Stop to Smell the Goiabas


Credit: Rajesh Dangi

Note: This post has a soundtrack. Listen accordingly.

I learned the word guayaba before the word guava. Growing up, I only experienced them during vacations in Mexico to see my family. Knowing I adored them, my grandfather would bring home a bag of them from the market, and I’d end up eating them all in one evening. Guava was a sickeningly sweet Kerns juice; guayaba was a fragrant, juicy piece of joy to bite into. I love them any which way: stewed with cinnamon, as ice cream, in the form of ate paste (or goiabada, in Brazil), but nothing compares to eating them fresh.

Now I’m in a country with goiabas, and I can eat them any time I want. I can barely handle this fact. Mexican guayabas are yellow with a nearly white flesh, while the Brazilian goiabas I’ve seen so far are larger and green with bright pink inside. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in taste, but interestingly enough the yellow ones are slightly higher in vitamins and minerals.

Even more than the taste, I’m obsessed with the sweet, slightly floral smell. I just need to pass by a stall at the feira and get a whiff to put me in a good mood. The aroma only gets stronger as they ripen, so I wait until they’re thisclose to going bad before I devour them.

I decided to try something different and have them in the form of syrup. Lately I’ve been on a homemade syrup craze, partly because it gives me something delicious to flavor my água com gás, and partly because it’s a fun way to make the kitchen smell heavenly for a few hours. It’s simple, it turned out well, and the best part is whenever I pour a bit in a glass and add cold water, the delicious smell releases into the air and my senses rejoice.


Guava Syrup
1/2 kilo (roughly 1 lb) guavas
2 cups turbinado sugar
1 cup water
sterilized 500 ml bottle or jar




Cut the black ends off the guavas and chop into quarters or eighths. Combine guavas with water and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer for at least an hour. Remove from heat and let cool before straining and pouring into the bottle. Refrigerate. With the high amount of sugar, it will keep longer and the flavor is more concentrated.

It turns out so pretty!

So pretty!


I Don’t Deserve To Be Raped and I Don’t Enjoy Being Hit

Brazilian media outlets have recently given much attention to some disturbing study results released by Ipea (Institute of Applied Economic Research). Of the nearly 4,000 respondents, 65 percent agree or partially agree with the statement, “Women who wear clothing that shows off their bodies deserve to be attacked.” Furthermore, 68.5 percent agree with the statement, “If women knew how to behave, there would be less rape.”

In response, journalist Nana Queiroz posted on Facebook this photo of herself.

Não mereço ser estuprada / I don't deserve to be raped.

“I don’t deserve to be raped.” Source: Facebook, Nana Queiroz

It set off a viral campaign, with both men and women posting photos of themselves with the phrase “I don’t deserve to be raped,” or variations such as “No one deserves to be raped,” “My clothing is not an invitation” and “I deserve respect.”  Queiroz’s Não Mereço Ser Estuprada page has so far received over 67,000 likes on Facebook, with people adding their photos everyday. Even President Dilma Rouseff Tweeted a statement of support for Queiroz and the campaign.

Then, just a few days ago, Ipea admitted an error in its findings: the wrong graph was attributed to the wrong statement. The study actually found that 25 percent agree with the statement “Women who wear clothing that shows off their bodies deserve to be attacked,” and 65 percent agree with the statement “Assaulted women who stay with their partner enjoy being hit.”

Even though 25 percent is a lot less alarming than 65 percent, it doesn’t invalidate Queiroz’s campaign or make the matter any less pressing. She was recently a guest on several popular TV shows such as Encontro com Fátima Bernardes and Altas Horas where she discussed the issue, and revealed that both she and her husband have received harassment and threats of rape. On Altas Horas, which has a studio audience comprised of mostly teenagers, one girl shared her story about being followed and physically assaulted in the grocery store at age 12, and the police noting in the report that she had on shorts. Another girl tearfully recalled a time when men said they would follow her home, and her confusion and shock because she was fully dressed in winter clothes.

Starting a dialogue and examining why such attitudes about women and rape are problematic are imperative steps in making any sort of social change in Brazil as well as the world. It’s uplifting to see so many people respond to the issue and make people take notice. Brazil is one of the fastest growing markets for social media, with 65 million Facebook users and 41 million Twitter users, and this is just one way that people are taking advantage of it.

