Curitiba Travel Blog

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I am just beginning to understand Brazilian’s obsession with efficiency.  The hot water system is very different in the  posada than in any place I have ever seen before.  Don’t expect to get any hot water out of the sinks; the only place you can get it is in the shower.  To explain this is the best way I know how, the hot water heater is basically the shower-head.  You only have one knob to turn, which controls the flow rate of water coming out.  The higher the flow the cooler the water will be.  This is very tricky since you really want it as hot as the heater can make it.  To get any hot water at all it is only a trickle that comes out, so in the gas or electric heating that you save in you spend all the money in excess use of water since there is no water pressure and you have to stand in there for hours to get anything done.  The worst part of this entire feature is that if you touch the shower head you get electrocuted.  We are not just talking shocked here.  The head is plugged into a socket in the wall just above the shower, and for some reason it is not electrically insulated to not shock anyone that tried to move the head.  I agree with their wanting to try to be conservationists, but between the electrocution, waste of water, and not really even what you can call warm water that comes out, they might want to rethink that idea.  I hope they don’t have this in the rest of the hotels in Brazil.

So to one of the main issues that affected my opinion of Brazil from the start.  We ended up having a gunman try to rob a couple of the students at gun point.  Luckily nobody was hurt and nothing was taken in the end.  You always here about the high crime in Brazil, but wow, on the first night in a beach town.  This made me quickly uncomfortable.  I started to notice tat you NEVER saw a police officer.  Where were they?  Even in a town like Floripa I would expect to see some walking or driving around, but no.  If Brazil has so much crime, and even though their police force is known to be corrupt, why don’t they have more on the streets.  I am sure the problem of violence and crime is only going to get worse as my trip continues.

One of the most interesting things I learned about in class was the Real program.  This is a program that tried to help families who are at or below minimum wage.  However, I do not see it as crippling like I do the Welfare program in the US.  The Real program gives R$50 per week to each family that sends their children to school, and an extra R$15 per child per week.  This is a great idea since it tries to increase the education of the poor so that in time they might be able to raise their social class.  I wish they would have this program in all countries that have high poverty levels.  What an excellent idea!

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The first thing I need to say is WOW, AMAZING!  I have never seen anything of this magnitude that was natural.  This is one of the most important stops of the study abroad, so far, in my opinion.  However, I would not have felt this way about the Falls unless I had been able to watch a video called The Mission before visiting them.


The Mission talks about how Jesuit priests got accepted into the Guarani communities and started teaching them about Christianity.  The Jesuits helped the Guarani to set up many different mission sites, where the one being the most focused on in this movie was directly around the Falls.  The Guarani were seen as being a very intelligent community even before the priests came.  At the missions they built a church, school, water transportation systems, homes, etc.  They were also very skilled with their hands and built boats and musical instruments.  All of these mission sites were under Spanish rule, which made it possible that they not be turned into slaves.  However the Portugese later gained rights to these areas and either slaughtered or enslaved all of the Guarani.  A basic time line of this movie looks at the Guarani originally, their interaction with their invaders and Jesuit priests, the conversion of them to Christianity and what is seen as a better way of life, and the later destruction and extermination of everything about them. 


The Guarani were not the only important feature of history around the Falls, but they were also important all around that region in many areas such as Argentina and Paraguay too.  Unfortunately, the only pure Guarani culture that still exists is their language.  Many inhabitants around the Falls area can speak Guarani.  It is a language that is easy to learn when young, but almost impossible for adults.  This means that only decedents of the Guarani continue the practice of this language and later pass it down to their children.  Since the Guarani are mixing with more races, their pure blood is quickly dwindling if not already gone.  The aspect of the mixing of races was always occurring at a high rate in Brazil due to their ethnic makeup.  This can be seen as a strong benefit of Brazil, however I also notice that it has exterminated a race that thrived during the time of the Spanish and Portugese invasions.


Now for what I saw at the Falls.  It is seen as an unofficial wonder of the world.  Unfortunately when we went the state was suffering from a draught.  We were lucky enough o have rain the day before we went so that water flow was 1/3 instead of 1/6 its normal flow rate.  There were water falls everywhere.  I am grateful that even though the Guarani were virtually destroyed almost all of the beauty of the area remains.  I see this area as a force of nature that is so beautiful, but can not be conquered and controlled by anyone.  The Falls can now be seen from the Brazilian and the Argentine side; as usual, there is a debate as to which is better.  There are also native animals that run around that getting more accustomed to humans.  This site will always be a visit that I remember in my life for its shear size, power, and beauty, and of course history, that few areas of the world are able to accomplish.

