Sunday, February 10, 2008

So what I really think about Brasil...

I think sometimes I try to censor what I'm writing in my blog because I'm worried what people that read it might think. Especially in the case of Brasil, where most of the people I've met speak good English and are so proud of their country. But, I'm going to give an honest account...

Sao Paulo really didn't do much for me, perhaps the most materialistic city I've seen in Latin America, where it was so clear how money dictated everything. Entrance fees to most places, ridiculously overpriced drinks could be found without any searching, and there was a definite emphasis on what you were wearing, where you lived, what you did for a living.

But then I fell in love with Rio de Janeiro. People are so laid-back, friendly, beautiful city.

Salvador's tourist scene seemed a bit contrived, although of course walking around and stumbling upon capoeira groups with glistening bodies and percussion groups with endless beats is not something to complain about.

Recife, unfortunately, I don't think I can say much about because I only know it from Carnaval. However, I was impressed by the friendliness of the people, and, how they reversed my first glaring observation of Brasilians...awareness and discussion of political issues. Namely, poverty and the obvious inequalities between Brasilians.

I found (of course I have been here for a very short time and with a very distinct group of people, all educated English speakers with internet access) that very few people want to talk about what is going on in the country regarding the staggering amount of poverty, unemployment (no, selling gum on the highway is not a real job), lack of education, and for me, perhaps most seriously, environmental issues. Why does the whole coastal route have beautiful rich red soil but on the surface it resembles pastureland in the UK? Why are there cows everywhere and no native birds? Why are there random enormous, gigantic ancient trees occasionally seen along the roads amidst short cut grass? Was that once part of a forest that no longer exists?

But, in Recife, people did want to talk. Granted, a lot of that talking is done over glasses of wine in an air-conditioned living room, but at least the dialogue is happening. Who knows.

The other thing I find interesting about Brasil is how people always seem to be...happy. There are very rare situations in which Brasilians aren't smiling, laughing, dancing...all this in the midst of some really grave what's going on? I wonder how much of it is left-over colonial mentality, the general populus of Brasil has always been under someone...the indios were treated horribly by the Portuguese, and obviously so were the African slaves...then Brasil has continuously been exploited by international and national corporations, corrupt's almost as if it's accepted that corruption, exploitation, and injustice are part of life. So since that's the case, just make the best of it and laugh and smile as much as possible? I have no idea if that's true, but I don't really understand the overall picture here.

It's also been interesting to me that Brasilians seem to think that living abroad will instantly and immediately solve all if poverty doesn't exist elsewhere. Yes, I am aware that average incomes are drastically higher in some other countries (a minimum monthly wage here is 380 reais, about 200USD), but the rich in Brasil Like way richer than a lot of people in ¨first world countries¨. So I don't know where they get this idea from. Maybe, though, wealth is hard to acquire by individuals in Brasil, i.e., if you weren't born into a wealthy family, it's harder to build your own wealth, whereas the US is seen as the land of opportunity where everyone can create their own life for themselves. Again, who knows.

The ironic thing is that now I seem to have fallen in love with Brasil. I kind of don't want to leave. I want to try living in Rio de Janeiro. I don't know if I've just gone completely insane, or if something else is going on. The carefree nature, the beautiful weather, the gorgeous music, tropical fruits (the thought of being in Argentina without mangoes and papayas is somewhat paralyzing...)'s gotten under my skin. So we'll see what ends up happening.

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