Boys playing soccer on a beach

Photo © Michael Sommers.

Aside from the snappy appeal of its rhyme, there are several reasons for choosing the name “Thrill of Brazil” for my new blog.

Google “Thrill of Brazil” and you’ll find the term already exists:

1. As an excruciatingly bright shade of professional nail polish made by OPI (it’s supposedly a “classic”).

2. As the title of a very minor 1946 Hollywood musical churned out by Columbia pictures (back then known as a “Poverty Row” studio). The movie – which stars famous hoofer Ann Miller in one of her first screen roles – is pretty unmemorable apart from the fact that it was a late example of Hollywood’s “Good Neighbor Policy.” A U.S. political strategy dreamed up by F.D.R. in the ‘30s, the “Good Neighbor Policy” sought to strengthen ties between North and South America; as its main propaganda machine, Hollywood, was more than happy to help.

As South America’s biggest nation, not to mention its largest market of movie-goers, Brazil was subsequently featured in dozens of films (most often identified via stock shots of Pão de Açucar or hilariously palm-and-orchid-studded studio sets). In fact, it was through the movies – many of them vibrant Technicolor musicals starring Carmen Miranda or Carmen Miranda look-alikes – that many North Americans first “discovered” Brazil, and were inevitably enchanted by it.

Most people I’ve encountered who travel here come away changed – if only a little – and inevitably, in a positive way. As a student of film – specifically Hollywood movies featuring Brazil (the topic of my graduate thesis) – I too saw many of these films and was enchanted by the “Brazils” they portrayed. Of course, I knew full well that many of the images I saw were the stuff of myth, but I was still thrilled. And once I actually made it to Brazil – to the gloriously photogenic Rio de Janeiro and then to the country’s first capital, Salvador, Bahia, where I settled – I was pretty much knocked off my feet. In fact, I decided I couldn’t leave. And so 11 years later, here I am.

In writing the Moon Brazil and Moon Rio de Janeiro travel guides, aside from offering practical tips and recommendations, my goal is to allow readers/travelers the opportunity to see and experience facets of Brazil that are a little more grounded, complex, and multi-faceted than those most foreigners usually have of this continent-sized country. While this means grappling with a lot of Brazil’s realities (not all of which are happy as a Hollywood musical), it also involves focusing on some of the countless reasons why Brazil continues to seduce the hell out of so many people. Indeed, Brazil is one of those places that leaves nobody indifferent. Most people I’ve encountered who travel here, come away changed – if only a little – and inevitably, in a positive way. And then there are all those who long to come (and really should!).

As for this blog, my hopes are that it not only complements the travel guides (with timely updates, reviews, news and information), but also provides a platform to offer insights about and images of just a few of the many fascinating elements that truly do make Brazil a “thrill” (and now I’ve gotten to the real justification for this blog’s title). Unlike a guidebook, a blog has the advantage of being interactive, and I welcome comments, suggestions, questions, impressions, and so on.

Boa Viagem!