A praia – the beach – is a Brazilian national monument, not to say a human right. The beach is the meeting place, the center of social life. It’s the place to meet up with friends, to go jogging, to play football, beach volleyball or the very athletic futevôlei*, to eat out with granny and the kids in the evening or simply enjoying the breeze and a caipirinha. From sunrise until well after sunset – there is always something going on.
From Florianopolis on to Copacabana and Ipanema, the famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro with their unfortunately cold water, all the way to the long, palm-lined beaches of the northeast with their azure colored warm water – Brazil is offering over 7,000 kilometers of coast line stretching from the tropical North to the subtropical South. During a three-hour flight from Recife to Rio (or the other way round), one can admire a good deal of it.
The beaches and the access to them are a common good in Brazil that is protected by the constitution.** Thus, while there are hardly any hotels with their private beaches separating guests and ‘the normal population’ by a fence, the Constitution does not prevent the obstruction of beaches which is especially prevalent in the cities where many 30 stock high buildings have shot up in prime locations in recent years. Granted, in the front row of these new residential areas, one has a great view, but for all those living behind it’s a bit less beautiful.
I would argue however that the view is not the only, actually not by a close call the most serious, problem. The necessary infrastructure growth and especially sewage, has not been up to the building boom of recent years. An issue which starts to be as visually as olfactorily obvious. It’s often not very pleasant to see or smell what flows into the sea.
At the same time, there is a growing longing, also among Brazilian, for lonely, pristine beaches that are still spared the “som do carro”. Unfortunately, these beaches lose exactly this quality the moment the hunchback sand track has been replaced by an asphalted road. Without any constitution coming to the rescue…
* It’s basically playing volleyball without the use of the hands. And what the sexy Brazilian women are to the average European man, the players of futevôlei can be to his female counterpart. Just saying…
**Law 7.661/88, Article 10: “Beaches are a public good. The common use is always guaranteed, as well as free and unhindered access to them and the sea in any direction and in the broadest sense. […] “And” § 1 – No urbanization and other type of land use in the coastal zone may be granted which prevents or hinders the access assured in this article”. Law 7.661/88 – Plano Nacional de Gerenciamento Costeiro – Free translation by me. If you want to know more, and speak Portuguese fluenty, you can go here.