Florianopolis, Brazil – March 2001
According to the tourist blurb, which we all must believe, it’s easy to fall in love with Florianopolis, or Floripa as it is more commonly known. The city, which is on an island connected to the Brazilian mainland, is one of Brazil’s most popular tourist destinations. It has an impressive total of 42 beaches, most of which are of the crystal blue water variety.
Those wonderfully knowledgeable people who compile Brazilian statistics (and what a fun job that must be) claim that Floripa is the healthiest place in Brazil to live. According to them, and I think we must take this with a pinch of salt, in Floripa there is no stress, no pollution, no poverty and no Britney Spears CDs (I might have made that last bit up) – I can only conclude that the drug crazed, stressed out manic who accosted me at the bus station was himself on holiday. However, the city is inexplicably popular (especially with Argentinean tourists) and might fill an otherwise dull weekend.
A little History
The pioneers who colonised the island of Santa Catarina were very devoted Catholics and they came from the Azores Islands. When they landed on the shores of Santa Catarina, they brought with them their saints and patrons, and built churches for them according to the best Azorian architectural styles of the times – which must have been pretty crap I imagine, judging from Our Lady of the Rosary, Saint Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of Lapa, Our Lady of Needs, St. Francis of Paula and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The patron Virgin of the island is Our Lady of Sailors “Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes” to whom every woman lights a candle while her man is out to sea.
There are also some military landmarks as well. Due to the island’s history of pirate attacks, Spanish hostility and other tumultuous chapters, the Portuguese Crown decided to secure the land. To this end, taking advantage of the plentiful labour hands of the just arrived Azorian and Madeiran settlers, Brigadier Jose da Silva Paes set out to build the most impenetrable maritime fortress complex in the new world. Curiously enough, the island was taken later on in history by a Spanish commander who drove his troops through the jungle and attacked it by land. With all the guns pointed out to sea, the Portuguese were defenceless – my bet is that they were drunk.
The fortresses are still standing in various degrees of preservation. A feat of engineering for the times, they are still an impressive sight today. The main edifications still standing and open to visitors are: Fortress of Santa Cruz, on the small island of Anhatomirim; Fortress of Sao Jose da Ponta Grossa, built in 1740 on the north western end of Santa Catarina island; Fortress of Santo Antonio on Ratones Grande island; Fort of Sant’Anna, currently an arms museum on Santa Catarina island; Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Conceição on the island of Araçatuba and the Fort of Santa Barbara.
According to a respected bunch of journalists I know (they must be respected, they once interviewed the president of Peru. Admittedly, they were drunk at the time) the population of Floripa all seem like they have just won the lottery. One friend, who is really quite normal, once told me that “everyone, from the ice cream salesman to the waiter in the restaurant, simply loves to converse with you and smile”. Again, I guess that the many hotel owners who I spoke to last time I was in town were on some kind of job-swap scheme from Rio.
But I can understand why some people might get a bit stressed, especially when their cosy town of 270,000 people suddenly swells to about 500,000 overnight, and let’s be brutally honest who wants to be surrounded by beered-up Argies every summer? Even the language is more Spanish than Portuguese.
10 Reasons for Going to Floripa (according to Viagam magazine)
1. In Floripa there is no pollution, stress or congestion.
2. The isle has 42 beaches, each more beautiful then the last.
3. Everyone there is of a delightful disposition.
4. It has the most kickin’ summer in Brazil.
5. Everyone can eat prawns because they are cheap.
6. The girls are all pretty and smile just for you.
7. So do the guys.
8. The price of hotels and restaurants isn’t too bad.
9. You have some nice pretty green areas in the city.
10. According to some think tank or other it’s the best place to live in Brasil – if not the world.
6 Reasons for Not Reading Viagam
1. They like Floripa – excessively.
2. Every year they trawl out the same list of the world’s best beaches.
3. They consistently turn down my work.
4. They obviously earn a lot more than me as I couldn’t afford a half decent place to sleep in Floripa.
5. They once printed an article about a Brazilian guy who went to London and ate catfood everyday because he couldn’t read the label (I jest not).
6. They once printed a letter about a guy who complained that he didn’t know how to use mixer taps on his shower whilst on holiday in the USA and wanted his money back.