The Monkey visited Brasil twice in 1998, although the photographic record is quite patchy. Nonetheless, here are the Monkey’s photos from beautiful Brasil.
The Monkey peers through the haze at one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world, Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema. Like many aspects of Rio culture, the Atlantic-fronting bairro with its long arch of sandy beach was commemorated in a bossa nova song by Antonio Carlos Jobim. “A Garota de Ipanema” (“the Girl from Ipanema”) summed up the joy of fleeting love (or at least lust) at first sight, as well as the carefree attitude of Rio’s beachcombing masses. The Monkey can attest to the fact that Jobim was perfectly on the mark: if you go to Ipanema’s beach, chances are you will spot a garota or a rapaz (boy) that transfixes you, who’s “tall and tan and young and lovely” and whose walk is like “a samba that sways so cool and sways so gently that when she/he passes, each one she/he passes goes ‘ahhhhh…’.” Everyone deserves to gaze upon a girl (or boy) from Ipanema once in a lifetime.
Undoubtedly one of the Monkey’s best photos, the open-armed Cristo Redentor statue is rather unintentionally dwarfed by the Monkey’s own grandiose smile. Both of them have a lot to be happy about. Atop the gorgeous 709 meter Corcovado Mountain, immortalized by Antonio Carlos Jobim’s song “Corcovado” and scenes in Marcel Camus’ 1959 film “Black Orpheus”, the view that Christ (and in this case the Monkey) enjoy over Rio de Janeiro is unrivaled in the entire world.
Few cities combine mountains, sea, and sun quite like Rio, and there are no places better for taking it all in than from atop the Corcovado. Adding to the beauty, from sites all around Rio, you can spot Jesus watching you (or maybe he’s eyeing the “dental floss” bikini girls on Copacabana beach) from high above. At night, the 38 meter statue, developed by engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and sculptor Paul Landowski and erected in 1921, frequently floats in a cloud of fluttering bugs, adding immensely to the wonder of this world-class sight.
Another view of the Cristo Redentor, from the Monkey’s February 1998 visit to Rio.
The Monkey’s travels took him to the Chapadas dos Guimarães, a geological anomaly in the plains and wetlands of western Brasil. There, he witnessed the cliffs and canyons, the waterfalls and forests, and the bizarre natural phenomena (like cars left in neutral seemingly rolling uphill) that make this a special place in Brasil.
It’s a true shame the Monkey didn’t pose with the caiman, capybaras, anacondas, and countless bird species of the nearby Pantanal, a France-sized wetlands in the west of Brasil. Next time, when the Monkey visits his friends in Cuiabá, he’ll do better on the photographic front.
In the lower left corner of this photo you can see the dry, red earth that was all there was to Brasilia as late as 1960. Three years later, Rio de Janeiro ceded control of Brasil’s government to a new and utterly modern, purpose-built capital, Brasilia. The city was the culmination of Brasil’s longstanding desire to relocate its federal government to an autonomous region that would be less beholden to the economic and political influences of already exisiting centers like Rio and São Paulo. In this regard, it was not dissimilar to the creation of Washington and its surrounding District of Columbia in the United States.
But while 1800s-designed Washington consisted of grandiose neoclassical buildings that looked longingly backward to the glory of ancient Rome, 1960s-designed Brasilia was self-consciously modern and proudly displayed Brasil’s aspiration to be a vital, modern republic. In aerial views and on blueprints, the city looked like a bird in flight, with the government ministries, the tall H-shaped Congress, and the other state buildings visible here in the distance behind the Monkey as the head, a cross-axis of residential and commercial districts fanning out in the shape of a partial crescent forming the wings, and a long, ceremonial avenue (passing below the Monkey in this photo; he’s where the wings meet the body) completing the bird pattern as the body and tail. Residents lived in numbered “super-blocos” rather than on streets, shops were confined to cordoned commercial nodes, and the distances along the avenues leading to the ministries were deceptively longer than they appear at first glance.
To many, it was all a bit “unnatural”. The heat of the central Brasilian plains also added to the stifling atmosphere. Politicians routinely commuted to Brasilia for the work week, returning to livelier places on weekends. Still, the capital is possessed of a bold and unique design, and it’s not nearly as dull as Rio’s Cariocas and São Paulo’s Paulistanas, among others, make it out to be. And when the monumental avenues leading toward the Congress fill with demonstrators, it resembles the Mall in Washington, D.C. during the civil rights marches of the 1960s, an appropriate parallel for a multiracial society like Brasil’s that continues, like the United States, to struggle with issues of social and racial equality.
O Macaco takes in Brasilia’s space-age skyline.
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