History of Capoeira Dance Fighting

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that has deep roots in the history of the country. It powerfully combines the art of dance and fighting in one and involves very quick and complex moves, speed, and leverage for high leg sweeps.

Capoeira was first developed in the 15th century by African slaves in the country. It all began with slaves who were forced to live and work in inhumane and humiliating living conditions on sugar cane farms in the 16th. Slaves actually outnumbered the Portuguese colonists, however due to the slaves having no weapons, disagreements between slaves of different countries and backgrounds, and a lack of understanding of their surroundings, the idea of rebellion was a notion that was generally discouraged. Capoeira was developed more as a means to survival for the enslaved than a means of fighting. The importance of this fighting style was that it could be deadly, but easily disguised as a dance if seen by the slave owners. Capoeira became a vital tool if a slave wished to escape because he needed a way to survive the hostile and unknown land and fight back against colonial agents whose sole job it was to find escapees and kill them or bring them back to the plantations.

The Portuguese court escaped from Brazil fleeing the invasion of Napoleons troops in 1808, which effectively left a much freer Brazil. With this, Capoeira became more urbanized and spread throughout the country. The colonial government in Rio attempted to suppress it as they considered it “subversive to their control”, and during this time many individuals were imprisoned for practicing the martial art. One police record from the 1800’s states:

“From 288 slaves that entered the Calabouço jail during the years 1857 and 1858, 80 (31%) were arrested for capoeira, and only 28 (10.7%) for running away. Out of 4,303 arrests in Rio police jail in 1862, 404 detainees—nearly 10%—had been arrested for capoeira.”

In the 19th century, slavery was abolished, and many slaves found themselves without work or any place to live. To make things worse during this time, many Europeans began immigrating to Brazil, thus making it harder for ex-slaves to find jobs. Those skilled in Capoeira, however, were able to find unconventional jobs as body guards, mercenaries, hitmen, and henchmen. Due to chaotic social conditions in Brazil and the police feeling that Capoeira was an unfair advantage in fighting, Capoeira was abolished. Those caught practicing the martial art were arrested and often tortured and mutilated by the police.

After the Capoeira repression began declining, an experienced fighter from Salvador named Mestre Bimba opened up the first ever Capoeira school. He developed the first systematic training method for the martial art, and even began teaching the social elite. Eventually in 1940 Capoeira was removed from the penal code in Brazil.

Today, Capoeira is a source of Pride for Brazilians and attracts thousands of students to study the martial art every year. The dance fighting still resembles that of the original – focused, subtle, disguised, and full of tricks.

Cultural Traditions and Festivals Unique to Brazil

Brazil is a country that  is well known and loved for its rich cultural traditions and fun festivals. Traditions and festivals center around sports, religion, and even a martial art practice unique to only Brazil.


The festival of Carnival celebrates a season of decadence before the Catholic time of Lent begins. Carnival is Brazil’s biggest and most well known festival. In the preceding weeks to the beginning of the colorful festival, local bands play throughout community neighborhoods, fancy balls are held, and smaller forms of street parades march through cities. The most famous cities that host these celebrations are Rio and Salvador. During Carnival, Samba schools that have been rehearsing and preparing for months parade through the streets in colorful costume and on decorative floats while dancing to traditional Brazilian Samba.

Bumba-meu-boi and Other Religious Festivals

Religious festivals quite commonly take place throughout Brazil all year long. One of the most famous is the Bumba-meu-boi festival that takes place in Sao Luis. In the festival, the townsfolk act out a folk story that surrounds the killing and resurrection of a bull. In Nova Jerusalem, the citizens act out the largest passion play in Latin America in the time leading up to Easter. And, in Saolvador the annual washing of the steps of the Bonfim Church is an event that draws over 800,000 people.

New Years

In Rio each year around the time of New Years, Reveillon begins. Restaurants serve buffet lunches early in the day before thousands of people begin gathering on the beaches of Rio for elaborate firework displays. During this time, members of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble, will wear all white and set small boats with candles and trinkets to sail in the ocean as an offering to the sea goddess Yemenja.


Capoeira is a martial art unique to Brazil that stems from self defense practices of African slaves. The slaves had to practice secretly, thus disguised it as a dance. Today, the art resembles both dance and fighting equally.


Brazilian Dining Etiquette

As with any country, Brazil has its own customs and rules of etiquette when dining. While some of the etiquette is similar or the same to what we are used to in the US, there are important differences you should know before your trip. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Never with a full mouth. This is an important one, as it’s considered extremely rude.
  • Never place your elbows on the table, and always make sure to keep your hands above the table and within sight. It’s considered rude to have your hands out of sight.
  • A common and polite phrase to use at the beginning of the meal is “bom apetite”.
  • The knife is always held in the right hand, and the fork in the left hand.
  • Food is rarely, if ever, eaten with the hands as it is considered unsanitary. Even if you are eating a pizza, sandwich, French fries, or other typical finger foods, always use your utensils. If you must eat with your hands, wrap your food in a napkin and do not allow it to touch your hands.
  • Never cut food with a fork.
  • Always rest utensils on the plate when they are not in use.
  • Wipe your mouth with a napkin after every sip of your drink.
  • Never drink from a bottle or can directly. It is always customary to pour into a glass first.
  • If using a toothpick at the table, hide it behind your hand or a napkin.
  • Of course, standard rules also apply to sneezing and coughing – cover your mouth. Blowing your nose is to be done away from the table.

