Christ the Redeemer
Brazil

Brazil

What do you think of when you think of Brazil? The 2016 Olympics? Violence? The promise emerging economies or the vices of a corrupt governments?

If anything, you should probably think of sugar. When the Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century, there were no major empires like the Inca to subdue, nor precious minerals to extract. But there was plenty of fertile soil, which they exploited in the production of sugarcane. It was labor-intensive and could only be done profitably at scale. Slave labor helped keep costs down, but the abominable conditions led to a death rate as high as 10 percent a year, which is why 80% or more of African captives transported across the Atlantic ended up here or in the Caribbean. This is also why the majority of Brazilians are of African descent.

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1822, Brazil’s trajectory has been up and down. As Brazil’s military president famously remarked in 1971: “The economy is doing fine but the people are doing badly.” That may be, but there is plenty in Brazil to cheer. The falls at Iguaçu are stunning and Carnival in Rio is worth the hype. Rio reminded us in many ways of Cape Town: a hip city on the ocean with amazing mountain trails right next door. And like Cape Town, Rio faces political and environmental challenges of its own. Let us hope that the statue overlooking the city offers them the redemption they seek.

Devil's Throat, Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side). Iguazu is the largest waterfall system in the world. Once you've seen it and heard the sound of 1.8 million liters per second of water dropping 82 meters, it's tough to see waterfalls the same way again.
Devil's Throat, Iguazu Falls (Argentinian side). Iguazu is the largest waterfall system in the world. Once you've seen it and heard the sound of 1.8 million liters per second of water dropping 82 meters, it's tough to see waterfalls the same way again.
Sean Pont
More waterfalls at Iguazu, Argentinian side.
More waterfalls at Iguazu, Argentinian side.
YiOu Wang | Pixel 2
Iguazu national park (Brazilian side) is also renowned for its butterflies. We would go on runs where we would literally pass through clouds of butterflies -- perhaps 30 or 40 individuals of 5 to 10 different species.
Iguazu national park (Brazilian side) is also renowned for its butterflies. We would go on runs where we would literally pass through clouds of butterflies -- perhaps 30 or 40 individuals of 5 to 10 different species.
Painted for the 2016 Olympic games, the massive murals of Eduardo Kobra are as stunning and vibrant as ever. The work illustrates five faces from five continents.
Painted for the 2016 Olympic games, the massive murals of Eduardo Kobra are as stunning and vibrant as ever. The work illustrates five faces from five continents.
Sean Pont
This, apparently, is a favela. We were told not to go there. The people that live there are probably just people living their life. Look, some of them even have AC and satellite TV. In any case, we didn't investigate further.
This, apparently, is a favela. We were told not to go there. The people that live there are probably just people living their life. Look, some of them even have AC and satellite TV. In any case, we didn't investigate further.
Sean Pont
Abs. Aaaabs. Sorry. Ahem. Welcome to Carnival!
Abs. Aaaabs. Sorry. Ahem. Welcome to Carnival!
Sean Pont
You should have seen the other side of her outfit...
You should have seen the other side of her outfit...
Sean Pont
The costumes are unbelievable. Those dancing on the floats usually have the most elaborate apparel...
The costumes are unbelievable. Those dancing on the floats usually have the most elaborate apparel...
Sean Pont
...although not always. This pair was leading their samba school through the Sambadrome.
...although not always. This pair was leading their samba school through the Sambadrome.
Sean Pont
The only thing more impressive than the outfits are the floats. They're incredible feats of engineering and imagination. Each has a theme, though it is sometimes difficult to understand as a foreigner.
The only thing more impressive than the outfits are the floats. They're incredible feats of engineering and imagination. Each has a theme, though it is sometimes difficult to understand as a foreigner.
Sean Pont
The floats are gigantic. This red-haired twirp holding up a sign is about 10 meters tall.
The floats are gigantic. This red-haired twirp holding up a sign is about 10 meters tall.
Sean Pont
Some of the figures on the floats are articulated. The head, mouth, and eyelids of this guitarist move independently, actuated by the large cables just visible over his left shoulder.
Some of the figures on the floats are articulated. The head, mouth, and eyelids of this guitarist move independently, actuated by the large cables just visible over his left shoulder.
Sean Pont
The samba dancers in the parade aren't the only ones who dress up. Many attendees in the audience wear equally outlandish attire.
The samba dancers in the parade aren't the only ones who dress up. Many attendees in the audience wear equally outlandish attire.
Sean Pont
After every samba school procession, a clean-up crew comes through and prepares the track for the next parade.
After every samba school procession, a clean-up crew comes through and prepares the track for the next parade.
Sean Pont
No less exciting: the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens. There are more epiphytes here than you can shake a stick at!
No less exciting: the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens. There are more epiphytes here than you can shake a stick at!
Sean Pont
This pair of capybara decided of their own animal free will to make the lagoon at the botanical gardens their home. Apparently, they showed up about 2 weeks ago and haven't left yet.
This pair of capybara decided of their own animal free will to make the lagoon at the botanical gardens their home. Apparently, they showed up about 2 weeks ago and haven't left yet.
Sean Pont
Another non-human denizen of the botanical gardens is this black-tufted marmoset (Callithrix penicillata).
Another non-human denizen of the botanical gardens is this black-tufted marmoset (Callithrix penicillata).
Sean Pont
I'm sorry officer, I didn't know it was illegal, I swear!
I'm sorry officer, I didn't know it was illegal, I swear!
Image credit: Polícia Civil do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

Full-sized images: https://photos.app.goo.gl/0bk2PLaUKsGUzD2d2