Sunday, July 25, 2010


So I recently started re-reading this book called Rio de Janeiro: Carnival under Fire by Ruy Castro. I read the book about two years ago right before I left for my first trip to visit the Cidade Maravilhosa. At the time, my knowledge of the city let alone the country, was rather bleak. Now that I have spent a fair amount of time there and feel like I really know much of the highlights people talk about, it has been interesting to be able to recognize a lot of the topics Castro discusses about Brazilian culture as well as the many different communities found throughout the city.

One in particular that was briefly discussed is an area located in Centro called the Saara (Sahara). I visited on several occasions with Luciana as well as on my own, during my many walks through the city. It consists of over 1,500 little businesses and served as the first home for a large number of Syrian, Lebanese, Jewish, Greek, Turk, Spanish, Portuguese and Argentine migrants coming to Brazil by the end of 19th and early 20th centuries. Rio’s largest variety of merchants can be found here, from clothing to toys, sports equipment, artificial flowers and costume accessories, among many others. It is a fantastic popular Carioca market and often overlooked by tourists, which helps keep prices reasonable. You are more likely to see a local shopping here as well, which creates an authentic atmosphere.

My personal experience was pleasantly hectic. I went to shop and purchase my "costumes" for carnival in true Carioca style. During the weeks leading up to the big festivities it is a mad house down there because everything is so cheap. It was rather crowded and people were frantically searching for the best finds for the week of never ending drinks and dancing. On a regular day, the atmosphere is a little different but still pretty busy and fast paced. I think I enjoy the area so much because of the visual overload you experience while walking by all the different shops as well as the sound of the announcers standing at the ever edge of their space, shouting deals left and right. I found it rather impressive that their were live announcers rather than only recordings. Made it more entertaining and fun.

Besides the voices of people, there was a song that I specifically heard playing a lot around the Saara but even just Centro. It was a clip from a song by an artist named Edward Maya. It was probably 5 seconds if that, of this accordion. It is probably one of the only things that accurately can depict the environment in centro for me and it became sort of comical because I would be somewhere walking..or eating lunch with a friend and all of a sudden I would hear this little clip from that song. I was told apparently, that a lot of the newsstands on different corners sell music and so several of them have this song or album for sale. So with this being said, I invited you to check out some different photos I found of the Saara but ask that you play the first u tube clip while looking at the images. If gives you the full experience!

A couple of other clips worth checking portuguese!

Official website

Also, I wanted to start mentioning a few galleries found in the heart of centro and close to the Saara that are definitely worth checking out. One being called A Gentil Carioca. I found the space to be rather intriguing and one of the better places to check out more of the emerging yet underground art scene in Rio. I was also happy to have discovered that is was co-owned by one of my favorite arists, Ernesto Neto which I plan to talk about on my next post!! I finally was able to see his work in person at the Ihotim Art Center near Belo Horizonte which was quite an experience. He seems to have a lot of personality when it comes to talking about his work. :)

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