The Latin American Way
Mexico City, Havana, Medellin,
São Paulo, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro,
Montevideo, Lima, Buenos Aires
In those days, Latin America seemed to offer all of the exoticism and glamour of the world in a single continent. In 1939, Carmen Miranda had just signed with Hollywood, where her deceptively frivolous act and famous fruit hat caused a sensation. Her joie de vivre, lame outfits, and sequins were like a breath of fresh air and made her the undisputed star of musical comedy. She sang and danced, and had a devastating smile. The “South American Way” was in fashion and its artists whipped up enthusiasm all over the world. Its passionate music was played in casinos, on the radio, and on television by all the best-known bands, whose international tours brought an exotic ambience to every nightclub they played in.
The tango singer Carlos Gardel from Buenos Aires was famous the world over, collecting hordes of fans wherever he performed. People listened to Cuban mambo, the paso doble, and the cha-cha on the radio, as well as mixtures of exotic music and jazz. Orchestras played these wild rhythms in all the fashionable clubs in Rio, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, as well as the big cities of the United States. The foxtrot, conga, and rumba were all the rage.
“People ask you why you live in Cuba and you say it
is because you like it. It is too complicated to explain
about the early mornings in the hills above Havana where
every morning is cool and fresh on the hottest day in summer.”
Ernest Hemingway, Holiday magazine (July 1949)
Movies shot in Technicolor in elegant, Art Deco locations were at their peak. In 1933, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers shot Flying Down to Rio, an exotic, invigorating piece of entertainment. Brazil appears in black and white, but color was used in the stunning dance numbers, sets, and special effects. People saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing together for the first time, alongside the Mexican actress Dolores del Rio, “the princess of Mexico,” regarded as one of the most beautiful women of the day – a remarkable success for a Hispanic woman at the time. The film’s storyline was simple: Roger is the conductor of a small orchestra that plays in luxury hotels. One evening, he falls in love with a beautiful Brazilian. He takes up a new position in a hotel in Rio and by the greatest of coincidences the young woman has to take a plane to the same destination. Roger is hired at Hotel Atlantico, which was in fact Copacabana Palace, opened in 1923, on Copacabana Beach. The film captures the luxurious lifestyle of those years and the great era of travel in Latin America. It was all there: the glamour of the 1930s, chorus girls dancing on the wings of airplanes in flight, a torrid sensuality, views of Rio that provide the film’s exotic setting, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing the Carioca (learned from watching Brazilians), in the superb setting of the hotel – which, thanks to the movie, became tremendously fashionable. Hotels such as the Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires (where Evita Perón liked to take tea), the legendary Nacional de Cuba, and the Carrera in Santiago, Chile, would also mark the era, hosting guests from all over the world and contributing to that refreshing breath of latina air, the “South American Way.”
“There is no more beautiful city in the world —
those who have seen it will agree—and none is as
inexhaustible and inexplicable. One never stops
discovering it. Even the sea has made of the coast
a strange zig-zagging and the mountain slopes follow
it all the way. Everywhere are curves and corners;
streets cross each other at random; over and over
again one loses one’s way . . . At every step, one’s
gaze is captured and filled.”
Stefan Zweig, Brazil: A Land of the Future
About World Tour
Louis Vuitton and Editions Xavier Barral published an original travel book: World Tour, a genuine journey around the world in twenty-one stopovers with 1,000 hotel labels from the collection constituted by Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Formerly stuck to the luggage of travelers, these small posters tell us their fabulous adventure and inspire an initiatory journey, a Grand Tour back to the mythical past of the Art of travel.
This fascinating volume by well-known travel writer Francisca Mattéoli draws on his collection to pay tribute to the most famous hotels of the world, evoking 21 world destinations through texts, illustrations, archive documents and quotations from famous travelers.
Learn more about Louis Vuitton’s World Tour.
Images via Louis Vuitton