbucks?

Then and only then is it ready to sip.

At this point, though, the kids have missed the bus, breakfast is cold, and Mom hasn’t even started putting on her make-up.

Maté is a social ritual filled with tradition.  Buy a beautiful gourd with a decorative silver rim, a silver bomba, some yerba tea, sit with a friendly person on a park bench and have them show you the ropes.  It’s so South American.

Where’s the Beef?

Question—What country has the highest per capita beef consumption in the world?

Answer—Uruguay with approximately 130 pounds of beef per person per year.  Add to that about 42 pounds of poultry and another 13 pounds of lamb and you’ve got yourself some serious carnivores.  185 pounds total per year means about one-half pound of meat consumed by every single Uruguayan every single day.  Well, I guess you can skip the crudités.  

For the record, and I do mean the record, Uruguayans used to consume an amount of beef annually that basically was the equivalent of their body weight.  To make all this dining possible, there are Uruguayan parrillas that are basically steakhouses where the meat is often carved right at your table off long sabers.  Try the vacio, a lean cut.  And, when dining off the regular menu in traditional restaurants, expect a steak the size of a bicycle seat.

Of course, the follow-up question is, “Why do Uruguayans eat so much beef?”.  Because the meat in this part of the world is among the finest.  In fact, in 2011 Russia imported more than one-third of Uruguay’s output of beef.  And, it’s reported that most Uruguayan beef is grass-fed and hormone-free per legal guidelines imposed by the government.

Give Me the Beat, Boys!

You’ve sipped and supped.  Now it’s time for music. These people love a unique Uruguayan music called Candombe.  Its origin was probably with the African slaves who arrived by ship in the 18th Century.  It was then religious in nature. Drums called tamboriles lay down the beat for today’s Candombe street drummers who march together in a drum corps.  Other casual groups form along the ramblas and beachfront to play their drums for hours on end.  Shouldn’t be long now till you stumble across some drummers for yourself.  And, at Carnival time, the whole thing is spiced up with skimpy costumes, a few feathers and sequins and not a lot more.  UNESCO recognizes Candombe as a piece of “intangible cultural heritage”.  You’ll recognize it as hot hot hot hot hot.