Monday, May 30, 2011

Working in Manhattanlândia: Getting my Brazil kick between 9 and 5

I get asked the following question all the time: Becca, if you love Brazil so much, why don't you move there already?!

I know, I know. I ask myself that question, too, sometimes. But it's really not that easy. I have a number of friends who just picked up and went, without a job or a plan, and had the time of their lives... for a few months, maybe a year. I think that is awesome, and I live vicariously through them while they are abroad. But because I'm looking to move to Brazil, for a few years, if not for good, I'd like to go there with a stable job that affords a me a comfortable lifestyle I can maintain for an indefinite time.

I am fortunate, though, to have a great job, here in New York, that feeds my Brazil addiction and allows me to stay up to date on everything that's happening in the land that holds my heart. My buddy from college, Alan Perlman, also has a sweet gig as a surveyor (he travels the world and calculates the cost of living in different cities) as well as a blog where he interviews young professionals pursuing not-your-average careers. I was flattered when he wanted to feature me and my work at Sulia. Check out the interview and Alan's blog here:

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Most Beautiful Viral Video

This music video by Brazilian group, A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade, has gone viral in the last 48 hours, counting almost 3 million hits on You Tube. I discovered the video when Sounds and Colours, an arts and culture magazine with a focus on Latin America, tweeted an article about the group and their sensational video. Of course I couldn't help myself from clicking on the link and watching the entire 6 minute video sitting at my desk. I was so taken with the music, lyrics, and videography, that I was totally oblivious to the fact that my friend was trying to get my attention regarding a work-related task. Cover blown! Oh well. It was totally worth it. See for yourself.

And for you Portuguese speakers and students, here are the beautiful lyrics. 

Oração - A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade

Meu amor essa é a última oração
Pra salvar seu coração
Coração não é tão simples quanto pensa
Nele cabe o que não cabe na despensa
Cabe o meu amor!
Cabem três vidas inteiras
Cabe uma penteadeira
Cabe nós dois
Cabe até o meu amor
Essa é a última oração pra salvar seu coração
Coração não é tão simples quanto pensa
Nele cabe o que não cabe na despensa
Cabe o meu amor!
Cabem três vidas inteiras
Cabe uma penteadeira
Cabe essa oração

Santiago: Another Endearing Eccentric

Two weekends ago I went to the MOMA to catch the very end of their In Focus: Cinema Tropical series. The last decade has been a period of prolific production in the history of Latin American cinema, and the series featured exemplary films and documentaries from this recent renaissance. Two of the screenings where of Brazilian productions: O ceu de Suely (Love for Sale/Suely in the Sky) and Sanitago. Of course, I had planned to see both films, but in the end, I was only able to catch one of them.

Santiago, a 2006 documentary by João Moreira Salles, is named after the director's family butler, who lived and worked for his parents for 40 years in their home in Gávea, Rio de Janeiro. Salles interviews Santiago about his childhood in Italy, his adolescence in Argentina, and his tenure working for the director's distinguished family in Brazil. From his own apartment in Leblon, Santiago enthusiastically recounts his life history in a delightful mix of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, all delivered with an beautiful Argentine accent and wild gesticulation. I took quite a likely to this elderly man. If he hadn't passed away already, I might just have paid him a visit on my next trip o Rio. 

Santiago embodies many of the qualities I love about Brazilian people and culture. He is an eccentric individual, proud of his experiences and eager to share his wild stories and interpretations, passionate about his interests, and dedicated to his faith and spirituality. We learn Santiago was a talented pianist and classical music lover. He was a historian, who in his spare time authored 30,000 (if I'm remembering correctly) typed pages of histories covering almost every civilization that's graced this earth. In the film, Santiago proudly proclaims that his closest friends are the historical figures who populate his papers, which neatly fill an entire bookcase in a corner of his apartment. Santiago worked hard for his employer's family and guests, but took more from his professional experiences than the job took from him. His frequent encounters with diplomats and aristocrats at the lavish dinner parties he put on for his employers added only color and meaning to his own experience, never resentment.

Here is the trailer for the documentary, followed by an 8 minute clip from the film.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Brazil in St. Louis: Radio Rio

Photo credit
I was back in St. Louis this weekend for my little brother's college graduation. I wasn't expecting my usual dose of Brazilian weekend activites in the Gatway City, but yesterday I got a pleasant surprise. My brother and I had been listening to St. Louis's community radio station, KDHX, all weekend, so when I got back in the car yesterday at 5pm, as soon as I turned the key in ignition, the station came on. This time, instead of the usual twangy folk and blue grass, I heard the soothing vocals of Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso. Radio Rio! I'd completely forgotten about this awesome program since I'd left St. Louis two years ago.

Radio Rio, my favorite KDHX program, plays all types of Brazilian music every Saturday from 5-7pm. The D , Andrea, knows a lot about music and is great about mixing in new songs coming out of Brazil with the classic Samba, Bossa Nova, MPB, and Tropicalia. I am so happy I rediscovered the program yesterday. Even though I'm leaving St. Louis (actually about to board my plane to LGA) I will be sure to revive my old Saturday ritual and start listening to Radio Rio online. You can listen to Radio Rio and all the other KDHX programs streaming live on the KDHX website.