Bom apetite!

5 Landmarks You Must See While in Brazil

Brazil is full of natural wonder and impressive architecture. It can be a little overwhelming deciding what to see or do next, simply because there is so much worth experiencing! We have narrowed it down to 5 landmarks, that if you don’t make it to anything else, at least make it to these!

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, and covers about half of the world’s entire space dedicated to rainforests. Full of wonder, mystery, and some of the most exotic creatures and stunning views you’ll ever see – this is an absolute MUST.

Christ the Redeemer

This is probably Brazil’s most famous and iconic landmark. Standing at 120 feet tall and weighing 635 tons, this statue is now part of the Seven Wonders of the World. The statue was built in 1921, and appears to be embracing the entire city of Rio where it sits with its arms wide open atop Corcovado Mountain.

Iguazu Falls

Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina is Iguazu Falls. Over 275 falls make up Iguazu, with some of the falls going as high as 269 feet. Some say that at least 10 days need to be dedicate to this area to truly appreciate the falls, but even if you make it for just a day the absolute beauty of this natural wonder will always stay with you. Plus, they make for great photo ops!

Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art

Asides from its unusual architecture, the museum houses one of the finest and largest collections of European art – actually considered the largest in Latin America. There are also massive amounts of Brazilian art, prints, and drawings. This is a great place to gather more Brazilian culture and gain a deeper perspective into the country.

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Congonhas

Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the entire world, and with this being said, it’s important to journey to a place of worship during your stay in order to gain the full Brazilian experience. The reason we have picked this sanctuary as our favorite is because of its simple yet beautiful construction, and its full attainment of the union of nature, man, and Brazilian culture.

Traveling in Rio While Not Speaking Portuguese

We recently provided some recommendations on Portuguese language books to take with you on your trip to Brazil, and while we still always recommend keeping one with you, you won’t necessarily need to use it most of the time in the future, although we recommend you learn and use some of this beautiful language.

Rio has been ranked as a city with ‘low English proficiency’ in a study done by Education First, however they’re working on improving that with upcoming events such as the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. Rio has also become a popular cruise ship landing point, and is now seeing over a million tourists each year – many of whom don’t speak much Portuguese.

It’s become a priority for Brazilians to overcome the language barrier. A number of programs have been launched in order to promote English language learning. One of them, entitled ‘Hey Taxi!’ was created by a Rio based consulting company called Meritus Partners. it seeks to teach taxi drivers enough English in order to better communicate with passengers. Communicating with taxi drivers can be a bit awkward and frustrating for the drivers and tourists alike. One taxi driver, Idebaldo Cavalcante says “It’s very hard. We manage to capture some words, but it’s hard for both the tourist and us, and it happens very often.” State led projects have also been launched to offer basic English language courses to drivers for free. The State Department of Rio is also offering language courses to taxi drivers and airport employees. Another taxi driver, Francisco Ivan do Carmo says of the initiative, “It’s up to the driver to sign up, but I know drivers who are already taking courses. It’s a course to help us have a notion of the basic phrases. We have to update our skills.”

While a good portion of taxi drivers do not speak English, many of the hotels do and offer special services to non-Portuguese speaking guests. For instance, the Copacabana Palace Hotel has a Guest Relations department that can assist guests with hotel services when they cannot communicate them in Portuguese. The Windsor Atlantica offers similar services for foreign travelers.

Even though there may be language barriers, the friendliness of Brazilians makes communications a bit easier, often being more than willing to work with guests or taxi drivers until communications are figured out. A couple of things that are recommended, besides a handy Portuguese language book, are a map for showing taxi drivers where you are trying to go and a pen and paper for quick illustrations.



Basic Portuguese Words and Phrases

While we always recommend carrying a Portuguese language book along with you to help you more easily navigate beautiful Brazil, it’s also always helpful to memorize some words and phrases for quick use while communicating.

Many Brazilians speak English as it’s the second main language taught in schools, however it hasn’t filtered through the entirety of the population yet. That’s not the only reason to learn some Portuguese, though. Portuguese is a beautiful and colorful language, full of rude and exotic vowel sounds, a swooping intonation, and funny idiomatic expressions. Even if your Portuguese is spoken at its most rudimentary, Brazilians will always appreciate your effort and you’ll find a deeper connection to Brazil within your travels.

Here’s some words and phrases that will be helpful to memorize before your vacation:

Yes Sim

No Nao

Thank You Obrigado (men) Obrigada (Women)

What Que

This/These Este

Now Agora

Later Mais Tarde

Open Aberto

Closed Fechado

Entrance Entrada

Exit Saida

Excuse Me Com Licenca

How are you? Como vai?

