And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

“There is a time when it is necessary to abandon the used clothes, which already have the shape of our body and to forget our paths, which takes us always to the same places. This is the time to cross the river: and if we don’t dare to do it, we will have stayed, forever beneath ourselves” Fernando Pessoa

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Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo. The story goes that a ship on route to French Guyana ladened with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island.

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Marajo had an advanced pre Colombian society  from 400AD. The arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century wiped out ninety per cent of the natives  due to lack of immunities to the European diseases. They left behind great examples of pre Colombian pottery. Artisans on the island recreate the designs.

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Soure is a sleepy fishing village.

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The people have a peaceful life, take things slowly and keep up their traditions.

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Fisherman shacks, modern homes and large faziendas (farms) exist side by side on the island, It is the only place to have a water buffalo police force. They say it is used for looking for drugs in the forest but most of the crime is pilfering or the occasional lost drunk or “misplaced” bicycle.( newest police recruit)

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Fazenda Sanjo is a ranch and hotel owned by Ana and Carlos Nunes. http://www.sanjo.tur.br You take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to get there from Soare.

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Then you have a choice of walking a mile or doing it on horseback to get to the fazenda.IMG_0236IMG_4269

The hammocks are an inviting place for a nap. (and I made a friend)

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You can experience the daily life on a Fazenda in the Amazon.

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There are many activities and nature is your host.

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There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo.

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We did that.

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I think pictures are better than words.

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It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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On the boat ride back, it was very windy and I lost my hat in the Amazon.
It is one of those lifetime jungle, sun and mosquito repellant hats and luckily, it floats. The hat is usually on my head in my travels where there are mosquitos. I live in fear of malaria or dengue so I was glad to get it back.

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A hotel in Soure is the lovely Hotel Casarao da Amazonia which occupies a restored blue colonial mansion. The breakfast is good and the atmosphere is immediately relaxed. There is not a lot of English but if you need it, they find someone.(http://www.casaraoamazonia.com.br)

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The island is a spectacular visual feat of nature.

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The marshlands attract many varieties of birds like the scarlet ibis.

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Vultures fly overhead on the miles of quiet beach.

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Marajo is located at the mouth of the Amazon River where the fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish can be fresh or salty depending on what the fisherman has found that day.

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The Amazon rainforest has foods and flavors that dont exist anywhere else in the world.Every meal is juxtaposition of the intermingling of cultures of 400 years – European, Brazilian and African.
We eat buffalo steak topped with slabs of queijo do Marajo, sweet, soft buffalo milk cheese followed by fresh fruit.

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In the morning there is buffalo butter on home-made toast and jams made from fruits that I never heard of till now.

 

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There is always ground cassava (manioc) at the table and sometimes there is jambu a wild green that numbs your mouth while you are eating it. There is acai served with dried balls of cassava flour. In cities very far away acai has become the new superfood because it is loaded with antioxidants, but here you eat it in a bowl alone usually with fish. When red flags are up a fresh batch of acai has been made.

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The weirdest thing to eat here is uncooked turu and we were on a mission to find some. (Gelderson)

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(apparently Survivor was filmed here and they had it regularly) Turu are tree worms.

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They are rich in calcium and can be eaten raw and like oysters are taken as an aphrodisiac.

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I couldn’t decide if i wanted to eat it or not and when I finally said yes, they ran out of bottled water to wash it. I declined to clean it in the river. ( turu in motion – or my photo is blurry)

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There is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach with houses set on stilts.

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A woman is washing her dishes and setting her cups to dry on the posts children laugh and play quietly.

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The beach is impossibly wide and the sand gives way to the Para River which joins the Amazon downstream and disappears into the horizon.

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There are a few hut umbrellas and small restaurants serving cold beer, fresh fish and always fresh coconut water.

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I walk for miles on this beach alone fascinated by the patterns in the soft sand surrounded only by vultures.

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I can hear my thoughts and the only noise is the kind you make yourself.

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I leave Marajo with my volume turned on low.

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I have to thank my tour guides Osvaldo and Gelderson, who’s knowledge, kindness, patience, excellent English, sense of humor and nothing is a problem attitude made the trip to the Amazon even more wonderful. People like them always remind me of how small the world really is.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

“I am not a glutton. I am an explorer of food.” Erma Bombeck

We arrive in Belem on a small plane from the island of Marajo at the mouth of the Amazon.

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I thought I was afraid of small planes.

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But the flights were smooth and the scenery was spectacular.

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We started our visit  with lunch at La Em Casa. http://www.laemcasa.com/ It is located in Estacao Das Docas mall a remodeled train station with a beautiful river view.. There is a buffet lunch serving all the traditional dishes.