Now that Ipea has released the accurate results, people need to also discuss the problem behind believing that assaulted women who stay with their partners enjoy being hit. It’s another case of blaming the victim that is also a global epidemic.

There were some other findings from the study that haven’t gotten much attention, but are still important.

  • 79 percent agree/partly agree that it’s best not to get involved in another couple’s fight.
  • 64 percent agree/partly agree that the man should be the head of the household.
  • 55 percent agree/partly agree that there are women for marriage and women for sex.


Education and Accountability: Fifty Years After the Coup

memorial da resistência de são paulo

“When I can no longer speak, you all will speak for me.”

On March 31, 1964, Brazil’s Armed Forces began a coup d’etat, overthrowing leftist President João Goulart and establishing what would be a 21 year long military dictatorship. On its fiftieth anniversary, I thought it would be fitting to visit São Paulo’s Memorial of Resistance.

O Memorial da Resistência de São Paulo, as it’s known in Portuguese, is a space to preserve the memory and encourage awareness of the dictatorship’s political repression and its resistance. It occupies a century-old building that once housed the DEOPS – SP, or State Department for Political and Social Order for the State of São Paulo, i.e., the institution responsible for the kidnapping, torture and death of countless citizens.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coup, the Memorial has a special exhibit entitled Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos: Percursos Pela Verdade e Justiça, or, Political Deaths and Missing Persons: Courses Towards Truth and Justice.


The wall of murdered or missing persons with names in tiny print below; the gray squares also have names but no faces.

The exhibit gives information to learn more about the people who went missing or died under the regime. Over half were under 30 years old. About 28 percent were students. Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo had the most reported missing persons and deaths with 111 and 109 respectively. Twenty nine cases were reported in other countries.


This 1990 Veja article reports how the SP city government unearthed 1,500 skeletons from a clandestine ditch in the Cemitério Dom Bosco in the neighborhood of Perus.

Eduardo Collen Leite

Eduardo Collen Leite (1945-1970) was one of the most active leftist guerrilla fighters of his time. Considered a terrorist by the state, he assisted in the kidnapping of several ambassadors and consuls, leading to the release of numerous political prisoners. He was killed after 109 days of torture.

The permanent section of the memorial has the prison cells in tact to give visitors an idea of what it was like.

The walls were covered in etched writing, including this list of names entitled The People's Heroes. Some names have additional names in parentheses alongside them, as some had their names changed, or went by an alias.

The walls were covered in etched writing, including this list of names entitled The People’s Heroes. Some names have additional names in parentheses alongside them, as some activists had their names changed or went by an alias.

Prisoners were allowed to go "outside" in this concrete alley for an hour a week, one cell at a time, although it didn't always happen. Because of the mirror at the end, it looks a lot longer than it is.

Prisoners were allowed to go “outside” in this concrete alley for an hour a week, one cell at a time, although it didn’t always happen. Because of the mirror at the end, it looks a lot longer than it is.

The Memorial also held a special screening of the documentary Memórias da Resistência, or Memories of the Resistance. It shows how a number of important DOPS (the federal version of DEOPS) records were uncovered by a farm laborer at a ranch owned by a former DOPS official. People involved in the leftist organization FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation) and the periodical O Berro (The Cry) share their stories about their involvement and how they were imprisoned, tortured, sexually assaulted and released only to have to regularly report back to DOPS.

What really struck me was the discussion held afterwards. The filmmakers explained that the documentary is part of a larger project to create an open dialogue about the dictatorship and to reveal survivors’ testimonies. One of the men, who looked to be about thirty or so, said that he never learned about the coup or the dictatorship in school. I saw people around me nodding in agreement. I was floored. Consequently, there’s a huge gap between the older and new generations. But, he continued, young people are curious and eager to learn, claiming that the speaking events they’ve held so far are always full. One woman in the audience, a university professor from Paraná, shared that on April 30, a group of educators plan to speak in Congress to call for the inclusion of the dictatorship in public education, as well as Afro-Brazilian history.

Education is vital. Without knowledge and understanding of the past, a nation cannot completely move on. In 2011, President Dilma Rouseff (who was imprisoned and tortured during the era) approved a Law of Access to Public Education, which makes once-classified public documents available to view. Education is essential even to those who lived during the time, as the government is still uncovering information and piecing together history. One recently declassified document suggests that the number of missing persons and casualties may be triple the number once estimated.

