Text by Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos, writer
The Princess of the Sea doesn't come to this beach, nor does the Girl from Ipanema. Those who go to Ramos beach are of a different sort, and have a completely different set of beauty standards: not those from the pages of our fashion magazines, but rather generous, succulent curves – curves begging to be squeezed, proudly displayed by women who, as they look into the camera, seem to be saying "there are those who prefer it this way…"
Piscinao de Ramos, or "Ramos Swimming Pool" as it is known in Portuguese, is an artificial salt-water lake located in an area called Ramos, amidst a vast area of favelas (shantytowns) in Rio de Janeiro. It is a public park consisting of artificial lake and surrounding beach, as well as a few soccer fields and other sports facilities. It was inaugurated in 2001 by the State Government of Rio de Janeiro and Petrobras (Brazil's national oil company), and to much controversy: many of Rio's inhabitants understood it to be a blatantly political act aimed at winning votes from the outskirts of the city. The immediate vicinity of the park is surrounded by 15 different favelas, run by competing factions of drug-trafficking gangs who operate as de facto governments within those communities. Although violence still plagues many of those favelas, the park itself has been mostly free of such problems, at least in and around the lake.
Ramos is crowded, noisy, and polluted, and known for its eccentric characters and an intense display of the beachside enjoyment for which Brazil is famous worldwide. Here, in this photoshop-free paradise, no social hierarchy exists to define what is cool and what is kitsch, it's all blended together by a common joie de vivre. Here what matters is not looking good for the camera, but rather feeling the sun on one's skin, getting drunk on cachaça (Brazilian rum), and splashing the time away.