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Anchors Aweigh: The colors of Carnaval, Rio, Salvador

1 December 2013 By Amber Cope, Columnist No Comments
Columnist Amber Cope discovers the beauty of the Brazilian culture
Courtesy of Amber Cope

Courtesy of Amber Cope

When one is asked what they think of when they hear the word “Brazil,” they would most likely respond with the Amazon rainforest or possibly their soccer team. While this characterization isn’t wrong, Brazil is filled with so much more history, culture and beauty that I probably won’t do it justice describing it in such short words.

As we approached Rio de Janeiro, we were informed about the high rate of crime and violence associated with tourists and that we should be prepared for anything.

Though this did put a clink toward my first impressions of Brazil, my time spent in Rio, the metropolitan city of Brazil, and Salvador, the largest African community outside of Africa, provided me with a glimpse into a region that has become an economic powerhouse in South America and a place that I found adventurous and considered the emerald gem of South America.

Most of my first day in Rio was spent visiting the pristine beaches of Copacabana and enjoying the warm weather. Walking down the beach, I was entranced by the bashing of Brazilian drums as capoeira performers mystified those wandering the streets with their incredible and artistic martial arts movements.

My second day involved a class field trip to a Samba school where I was able to learn the history of Samba and learn to play the beat on drums. We were also able to tour the school’s Carnaval production facility and see the floats and costumes in progress for the annual Carnaval festival, coming up in February.

My final day in Rio involved visiting one of the seven wonders of the world, the Christ the Redeemer statue. The sheer grandeur of the statue could be experienced as one stood at the foot of the statue and looked up. Combined with the incredible views of Rio, the visit was easily the most breathtaking thing I’ve seen all semester.

Courtesy of Amber Cope

Courtesy of Amber Cope

Salvador provided an escape from the hustle and bustle that was Rio. The historic city was filled with cultural components at nearly every corner. On our first day, we were fortunate to be able to encounter the Bahia cultural festival that highlighted the region’s Afro-Brazilian heritage.  As we walked through the old part of town, which currently holds the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, we encountered women dressed in all white frocks that were similar to 19th century fashion and watched them dance and sing through the streets.

One of the neat tourist attractions that day was the visiting the balcony where Michael Jackson shot part of his “They Don’t Care About Us” music video.

Our second day consisted of a casual hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the surrounding areas of Salvador. Visiting a famous Baroque church was one of the many highlights of the trip. As I walked through the church, pews, railings and fences, they were lined with wish bracelets and plastered human limbs were placed throughout the church, a sign that local parishioners hoped their aliments in certain limbs would be healed.

The lure of Brazil and its vibrant lifestyle was mesmerizing and opened my eyes to a culture I didn’t realize I knew so little about.

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