Fine Bem

Good Bom

Bad Ruim

A little Um Pouco

A Lot Muito

Today Hoje

Tomorrow Amanha

Yesterday Ontem

Hello Oi

Goodbye Tchau

Good Morning Bom dia

Good afternoon Boa tarde

Good night Boa noite

Sorry Desculpa

My name is Me nome e

Do you speak English? Voce fala ingles?

Where is Nao tem jeito

I want/I’d like Quero

Left, Right, Straight Esquerda, direita, direto

Google Street View of Amazon Rainforest

This project started last year, but it’s the first we’d heard of it and felt it was too neat not to share.

Most of us are familiar with Google Street View, where you can type in pretty much any address or location in Google Maps and instantly view a (pretty) current picture of that exact spot. Google doesn’t have street view available for every square inch of the Earth, there’s just too much and a lot of it is hard to reach, but maybe they will one day. However, last year they started a project to provide some pretty cool street views of the Amazon Rainforest using their Street View Bike.

What’s even neater about this project, is they involved local residents to help. They taught them how to use their equipment for documenting and sharing ‘points of view, culture, and ways of life with audiences across the globe’. The intention is to also help give you a view of what it’s like to live and work in Amazonian places. Here’s some screenshots of what they’ve captured so far. If you want the full experience, however, you can visit: http://maps.google.com/intl/en/help/maps/streetview/gallery/amazon/amazon-rainforest.html. We highly recommend it.


The Amazon River: 20 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know

The Amazon River, or Solimões as it’s called in Brazil, is the second longest river in the world, and has the largest drainage basin in the world. It flows through Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil, and its basin takes up about 30% of the entirety of South America. With a river this big, it’s hard to know everything about it, and there’s quite a lot of interesting facts to know. Here’s 20 of them we thought were some of the most interesting:

  • Every year, the river rises more than 30 feet and floods all the surrounding forests.
  • The Amazon accounts for 1/5 of the entire world’s river flow.
  • Because of its girth, it’s sometimes referred to as the river sea.
  • The largest species of river dolphin resides in the river, growing up to 8 ft 6 in.
  • There are more than 5,600 different species of fish in the Amazon.
  • One of the world’s largest snakes, the Anaconda, resides in the Amazon river basin.
  • The first European to sail into the river was Vicente Yanez Pinzon in 1500.
  • The total cultivated area in its basin was probably less than 65 square kilometres (25 sq mi)
  • There is an ongoing debate on whether the Nile is longer or the Amazon.
  • There is an underground river in the Amazon, the largest in the world, that runs 4km under the surface, and is 6,000 km long.
  • The average depth of the Amazon is typically between 20 and 26 meters.
  • The main part of the river is actually navigable by steam boats.

  • More than 1/3 of all species in the world live in the Amazon rainforest surrounding the river.
  • The Amazon has over 1,100 tributaries.
  • You can take a river taxi down the river.

  • Bull sharks have been reported in the river.
  • Between 30-60 species of Piranha live in the Amazon.
  • Only a few species of Piranha, such a s the red-bellied Piranha, are known to attack humans.

  • More than 100 species of weakly electric fishes also inhabit the Amazon Basin.
  • The Amazon is the main habitat of the Giant Otter.

Our Condolences to the 231 People Lost

Our hearts and thoughts are with the 231 people lost in the tragic fire in Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria on Saturday night and their families. During this time of unimaginable pain and sorrow, we can only hope that you may find some peace, or at least the smallest relief of your pain.

To those in the hospital fighting to recover, we wish you speed and strength. The world is rooting for you.

-The BrazilVacation.Com Team-


20 Little Known Facts About Brazil

We’re always looking for interesting and exciting things we didn’t know before about our favorite country – Brazil. In a country full of  museums, rainforests, beaches, beautiful people, Carnival, and a colorful and rich cultural history, you’re always going to learn new things. Here’s some little known facts you might not have known about Brazil.

  • Brazil is the only country in the New World to have been the seat of government for a European country.
  • The Amazon River is the mightiest river on Earth – 17,500 liters of water empty out of it every day.

  • Brazil has won the World Cup more than any other country – 4 times.
  • Alberto Santos Dummont was the first person ever to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft. The largest aerial museum is also located in Brazil.
  • The second highest Christian population in the world can be found in Brazil.
  • The second highest number of airports in the world can be found in Brazil.

  • Brazil has a lot of stadiums in fact the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th largest stadiums in the world are located here.
  • Brazil’s rainforests make up the 3rd largest forest area on Earth.


  • The 3rd largest inland waterway networks are located in Brazil.
  • Brazil became the 4th country in the world to modernize its postal system with stamps.
  • The 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th transatlantic flights were to Brazil.
  • Brazil issues the 4th highest amount of daily newspapers in the world.

  • Brazil is the 5th largest country on Earth.
  • Brazil was 5th in line to make seatbelts mandatory.
  • Brazil has the 5th highest number of visits from the Pope in the world.
  • Brazil has the 9th highest number of billionaires in the world.

  • Brazil has the 10th largest railroad network on Earth.
  • Mainly because of the large population in Brazil, Portuguese is the 8th most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Brazil claims 5th in having television available in country.
  • Emerson Fittipaldi set the record for the 4th highest winning speed in the Indianapolis 500.