Natal Brazil

Information about the city of Natal, in Brazil.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

French tourist stabbed in Ponta Negra

A couple of French tourists who was staying in a small Pousada by the beach in Ponta Negra had their room invaded by a thief; the man reacted, and was stabbed with a knife in the belly; he was taken to a hospital, where he is under intensive care (see report here).
The thief was arrested, and was visibly under influence of drugs.

I have just watched the manager of the hotel, mr. Arsênio José Santos, giving a corageous interview to RN TV, the most popular mid-day news program in Rio Grande do Norte.
According to him, his hotel and others in his neighborhood were assaulted several times. This is the third time that the assaulter is arrested, and turned to the Police. Mr. Santos says that, in the previous occasions, the assaulters were free in just a few days.
Mr. Santos added that he constantly sees acts of violence and vandalism in Ponta Negra, but doesn't see much Police action. He thinks that the Police is working with a wrong focus, by arresting tourists who don't carry their passports, and letting criminals free. He finished with an invitation to the Secretary of Public Security to visit Ponta Negra by night and knowing the real situation.

The Pousada in question is one of the smallest in Ponta Negra (a two-storey house turned into a small hotel), thus more exposed to burglars.
Why would a manager put his business at risk by declaring that he his hotel is constantly "visited" by assaulters? It looks like the manager is in desperate need of Police forces help.
The name of the hotel was mentioned on TV, but not on the Tribuna report. We won't mention the name either, to avoid stigmatization.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Natal will be part of Route 33

The governments of four touristic cities in Northeast of Brazil have joined forces to create the Route 33; the idea is investing in marketing to stimulate travellers to visit all four cities along the route, like Americans do with the Route 66.
The name Route 33 comes from the proximity of the road with Meridian 33.

The cities are Natal (in the State of Rio Grande do Norte), João Pessoa (in Paraíba), Recife (in Pernambuco) and Maceió (in Alagoas).
The approximated distances from Natal are: João Pessoa, 200 km; Recife, 300 km; Maceió, 580 km.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bus ticket to raise

Natal busFrom May 27th, the ticket of public buses in Natal will raise from R$ 1.45 to R$ 1.60, or, at current exchange rates, from US$ 0.66 to US$ 0.73, or, in euros, E 0.52 to E 0.58.

Bus owners were not happy. They wanted R$ 1.90. The R$ 1.60 is the average price of all capitals in the Northeast of Brazil.

Passengers are even less happy. Getting to work and back to home will cost at least R$ 3.20 (for those who take only one bus and don't live in the cities outside Natal, such as Parnamirim or Extremoz). Working 20 days a month, the cost of transportation will be R$ 64. This is nearly 20% of the current Brazilian minimum wage, R$ 350.

People with a formal job (big shops, factories, etc) receive, by law, on top of salaries, tickets to pay for the transportation. The most affected by the increase will be those who don't have a formal job, who are a significant part (possibly the majority) of the working class of Natal.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Highways in Rio Grande do Norte are improved

Every year, Quatro Rodas (Four Wheels), the most important vehicles magazine in Brazil, surveys the federal highways in Brazil to assess their quality.
In the 2005 survey, 102 km of highways were considered Precarious (meaning: lack of signalization, too many holes, stretches where drivers could not go faster than 60 km/hour).
In 2006, all the 102 km were refurbished, and there is no report of precarious federal highway in Rio Grande do Norte.

A big project is in progress: the BR-101, which connects Natal to João Pessoa and on to Recife, will be entirely "duplicated". Today, in most of the BR-101, there is only one lane each way; after the duplication, there will be at least two lanes each way; this will increase the safety of drivers, and should cut down the time to travel between these major cities.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bridge Redinha - Fortress is named "Newton Navarro"

Redinha bridge
The bridge under construction
Photo: Ivanizio Ramos
After hearing opinions from members of the society, Governor Wilma de Faria signed a decree giving the name "Ponte de Todos - Newton Navarro" (Bridge of All - Newton Navarro) to the bridge Redinha - Fortress, under construction, which will link the beach of Fortress to the Redinha beach.

