The ‘Hollywood’ of Brazil’s Northeast & Pai Mateus

The Hollywood sign is one of the most beloved and well known landmarks in the world; it sits right up on the hill in Griffith Park, just part of my backyard when I’m in Los Angeles.  I’ve even made the hike up there and gone illegally under the fence down to the letters;)

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So I when I learned that there’s a pretty funny Brazilian copy, written out the way they pronounce Hollywood (holly wood jee) or “Roliude”, of course, I had to go see it for myself.

Cabaceiras, the Hollywood of the Northeast (Roliude Nordestina), is located in Paraíba state and bares the name because it’s played as the backdrop to many famous Brazilian films (Aspirinas e Urubus, Canta Maria, Auto da Compadecida, Eu Sou o Servo, São Jerônimo, Viva São João, O Romance de Tristão e Isolda, amongst others).

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Why?  Just like dear old LA, Cabaceiras receives precious little rainfall.  Apparently, it’s the city with the least rain in Brazil — already love it!  Honestly I’m not surprised they produce a lot of films here, I also found this place incredible to shoot in.  The rural atmosphere reminded me a lot of how much I loved visiting the small towns around Chapada Diamantina in Bahía.  There’s something incredible about these tiny places and I was offered a host of picturesque views to choose from.

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The town has maybe 5,000 people in it and is absolutely adorable.  It’s also strangely obsessed with goats.  They’re everywhere, literally.  Paintings on the buildings, in the food, and running around the surreal landscape.

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About 25 km from Cabaceiras there’s also a pretty incredible rock formation called Lajedo de Pai Mateus.  They are these amazing gigantic rocks, formed from millions of years of soil depletion and varying temperatures.  Apparently there’s also some paintings on some of them that were made by Cariri Indians who lived in the area thousands of years ago (I didn’t see any). They get their name from an old hermit who apparently lived there in the 18th century and healed people in exchange for food; Father Mateu was his name.

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Couldn’t you imagine a hermit living here?

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This little guy led us straight to our first hitch of the day:)

We hitched a ride with a random family there since there’s no bus or organized public transport.  Most people contract a car and stay at the pousada to visit.  For some reasons you are supposed to pay 15 reals/person to enter, though I think you could very easily just go without paying if you don’t stop and ask about it.  From the pousada it was another 4 km to the actual location, something everyone seems to drive.  Hiking it was a much better option; it’s only an hour walk and absolutely gorgeous.  Beautiful barren trees intertwined with cactus plants and large boulders, rimmed by desert shrubs where goats weave in and out, their bells jangling cheerfully.

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At the end of the 4 kms there’s an abandoned house (also used in soap opera) standing in front of a lake/dam with a sweeping bridge.  What an incredibly dramatic entrance!

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‘Where the f#$k am I?’ or ‘Where am I going’ — perfect metaphors for my life!

The rocks look small perched on the hill, but they’re quite large, some weighing in around 45 tons.  We had fun exploring and taking photos, so much so we missed our arranged ride and had to start walking the 25 km back.

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But then we hitched a ride so it wasn’t too horrible.  Awesome location and a bit hidden.

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Heading back the other way…

It’s been a good change up from all the beaches the northeast is so famous for — a reminder that there’s so much more to see in Brazil!



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