With my new
Dr. Francisco "Chico" Oliveira,
who is not usually as serious
as he looks here!
A Folha da Frontera
(The Frontier Page)
The Official Newsletter of Hayes-Bohanan Travels in
Volume IV, No. 1 - October 2004
March 21, 2005
Previous issues of Folha da Frontera documented various
travels to Rondônia, where people frequently expressed surprise
that I had chosen to go only to the hottest and most remote part of the
country. Finally, I have taken their advice, and visited the beautiful
island city of Florianópolis, far to the south. Point of
Catarina is nothing like a frontier area.
My good friend and frequent co-conspiritor, Dr. Miguel Nenevê,
has been central to all of my projects in Rondônia, but he is not
from the Amazon region. He is, in fact, from Florianópolis, a
city that bridges the coast and a large island, just south of the
Tropic of Capricorn. Florianópolis is the capital of Santa
Catarina, the middle of three states in Brazil's southern region. This
area is known for its mild climate and natural beauty, as well as the
greater influence of Portuguese and other European people, in
comparison to the rest of the country. Miguel has long been encouraging
me to visit his home region, and this year, by chance, an opportunity
The chance to visit Santa Catarina -- alas, without my friend Miguel --
came in the form of a new project that I am developing on behalf of
Bridgewater State College, with the cooperation of colleagues at
several universities. If we are successful, the project will provided
U.S. and Brazilian government funding in support of student exchanges
in geography and regional planning among four participating
The purpose of the trip described here was to meet with the geographers at UDESC and
a related paper at COBRAC, an
international conference on Geographic Information Systems and land
survey systems (in which I was the only U.S. participant). The timing
of the conference required me, for the first time, to travel to Latin
America during a teaching semester. In order to minimize the time away
from my students, I made this a very quick trip, with a day of travel
each way and only four days on the island. My hosts, especially Dr.
Chico Oliveira, ensured that I learned as much of the island as I could
in such a short visit.
- Bridgewater State College (BSC)
- Universidade Estadual de Santa Catarina (UDESC)
- Central Connecticut State University (CCSU)
- Universidade Federal de Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
As I had been told, Florianópolis is a beautiful city, situated
on a beautiful, semi-tropical island. Even at my inexpensive hotel near the
center of town, conditions were more than tolerable! The back half of
the property is a small ecological park, with a nature trail,
recreational facilities, and numerous bird feeders.
| This could be considered just
another gratuitous photo of my beautiful little (and did I mention
inexpensive) hotel, except that in the background can be seen a small favela
- the informal squatter settlements for which Latin American cities -
especially those in Brazil - are famous. One goal of my trip is to help
students learn about the challenges of urban planning in this sort of
dynamic and contrasting environment.
One morning I spied quite a large moth at the bird feeder, feeding on
some leftover fruits.
Chico and his friends were kind enough to take this geographer to the
top of the hill used for television towers, from which we had an
excellent view of the entire city. The mangrove forest in the middle
distance is an important wetland, and the paths around it are favorite
walking and jogging areas. Unfortunately
-- like wetlands everywhere -- they are threatened by encroachment from
expansion of urban land uses. In this case a growing shopping center
to the lower right corner is the main threat.
I am working on a project with the State University of Santa Catarina,
but the conference and many of the contacts I made are at the Federal
University of Santa Catarina, which also has a strong geography
department. In addition, it has a center for Azorian studies, because
the island was originally settled by Azorians. This is of special
interest to me, because many colleagues and students at Bridgewater are
from the Azores.
The Azorian center has built this model of a manioc-processing
operation right in the middle of campus.
Recycling programs are increasingly important at Brazilian
universities, and even in the large cities, better attention is being
paid to trash removal than was the case even a few years ago.
The campus is lovely, with interesting artworks throughout, and a
nicely landscaped pond in the center. The immediate neighborhood is
full of nice apartments, but the surrounding hills feature favelas
(squatter settlements). Even in this prosperous corner of Brazil,
irregular housing is a real challenge for urban planners.
This is a "real" college town, complete with graffiti on campus and at
least one tattoo and piercing shop!
Note that the graffiti includes a poem by Pablo Neruda.
I enjoyed presenting my paper and
meeting a lot of geographers at the COBRAC conference.
Another thing that has astonished my friends is that I never visited
Rio de Janeiro. It seems I always have a twelve-hour (or even 24-hour)
layover in Sao Paulo, which I have explored several times. This time I
asked the travel agent to make the layover in Rio, and to arrange for a
quick tour. I was most grateful for an excellent guide (Cecil of RioLife), who made the most of
time available, and gave me a real geographer's tour of this most
city. Even though the skies were a bit hazy, Rio was full of remarkable
sites. Since I am working on a book about Latin America, it was good to
see the place first-hand.
Rocinha is the largest favela
in the world, an informal settlement of 80,000 people. It is known
for poverty and violence, and its very narrow alleys provide a means of
trafficking and other criminal activity. I was, of course,
that my guide was willing to take me for a short drive through Rocinha.
is not a place I would visit alone, but like most favelas, it has
experienced a lot of improvement over the years, and is actually now
considered a destination for people wishing to move to a better
neighborhood from the newer favelas in Rio.
Notice the very narrow
alley to the left, and the rather informal state of the electrical
In Brazil, voting in both local and national elections is mandatory,
and it is highly computerized. The campaign posters in this photo are
typical, featuring each candidate's name and photo, along with the
five-digit number needed to vote electronically.
A new favela is emerging between Rocinha itself and the nearby American
School, which serves the families of diplomats, foreign business
and other elites. This school increasingly resembles a fortress,
with armed guards picking up the children of some families. The entire
neighborhood is very upscale, and amazingly close to the favelas. Of
course, one reason the rich have such a nice lifestyle is that a large
pool of inexpensive domestic labor is located on the next hill over.
The Sugarloaf -- Pao de Azucar -- is a stunning intrusive igneous
that provides some of the most beautiful views of the city.
From Sugarloaf, we were able to look back at the Christ figure on
where we had been earlier in the day.
From Sugarloaf, it is also possible to see how tightly packed into
valleys the city of Rio really is. Cariocas (people from Rio) claim
of the seven days God spent making the world, five were spent on Rio.
beauty of the place and its people are a strong draw, having pulled 6
people into these tight quarters!
For the 1996 dissertation trip, see Folha da Frontera - Volume I, No. 1
For the 2000 family trip, see Folha da Frontera - Volume II, No. 1
For the 2003 student trip, see Folha da Frontera
- Volume III, No. 1
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