In the Philippines, when one thinks of Brazil, she thinks of the Amazon jungle, the carnival, beauty pageants, and Rio!
Rio’s popularity has been on the rise since the 1960’s. The Bossanova song “A Girl from Ipanema” invaded the world radio, even winning Record of the Year in the 1965 Grammy Awards, beating American and English superstars Louis Armstrong, Petula Clark, the Beatles, and Barbra Streisand. Since then, Rio’s Ipanema became one of the most imagined and desired paradises in the world. On the other hand, Bossanova became very influential in the Philippines – lounge singers have been rendering and covering popular tunes with Bossanova beat and tempo. In early 2000, Philippine singer Sitti sold over hundred-thousand albums with her Bossanova songs.
The music style Samba, a proclaimed UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, has also been invading the world performance arena since the mid-20th century. Although it is considered generally Brazilian, its popularity is often linked to Rio, particularly the festive carnival held annually before the Lenten Season of the Catholic Church calendar. Also, this music is most commonly perceived as a dance form. The younger generations today are introduced to this music/dance in different popular television dance competitions (such as So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance), tagging it as the sexiest dance in the world. The colorful dresses of the carnival are often used as inspirations for national costumes of beauty queens in different beauty pageants.
Beginning 2010, Rio has been once again pinned down on the world map. In 2010, a video game developed by Rovio presented angry Brazilian birds over the invading monkeys and pigs who trespass the carnival. In 2011, an animated film “Rio” was a box-office success. It featured the lovely birds and other animals of the city (and the entire country) plus the colorful carnival tradition. In 2012, UNESCO Convention inscribed Rio as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) with Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes Between the Mountain and the Sea as its official name. On 2 October 2009, Rio was selected by the International Olympic Council to host the Games of the XXXI Olympiad with 66 members of the IOC voting in favor and 32 members voting for Madrid. On 5 August 2016, a spectacular opening ceremony was held at the Maracanã Stadium under the direction of Fernando Meirelles, Daniela Thomas, and Andrucha Waddington. A carnival-like closing ceremony was held on 21 August 2016 on the same stadium under the direction of Rosa Magalhães.
When I traveled to Brazil in July 2017, my well-planned side-trip was Brasília. My travel was an official trip: to attend the International Federation for Theatre Research Annual Conference hosted by the University of São Paolo in São Paolo. I arrived earlier for plans of seeing the Federal Capital of Brazil, an inscribed UNESCO WHS, an underrated tourist destination in South America, as suggested by several blogposts of people who have visited several Brazilian cities.
The primary reasons for not inserting Rio in my itinerary were based on “hearsays” from all over the World Wide Web: (1) Rio is crowded, (2) the crime rate is so high (issues of security), and (3) it is overrated. In other words, I was hailed by these stereotypes and had convinced myself that these are in fact really synonymous with Rio. After Brasília, I did not have any plan of leaving São Paolo during the duration of the conference. My friends back home even criticized me for not choosing Rio as a side-trip.
I knew I still had three extra days in my schedule – the plan was to do some sightseeing in São Paolo. For a strange reason on the second day of the conference, I tried checking air-fares going in and out of Rio via São Paolo. They were not bad! And I booked my ticket to Rio.
I am glad, I did!
Cue Music: “At the copa (co) Copacabana / Music and passion were always the fashion / At the copa they fell in love” [“Copacabana,” popularized by Barry Manilow]
(End of the first part. For the second part, please click here).