Brazil in the 21st century has become a global player. With a booming economy and massive social changes, there is a swagger to this once-sleeping giant, but what do we know of it apart from football and carnival? Michael Palin has travelled across most of the globe over the years, but never to Brazil. In this four-part series he crosses the country as big as a continent to find out what makes it tick.
The seasoned traveller explores the South American country, beginning in the north-east - where Europeans first landed and grew rich on the profits from sugar and tobacco plantations run with slave labour. In Sao Luis, Michael finds out about a ceremony based on a 200-year-old tale before heading to the coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Journeying inland, he gets a glimpse of the fast-disappearing world of old-style cowboys known as vaqueiros, has his fortune read by a Candomble priest and learns to drum with the Olodum cultural collective.
1/4 • 2012 • Travel
The Python star continues his first visit to Brazil by travelling by river from the northern border with Venezuela to the capital of Brasilia. Along the way he visits indigenous tribe the Yanomami, learning about the threat to their hunter-gatherer way of life, before watching a rehearsal by the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra and searching for the remains of Henry Ford's unsuccessful attempt to build a vast rubber plantation in the middle of the rainforest. In Belem, music producer Priscilla explains why Amazonian women are such powerful forces, then he moves southwards, meeting rock star and political activist Dinho Ouro Preto, who believes that despite its social and environmental problems, the country is on the brink of becoming a superpower.
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Michael begins the third leg of his journey in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais, where he learns about the Brazilian mining industry and meets some of the people dedicated to overturning the environmental damage it causes. He then heads to Rio de Janeiro, focus of the next World Cup and Olympics, where the authorities are ridding the streets of violent drug gangs that have controlled the city's shanty towns. On a lighter note, the globe-trotting broadcaster also learns to celebrate a goal like a well-known radio commentator and visits a `love hotel'.
3/4 • 2012 • Travel
On the last leg of his journey across the South American country, Michael explores the Brazilian south, where he is surprised by the rich diversity of European and Asian influences. Along the way he meets Dom Joao de Orleans e Braganca, second in line of succession to Brazil's defunct throne, goes flying with a man who has made a fortune out of rubbish and meets rap star Criolo, who believes social equality is a distant dream for most of his countrymen. Travelling farther south to Blumenau, the former Python's views on what makes a typical Brazilian are challenged when he finds German speakers and Bavarian dancers, before he catches piranha for sushi and helps cowboys treat a calf attacked by a jaguar
4/4 • 2012 • Travel