Incredibly, no one has been tried or convicted for human rights abuses, thanks to an amnesty law that was passed in 1979 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010. Because no one has been held accountable, the dictatorship has not completely gone away. For example, many assert the Military Police are a remnant of the regime, particularly in the favelas where police brutality is often commonplace. While some have pushed for the amnesty law to be revised, Dilma has signaled she is against doing so. However, she signed into law a national truth commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during the time, with a findings report due this year.

Coming to terms with a controversial period in history is neither smooth nor quick, especially since there are many still who support the dictatorship. However the move towards a public dialogue and the push for more answers are positive signs that Brazil is looking to be a freer, more open state. I have faith that there will be a growing move towards accountability as Brazilians learn more about the past and a more complete history emerges. But it will take awhile.




Edward Mãos de Tesoura, Edward Scissorhands

Shopping Indie in São Paulo



Rua Augusta, 1372

São Paulo shopping guides will usually direct you two different ways: Rua 25 de Março, where you can find almost anything for cheap, and its polar opposite Rua Oscar Freire, which boasts high end labels and prices to match. I don’t like the quality of the former, and I’m too poor for the latter. Also I feel like there’s a dress code just for walking down that security guard-laden street. No matter, I’ve found an alternative that’s more my style.

Located on the eclectic Rua Augusta, Endossa is a “collaborative store” that sells goods by small businesses, a brick and mortar Etsy if you will. A small business can rent a space and is given a sales goal to meet. If they meet the goal, they are kept on, and if they fail to deliver, they are replaced by a new business. According to the store, each purchase is an endosso, or endorsement, giving the customer the power to decide which businesses stay. The only restrictions is no perishables and no goods with government restrictions (e.g., tobacco, alcohol).

Vendors get a space or shelf to display their wares. Photo Source:

Vendors get a space or shelf to display their wares.
Photo Source:

As a customer, I was excited to find somewhere with interesting, unique clothes, artwork, jewelry and kitschy knick knacks that for the most part are reasonably priced. I like discovering independent businesses and seeing what kind of creations they come up with. Because I need an Edward Scissorhands doll in my life.

Edward Mãos de Tesoura, Edward Scissorhands

Edward Mãos de Tesoura, as he’s known in Brazil. From Toys & Arts da Liz

Endossa has another location in São Paulo in Aclimação, as well as ones in Curitiba and Brasília.

The Man Who Sold (Out) São Paulo

David Bowie Is at Museu da Imagem e do Som - São Paulo

In the upscale Jardins neighborhood, the Museu da Imagem e do Som (Image and Sound Museum) currently houses the exhibition simply titled David Bowie, originally from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

As a major David Bowie fan, I had made a mental note the exhibition was coming to São Paulo when I heard about it on the news over a year ago. Even though it’s been going on for nearly two months now, there were still plenty of people waiting in line to see the exhibit. Sadly photography is prohibited, which is just as well, as I probably would have never left the building.

I was expecting to see costumes and maybe vintage posters and records, but it was so much more. It was insight into Bowie’s creative process and evolution as an artist. Each visitor receives a headset that is programmed to play the music or video audio at each respective point, a soundtrack for the exhbit. The space itself has a plethora of objects including storyboards, mockups of album covers (often sketched by Bowie himself), mood boards for his tour costumes and notebook paper with scribbled lyrics. In a video, Bowie demonstrates a computer program that randomly generates sentences, which he uses as prompts for story lines or lyrics. His favorite books float above, and include A Clockwork Orange, Lolita and 1984. (I noticed a number of the books were editions in Portuguese. I wondered if the original curator at V&A sent the people at MIS a PDF list of his favorites and they scoured the city for vintage looking editions to display.)

And yes, there are costumes. Glorious costumes. The first one to greet you at the entrance is the stunning Tokyo Pop vinyl jumpsuit (see the poster above), designed by Kamai Yamamoto for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour. Yamamoto also designed for the tour a Japanese cape with kanji characters that phonetically spell out “David Bowie” and roughly translate to “one who spits out words in a fiery manner.” There’s the coat with the tattered Union Jack, designed by Alexander McQueen and worn for the cover of his 1997 album Earthling. In one corner stands the tailored ice-blue suit from the “Life on Mars?” video, while another section holds his more demure Berlin-inspired suits from his Thin White Duke period. For someone who made his mark with his gender-bending aesthetic, he has quite a number of modest (if beautifully crafted) suits on display.

