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.