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The restaurant was started by Anna Marie Martins and it was her son Paulo who brought attention to Brazil, South America and the world about the quality and flavors of regional Amazon cooking. His daughters Joanna and Daniella continued the tradition. Daniella works as a chef in the restaurant and Joanna runs the Paulo Martins Institute and Ver o Peso of Para Food, a festival (Feria Queso)l promoting the flavors and cooking techniques of the Amazon. Joanna is interested in having chefs come from all over the world so any who are reading this should contact her. You won’t be disappointed and you will learn a lot. Its a great time for all foodies to start their visit to the Amazon. contato@institutopaulomartins.org.br  I was lucky to meet both of them and saw how passionate they are about the world getting to know their delicious food. At the rate they are going, we will all soon be eating tucupi and jambu and loving it.

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After that huge lunch we had to try the ice cream at the most famous ice cream parlor in the country,Cairu because there is also a branch in the Estacao Das Docas mall. sorveteriacairu.com.br/ There are Amazonian flavors made from local fruits such as bacuri, muruci, sapoti, graviola, and açai, and“mestiços” (mixed breeds) such as carimbó (cupuaçu and Brazil nut) and maria isabel (bacuri, shortbread, and coconut). The ice creams are so good that five-star restaurants in Rio and São Paulo proudly feature them on their dessert menus.

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Among the many fish we ate in the Amazon region, are filhote and pirarucu. Filhote is the main ingredient in peixada, a stew that includes potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro.  (from La Em Casa)

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Pirarucu is Brazil’s largest fish, measuring up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and weighing up to 80 kilograms (176 pounds). It is usually dried and salted before being grilled on a hot tile or cooked in coconut milk, and then served with farinha and light, buttery feijão manteguinha,  (from Romanso do Bosque)

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We saw Pirarucu at Ver o Peso market.

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It is an outdoor market selling Amazonian products with about 2000 stalls on the Amazon River.

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The unusual name of the Ver-o-Peso Market dates back to colonial times, when the market housed the offices of the Portuguese colonial tax collector.

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Ver-o-Peso is a shortened form of the Portuguese phrase “Haver-o-Peso” meaning “possess or obtain the weight.” The tax collector was charged with collecting a tariff on all goods coming down the river  based not on monetary value of goods but on their weight. It is now a Unesco World Heritage site. (cleaning off the fish smell as vultures fly overhead)

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There are things you know like acai berries and brazil nuts and wealth of produce from the Amazon that is sold nowhere else in the world. (acerola berries)

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if you’re a fan of large, oily, and irresistibly rich Brazil nuts, you’ll find them all over in Pará, where they’re known as castanhas-do-Pará, and are sold — plain, salted, or caramelized — by vendors on the streets of Belém.

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There are fruits with names like cupuaçu, bacuri, muruci, uxi, taperabá, tucumã, bacaba, and pupunha.

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Wait until you smell and taste them, which you can do in forms that include juices, compotes, jellies, cremes, puddings, liqueurs, and sorvetes.

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There are herbs that cure everything and many types of natural viagra, different cachacas (Brazil’s liquor used in caipirinhas) and all kinds of stuff used for religious and spiritual ceremonies that look fascinating.

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I could have spent a lot of time with the herb ladies and in those questionable spiritual ceremony stores.

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Who knows what I would have brought home if I spoke Portuguese?

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We take a ride through the jungle up the Guama River.

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We are headed to the island of Combu where Dona Nena harvests cacao from trees on the island and makes chocolate wrapped in banana leaves and chocolate drinks with carnation milk (my fav).

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Everything is laboriously and lovingly done by hand – a far cry from the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania I visited as a kid. (cacao)

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While most of the families living on the jungle river make their living harvesting acai and brazil nuts, Dona Nena is bringing back the ancient way of making chocolate and the chefs in Brazil can’t get enough.

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It’s delicious and not too sweet – just the way I like it. Brazilian designer chocolate from the Amazon – why not?

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One of our dinners was at Romanso do Bosque which is an inviting beautifully designed restaurant. http://www.restauranteremanso.com.br   Indigenous ingredients and traditional Brazilian cooking combined with new ideas was the basis for an interesting tasting menu. Chef Thiago Castanho’s modern take on ancient flavors was creative and delicious. By then, I was starting to recognize the flavors of the Amazon. I tasted the jambu in the tucupi and honey sauced pork sausage (not normally being a meat eater, I loved that one)

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There were shrimp covered in tapioca, balls of fresh fish, smoked Pirarucu and filhote.

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There were two desserts. The first was tapioca, tapioca ice cream and brazil nut sauce.

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When I couldn’t eat another bite, they brought this. I didn’t even ask what it was but I finished it.

