Let me explain. I grew up on telenovelas (soap operas). Every night I was glued to the TV watching beautiful love stories from Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. It was awesome! But then there came a time when I tired of the usual poor girl who falls in love with rich guy, and is then antagonized by his horrible family, until one day true love prevails… somehow. I took a break from the melodrama to focus on other things (Roswell, Buffy, and Charmed). Until one day, a magical thing happened: I watched my first Brazilian soap!
These soaps weren’t like anything I was accustomed to. The usual melodrama was there… but then there was also history, culture, public interest themes, and lots of Brazil! Their transition shots always seemed to showcase a beautiful part of the city, and I fell in love! It was at the top of my travel bucket list ever since.
Unfortunately, it’s been tough times trying to plan a trip to Brazil. I always seem to get pulled in a different direction. But two years ago, when I was being pulled to Argentina (don’t get me wrong, I wanted to go to Argentina too), I made sure to plan a detour to Rio, even if it was just for four days! And it was just as amazing as I always imagined!
As usual I studied the map meticulously, making sure to know exactly where my favorite characters lived so that I could see the sights they frequented. Every time we walked or drove past one of those neighborhoods, excited I’d tell my mom “look, that’s where Duda lives!” hahahaha!
I crammed a million things into my long Brazilian weekend: Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Beaches, and a Favela tour! The favela was the highlight of my visit… nope not the tour, it was my nighttime rendezvous that did it! While on our Favela tour, our guide let us know that he plays at the samba school of this very Favela, and that we were welcomed to come and watch them practice. That night they were going to rehearse and vote on the songs they would use for their school during the Carnival. He didn’t have to tell me twice! I was in! My travel companions not so much. They were terrified. But I was determined.
I dragged my two travel companions all the way to the Santa Marta Samba School… in the middle of the night. Our guide had said that although Favelas are known to be the most dangerous areas of Brazil, this particular favela had been rid of the drug lords and criminals. I held on to that thought very tightly, as I ventured into what could be the lion’s den.
It was amazing! We watched as cariocas convened into one building in the middle of a favela to dance the night away. There were people from all walks of life and all social classes. Maybe a fight broke out that night, and maybe a month later the news reported the assassination of a samba school vice president. But nothing could come close to ruining the energy and happiness that filled the school that night. It was a true immersion into Brazilian culture. An experience I will treasure forever.
Four days weren’t enough. I still hope to one day check out the scene in Lapa, watch the Carnival, and visit Sao Paolo. Brazil still holds a spot in my bucket list. I still watch the soaps and dream of the day when I get to visit the neighborhoods of my favorite characters!
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