Chico e eu

With my new friend,
Dr. Francisco "Chico" Oliveira,
who is not usually as serious
as he looks here!

A Folha da Frontera
(The Frontier Page)

James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
The Official Newsletter of Hayes-Bohanan Travels in Rondônia

Volume IV, No. 1 - October 2004
Revised March 21, 2005

Southern Edition

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 clarification: Santa 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 presented itself.

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 institutions:
The purpose of the trip described here was to meet with the geographers at UDESC and to present 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. 

Isla Bela

Hotel Breakfast
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 the expansion of urban land uses. In this case a growing shopping center adjacent to the lower right corner is the main threat.


TV Hill



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.

Whenever I travel abroad, I ask a local friend to take me to a CD shop. Even though I am pretty knowledgeable about Brazilian music, in this very chic shop (complete with capuccino) I learned about several amazing artists that were new to me.

DowntownDowntown Florianópolis is a mix of small plazas, shopping areas, and businesses. The State University is located in several different buildings throughout the downtown.

The city buses in Florianópolis are quite modern, with several sophisticated bus depots that operate much like airports, with terminals showing the departure times and destinations of each bus!

Bus station
In the U.S., children have great rhetorical importance, but in Brazil they really are celebrated. I was fortunate enough to be in the country for the Day of the Child this time, a national holiday for which most businesses and offices close. Those businesses that do stay open -- such as this appliance store -- are catering specifically to the children and their parents.

A modest apartment complex near the Federal University features this delightful playground.


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 the time available, and gave me a real geographer's tour of this most amazing 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.
Copa The beach


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 hiding drug trafficking and other criminal activity. I was, of course, delighted that my guide was willing to take me for a short drive through Rocinha. It 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 system.

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 people, and other elites. This school increasingly resembles a fortress, complete 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.
New favela American school

The Sugarloaf -- Pao de Azucar -- is a stunning intrusive igneous feature that provides some of the most beautiful views of the city.

From Sugarloaf, we were able to look back at the Christ figure on Corcavado, where we had been earlier in the day.

From Sugarloaf, it is also possible to see how tightly packed into narrow valleys the city of Rio really is. Cariocas (people from Rio) claim that of the seven days God spent making the world, five were spent on Rio. The beauty of the place and its people are a strong draw, having pulled 6 million 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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