Newton Navarro (1928 - 1992) was an eminent artist, born and deceased in Natal. He was a painter, writer, poet, novelist; one of the most complete potiguar artists. His works were focused on his homeland, particularly the Potengi river.

At the time of this writing, the bridge was 60% concluded.
When finished, the bridge will be 1,800 meters long and 21 meters wide. It will connect two avenues: Café Filho, in the Southern bank, and João Medeiros, in the northern bank.
The structure frame is based on concrete columns and steel cables. The ships will pass under the bridge. The main platform will have rolling lanes, security lanes and pedestrian lanes.
There is a project for construction of a panoramic restaurant, hanging from the central point of the bridge.

Despite several delays in the original schedule, the bridge should be ready until the end of 2006.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Violence in Natal x Violence in Brazil

Two related news.

Tribuna do Norte published in the cover page today (May 14th): "In 3 months, 130 homicides. Fear surrounds Natal". See link here. The figures were provided by ITEP (Institute Technical-Scientific of Police), the official institution in charge of collecting data about, among others, crime and death in Rio Grande do Norte.
If the average is maintained, there will be 520 homicides until the end of the year. Tribuna says that this is the most violent year ever in the History of the city. The newspaper interviewed some people who were victims of assaults recently, all of which living in the area of Rocas (the district along the Potengi River between the Fortress of Wise Kings and the Port of Natal).
By comparison, there were 1,662 murderers in New York City from 2003 to 2005 (average of 534 per year); see graph here.

Meanwhile, in São Paulo, gangs of criminals are promoting concerted rebellions across the State. More than 50 people were killed this weekend alone. Read more at the BBC website.

Natal is still an island of peace in Brazil.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Murderers are arrested

Tribuna do Norte published today that the murderers of Alex Fernando de Santana were arrested; read here.

The criminals were arrested near the small city of Solânea, in the State of Paraíba. They were coming back to Natal in a van (for public transportation), which was stopped by a Police blitz; the Police found it suspicious that one man was carrying a gun. The Police apprehended the cellular phone of the suspects and made a phone call; that phone belonged to Alex, and the call was to his parents, who contacted the Police in Natal.

This is the profile of the murderers: Marcos, aged 20, musician (he pulled the trigger); Bruno, 21, student; Emerson, 33, sells artcraft in Pipa beach.
Police found out that they had been to Solânea last Sunday, and arranged with a buyer the selling of a car which was still to be robbed; back to Natal, they walked around Neópolis until finding a car they needed (Alex's car).
Marcos said that this was his first assault, he was too nervous; he shot because he thought that Alex could react.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Violence in Natal: a reality check

Alex SantanaAn official survey conducted in 2006 concluded that Natal is the safest capital city in Brazil; there are no reasons to believe that this situation had changed.

However, there are still occurrences that shock the Natalenses, and much more so the foreigners who ever become aware of them.

Today, Tribuna do Norte reports two cases.
1) Three men were loitering around a small store in Neópolis, the first District in Natal that visitors see when entering Natal (the Three Wise Kings statue is located in Neópolis). One of the men enters the store, pretends to buy cigarettes, draws a gun and robs whatever money there is in the cashier (the owner said he was assaulted three times already). Meanwhile, the other two men try to rob a car; as the car owner hesitates ("stop kidding", he says), one man draws and shoots. The owner, Alex Fernando de Santana Brito, father of two kids aged 3 and 8, died before reaching the hospital. Read more here.
2) Two men try to invade a Bingo at 3 am (the bingo is open 24 hours) in the central area of Natal. A surveillance guard (staff of the bingo; many businesses have been hiring private security for years) notices the invaders. There is a shoot out; a bandit was shot and died; his partner shot back and ran away; the guard was hit in the leg, but is doing well.

Such cases are not common, but are not rare either.
In Natal, they still cause profound indignation, and gain the headlines. In other cities, like Rio, they became routine.
In Natal, crimes are committed by individuals. In Rio, the violence is much scarier because there is a professional organization behind the crimes.

