Sao Paolo, Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America, and also the only Portuguese-speaking nation in Latin America. São Paulo is Brazil's most populous state and arguably one of the most dynamic cities on the continent. In the last hundred years, this Jesuit-founded town has grown up to become the commercial and industrial powerhouse of Brazil. It acts as the financial center of Brazil and is densely populated with high-rises. But not everything in São Paulo is so serious. The city revels in the playful spirit of the nation and serves as a cultural center for this sprawling nation.
For centuries, São Paulo has been the destination of migrants from Europe, Africa and Asia. For these foreigners, São Paulo was their Southern Hemispheric outpost in the New World. The increase of opportunities in the city as São Paulo developed also drew natives from the hinterland. The result is that the face of São Paulo is ethnically diverse and richly multicultural. Lucky for São Paulo, elements of many cultural heritages have filtered through to produce an unique culture that is relatively free of racial strife.
The diversity of São Paulo's population is reflected in the tremendous cuisine that is available in this city. For example, São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. In the city, one can easily find fine restaurants serving authentic Japanese specialties. Harking to the indigenous culture of Brazil, popular Brazilian fare includes feijoada, a hearty stew of black beans, pork, and special seasonings. At Christmas time, families gather together to enjoy a loaf of panettonne - an Italian-style sweetbread baked with succulent bits of fruit or chocolate morsels.
Brazilian cuisine also reflects the rich agricultural resources of this nation found nowhere else on earth. Guaraná - a carbonated drink flavored with the subtle sweetness of a special fruit from the Amazon of the same name - is my personal favorite drink. At the open-air markets called feiras where fresh bounty from the country is sold each week, one can drink coconut milk straight from a straw punched into a real coconut. My parents used to treat me to one of these to keep me busy everytime I accompanied them to the feira.