My Journey To Brazil
Tuesday (May 14)—Rio De Janeiro, Brazil—I have been in the city on the coast for the past two days. I apologize for my lack of immediate postings to my site, however the internet at the hotel I am staying at is iffy at best, and I only have access about once a day. The past two days have been filled with new sites, experiences and culture that I couldn’t begin to truly describe. This city is filled with the speed of New York and Chicago, but the style of a European city. There is food vendors and shops, music and restaurants. There is so much going on in the city that it truly is overwhelming. I am going to try and sum up my past three days so far, in a couple of paragraphs to help you all understand where I’ve been and what I am doing, however I am also working on more extended write ups for the interviews that I did with Newsweek’s Mac Margolis, the longest tenured foreign correspondent currently in Brazil, and Rio’s Technological Park, which operated with the public university, to research new ways to help the ever growing issue of oil and natural gas. I also will have a couple of slide shows set up from my visit to Christo Redentor on Sunday, and the gondola ride over a favela today, Tuesday.
I am a lapse Catholic, to say the least. I rarely attend church and I would need to sit in confession for several hours before my sins are forgiven. But, the visit to Corcovado Mountain, and the Christo Redentor was truly one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The pure site of an outstretched Jesus Christ watching over an entire city is mind blowing, and its not the size or sheer awe of a statue of that magnitude that makes a difference, but the beauty of the whole perspective. I have seen oceans, mountains, massive skyscrapers and beautiful sunsets, but absolutely nothing compares to the 360-degree view on top of Corcovado Mountain. I tried to take a panoramic picture of the top, but I deleted it. It doesn’t do it justice.
I am a chicken when it comes to heights. I am not comfortable with the top of mountains and so just getting to the top of the mountain was an adventure in itself. But the most rewarding and photogenic (see photos below) was the site of a nun standing underneath the statue, praying. As a photographer, you pray for opportunities like that, when images can be so powerful that they do not need a caption. That’s the best way to describe the Christo Redentor experience, powerful. The religious aspect is one that is hard to place words on, but it is there. The congregation of language and ethnicity, class and country is picturesque. Brazil has not over sensationalized the tourism aspect, but there are places to buy t-shirts and shot glasses. Overall the experience is something you can photograph, but to actually understand the magnitude, it is essential to see it yourself.
Mac Margolis has been in Rio since the 1980’s. During that time period he has seen around six different forms of currency, and watched a country develop from an irrelevant South American travel spot, to the soon-to-be world player that it is becoming.
“Brazil wants to be known as a regional [and world] power,” Margolis said in an interview on Monday. “It doesn’t know what kind of power it wants to take.”
That fits the entire country perfectly. This city, Rio, this country has the ability explode onto the world stage on economic, cultural and diplomatic levels, but it seems hesitant to jump. It abstains regularly on issues dealing with Iran and North Korea in the United Nations and it is a very nationalistic country when it comes to the world economy. Brazil is hosting the World Cup and Olympics in the next 4 years, and hopefully that could be the kick start it needs, Margolis said.
The entrepreneurial conversation is still in its infant stages in Brazil, unlike America, where it is a staple of American business culture. Not to say that the American spirit of entrepreneurialism is more effective, it is just more evolved. The Brazilian entrepreneur is focusing his efforts on the oil and gas developments on the Pre-Slate oil and natural gas deposits off the coast, which is one of the largest finds of fossil fuel in history.
Rio’s public university hosts a major technology park in the city. The incubator science park, LFRD has a plethora of different small businesses and start-ups working on different technologies to harness the tremendous potential this natural resource deposits holds. At the same time, it hosts multi-national companies like GE, EMC2 and Halliburton research centers. The centers are dedicated to developing technology for the natural gas deposits located in the Pre Salt layer. The 2006 discovery of the Pre-Salt layer has spurred an inundation of scientific and technological thinking that never before existed in the South American country.
The World Cup and the Olympics have the potential to thrust this country off in to a renaissance-like period of culture, economic stability and growth, and Empresa Olimpica Municipal, the company in charge of designing Rio’s Olympic games from the ground up, is in charge of the whole project. Currently, the city of Rio De Janeiro is in a state of limbo, but is also in the position to jump into the upper echelon of world destinations. The goal of Olimpica Municipal is to provide the springboard for Rio and the country. They are developing the Olympic Park, which after the games, will become a major urban residential district, and along with numerous other projects, have reforested several of the mountains around Rio De Janeiro, that have been destroyed over the city’s troubled history. The legacy of this Olympic games is leave buildings and transportation that can be enjoyed and utilized by the community for decades ahead.
The last stop on Tuesday was a gondola ride in the favelas. The United States has its own share of poverty, that’s definite, however Brazil’s poverty is indescribable. The “houses” (and I use the term lightly) literally rise out of the mountain side, and are so close together that the sidewalks are barely a foot wide. The trip took us over several of the favelas, providing a birds eye view into the living situation for a majority of the Brazilian people in Rio. At the end of the line, there was a viewing platform overlooking the favelas, and two brothers, ages 11 and 6, were playing soccer. We were met with laughs and soccer balls; make shift conversations and high fives. The pictures we took were incredible, but the moment is truly one I’ll never forget.
Tomorrow, the group and I meet with Petrobras, Brazil’s state owned oil company. Currently, they are one of the largest oil companies in the world, and are poised to become an international powerhouse in energy. After the discovery of the Pre-Salt, and the preferential treatment by the Brazilian government in awarding zoning contracts to Petrobras, they are set to become the largest manufacturer and distributor of fossil fuel in the world.