Photo Essay: CET Brazil

Photos by Ricky Tibbetts, (Syracuse University) Student Correspondent CET Brazil, Spring 2019

One element that is visible throughout Brazil – but most visible in the northern state of Bahia – is the influence of Portuguese culture and colonialism. In the historic city of Salvador, you can find Portuguese architecture and monuments everywhere. A significant number of Salvador’s forts, buildings, statues, inscriptions, and churches were either built by the Portuguese or mimic Iberian designs in their construction. One example is this gothic Portuguese church. It remains unmoved and largely unaltered in the same spot where it has always been, serving as a constant reminder of Brazil’s piety and colonial past.


Favelas (also known as ‘comunidades’ in Salvador) are scattered throughout Brazil. You can’t go to any major city and not find a sprawling community of these patchwork homes. The media often portrays favelas as dens of crime, drugs, poverty, and killing; and while this assessment is not completely wrong, it overlooks the fact that most favelas in Brazil are peaceful places, full of individuals whose main goals are to pay the bills, provide for their families, and better their socio-economic situation. You’d be surprised by how much liveliness, ingenuity, talent, knowledge, and creativity there is within favelas. The people who live in them are no different than you and I. The only difference is that they are wrongly stigmatized by society and lack many of the resources that people with money take for granted.


I have been using much of my free time in Brazil to learn how to cook! The rapid and chaotic college life prohibits many students from spending a calm hour or two in the kitchen. Fortunately, I have an abundance of time to cook in Brazil, and I am growing my culinary skills every day. A few of the plates I’ve made include chicken Parmesan, stuffed peppers, homemade meatballs, homemade hamburgers, white rice and beans, spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, and as you can see, salad with seasoned chicken and a wide assortment of vegetables and fruits.


Brazil, like the United States, continues to be affected by its history of slavery and black oppression. The racial hierarchy implemented by the Portuguese colonizers has endured throughout time, resulting in widespread poverty and hardship in Afro-Brazilian communities. This institute – the Steve Biko Charitable Cultural Institute – located in Santo Antonio, Salvador, works to uplift the young, black community by offering additional schooling, counseling, and college preparation courses. Its main goal is to improve the prospects of black scholars and set them on equal footing with their white counterparts in academia and the job market.


Salvador is home to the largest population of Africans outside of Africa. As a result, many of the rich, lively traditions of the African continent persist in Salvador; one of which is Candomblé, a religion born out of West Africa and mixed with Christianity. Pictured here are eight Candomblé gods, known as orixás, displayed proudly on Salvador’s most famous lake, Dique do Tororó. Each one represents different aspects of the human condition, such as happiness, fertility, luck, good health, wisdom, charity, and more.


The the most famous and photographed part of Salvador is Pelourinho, which means ‘whipping post’ in English. This historic cultural center used to be where slaves were publicly disciplined by Portuguese slave owners. Today, Pelourinho serves as a proud beacon of Afro-Brazilian culture, art, music, food, and religion. Re-branding historically oppressive places and institutions to honor Afro-Brazilian culture is an ongoing mission throughout Brazil, and Pelourinho is a shining example of how it can be done.

Soft sand, warm water, a light breeze, and a marvelous sunset. These are the moments I’ll never forget.


PUC-SP (commonly referred to as ‘pooky’) is a liberal university with a culture of protest, reform, challenging the status quo, and fighting for the equal treatment of all people. One way this culture is represented as PUC-SP is through political graffiti art, which is displayed on countless walls throughout the university. This picture of graffiti art displays a progressive legend, Marielle Franco, and her words of wisdom. Tragically, Franco was assassinated on March 14, 2018, because of her political views and growing influence in Brazilian politics. This is the sad reality in many parts of Brazil. Protesting the federal, state, or local government can often be a dangerous game, especially if you’re black.


One of the really cool things you get to do in Salvador is help prepare a traditional Afro-Brazilian meal. As someone who loves food, I deeply appreciated this experience. An ingredient that sets Bahian cuisine apart from other regions of Brazil is a little thing called azeite de dendê (palm oil). They put palm oil in almost every dish, which adds a strong, unique flavor to Bahian food.


Salvador’s customs and traditions are wedded to the sea. The city’s cuisine, culture, economy, music, and palpable tranquility are all rooted in the ocean’s consistent presence. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Salvador has some of the best ocean views in all of Brazil. I believe this photo provides enough evidence of that.