David Bowie, Life on Mars, Thin White Duke

Sources: raredeadly.tumblr (l), Group Technologies (r)

One costume that stood out to me was an exaggerated Bauhaus tuxedo he wore to perform “The Man Who Sold the World” on Saturday Night Live in 1979. The video of his performance plays alongside it, which shows him being carried to the front to sing, as if he were a doll, only to be carried back in the end. The stark, minimal stage lighting is inspired by the lighting in Cabaret.

Klaus Nomi

Source: Amazon

One of the backup singers who carries him is German opera and pop performer Klaus Nomi, who would later don a similar suit and make it his signature look.

The three minute appearance with its simultaneous theatricality and restraint is one of the most intriguing pop performances I’ve ever seen. 

If there’s one sort of downside to the exhibit, it’s that sometimes the trajectory can be a bit confusing. While it starts with his breakout song “Space Oddity,” there’s no chronological order or real clear way of how the artifacts (Can you call objects from the seventies artifacts?) are organized. One exception is the space that showcases his acting career, including an original The Elephant Man playbill and a crystal ball from Labyrinth. (My nine year old self squealed at that one.)

The David Bowie experience doesn’t stop with the exhibit. Last month, MIS held a special screening of Bowie’s films, and this past weekend they had activities for kids, including workshops to learn about instruments, design their own vinyl album cover, and create their own Bowie masks. Also there’s a karaoke booth outside for the drunk carefree. The exhibit runs until April 20th.

David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, São Paulo

Love exists in SP

Originally posted on the book is on the table:

Below is an English translation of my article for the Brasil Post (Huffington Post) . Enjoy.


“Não existe amor em SP” (Love doesn’t exist in SP), sings Criolo in that beautiful song of his. I must admit, I was inclined to agree with him when my Paulistano wife and I first moved to São Paulo from London just over two years ago.

During my first few months here the city felt like an impenetrable and ugly concrete jungle whose dense canopy consisted solely of bland high-rises. And, of course, there was the bumper-to-bumper traffic, smelly rivers and turnstiles on buses, which even now still baffle me.


Much of this I recorded on my blog, the book is on the table, which I started after my wife and sister-in-law thought my stereotypically grumpy British observations provided an amusing outsider’s perspective on life in São Paulo.

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Sacilovesyou New Mural in São Paulo, Brazil

Originally posted on Urbanite:


This interesting piece is the work of Brazilian artist Pedro Saci aka Saci Loves You, an architecture and urbanism student from São Paulo.
Saci’s work is not only based on his interest for the aesthetics of the city, but also the people living in it.
Using a paint roller, latex paint (specially a bright magenta) and black spray paint, Saci Loves You creates melancholic and peaceful pieces that intend to portray a society that is unaware of what life really means.


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Brazilian Buzzwords are Lazy

Brazil has been trending in the international news and blogosphere lately, thanks to the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to have a very narrow yet pronounced view of what Brazil is about. Click on any news article about Brazil or bring up the topic in conversation, and inevitably one or more of the following words will come up:  Sexy, exotic, sensual, beaches, beautiful women, colorful, samba, Carnaval. These are mostly positive words, but they’re still lazy and reductive clichés. Let’s look at a few.

Beautiful Women
Truth: There are many Brazilian women that are beautiful, but there are also many that are ugly and many that are average. In other words, Brazilian women are normal human beings. It’s disconcerting to see how many people automatically assume this stereotype to be factual, even when they’ve never set foot in the country. When I first went to Brazil on a study abroad trip, one of my fellow American students commented, “The women here aren’t that beautiful. There’s no one that takes my breath away.” I rolled my eyes and thought I’d really hate for someone to visit the U.S. and judge American women by what they see in Hollywood films. Not to mention I sensed a bit of racist undertones, considering we were in Salvador, a city that is largely black, while the majority of Brazilian women glorified in the media are white or light skinned. It’s dehumanizing to treat Brazilian women as if they’re some sort of birds of paradise to scrutinize or marvel at. This stereotype leads to the oversexualization of Brazilian women, which has its own problems. (Braless in Brazil breaks it down quite well.)

Unfortunately, not all of Brazil is a beach. If you look at a map, there is a huge mass of territory inland where millions of people live, including yours truly.

