Exploring the Midwest

Badlands National Park – photo by Fernanda Ezabella

A road trip through the upper midwest took me and my husband to a few new places in late 2021, taking to 32 the number of US states I have visited.

We landed in Wisconsin and drove to Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas, and I managed to write five stories about those unusual and remarkable places for Folha de S.Paulo.

In Minnesota, we did a Bob Dylan pilgrimage in the towns he had grown up, Duluth and Hibbing, at the time the cities were celebrating his 80th anniversary. You can read all about it in this other post here.

We spent a lot of time in South Dakota, where we went to see the Mount Rushmore National Memorial (photo from the cover, inside the Doane Robinson Tunnel), national parks and indigenous historical sites.

I wrote about the Badlands National Park and other scenarios from the Oscar-winning movie “Nomadland”, such as the Wall Drug Store, a complex of stores and restaurants whose employees had a cameo with actress Frances McDormand. The full story in Portuguese is here.

Crazy Horse and Wounded Knee Massacre

Also in South Dakota, I wrote about the Crazy Horse Memorial, a never-ending mountain sculpture of the famous Oglala chief, just 16 miles from Mount Rushmore.

For the story, we visited the Pine Ridge Reservation, where many students from the school sponsored by the memorial live and where the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre happened, in 1890, when more than 200 Lakota people got slaughtered by the US Army.

Here is a snippet of the article:

CUSTER (EUA)Quando Gutzon Borglum trabalhava nas esculturas dos quatro presidentes norte-americanos no Monte Rushmore, nos anos 1930, um grupo de indígenas tinha outra ideia de quem deveria ser homenageado nas montanhas sagradas de Black Hills, no estado da Dakota do Sul.

Era Crazy Horse, líder dos Oglala Lakota e um dos estrategistas da maior vitória contra o Exército dos EUA na guerra contra os nativos das planícies, na segunda metade do século 19. Mas, como Borglum não dava ouvidos, o grupo foi atrás de outro escultor, que deu início a um novo trabalho na montanha, em 1948.

E, até hoje, a obra está em construção, a meros 27 km do Monte Rushmore. O rosto impávido do chefe Oglala já foi concluído e tem 27 metros de altura, quase 10 a mais do que as faces esculpidas de George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt e Abraham Lincoln. Continue lendo na Folha de S.Paulo.

Nuclear North Dakota

From North Dakota, I reported from Cooperstown, a 200-inhabitant town surrounded by green prairies and wheat fields that for 31 years housed a nuclear arsenal far more destructive than the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site is open to visitors and tells the story of when the site had control of ten nuclear missiles from the Minuteman fleet, part of the 300 missiles buried in the state in the 1960s, all ready to reach Moscow in 30 minutes.

Read the story in Portuguese for Folha de S.Paulo.

Architecture utopia in Wisconsin

We visited Taliesin, in Spring Green, WI, to talk to the people in charge of one of the most famous buildings of the greatest American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Lloyd Wright has been a fixture in my work. I had already written about Taliesin West, in Arizona, the architect’s winter home and studio in the desert, when we explored the state in 2017. I wrote a post about this trip and the stories I published.

On another trip, I reported from the Chicago suburb Oak Park, home to more Frank Lloyd Wright buildings than anywhere in the world (story to be published), and in Los Angeles, I wrote about the opening of the Hollyhock House for the public after six years of renovations (it was the first house he designed in L.A., in 1919).

Here is a snippet of the article on Taliesin:

SPRING GREEN (EUA)Na mesa larga de carvalho e madeira compensada, iluminada por janelas que cobrem toda a parede, Frank Lloyd Wright recebeu clientes importantes e esboçou centenas de projetos, como dois de seus trabalhos mais populares, o museu Guggenheim, em Nova York, e a residência Fallingwater, construída parcialmente em cima de uma cachoeira, no estado americano da Pensilvânia.

A mesa fica em seu estúdio e residência no interior do estado de Wisconsin, num terreno de 800 acres chamado Taliesin. A propriedade chegou a ser apelidada de castelo de amor, funcionou como laboratório de inovações e foi cenário de um dos crimes mais horrendos do início do século 20.

Mas, principalmente, foi refúgio do mais influente, prolífico e polêmico arquiteto americano. Wright passou a vida construindo, reformando e modificando os prédios da propriedade, deixando marcas de sua genialidade e também seus pontos fracos. Para muitos, Taliesin é como sua autobiografia gravada em pedra e madeira. Continue lendo na Folha de S.Paulo.

A Birds Savior in Baraboo, WI

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) is home to all 15 species of cranes in the world, including the whooping crane, one of the rarest birds and the tallest in North America that became a symbol of conservation efforts.

I interviewed ornithologist and ICF cofounder George W. Archibald, who literally danced to help save the whooping crane from extinction 40 years ago. He developed pioneering techniques for caring for and breeding birds in captivity and helped a crane called Tex lay a healthy egg after doing “exhausting but fun” mating dances to trigger her reproductive cycle.

It was an interesting piece to write, especially being into this new bird’s phase in my life (read more about my hummingbirds’ stories here).

Read my George W. Archibald interview here on Folha de S.Paulo.

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