Sunday, August 8, 2010

Natal, Brazil

On 25 December 1597, back when Brazil was a colony of the Portuguese crown, a group of Portuguese officials reached the Potengi River with the duty of reclaiming the captaincy of Rio Grande do Norte, which was then dominated by French buccaneers. Twelve days later, on 6 January, Three Kings' Day for the Catholic Churc, the group started the construction of the fortress that would remain the most prominent landmark in the state of Rio Grande do Norte until today: the Three Kings' Fort.
Following Portugal's recovery of the territory, expedition leader Jerônimo de Albuquerque redefined the limits of that village by the Potengi river on 25 December 1599. There is uncertainty about on which of the two dates the name originated - that 25 December or the one two years earlier - but that was how it all started for Natal (Portuguese for ‘Christmas').
The capital of Rio Grande do Norte enjoyed moderate growth until the 20th century, when its innumerous striking beaches and sand dunes were finally surrounded by the proper infrastructure for tourists. The construction of the Via Costeira - a large coastal avenue - in the 1980s was a milestone for the development of Natal, which is now one of the preferred destinations for foreigners visiting Brazil. They come for such wonders as Ponta Negra, Genipabu, Redinha, Pipa, Pirangi and several other spectacular beaches within the city and right next to it.
Natal is proudly known as Cidade do Sol (Sun City) thanks to its faultless tropical climate that provides an annual average of 28º C, and roughly 300 sunny days a year. Its location, as close to Europe as any other city in the Americas, has also boosted international tourism.

The top three teams in the state of Rio Grande do Norte are from Natal: Alecrim Futebol Clube and the city's two powerhouses and eternal rivals, América Futebol Clube and ABC Futebol Clube. Both teams have shared the vast majority of trophies of the Campeonato Potiguar (‘Potiguar' being one who comes from Rio Grande do Norte) and were regulars in the Campeonato Brasileiro's elite until the mid-1980s. ABC have not competed in the top tier since, meanwhile América have had their share of successful spurts and even won the regional title of the North-East Cup in 1998.
ABC's home ground is the Maria Lamas Farache stadium, popularly known as the Frasqueirão, while both América and Alecrim normally play their home matches at the city-owned João Machado stadium, or the Machadão.

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