31 August 2015

Brazilians and Argentines

Hello everyone! I have a guest blogger sitting in for me this morning, a guy called Mark Something-or-other. Hope you enjoy his take on life in Búzios. (Why, he's lived here as long as I have!) 

You don't have to listen to a lot of the jokes that Brazilians tell about their neighbors the Argentines to figure out what it is that ticks Brazil off about the Argentines so much. "What's the definition of ego? It's the little piece of Argentina that we all carry within us." "What's the world's best business deal? Buy an Argentine for his real value and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." And then, the jokes aside, there's that relentless Argentine needling about how (their) Maradona is greater than (our) Pelé, (their) Messi is greater than (our) Neymar.

No war is brewing between the two countries, and no local Donaldo dreams about putting a fence up at the border. Brazilians will often in fact generously refer to the Argentines, in their own language, as the hermanos—not that there aren't some undercurrents of irony there along with the fraternal feeling. But Argentines are, unquestionably, a thorn in the Brazilian side, and all the more so here in Búzios, where many Argentines are long-time residents (and continue, most of them, to speak with heavy accents), many young Argentines come for a season or two and work in restaurants (and continue, irritatingly, to greet their customers in Spanish, as if we were still in Recoleta) and thousands of Argentines pass through every year on brief sun-and-sand vacations and go about their admittedly completely intelligible gracias-ing when they could just as easily make the simple effort to express their thanks for this and that with an obrigado — and seduce.


In Búzios, the situation is particularly complicada, since, though the Brazilians don't like to acknowledge it, Búzios to a large extent has come to depend on a collaboration between Brazilians and Argentines. Our one movie theater, where the bill of fare is more likely to be an Iranian film festival contender than a Hollywood blockbuster, was founded, and for decades has been overseen by, the Argentine cinephile Mario Paz.


Of our many restaurants, the one that most resembles an old-line European establishment, by name Cigalon, was created by, and continues to be lovingly fine-tuned by, the Argentine lawyer and foodie Sonia Persiani.

Of our hundreds of pousadas, the one that has been noticed most in the international travel press, and most recommended to upscale travelers, is the Casas Brancas; Casas Brancas was created by the Argentine Amalia de la Maria and for many decades it was she who obsessively kept CB standards way up in the stratosphere.


Our great satiric newspaper, the Perú Molhado, was published and edited for many decades, with insouciant genius, by the Argentine photographer-writer Marcelo Lartigue.


I have inevitably been thinking about the Argentine contribution to Búzios because Amalia of Casas Brancas died just a couple of weeks ago. She had been sick. She decided to go off to Croatia with her husband, José, also an Argentine, for a last fling. She flung. She expired there. In other days, there would have been pages and pages about her in Perú Molhado—biography, celebration, irreverent nonsense. But Marcelo, the careless genius of the Perú, himself died about a year ago. Underlying cause of death: too much high living. In Marcelo's absence, the Perú has gone to pot and, when Amalia died, the new management published a small picture and a graceless caption. Some day Barbara or I — one of us — should write a memoir of our dear, dear Búzios-residing Argentine friend Hugo Oks. It is painful for Barbara and me to think how many years it has been since Hugo passed on.
Mark and Barbara to Buenos Aires: Send reinforcements! Send reinforcements urgently! Please!

24 August 2015


Nowadays you can Google anything and everything, but I grew up pre- Google, so everything I ever learned about cactus came from watching old Westerns (which means I don't know a whole hell of a lot about cactus, other than that they're native to the Americas). What I know for sure is that if you were prostrate with thirst and near death, you had best crawl to a cactus, quick. If you were lucky, and crawled fast, you might reach one and find a drop of water inside. If not, that was the end of that, pardner!

Here in Búzios we have a variety of cactus growing all over the place —

. . . on the shore

. . . in a garden

. . . and at the beach

— as well as inside and outside of our house —

Affectionately called our "broccoli monster"

Stand back! This is our sharp "needle monster"!
A nice, gentle guy on the veranda

Planted at 5", now stands tall and proud

Part of our recent trip to the States included a drive around the Southwest, which brought us face to face with the famous movie cactus —

Classic saguaro in Paradise Valley, Arizona
From somewhere to somewhere, New Mexico

Also in New Mexico

But here's my all-time favorite cactus, which we scared off in São Paulo during the 2014 Bienale Art Show!

Get me outta here!

