Archive for the ‘South American Culture’ Category

Exploring Favelas: What You Need to Know

January 8, 2010

Rocinha Favela

Curious about visiting Rio de Janeiro’s famous (or infamous) slums, known as favelas? In recent years Slum Tourism has its place in travel for the voyeuristicly curious, partially sparked by films such as “City of God” and “Slumdog Millionaire”. While it’s a controversial alternative to staying within the tourist center of Rio, there are some safe and creative partnerships that bring business and business opportunities to people living in the slums while also giving tourists a chance to see another side of Rio.

What to expect

There are 750 or so separate favelas surrounding the city that house around 20 per cent of Rio’s population. Most inhabitants are poor – many work in the city as cleaners or builders or bellboys for Brazil’s tiny minimum wage and a lot are unemployed.

Some of the bigger favelas now have a main road, working shops and occasional rubbish collection. But the majority are simply collections of shack-like houses built by the inhabitants, who add another floor every time a family member gets married.

The stark contrast of wealth in Rio is especially visible when visiting the favela of Rocinha. Next to the favela is Rio’s wealthiest residential area, Gavea. Electric fences and security cameras protect the gorgeous houses and immaculate gardens.

Taking a closer look…

Favelas are blamed as the source of the city’s reputation for violent crime—but there is another way to look at them. On a safe tour, you’ll see how, despite the lack of official legitimacy, the local communities work as efficiently and strictly as those in the city centre. It true that he leaders are the drug barons, but they are often far less tolerant of petty criminals within the community. In Rocinha, there is a small bank which two military policemen once attempted to rob. They were caught and thrown out on the orders of the drug lords. It’s just another example of how a closer look at life in Rio reveals how things are not always what they seem.

Favela tours

Rocinha

Favela Tour offers twice daily minibus tours to the large favela of Rocinha and the smaller nearby community of Vila Canoas. Three-hour tours are in English or in other languages by arrangement and are run by knowledgeable guides. You and your camera will be perfectly safe, and you’ll have the opportunity to buy original paintings, jewelry and crafts produced by residents of the favelas, some of whom are undertaking courses as part of social welfare projects. One such project, Para Ti, provides extra schooling and support for children living in the favela of Vila Canoas. Other projects help residents use recyclable material to create useful or beautiful objects – bags and belts made from ring-pulls off drinks cans, for example.

For information on vacation rentals, contact Rent in Rio.

Rio Carnival Parade Prices

December 4, 2009

Planning on taking your dream vacation to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival? Are you wondering how much it’s going to cost you to attend the Carnival Parade? On Tuesday, December 1, LIESA, the Independent Samba School League, accepted reservations for Carnival 2010 runway boxes, ranging from about US$1000 to US$3,800 for a box with six seats.

LIESA samba schools form the Special Group. Ticket reservation requests for mezzanine boxes and runway boxes must be submitted by fax. On Dec.18, runway box hopefuls who were selected first-come, first-serve will be notified and will then make their payment at a spot designated by LIESA.

If you’re got a travel agent taking care of your Rio Carnival 2010 tickets, a partner agency in Rio possibly took care of reservations for you today. If you’re curious as to how much LIESA tickets cost when bought straight from the source, go to the LIESA website and click on “Ingressos” on the menu to the left. All ticket prices have been posted now: mezzanine boxes (camarotes, runway boxes (frisas), individual seats (cadeiras) and bleachers (arquibancadas).

The next reservation dates, to be announced, will be for individual seats and bleachers; reservations will be submitted by phone. According to LIESA, those dates will be in the first half of January.

For Carnival accommodations, visit RentInRio.com.

Hot Spots: Olinda, Brazil

December 3, 2009

Olinda, located a mere 6 kilometers north of Recife’s old town, offers tourists yet another opportunity to experience Brazil’s wide array of lively culture, exciting nightlife, and first-class restaurants. Olinda is considered to be the birthplace of Brazilian culture; it is almost literally a living museum that showcases the culture and history of this amazing country. Olinda’s colonial buildings are one of the best preserved collection of Portuguese architecture that exist in Brazil which is as large as the continental United States. At Carnaval, people dance in these colonial streets as they did 150 years ago an no one knows who is who for the masks that cover everyone’s faces. It is only DNA testing that can resolve who are the parents of Carnaval babies.

TripOutGay recognizes Rio de Janeiro as ‘gay friendly’

November 5, 2009

Gay FriendlyExciting news for GLBT tourists: Rio de Janeiro has been named “best global destination” by TripOutGayTravel site. For years, GLBT tourists have been reveling in Rio de Janeiro’s “gay-friendly” atmosphere—and are thrilled that the city is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

The Marvelous City faced strong competition from Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London, Montreal and Sydney – who were all in the running for the “best global destination” category of the TripOut Gay Travel Awards.