Happy listening!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Starstruck: Brazilian celebrities in and around New York

Diego Miguel. Photo
It was Brazilian Day 2010. I was squeezing my way through the crowds on 46th when I spotted a familiar face. Leaning against side of a building was a beautiful individual wearing a men’s tank that showed of his chiseled figure. His dark eyes scanned the crowd as he simultaneously talked with his entourage. He looked just like a model. Oh, wait. He IS a model. I was staring straight at Diego Miguel

How in the world would I, a relative fashion-ignorant, know who Diego Miguel is? It all started when I returned from a trip to Brazil in 2009 and was looking for Brazliian blogs and news sites, so I could stay informed. The google search results for “Brazil blogs” were pretty slim, but I came across one that looked promising: Made In Brazil. When I clicked on the link, I didn’t find the political, cultural and sports news I was hoping for. Instead I was bombarded with images of beautiful, tanned men and women donning the highest fashion and/or the skimpiest bathing suits. I kept clicking. I recognized a few names in the captions, Gisele Bundchen, Alessandra Ambrosio, but the remaining names and faces I didn’t recognize. Made in Brazil is essentially and English language gossip blog about Brazilian celebrities and up and coming models. Although not what I had set out to find, Made in Brazil still served my higher purpose of staying on top of Brazilian (cultural) affairs, so I signed up for the rss feed. Now, every morning I wake up to an email chock full of photos of Brazilian models (mostly shirtless, 20-something males.) Not a bad way to start the day, right?

So that’s the story of how I recognized Diego Miguel. Since then that fateful day in September, I’ve started to pay attention to the who’s who of Brazil, especially those celebs living in or visiting New York City. And recently, I've learned of a few more to look out for. 

Two nights ago a new Brazilian reality show aired which was filmed in New York. In the first episode Luciana Gimenez, the host of the popular variety show Super Pop, was joined by Matheus Mazzafera, stylist to the stars, for a day of adventure in the Big Apple. Ex-model and TV personality Fabiana Saba, who also lives in New York, joined her friends for a champaign picnic in Central Park. I wish I had known about the show back in April when they were filming, but I only just found out about it. Still, I now know to keep my eye out for Ms. Gimenez and Ms. Saba who maintain New York residences and for Matheus Mazzafera who bounces between New York and Brazil on a regular basis. Here is the first episode (it's in Portuguese.)

I was familiar with Fabiana Saba before I saw the Super Pop segment, but I hadn't known she lived full time in NYC. Fabiana is very active on Twitter and has recently been plugging a charity event she is helping to organize. From Twitter, I've inferred that Fabiana is working with two Brazilian organizations, The Brazil Foundation and Brazil Child Health, to host a Festa Junina fundraiser on June 5th. 
Festa Junina is the Brazilian celebration of St. John the Baptist. Catholic Portuguese colonists brought the tradition to the Brazilian Northeast, but today the holiday is celebrated nation wide, regardless of creed. To acknowledge Junina's rural, Northeastern roots, celebrations feature country style dress, food, and dance. In 2009, I attended a Festa Junina at the school of a friend's son in Santarém, Pará. All the boys dressed in straw hats and checkered shirts, and the girls wore pig-tail braids and frilly dresses for their performance of the traditional Quadrilha dance. It was adorable. 

Quadrilha Junina. Photo: Ms. Julia Recommends
After experiencing Festa Junina once, I will never pass up an opportunity to celebrate it again. It's fun for the whole family. This Festa Junina celebration in New York, however, will be a little different from the one I attended in the Brazilian Amazon. The main reason being its celebrity presence. The daughters of Brazilian super model Alessandra Ambrosia are slated to be the stars of the show. And I’m assuming Ms. Ambrosia will be there with her children. Perhaps mom's model friend will join the fun, too. The Brazil Foundation is kind of a big deal, so who knows who else might show? Gisele Bundchen was among the guests at the Foundation's annual Brazil Gala back in September. Maybe I’ll see Tom Brady, too.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I don't even know what I would do if I were to see all these celebrities. Not only are they famous, but they are Brazilian. That could be too much to handle for a Brazil-empassioned, starstruck-prone girl like myself. The point is, there are lots of famous Brazilians living in and passing through our marvelous city. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you are bound to recognize at least a few. Whether or not you approach them for a picture or autograph is up to you!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Celebrity Siting: Cast of Rio in NYC

The cast of Rio
Left to right: Marcel, Rafael, Nico, Blu, Jewel, Pedro, Nigel, and Luiz

I feel like my friends are always seeing celebrities walking around in NYC. Sarah Jessica Parker in the West Village, Thandie Newton in the East Village, Uma Thurman in Gramercy. I, generally, am not lucky enough to cross paths with these famous personalities, but today was different. I saw not just one, but two super stars from the hit, animated film, Rio

I spotted Marcel (above), camouflaged in the window of a Evolution in Soho. Blu (right) was hanging out at the playground in Hudson River Park in Tribeca. It turns out he has an apartment in the nearby Solaire on River Terrace. You're likely to catch him on nice days taking strolls along the walking path.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cause for Celebration: Brazilian court grants gay couples same rights as heterosexuals

I came close to tears today just reading the emotional and celebratory tweets in reaction to today's ruling by the Brazilian Supreme Court. Federal Justices in a 10-0 vote ruled in favor of granting gay couples the same  rights as heterosexual couples. From today forward, same-sex couples can legally commit in civil union and enjoy almost all the benefits that have, until now, been extended only to heterosexual couples. Gay individuals can:

  • Jointly file income taxes with a partner
  • Register as a dependent in a partner's health care plan
  • Inherit the estate of a deceased partner and receive life insurance payments
  • File for divorce and divide the assets equally
  • Receive child support in the case of divorce
The ruling did not address the issue of adoption by gay couples, which, for reasons I don't understand, would be voted on in the federal legislature. 

Brazil isn't the first country in Latin America to support civil unions. Same-sex couples can marry in Argentina and Mexico City, and Uruguay and Columbia also recognize civil unions. Brazil's court stopped short of recognizing same-sex marriage, but federal support for civil unions in the country with the worlds largest Catholic population is not insignificant.