You have been asked by the state department to prepare a constitutional overhaul for Brazil. The current electoral system has numerous problems and many complaints. You are to analyze the current electoral system and provide an alternative, describing the incentives for good government that your proposal will bring. To sell the program to the Brazilian public, your proposal must contain at least 3 soccer metaphors.


The electoral system implemented in Brazil is one with criticism and complaints. One particular area of great debate is that of mandatory voting. In Brazil, voting is considered not only a right, but also a duty, finable if not complied. Many argue that forcing the uneducated, uninformed, and those that don’t have a vested interest creates a lack of validity in the elections. Currently 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to participate in elections on a voluntary basis. Many criticize this, arguing that 16 and 17 year olds are not mature, or educated enough to make valid judgments.


Contrary to many, we believe that mandatory voting is in reality a beneficial aspect of the Brazilian electoral system. Voluntary voting at 16 and 17 allows for those to gain a vested interest in politics, giving them practice for the mandatory vote. This allows an age gap in which they can educate themselves about various candidates, and various political parties. The suffrage of 16 and 17 year old is lgiving Robinho game time in the world cup. He is younger and less experienced. The 16 and 17 year olds are younger and know less about politics. Letting Robinho play gives him a chance and exposure that will help him in future cups. Letting the 16 and 17 year olds vote gives them exposure that will help them understand better and make better decisions in the future.


Mandatory vote most importantly creates a national vested interest in politics, and of course one of the most notable benefits is high voter turnout. It lends legitimacy to the political powers in place and brings democracy to the vast majority of the population. Election turnout in Brazil is extremely high, around 85%, and this would not be feasible without mandatory vote.


Brazil has an abundance of various political parties. There are currently 15 represented in the congress. The persistence of very weak political parties dominated by personalism, rather than ideologically based parties continues to be an ongoing area of concern. These various political parties suffer from a lack of party loyalty, creating a problem of party switching, and party fragmentation.


There is further criticism in Brazil’s electoral system, primarily due to the historical tendency of “oligarchic rule” in the government and the degree of social inequality.

Essentially the lack of loyalty to political parties creates an election that is based solely on the voter’s identification with the particular candidates. Which furthers the problem of the historical oligarchic rule, giving the power to the elite, and those with the best ability to seduce the people—not necessarily the best candidate. In fact, research shows that two-thirds of the Brazilian electorate do not have consistent partisan loyalties or clear socio-economic bases for their choices.


Of course with such a lack of true partisan loyalties, and the ambiguities associated with such a problem further opens more doors to the possibilities of corruption. Vote-buying corruption scandal has been a problem in the past for Brazil. Although legal reforms have slowly eased this problem, it is one that is still not completely resolved.


Although there has been much criticism in the Brazilian electoral system, much praise has been given to the electronic voting system that was first implemented in 1996. In fact Brazil was the first to implement such a system. This aided tremendously in quick results, as well as a means for controlling some corruption.