“This is a victory that reinforces the vocation of Rio de Janeiro as one of the best tourist destinations in the world. Rio welcomes all with open arms and would not be different with the GLBT audience,” says the Special Secretary of Tourism and President to Riotur, Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello. “And it’s only going to improve: we fully support the campaign to choose Rio as the best gay destination in the world and we are increasingly improving the quality of service to this community.”

Catholic Church to Upgrade Christ the Redeemer in Brazil

October 30, 2009

Christ the RedeemerThe Catholic Church has announced plans to raise 3.5 million dollars for a major upgrade of Christ the Redeemer, the iconic giant statue of Jesus with outstretched arms that overlooks Rio de Janeiro.

The 30-meter (98-foot) tall stone and cement Christ the Redeemer stands on an eight-meter high pedestal on top of Mount Corcovado, overlooking the metropolis of around 10 million people. The statue’s designer, Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, ceded all the rights to the monument to the Catholic Church. Paul Landowski, a French sculptor of Polish origin, sculpted the statue. It was inaugurated in 1931 after five years of work.

Archbishop Ornani Tempesta told reporters Wednesday that cleaning and repairing the 78 year-old statue will take four to six months.

Some of the money will be raised by selling small metal brooches of the statue, available for 4.30 dollars at any of Rio’s 252 parishes, Tempesta said. “It is a way to get to know Christ even better. We will carry him on our chest.”

Brazilian mining giant Vale will also pay for part of the project.

Christ the Redeemer was classified as a historic monument in 1973. Every year some 1.8 million visitors stop by to see the stature.

Hot Spots: Santarem, Brazil

October 8, 2009

SantaremA wonderful and unique place, Santarém is most definitely a must on your list of Brazilian cities to visit. Santarem is located in the state of Pará in Brazil where the Tapajós River joins the Amazon River. Situated right along Amazon, Santarem is the home of a visually stunning and interesting natural phenomenon. Both rivers run along the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon’s milky colored water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós’s water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. It is a feast for the eyes! It is know by the locals and savvy travelers as “the meeting of the waters” by the locals. Being less populated than neighboring ports, it is easy to visit and explore the forest and there is a greater possibility of experiencing the wonders of Amazonian fauna. Santarém is not considered a tourist centre, so you may be able to make authentic contact with the local people and even expand your social network to include Brazilian natives!

By Jennifer Bunin

Experience South American Cuisine

October 8, 2009

CopacabanaThose visiting South America are presented with a wide choice of delicious cuisine. From our own experiences as well as those of clients, we can tell you that every city in South America is a culinary event in itself. The entertainment capital of Brazil, Rio is home to several distinctive cooking styles for which Brazil is probably best known. In the cultural melting pot that is Rio, one can taste the influence of not only Amerindian and Portuguese foods, but the cooking styles of immigrants from many other parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. For more information on Brazilian cuisine visit one of our most popular sites, indeed, one of the most popular sites for South American food on the Internet, by clicking here.

If you desire a real Brazilian meal with the masses we recommend “comida a quilo” restaurants (literally “food by the kilo”). These are inexpensive dining options commonplace in most ports. Food is paid for by weight and customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet. If you desire a slightly higher class, but nevertheless authentic, palate pleaser we suggest dining at a churrascaria, a Brazilian or Portuguese steak house. Churrasco is a distinctly South American style rotisserie, a sort of Latin American barbecue. It owes its origins to the fireside roasts of the gauchos (natives to southern Brazil traditionally from the Pampa region). Passadors (meat waiters) come to your table with knives and a skewer, on which are speared various kinds of local meat.

South American ports such as Montevideo and Punta del Este, Uruguay are equally as unique as Brazil in terms of fare. The cuisine of Uruguay has its own version of churrasco known as asado. This Uruguayan barbecue is one of the most exquisite and famous in the world. The national obsession of Uruguay is dulce de leche, a sweet paste which is used to fill cookies, cakes, pancakes, and other South American pastries such as milhojas (a puff pastry), and alfajores (a filled layer cake). Our friends in other ports of call such as Buenos Aires tell us not to miss out on the tantalizing traditional drink, mate, an herbal tea commonly known as the “drink of friendship,” made with the infusion of the dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. So with a drink of friendship in hand, soak up the beautiful sites, enchanting sounds, aromatic smells, and delicious tastes as you travel through South America.

By Jennifer Bunin