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The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the forest and the river. They are in the mystical ceremonies, potions and celebrations. They are in the lives of the fishermen, farmers, ranchers, healers, cooks, musicians and artists. The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the myths and stories of the Amazonian natives who came before. I bite off a piece of my modern chocolate from Combu and read about the origin of cassava, fire and the story of the woman who gathered the brazil nuts.

Bom apetite,

JAZ

Food In The Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

Food In the Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

“I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime “associates,” food, for me, has always been an adventure.” Anthony Bourdain

When you think of eating food in the Amazon, your mind pictures a few scantily clad natives drinking from coconut bowls. That may happen deep in the Amazon but in the city of Belem they are taking the flavors, food and traditions of the Amazon and serving it to locals, Brazilians and tourists like me from all over the world.

Each of the dishes, ingredients, flavors, and aromas invite us to discover the mixture of the Portuguese, European, Hispanic, Indian, and African influences. Among the typical specialties of Belém you can find “Pato no Tucupi”, made with duck cooked in cassava juice and seasoned with “jambu. (restaurant La Em Casa)

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“Vatapá” is a dish made with bread crumbs, ginger, pepper, allspice, peanuts, coconut milk, palm oil, and onion, with a creamy consistency. it is usually served with shrimp, fish, or beef and accompanied with rice. (La Em Casa)

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The region’s rivers and rain forests provide an endless supply of exotic ingredients, and nowhere else in Brazil will you find so much indigenous influence. (Ver O Paso Market)

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Belém is the Amazon’s culinary capital, and the city’s signature dish, tacacá, is a fusion of the region’s key ingredients. When you mention that you have been to Belem (named for Bethlehem) to a Brazilian they always ask if you tried the tacaca. I was glad I knew what it was. Tacacá is is a soup . It mixes shrimp with tucupi, a thick yellow liquid extracted from the roots of the manioc plant, and jambu, a creeping plant whose leaves when covered with tucupi cause a pleasant tingling and numbness of your lips.

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Manioc is also called cassava, yuca ( which is not yucca) or tapioca and is a staple of the Amazonian diet.  The soup is served hot in cuias (hollowed-out gourds) and I brought some of the bowls home.  One of the best places to have it is on the street at the stand of Dona M Do Carmo. It was amazing and one of the most delicious things I have eaten in Brazil.

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Tucupi (which is cooked for some 12 hours to remove poisonous components) shows up in a lot of Amazonian dishes, such as pato no tucupi, an aromatic duck stew, and maniçoba, the Paraense (Belem is in the state of Para) equivalent of feijoada ( Brazilian signature dish). Different portions of pork and sausage are cooked together along with jambu the dark-green leaves from the manioc plant. (La Em Casa)

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The story goes that the manioc plant has to be cooked for seven days to get rid of the toxins. This involved a lot of group discussion of how that came to be. When someone died after eating it the first day, did the natives decide to cook it for two days and when more died did they decide to try for three etc? How many people died before they came up with seven days and why did they keep trying? Were they using it on their enemies and then it did not work? Did someone forget to turn the fire off and got hungry?

The manioc dough  (it’s a tuber) is pushed through a long woven basket like instrument called a tipiti to get the liquid out. You can buy them in Ver o Peso market on the Amazon River along with my bowls. Such dishes are often accompanied by arroz de jambu (rice flavored with jambu leaves) and farinha d’água, manioc flour that, having been left to soak in the river, has a soft, fluffy consistency.

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The man holding the tipiti was our wonderful guide in the Amazon Osvaldo.  I have many photos of Osvaldo’s hands holding something edible he picked up while we were in the  market or rainforest. Unfortunately I was unable to make notes on my photos of what they were. I knew this would happen. I said I was going to include photos of his hands.

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I am happy to say that  all the tucupi i ate  at every meal was cooked correctly. I am grateful to the Amazonian chefs for doing that .But how did they figure out that it took seven days to get the poison out?

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Brazil

Things I Have Learned In Brazil

“The world lies in the hands of those who have the courage to dream and who take the risk of living out their dreams – each according to his or her own talent.” Paul Coelho

The name Brazil comes from the brazilwood tree (which I’m sure I took pictures of but have so many tree photos in the Amazon). In Portuguese it is called pau brazil. The tree produces a deep red dye, highly valued in the European clothing industry and was the first commercially exploited product in Brazil.

The Brazil nut tree is a different tree only found in the Amazon. (Belem)

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Brazil is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese and the largest Portuguese speaking country. It is very hard to understand Portuguese but easy to read if you speak Spanish. The pronunciation is very different from the spelling that we are used to. Very few people speak Spanish which is interesting considering all their neighboring countries do. They teach English in the schools instead. (Paraty, pronounced para-chee.  We have cold beer and cake?)