We propose a complete change in the electoral system and system of government in Brazil. The legislature consists of a Chamber of Deputies, and Federal Senate. The current system of elections and terms for Congressmen, Senators and Deputies, is Ronaldo, awkward and slow. We propose to make the system run beautifully, like a play by Ronaldinho. The members of the Senate will serve 6 year terms. There will be three seat constituencies. One third will be elected every two years. Two seats will be awarded to the largest party or coalition and one will be awarded to the second largest. The members of the congress will serve 4 year terms and half will be elected every two years. A system of proportional representation using the D'Hondt method, will be used to directly elect the congress (the D'Hondt method slightly favors larger parties). The system of Ballotage, or runoff voting, will be used for the president. It is very good for a country, such as Brazil, with so many political parties that stand for nearly the same thing. It would be quite easy for someone who the majority of the nation does not support to come into power, but with our system, a bare minimum of 40% will have to vote for the president, if this does not occur in the first election, then the candidate must receive more than 50% in the runoff in order to take office as president. The Congress will also be arranged in a way that is favorable for a country with so many political parties. With proportional representation in the Congress, many parties can be accommodated. The implementation of the D'Hondt method allows for slight advantage to be placed upon the majority party, enabling them better leverage in the voting and therefore a better chance of overcoming any slight partisan resistance. The Senate will be organized in a way similar to that implemented by Pinochet in Chile near the end of his time in power. This system is better than a Plurality voting system, for a country with so many parties, because in a Plurality voting system, the majority winner has power vastly disproportionate, towards their favor, to the support that they received in their constituency during the election. In Chile, the system had two seat constituencies, which allows a party representation with as little as 33.4% of the votes. This weighs the power evenly between the top 2 parties. This system promoted a strong 2 party system in Chile. The system we will implement in Brazil is a three-seat constituency system. This further advocates minority parties. In this system, a party needs only 25.1% of the votes in order to be elected. Hopefully this system will support consolidation of parties in Brazil, as the similar system did in Chile. We propose to change the Brazilian system from a Presidential system, to a Semi-Presidential System. With the current Presidential system, it’s too easy to equate the whole governement to one person, the President. Lula's Presidency, after the Worker's Party, PT, corruption scandal, revolves solely around him, his party has been irrevocably devastated by the scandal. In a Semi-Presidential system, some of the emphasis will be taken off of the President, so as to weaken the association between the president and the government's good and bad traits. This should aid in making the transition between presidents smooth. A parliamentary system would take more emphasis off of the President, but would be a greater change for the country. A change that in this delicate time, after so much turmoil, should be avoided in order to espouse the continuation of growth in the economy, and comparative political tranquility. A Semi-Presidential system consists of a president, prime minister, and parliament. In our proposed change, the Parliament of Brazil will be exactly the same as the current Legislature. It will continue to be bi-camarel, and the members will be elected in the manner described above. The most significant change will be in the addition of a prime minister, and the limiting of the President's power. Our model, in this area, will be France (and more directly Finland, that modeled their government after France). The President will be in charge of foreign policy and the Prime Minister will be in charge of domestic policy, as is the case in practice in France, and constitutionally in Finland. The President is the forwards. He deals with the other team, the foreign countries. The Prime Minister is the backfield. He stays by the home goal, the domestic policy and internal running of the country. In our system the President will be elected in the way described above. The Prime Minister will also be an elected official, elected in the same way as the President, but on a separate ballot at the end of the second year of the Presidents term. This will allow for domestic policy and foreign policy each changing every 4 years, but alternating, to make the transitions more smooth. Historically, in the United Sates, some presidents have been far better in domestic policy than in their foreign policy, and the inverse has been true as well. This system will eliminate the need for an individual to choose whether domestic or foreign policy is more important to them, because they could choose one candidate to vote for based on each. Both the President and Prime Minister will have line-item veto power, but only in relation to bills falling under their domain. The Parliament will not have the power to hold a vote of no confidence (such as the parliament of Great Britain can) on the Prime Minister or the President , but will have to impeach either to have them removed (such as is done in the United States). In essence, the current presidency will be split between two individuals. In Brazil's multi-party environment, where so many of the parties differ so little, this will allow one party to be in power over domestic policy, and another to be in power over foreign. It will allow the people of the country to have more specific choice in their representation. It will guard against Presidents and Prime ministers who are incapable in either foreign or domestic policy. It will allow for more specific focus on both domestic policy by the Prime Minister, and foreign policy by the President. It will allow for the instantaneous decision making ability that a president has, and a parliament does not, and still keep both the President and Prime Minister quite far from dictatorial powers. Splitting the power between the President and a Prime minister is Ronaldinho passing the ball, He doesn't necessarily need to, but it's better to spread the power. A one man team doesn't work as well as a team with multiple players.

