Porto Alegre – Capital of the gaúchos

Gauchos, the South American equivalent to cowboys, do not only exist in Argentina. Which is not that surprising when you consider that the cattle drovers in former years, or rather centuries cared very little about the borders between Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Like their southern relatives, Brazilian gaúchos – the emphasis is on the ‘ú’, distinguish themselves by their independence, their pride and their strong preference for meat and leather goods.* A combination of all three sparked up the revolução Farroupilha which defines the identity of the most Southern Brazilian state – Rio Grande do Sul – until today. The revolução Farroupilha comes from the word farrapen – in English roughly translated as rags – and started because the gaúchos felt that they would be better of without a federal government bothering them & their business. For ten years an army of volunteers fought thus for the independence of Rio Grande do Sul under a flag that looks suspiciously similar to the German one.

The revolution

What appears as a black-red- gold on a first glance is however a darkened green that – together with the yellow stands for Habsburg and Bragança, i.e. the Portuguese royal family. The red represents – just ask the French – the Republic. One way or another, the colors & flags didn’t make a difference and so is Porto Algegre today the capital of a Brazilian state and not of an independent nation.

The most characteristic aspects of Porto Alegre are the hills of the city, it constantly goes up and down; the green streets, where every tree has its own ecosystem thanks to the high humidity; and a particularly disfigured city centre – even by Brazilian standards.

The most ugly building in the city

If someone asked me, the award of the ugliest high rising buildings in Brazil would go to Porto Alegre… Probably, that’s not fair as most cities down here have managed to abandon or actively destroy existing historic city centres. One can even witness how most cities have grown along the same scheme: an old town or what’s left of it; the – then – modern administration building from the 1960s, 70s and 80s in Niemeyers’ concrete style, the 30 floors & more rising new buildings of recent years, most likely in a top location and last but not least, the favelas.

Porto Alegre is no exception to this rule but it’s pretty greened streets and the huge, protected river delta provide a pleasant contrast to the bustle of the metropolis. To come to an end: football friends who plan to assist a game of the World Cup are strongly advised to dress warmly. In winter, i.e. June and July – it can be quite cool with temperatures going down all the way to 0°C.

* It is possible to be a vegetarian in this country. Though not necessarily enjoyable.


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