Brazil: Envisioning the Future; Exploring the Past

Admire the daring creativity of imaginative urban planners and travel back in time by walking down streets that tell fantastic stories of survival and toil, beauty and faith, pain and redemption.  See it all come together where mountains meet the beach, the future meets the past, and Europe, Africa, and indigenous America become one. 

March 4 - 17, 2020

Brazil is a thriving democracy of over 210 million people spread over a territory larger than the contiguous United States. Multiracial, multicultural, home to millions of migrants from across the world, politically open, economically vibrant, and socially tolerant, Brazil has spawned a society unlike any other. On this trip, we will experience the contrasts and contradictions that make Brazil such a compelling country to study.  

We will visit Curitiba, one of the greenest cities in the world. Curitiba is home to Brazil’s first major pedestrian city center and the birthplace of the much-copied bus rapid transit (BRT).  With its holistic approach to urban development and planning, Curitiba is not only known for its advanced public transportation system, but also for its air quality, city-wide recycling and composting programs, food-for-trash exchanges, citizen-built but city-designed affordable housing, public parks, and land reclamation and repurposing initiatives. Curitiba offers a vision of a sustainable future in an urban setting.

Leaving the “future” behind, we will visit the federal capital city of Brasilia, the city that 50 years ago, was meant to represent the future. Built in fewer than four years and inaugurated in 1960, Brasilia is a monument to modernism and a triumph of architectural design. We will visit residential areas as well as several governmental buildings and boulevards planned by Lucio Costa and designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer. Brasilia inspires awe as well as chagrin: a symbol of a country willing and capable of escaping aspects of its troubled past, but also perhaps of a nation caught up in appearances and “symbols” rather than the realities of the people. We will see how the future has not become the past, and the planned city that was “born with an adult skeleton” has managed to grow in surprising ways.  

We will travel back in time and visit Salvador, the colonial capital of Portugal’s rich sugar colony. A city built by enslaved Africans, and known the world over for its music, capoeira, and the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, Salvador pulsates with energy and history. We will visit the restored colonial center of Pelourinho, a candomblé terreiro, the Mercado Modelo, one of the most diverse markets in Brazil, and São Francisco and Bomfim churches, exquisite examples of colonial baroque architecture. We will also do a percussion workshop with Quabales, a social improvement group that seeks to improve lives through music, and we will hear from the staff of the Steve Biko Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the vindication of the often neglected rights of Black Brazilians. 

Last, we will visit the Cidade Maravilhosa, the “marvelous city” of Rio de Janeiro. With sustainable initiatives like Curitiba, modernist buildings, having been the center of power of Brazil (and Portugal - it was Portugal's capital 1808-1821), and deep colonial history dating to the 16th century, Rio de Janeiro represents all of Brazil even as it is unique and without parallel. Of ineffable natural beauty and suffering from gargantuan urban problems, Rio will charm and challenge us to think deeply about the meaning of progress in the 21st century.

List of 1 items.

  • Cost


    Includes all ground transportation, flights, meals, accommodations, visas and all required non-routine vaccines. Families will receive a list of all MANDATORY vaccines that are required. All travelers must be up-to-date on routine vaccines. Families will be charged for any trip related routine vaccines administered on campus. If the participant has received any of the mandatory vaccines, documentation must be provided to the Health & Wellness Center no later than December 14. 

    Current cost is based on the posted price of flights available at the time of trip planning.  There is the potential for this to change. Participants will be alerted to any changes at time of trip sign-ups.

Know Before You Go

Program Leaders
David Figueroa-Ortiz, History Master 
Julio Alcantara Martin, Language Master 
Nicole Lantz, Science Master

Pre-Trip Work
Before the trip, students will devote approximately 12-15 hours reviewing country background information, engaging in group-building activities, and reflecting on their learning goals.  The trip takes a case-study approach to answering the questions:
  1. In what way does the city preserve, promote, or enhance Brazilian culture?
  2. What are the lessons the city teaches us about the good life?  
The goal is for students to gain not only an appreciation for Brazilian culture and history, but also a deeper understanding of the lessons the Global South may impart to the rest of the world. 

Important Travel Program Policies and General Information

All passports must be current seven months past the return date of any School-sponsored trip. Please check and plan accordingly. A photocopy of the passport information page is required for sign-up when the first payment is due.

All travelers must be up-to-date on routine vaccines. Families will be charged for any trip related routine vaccines administered on campus.
Families will receive a list of all MANDATORY non-routine vaccines required for this program. If the participant has received any of the mandatory vaccines, documentation must be provided to the Health and Wellness Center no later than December 13.

Brazil Packing List 

Sign Up

This trip is open to the entire school community. However, preference will be shown to students enrolled in IN 519 – Brazil: Order and Progress and HI 508 – Modern Latin America: Continuities and Change.

Participation for all Lawrenceville Harkness Travel Programs is dependent upon a review of student surveys, Housemaster/Advisor recommendations, medical fitness for participation, and financial and disciplinary standing.  Seniority and gender balance is also considered in the selection process.

Application to this program is not complete until both of the following items have been submitted:
Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.  Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.