I was able to visit Paraguay for a brief time while I stayed in Iguazu Falls. I was only there for a little over an hour, but it was an experience I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else. We walked over the bridge, that many tourist books tell people not to do. You have to walk since traffic is so slow trying to get from one side to the other. I also had the privilege` of walking around Paraguay with an Argentine, so my experience was different than had I walked around with Americans. I need to tell some background information about the country so that its culture is easier to understand. Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America, which has created much turmoil for it over its history. Argentina borders it in the south and southwest, Brazil in the northeast, and Bolivia in the northwest. The name of this country means “water that goes to the water”, which is derived from the Guarani, who are the indigenous of this are and others around it. The southern border of the country is formed by the Parana river which contains the Itaipu dam (that is also shared with Brazil). Currently, it is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world and generate almost all of Paraguay’s electricity. This provides a great monetary help and sense of independence for Paraguay. The country was originally colonized by the Spanish in the 16th century. Paraguay declared its independence in 1811 when it overthrew the Spanish. The country has had a couple of wars that have been disastrous to its way of life and greatly affected its economics and politics there after. Paraguay lost approximately 54K square miles of territory in the War of the Triple Alliance between 1865 until 1870. Besides losing territory during this time it also lost two thirds or more of its male population. Paraguay gained back a lot of its territory in the Chaco War with Bolivia. These wars have affected the politics of Paraguay. It is a presidential representative democratic republic like most of the countries around it, however its ability of demostic enforcement is slim to none. It is also important to look at the ethical, cultural, and social aspects of Paraguay and how it has created such a unique country. It contains one of the most homogenous populations in Latin America. 95% of its population is mestizos (mix between Spanish and Guarani). Most of the Guarani Indian culture is nonexistent anymore except for their language, which 90% of the population speaks. Besides speaking Guarani, most of the population also speaks Spanish. Many people have settled in Paraguay throughout its history such as: Italians, Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, Brazilians, and Argentines. The population of Paraguay is unevenly distributed in its population similar to Brazil’s situation. Most of Paraguayans live in the capital and largest city Asuncion, which is in the east. Paraguay is also mainly Roman Catholic as is most Latin American countries. Now, here is how Paraguay is different from many Latin American countries. Paraguay has no aristocratic upper class. All of the old money was eliminated due to wars and revolutions during the 19th century. Many of the people that are now in political power are only one or two generations after being one of the poor. However, there is still a social hierarchy, but there is a large ability of mobility between the classes. The importance of family is still an important aspect within these social classes, and anyone outside this family is viewed with suspicion. All of this suspicion joined with favors in-between families creates the functioning of the institutions of Paraguay. My professor described Paraguay as the best free market system at work. There is virtually no government enforcement in the area that I visited. The entire place is vendors selling something or other. A large percentage of the merchandise is either stolen form the warehouse or from owners. Almost every car is stolen from surrounding countries. Everything is inexpensive and it is definitely a place to get electronics. Due to their culture, it is important to be suspicious of everyone, because they are of you. It is also a place that you need to remember to haggle and don’t be afraid to walk away. The only thing. I really bought there were a couple of imitation jerseys. You could get imitation jerseys from the smallest of Latin American club teams. After a while the shopping situation was almost stressful to me because I always thought everyone was trying to scam me. You may see one thing, but they might sell you something that is completely broken. Always remember this. Besides tourists crossing into Paraguay to buy greatly reduced rate items many other locals from connecting countries travel there to almost “smuggle” in items into their own country. This is kind of ironic to me since most of the items they are buying are ones that were stolen from their own country. I would recommend to everyone to try to cross into Paraguay if they are in the area. Don’t bring or wear anything expensive, but it is an experience you will not see anywhere else even if you are only observing and not buying
I have been in Curitiba for a couple of days know, and still I am finding no “charm” and haven’t been inspired by anything.  “Charm” is the word local Argentines and myself have come up with.  This place reminds me more over Atlanta, and it makes me miss being in Argentina.  From what I know of the city so far the public transportation is not to my liking, international phone use and Internet are near to impossible and incredibly expensive (compared to BA), and laundry is expensive for even the states and you have a large possibility of losing items.

However, I was able to go out one night with a local who I knew threw a mutual friend.  I was also able to do a tour with most of my study abroad group the same day.  Some of my opinions may have changed a little, but most still hold.

I guess I should first cover the small amount of background I already know.  Not too long ago Curitiba had a mayor who wanted to completely revamp and modernize the city.  This was an excellent idea.  From this new life Curitiba was being given they had dumpsites and rock quarries converted into parks, many new green spaces, beautiful residential areas with restrictions on construction, museums, and many other architectural beauties.  We did this tour on the tourist bus.  You pay R$15, and you can get off and on 4 times.  The purpose of this tour was to view the transformations that Curitiba has recently gone through.  The success of the mayor has increased the quality of life in Curitiba to one of the best in Brazil.  More foreign companies are relocating office to Curitiba because of this increased quality of life.  The increased interest by foreign investors creates a more successful Curitiba every day.

Our first site visit was to the Niemeyer Museum.  This site is one of many bizarre architectural feats that were erected through out Brazil.  Inside it is more of an art gallery than a museum with usually the best art up in the eye.  However, I found the real art to be the museum itself.  After that we went to Parque Tangua.  It was originally a garbage dump site and a stone quarry.  This park is not the style of park that you would imagine in the United States.  I have come to realize that the term “Parque” means something completely different in Brazil than it would in the States.  This park includes many water features, actually the fountains, pools, lakes, and water falls is mainly what it is comprised of, but there is also a tunnel that is about 50 meters long that goes through a large rock.  Next on our site visit we rode over to Parque Tinguii.  This park is a rarity for Brazil in the sense that it is very much like the parks in the States.  There were large green spaces to play the favorite sport of soccer, running paths, and play grounds for the children.  One of the most interesting features of this park was the native rodent, which is the largest in the world, was the capybara.  The important thing to note is that both of these parks were named in he indigenous language of Guarani.  I have later come to realize how the Guarani has affected Brazil and even Northern Argentina.  The last site wee visited, and one of the most beneficial to get an entire view of the transformation that Curitiba is going through, is the Torre Panoramica Brasil Telecom.  The best feature of this tower, which has different levels near the top hosting different items, is the top floor where you can get a 360 degree view of the city.  From this you can see how the city has expanded and changed from its original state, and you can see the different types of areas people are creating as their residences and the qwerks of those areas based on its inabiants.

