Those charms do not include colonial grandeur. Most of Aracaju is relatively - that is, less than 150 years - new. It was Brazil's first planned city, hence the great granddaddy of that colossus of urban planning, Brasilia. In Brazil, or at least in tropical Northeastern Brazil, planning has its limits: the tidy grids of central Aracaju soon evaporate into the usual jumbled sprawl.
The reception was much warmer at the nearby Igreja de Sao Cristovao. This sanctuary is apparently much admired for its healing powers; it is packed with an extravagant assortment of symbolic offerings in thanks for cures - not just the usual limbs and ears but anatomically precise hearts, livers, kidneys and other organs, plus touching portraits and locks of hair from beneficiaries. Slowly peeling off the adjacent sacristy ceiling is a splendid 260-year-old fresco by the Bahian artist Jose Teixera de Jesus, with stylized African-looking saints recalling Ethiopian religious art. The national government granted funds for its restoration, the attendant noted sadly, "but somewhere between Rio and Aracaju, the money disappeared."
Cachac- a around the dinner table is well and good, but when the sun returned it was time to do what any red-blooded Brazilian would: Go to the beach and drink beer. Aracaju's beaches will not win any awards in Brazil, though they're fine by North American or European standards. The problem is the rivers that empty into the sea nearby, in particular the wide, deep Rio Sergipe, which once gave Aracaju its reason for being, as a port. It now constrains its tourist aspirations by clouding the surrounding waters with fine silt.
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