This note is in solidarity to the family of Alex Fernando de Santana Brito.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The New York Times writes about forró

On May 7th, the electronic edition of the New York Times published a two-page article about Forró in Brazil.

The NYTimes reporter visited the cities of Recife, Caruaru (in the State of Pernambuco), Campina Grande (in Paraíba) and Natal and São João do Mipibu (in Rio Grande do Norte).
Recife and Natal are capital of States. Caruaru and Campina Grande are known in Brazil as "capitals of forró". The reporter explainew how forró has been distorted, so as to be easierly accepted by the masses in the large cities. However, in smaller cities (like Caruaru and Campina Grande), it is possible to appreciate the genuine forró, called "forró pé-de-serra" (forro foot-of-mountain).
The music of forró pé-de-serra is played with three instruments: triangle, accordion and zabumba; forró is played in barnyards, bars and houses; to dance forró, passion is more important than talent. In the big cities (particularly in the South of Brazil), forró is played by big bands, with techno instruments, in large discos (Calcinha Preta, one of the most famous Brazilian bands nowadays, is mentioned as example of anti-forró).

The simplicity of forró pé-de-serra attracted the NY Times reporter to São José do Mipibu, about 40 km south of Natal.
There, once a month, in the Saturday closest to full moon, happens the Forró da Lua (Forró of Moon). The event happens in a ranch, and tries to be as simple as possible (illumination is provided by the moon and a big bonfire).
Forró da Lua has become a success among Natalenses who enjoy forró. About 2,000 people attend each event; entrance is R$ 15.

Read the article of New York Times about forró (membership may be required).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Clodoaldo Silva, an athlete from Natal

Clodoaldo Silva is not only a Paralympic Swimming Athlete; he is the best one in Brazil and one of the best in the World.

This past weekend (5th - 7th May), Clodoaldo participated of the Paralympic World Cup, which happened in Manchester, UK.
Not only did he win the 100 m freestyle, but he also set a new world record. Earlier, in the qualifying for the 50 m, he had also lowered the world record, but this was lowered again by Sweden’s Anders Olsson in the finals.
Read more about the Manchester Paralympic World Cup.

Breaking records is becoming a routine for Clodoaldo; in the last Paralympic Games, in Athens, 2004, he won six gold medals and set four world records.
Read more about Clodoaldo Silva.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Festival of independent music in Natal

From May 4th to May 6th, Natal will host a music festival called MADA - Música, Alimento Da Alma - Music, Food of the Soul.
This is the 8th edition of Mada. Over these years, MADA has become one of the most important Brazilian events for independent bands, drawing attention from the bands, public and media.
Each night, about ten bands perform; one or two are somewhat famous (this year, main attractions are Rapa, Cachorro Grande, Nando Reis and Bikini Cavadão), the others are anonymous.
Tickets cost R$ 30 per night, students pay half price; the package for three nights costs R$ 40. The festival happens inside the Imirá Plaza Hotel, in Via Costeira.
Check the official website:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dam attracts visitors

It has been raining as expected in Natal, and more than the average in the interior of Rio Grande do Norte.
So much rain in the interior is filling up the "açudes" (rustic reservoirs of beaten clay used by the poorer peasants to accumulate water) and the "represas" (large reservoir with a dam); in the case of Açu, the largest water reservoir in the interior of Rio Grande do Norte, the valves of the dam had to be opened to release the water (otherwise, the water would overflow).

This fact (opening of dams because of excessive water) is called in Portuguese "sangria" (bleeding).
Most people who live in the interior know that water is essential for their lives, and that water can never be taken for granted. When the dam bleeds, they know that they will be able to cultivate their small plantations and feed their families (until next year, when raining is, again, just a possibility).

They call the "sangria" the "show of waters". For most, indeed, watching the water coming through the dam is like a show, in the sense that they see something that makes them happy.
Tribuna do Norte reports that people come from far away, walk the last three kilometers to reach the dam, and yet say that they are fascinated by looking at the water.
These people really know the value of water.