I gained a larger understanding of the city and more of its inner workings from driving around with a local friend.  I noticed a couple different similarities and differences to the United States as we drove around the cit, which is not very big at all.  It is important to note that some of he things I saw were because it was at night and on a Saturday.  Brazil is two different worlds when it comes to day and night.

As I had seen from the tower earlier in the day, I got to see the distinct differences between the areas as we drove through them.  These distinctions were also influenced greatly by the new revitalization ideas of the mayor.  You have areas of only commerce buildings, areas of typical apartment high rise buildings as we know them in Atlanta, and don’t forget a few squares thrown in.  The architectural beauty of the Latin American idea of the “square” has really impressed me.  There is an area called Batel that reminds me of Midtown.  This area is packed with classy restaurants, bars, and night clubs.  Another important area I saw was that were the wealthier of the city live.  They have large apartment buildings where they own at least one floor, and yes the entire floor.  Just outside of this area are wealthier homes.  The mayor put construction restrictions in this area where a home can’t be over a certain height, and there are no large buildings allowed.  I really believe that all of these new, and almost separated areas, has made Curitiba very beautiful.   

Another thing I want to hit on only quickly is the idea of markets.  As in many areas of LA there are markets during the days on the weekend.  These are typical LA markets to me.  One thing I did notice as very different was the state of the market areas on weekend nights.  It is filled with alcohol, drugs, and violence.  Not an area you would want to be unless you were part of that group.  I was amazed by the fact that it was almost filled with more people at night than it would be the next morning for the market.  Talk about two faced.      

I have been told the transportation is very efficient here, but I don’t know if I am convinced and am even going to be convinced in the 10 days of my stay.  It is not BA.  You can not find a taxi as you walk out your door or even as you are walking around.  You have to usually find the taxi stops, but most of the time you cal them.  They have no subway system, which I know is a huge feat for any city so I am not that upset about it.  Curitiba actually tried to combine their subway and bus system into one.  It is almost like an avenue in the sense that the buses have two lanes in the middle of all of the traffic that is divided off from the rest of the cars.  Nobody else but buses are allowed in this area.  This creates quick transportation.  Even though at least 75% of Curitibans inhabitants have cars, but on the week days most take the bus system.  The biggest problem of the bus system for me is figuring what goes where and were the transfers are.  I was not completely impressed with the supposed transportation efficiency, however I might have been had I stayed longer. After learning a bit more about the transportation system in Curitiba during site visits and how the city was planned around this system, I began to appreciate the planning of the city more. If new cities are starting up and are expecting the growth that this one has they might want to look at similar planning as Curitiba has done.  

One of the most important things I realized about not only Curitiban culture but also Brazilian culture in general is the difference in the divides in the population from the United States.  In the United States most of the divides in the population stem from race.  We are a more racist country than Brazil, and that is very unfortunate in my opinion.  We would generally say minorities and African Americans are the poorer classes who also generally have more violence.  These poorer classes will create their own areas, away from the other classes, and generally have much violence within their community.  It is also important to note that the different races usually locate themselves into the same area.  It is not always safe for people to go into these areas if they are of a different race and not only because a difference in income.  However in Brazil it is a little bit different.  Many people of the country come to say that they are of mixed race.  The divide in Brazil is not seen because of racism but because of differences in income.  I certain cities however it is interesting to see how close the poor and the extremely rich live right next to each other.  The difference in incomes makes it unsafe for wealthier to enter the poor areas.  This is becoming a bigger problem for Brazil everyday as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.             

After all I have learned about Curitiba it is understandable, I think, that there is no charm.  It is pretty much a new city that is trying to find itself, and it hasn’t yet established anything that says this is definitely Curitiba.  However, I am realizing their stressing of the importance of efficiency in many areas of their daily lives.  I still feel like the problems of the city that bother me are similar to those that would bother me if I was a tourist of Atlanta.  Maybe that is why I am not impressed so far; I want something different.  I hope to find more deep-rooted Brazilian culture in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero.

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photo by: joesu