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Brazil does not like conflict or war. They don’t even like to say the word war.  When a civil war breaks out they call it a revolution.

Brazil sent three thousand soldiers to World War II reluctantly on the side of Italy and Germany but quickly changed sides when the opportunity presented itself to do so.

There are more species of monkeys in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. This is a very hungry marmoset. I was being nice and offered to share my banana because I was hungry also. He  came very close to me and started screaming and showing his teeth for the rest of it. They may look cute but they are predators. Everyone else got the good pictures. I was dealing with the banana. Guess who won?  (Rio pronounced Rio)

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Brazilian food is super good. (Belem street food -Tacaca with shrimp and jambu)

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Caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil. it is made with cachaca. (pronounced ca-chasa) (Paraty)

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Brazil’s homicide rate is 25 per 100,000 people. This is the closest photo I had. I was getting a tour of the opera house in Belem when I turned my head and saw a cop with a gun in someone’s back. If it was the US, they probably would have shot him.

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The longest traffic jam in the world took place in Brazil.

There are at least 15 girls in every favela more beautiful than Beyoncé.

Street art is all over Brazil ,from professional or crude to tagging. (São Paulo – Cobra)

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54% of the population has European ancestry.
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The Acai berry is grown in Brazil, which is believed to prevent cancer, help with weight loss, detoxification and general health issues. There is a lot of acai in the Amazon. It is not a superfood – it is just food usually eaten with dried cassava balls on top or as a juice served in a plastic bag. (Marajo)

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Almost everything from the Amazon can be like Viagra. ( Marajo, turu – grey tree worms -there are many in that tree. usually eaten raw – luckily they ran out of clean water and wanted to wash mine in the river, I declined)

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The highest point in Brazil is Pico da Neblina, which is 2,994 m high.

Brazil is presently one of the fastest growing economies, with an annual GDP growth rate of 5%.

The Brazilian bikini wax was invented in New York in 1987 by 7 Brazilian born sisters .

Brazil produces the most oranges in the world.

The world’s widest road is the Monumental Axis in Brazil. Here, 160 cars can drive side by side!

Brazil has won the World Cup 5 times (more than any other country!) They feel shame from the last World Cup and don’t really want to talk about it.

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Every city in Brazil has at least one soccer stadium. In 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in Nigeria so that Federal and Rebel troops could watch the Brazilian soccer legend Pele play on a visit to the war-torn nation. (Soare, indoor soccer)

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Coca-Cola in Brazil sponsors a Pele museum on wheels that travels across the country.

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Brazil has never lost a game when Pele and Garrincha played together. Kaka paid for his brother’s education at the best college in São Paulo before Rodrigo himself became a football player.

Kaka was twice voted as Brazil’s sexiest footballer. In 2005, a Nike ad starring Ronaldinho was the first video on YouTube to break 1 million views.

Brazil has the largest stadium in the continent – the Maracana Stadium.

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It is another one of those countries that knows how to blow dry curly hair straight very well. (Sao Paulo)

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It has the second highest number of airports in the world.

Brazil has a drink named after Jesus.

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In Brazil there is a new futbol beach volleyball where they don’t use their hands. (players in Rio at Copacabana Beach posing)

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It is one of the world’s leading producers of hydroelectric power.

Brazil has the fifth highest number of visits from the pope in the world.

Brazilian women attained the right to vote in 1931.

Brazil is the 5th country to make seat belts compulsory.

Brazil literacy rate is 86.4%- the lowest in the continent.

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Brazil shares a border with every country in the continent except Chile and Ecuador.

The motto of Brazil is “Order and Progress”.

Brazil has the longest beach at 7500km.( Marajo – not the longest but long and beautiful)

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Brazil has the most number of species on the continent. (Marajo – vulture flying over not the longest beach)

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Brazil has the highest number of AIDS victims in the world.

Brazil has the ninth highest number of billionaires in the world.

A Brazilian model is considered one of the most gorgeous women in the world.

There is no official religion any more in Brazil. There are a lot of these statues around Rio.

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The Portuguese were very different colonizers than the Spanish. They immediately intermarried with the Indians and the first Brazilians are born. Brazil really is a melting pot of races, foods, religions and cultures.

The currency of Brazil has both horizontal and vertical pictures.

Brazil is the longest country in the world, spanning about 2,800 miles from north to south via land.

I loved Brazil and I’m already planning to go back next year. I can say good morning, good evening, thank you, you’re welcome, goodbye and soy milk in Portuguese so I think I’m good. (Paraty)

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Obrigada and Ciao,

JAZ