View of the Christ the Redeemer statue and Rio from Sugar Loaf.
So after I had a great two days in Buenos Aires I headed to the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City, by which Rio is well known. Why is it called this? Because if L.A. is a city of glamour, Rio is a city of marvels.
I always joke that you can tell Austin has some of the most beautiful women in the U.S. because there are always plenty of them on the ride to Austin-Bergstrom in comparison to the flight to cities like D.C. or Chicago, but Rio is in an entirely different league. If Austin were the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe, Rio would be the Olympic Dream Team. Yeah, the one with Jordan.
In fact, the women in the airport were so impressive that I decided right then and there, fresh off my plane and through customs, that I wouldn't take a single picture of a Brazilian woman while on the trip no matter if it was Mrs. Tom Brady herself. Why? Because anyone short of Annie Liebowitz, in terms of photography skills, would not do the city's women justice.
I haven't been to Paris or Milan or Helsinki or Botswana or Thailand or anywhere outside the Western Hemisphere, but I feel pretty confident in saying Brazil, more specifically Rio, has the most beautiful women in the world. And to re-use my basketball analogy, I don't need to see every country's best basketball player to know Lebron is better than all of them.
So what is it that makes the women so beautiful in Rio compared to the rest of the world?
Well for starters, Rio is considered one of the most economically divided cities in the world up there with Cape Town, South Africa. (It's no surprise Ludacris and Jamie Foxx have raved about the women in South Africa.) And what neutralizes money more than anything else? Education? Yes, but if you don't have access to a proper education (thanks to a notsohonest government), like the children of Rio, you're left with two things: sports and looks.
It pains me to say this, but this means that the soccer field, volleyball court, waves and, yes, the beach are some of the only grounds in Rio where children, then teens, later adults can be viewed as equals. So, yes, how young women look in Rio is important both to them and to the society there. And the bar by which all women are measured - Gisele being but one representative - is extremely high.
I know this may sound outlandish, especially coming from the author of an upcoming book called Real Role Models, but after seeing some of the favelas (basically the next version down from The Wire's West Baltimore) I understand the truth is that education is simply not within reach for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Rio's young girls and boys.
I don't see any HBO cameras here.
But what is within reach is physical expression, and to a greater extent, sex. Of note, Rio has one of the world's highest HIV transmission rates. STDs aside, the men and women, and even the boys and girls, of Rio seemed to be speaking in a language of physicality and intimacy you would barely touch in the States, even on South Beach. Sure, everyone thinks of the g-string bikinis, Carnival, and the J.Lo-equipped backsides of women here when they picture the women of Rio, but there was so much more to see if you paid attention.
There were teenaged boys exuding the kind of confidence amongst beautiful young ladies that can hardly be found on American college campuses. There were female bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, volleyballers and soccer players all enjoying a hot day on the beach (it was 75 and sunny in the middle of winter there) seemingly unaware of the fact that they were half-naked, gorgeous, glistening, voluptuous and casually exercising around hundreds of men. There were young teen couples making out on the beach in a way that made you think, "they are definitely having sex," without thinking they were disrespecting their parents and their bodies in doing so. There was some of the best long hair I've ever seen, some of the tiniest bathing suits I've ever seen worn, definitely the best skin God every made, and the most beautiful words I've ever heard (thank the Portuguese for that).
Somewhere in that crowd is the next Gisele.
And on my last day there, as Althea and I walked off the beach, we both admired the fact that we had just seen, quite possibly, the most beautiful woman either of us have ever laid eyes on. I'd describe her, but it'd too easily give away my taste in women. So did I want to go introduce myself - Meu nome é Joah? Nope. Did I want to take a photo? Yes.
But I didn't. Instead, I filed it upstairs, as a mental picture next to the word marvelous.
A city with this much natural beauty puts a high emphasis on physical beauty.
I considered taking my MacBook to South America, but decided against it for security purposes (I mean haven't you seen City of God!) which meant I went a total of 11 days without blogging because hotel Internet access gets expensive. That being said, don't think you're off the hook just yet. I'm going to take the rest of this week and tell you all about my trip to Rio de Janeiro, but first let me tell you about my two-day stop in Buenos Aires. According to Althea, who is spending the summer there, some people have called Argentina's metropolis "the Paris of South America". Even after the ten-hour flight, I was intrigued.
...I haven't been to Paris, but very early into the trip I started to think of Buenos Aires as more of a not-so-mini New York. The plethora of dogs (and their bowels), the great selection in jeans and boots, the windchill, the cafes and the parks all reminded me of the heart of Manhattan from Central Park to Lower East Side while some of the neighborhoods reminded me of various parts of Brooklyn and Morningside Heights.
Before South America, most of my trips had focused on seeing every major part of a city in 48 or 72 hours (Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, L.A., Vancouver, and several others). So while 48 hours in a city of 10 million+ people seems short, it wasn't impossible or undesirable to me. In fact, I felt like I got in just enough BA in two days to want to go back once I've improved my Spanish skills. Thankfully, Althea is mega-fluent so I didn't have any trouble this time around. I ate amazing Italian food (there are plenty of Italians in BA), partied until 5 a.m., did a little travel shopping (including an awesome new jacket from Garcon Garcia), and walked about five miles.
I managed to see everything Buenos Aires is about:
La Recoleta Cemetary where Eva Peron, the basis of the film Evita, is buried.
Nuestra Señora del Pilar, just one of the many cathedrals in Buenos Aires.