As Brazil continues to lead in global conversations, we explore the potential for a ‘Samba Century’.

The land of samba and sunshine. Of urban and tropical jungles.

Brazil has often been categorized as a grand Latin American success story. And in the last decade or so, the land of “the biggest in the world” is showcasing everything it has to offer through international sporting events, expos for mitigating global climate change, achieving sustainability and self-sufficiency, not to mention hit animated features placing the country’s rhythms and lighthearted side on display.

As Brazil parades onto the world stage in full color, some could conclude this is the start of the Samba Century. However, it’s not all just spectacular sporting events, international environmental conferences, and singing animated birds. Intermingled with the party atmosphere are persistent social, political, and economic challenges that many believe will hold Brazil back from realizing its moment in the spotlight.

Potential Program Themes

Urban development
The rainforest – the Earth’s lung
The survival of ancient wisdom and traditions

Sample Itinerary

Students arrive in São Paulo in the evening, and transfer to the hotel downtown. After settling in, faculty and staff hold an orientation session to go over rules, expectations, learning outcomes, hopes, and fears. Then it’s lights out. Tomorrow is a big day in the land of “the biggest in the world.”

In the morning, students visit the Banespa Skyscraper to take in the largest city in South America and create their first impressions of Brazil. We discuss São Paulo as an economic powerhouse spearheading Brazil’s development. Students come to understand the benefits and complexities of this chaotic urban environment. We solidify this discussion through a walk down Avenida Paulista, while pointing out unique architecture reflecting important periods in Brazil’s cultural evolution.

After lunch, we continue our city tour, heading to Parque de Ibirapuera and its museums. Our day ends at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo – one of the most important cultural centers in Brazil – where students explore themes in Latin American art. We unpack our first full day in the evening over a delicious Brazilian dinner.

During our second day in São Paulo, students round the corner to the city’s Liberdade district where they quickly discover how diverse Brazil’s population is. Students discuss migration, immigration, and national identity, using Brazil as a springboard while comparing it to experiences of human migration and identity they are familiar with.

Students have lunch at Associação Espaço Cultural Lan-chonete (AECL), a restaurant cooperative that celebrates São Paulo’s ubiquitous lunch counters and their role in city life. Conceived to break down socio-cultural barriers in the city by sharing meals together, AECL invites artists to reside in and develop relationships with São Paulo, its citizens, institutions, issues, and patterns. Students meet AECL participants, and are encouraged to develop their own relationships to life in the city.

The afternoon is spent in the historic center of the city, where students discover the city’s history through visits to the Catedral da Sé, the Palácio da Justiça de São Paulo and the Pátio do Colégio. Alternatively, students may volunteer at AECL for an afternoon. For dinner, students go to the Mercado Municipal to purchase ingredients to cook a Brazilian dish together.

Students head to picturesque Paraty by charter bus to enjoy this picturesque historic town. Divided into chaperoned groups, students will be tasked with exploring different sections of the colonial town of Paraty. This activity pushes students to identify the most relevant sites and aspects of Paraty’s architecture and customs. At the conclusion, all students combine to create a single map of the town, based on their findings. Students also receive a workshop on Brazilian arts and culture at the Cultural Center of Paraty

Students fly to Manaus early in the morning and are taken to a jungle lodge, which serves as headquarters for the next two days. Leaving all extraneous possessions behind, students will then begin a jungle trek with indigenous guides. Trekking through the Amazon is a unique experience allowing students to learn about the dynamics of many living species. Students will build an understanding of the stratification of the forest and how life is distributed vertically. We will review the different strategies that organisms have adopted to survive and prosper, and identify means of preserving the area.

Students will search for raw materials used to make regional handicrafts. Once we gather the materials, members of the community will explain how to use them to build different products, and students will learn the skills necessary to make something by hand. The communicative challenge of learning from indigenous community members provides an opportunity for students to develop humility and empathy for others. Students then prepare our campsite for the evening. Spending a night in the jungle is not only the peak experience of this section of the program, but also a peak experience in students’ lives. This opportunity inspires both self-confidence among individuals, and collaboration among the group. All participants grow in recognizing and valuing the comfort that simple things provide in a challenging situation.

At sunrise, we trek back to the jungle lodge and freshen up. After lunch, we continue our jungle exploration – this time by water. Journeying in typical canoes of the region, students identify the characteristics of the floodplain forest and elements of the flora and fauna. This scenario helps understand how the dynamics of the river flow affect the life surrounding the Amazon jungle.

Students learn about the indigenous canoes used in the Amazon for centuries. We embark in these canoes to tour a natural lagoon. Students are taught about ancestral techniques for capturing fish, and then put in charge of catching enough fish for dinner. Upon returning to the lodge, we apply the tools of systems thinking to solidify our understanding of what we observed.

The next day is a day of work dedicated to a project proposed by an Amazon Conversation Organization. Details of the project will be crafted in tandem with the school.

After our closing activities in the morning, students have the opportunity to see downtown Manaus before going to the airport to fly to Sao Paulo. Our city tour culminates in a visit to the Amazon Opera House, one of the most beautiful theaters in the world.

Students board their international flight home from São Paulo.

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