Brazil map

Quite a few people do not live on the coast.
Source: Maps of the World

I hate this word because it’s so subjective. Exotic essentially means different, so different to whom? If I’m going to compare Brazil to the U.S. though, it’s in a tropical setting, but it’s still a Westernized, former European colony. It’s not a different planet. I’ve had a number of people ask me about the food here which they assume to be full of different spices, because exotic, right? Not really. If you look at the basic Brazilian meal, it’s rice, beans and meat, with very few spices other than a lot of salt. Admittedly, farofa is pretty different than anything in the U.S., and it takes me awhile to explain to people what it is.

I’ve seen in the past months a number of companies such as Puma and Adidas release “Brazil-inspired” collections which are basically their regular products but in bright colors, occasionally with some palm tree or flower design slapped on. Don’t get me wrong, with Brazil’s diverse flora and fauna, there are bright colors here, but it’s not like the whole country is jungle — there are also regular buildings and concrete.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Francisco Costa, head designer for Calvin Klein, created a Brazil-inspired collection for Macy’s a couple of years ago that was based on Brazilian architecture. The collection’s too minimal for my taste, but it’s refreshing to see someone do some research and come up with something different.

Samba is uniquely Brazilian, but it is not the only music in Brazil. In fact depending on where you are, samba may take a backseat to other genres such as sertanejo, MPB, funk and axé. I once saw an article referring to Michel Teló’s hit “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” as samba. Nope.

A few examples of popular Brazilian music that are not samba:



Pagode baiano:

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a wonderful TED talk a few years ago called The Danger of a Single Story where she claims, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Most of the clichés above I addressed with a “Yes, but…” There is so much more.

Here is an incomplete list of other things in Brazil: cattle ranchers, square dancing, hot dogs, Formula 1, second largest Japanese population in the world, the father of aviation, pressure cookers, and armadillos. My hope is that with the country’s increased exposure, media outlets will highlight different stories and images to tell a more three-dimensional, more complete story about Brazil.

Los Imprescindibles de Samba en Sao Paulo / The Essential Samba Hotspots in Sao Paulo

Originally posted on Zuvy's Blog:

La samba es uno de los estilos musicales más populares de Brasil y es una de las principales expresiones de la cultura brasileña. La samba nació de la mezcla de música africana y brasileña. A pesar de que la encontramos en cada rincón del país , la samba se considera una expresión musical de Río de Janeiro, donde el estilo tuvo su máximo desarrollo en la segunda mitad del siglo XX.
Pero los bares de samba en Sao Paulo no tienen nada de que avergonzarse. Los bares de la capital paulista atraen a los mejores nombres de la samba asegurando baile y diversión a su clientela. Adicional a la programación nocturna está la mítica feijoada de los sábados por la tarde, que se acompaña de una roda de samba que se prolonga hasta altas horas de la noche.
Vila Madalena y Pinheiros son sin duda el mejor lugar para ir…

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Brazil Nuts in Brazil

One of my favorite random facts I’ve learned is that the Brazil nut is called castanha-do-pará, or Pará nut. Pará is a state in northern Brazil. In other words, the Portuguese name is more region-specific. The seed grows wild in the Amazon rainforest, and interestingly enough, its biggest producer is Bolivia.

I bought the package below at R$49.50/kilo. Making a quick estimate in my head, I calculated it to be about 25 USD. Vaguely remembering it was about 13 dollars at Whole Foods, I was flabbergasted that it would be about double the amount in Brazil, even with São Paulo being an expensive city. Then I remembered the U.S. sells by the pound while Brazil goes by the kilo. Phew.

Brazil nuts

So, doing the correct calculations, the Brazil nuts I bought come out to about 9.40 USD per pound. In comparison, they’re available on Amazon for purchase at about 11 dollars a pound. Or if you want to reverse it, Amazon charges around R$59 per kilo compared to my local supermarket’s R$49.50. So it’s only slightly cheaper for me in São Paulo compared to the U.S. I’m curious though as to what it costs at an average market in Pará, or elsewhere in northern Brazil.

I’ve seen it used occasionally in cakes, or more often in healthy high-energy foods such as granola. The other day I had a salad at a restaurant called The Garden in Vila Mariana, where it was served crushed on top of baby greens, mango and raspberry dressing. It was as good as it looks.

Because of their high fat content, they go rancid quickly, so it’s best to store them in the refrigerator. I learned this the hard way, as the current summer temperatures make it necessary to put practically everything in the refrigerator. Even my lipstick.