17 August 2015

A March Here, A Protest There

I came of age in the '60s and '70s, and as some of you might remember, those were some serious protest years. There was the student movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, there were anti-Vietnam marches — remember "Make Love, Not War?" I did my part. And I burned a few bras for the women's movement, too. But I'm terribly averse to large crowds (hey, I saw the last 20 minutes of The Day of the Locust!) and so I admit to having avoided much of the hard core protesting of those years.

Amazing, then, that on my very first trip to Rio de Janeiro in August of 1992 I found myself in the middle of a protest march in favor of the impeachment of Brazil's then-President, Fernando Collor de Mello, who had been accused of influence peddling*. As you can see from the pictures, at first I stayed across the street, ever crowd-averse, but soon I gingerly edged my way deeper in. Hey, this was a Brazilian protest march, much lighter in tone and more fun than the marches I avoided in NYC!

Copacabana Beach, 1992

Even more amazing, though, is that yesterday, some 23 years after participating in that march against Collor, Mark and I were in Rio (this time quite deliberately) to join what was being billed as "the largest protest in the history of Brazil," a protest against every single thing that has fallen off the rotten tree of the current government: against President Dilma, against her political party (the Workers Party), against former President Lula (currently called Luladrão, ladrão meaning thief), and against the ever-growing and mutating Petrobras scandal.**

This protest was a coordinated effort that took place all over Brazil and in various world cities such as Paris, London, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. It was, as we expected it would be, a very Brazilian event: all singing, all dancing, and lots of paz e amor. Did it accomplish what it set out to accomplish? Too early to tell, that will be for all the talking heads to opine about in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I may very well have personally brought down yet one more Brazilian government!

Okay, I was a little leery at first . . .

. . . but then I saw the security . . . 

. . . and made my way into the crowd . . .

It wasn't too hard to mingle!

I even made some new friends!

It was quite a turnout on Copacabana Beach

*Collor ended up resigning in an attempt to stop an impeachment trial, but the trial went forward, he was found guilty, and was disqualified from elective office from 1992 to 2000. Unfortunately, you can take the boy out of politics, but you can't take politics out of the boy, and since 2007 Collor has been serving as Senator from the state of Alagoas. No surprise here, he is currently under investigation in the ongoing Petrobras scandal, and back in July, the federal police impounded a Porsche, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini from Collor's residence. Dirty then, dirty now.

Collor or Dracula — who's scarier?

**The Petrobras Scandal — where to start? Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly complex scheme of kickbacks, bribes, frauds and graft involving employees of Petrobras (Brazil's own once-highly-regarded oil company), presidents of construction companies, high-level government employees, mid-level pigeons, politicians of all stripes, and the always-present string of in-laws and other family members. This scandal is as dirty as a scandal can get, and yet every day we learn it's even dirtier than we thought.

10 August 2015

Búzios 2016?

Back in December of 2014 I said that due to force majeure I was suspending my blog and going to the States for a while, and that I'd see you all next year. And then — nothing but silence. I turned my back, dropped you all like hot potatoes, left you in the lurch, walked off into the sunset without a fair-thee-well. I know, I'm so sorry. If I told you all that I had good reasons, would you believe me? Would it make things right?

I've been back in Búzios for a few months now, but I returned feeling pretty cranky. I didn't think anyone would still be interested in what an American transplant thought about her adopted home in Brazil, nor did I feel I had it in me anymore to write. So I stopped blogging, just like that. But then, one day recently, I looked out at our bay and there he was, Man in Water, standing out there as still and pensive as when I first wrote about him last November. I felt the itch to sit down and tell my readers that, by golly, he's still there!

There's really so much to talk about these days, how can I remain silent? The Brazilian economy is on the skids, corruption is pervasive, crime is rampant, and in one of those you-are-what-you-eat moments, President Dilma is losing weight at about the same dizzying speed with which her popularity has taken a tumble . . . but what really got me back in the saddle was when I learned that Búzios — known in Brazil as the Capital da Vela, the Sailing Capital — is aggressively campaigning to have the 2016 Olympic sailing events moved out here! How wonderful is that! While the Rio authorities are tripping over themselves trying to disprove the recent findings of horrendous pollution in Guanabara Bay, we here in Búzios are sitting on beaches and waters that are clear and limpid and waiting to be of service. And Mark and I are sitting on what would be front-row seats if this comes to pass. I'm up and blogging, because the stories are too good to pass up.