Abroad love

I’ve noticed that, in my last post, about brazilian independence day, I forgot to talk about an interesting happening that’s been on for 24 years: the Brazilian Day, a party that takes place in the streets of New York, USA (46th street, known as Little Brazil) every sunday before Labor’s Day in the United States.

Brazilian Day stage set up in New York

Brazilian Day stage set up in New York

Brazilian Day is broadcasted live to Brazil. It is sponsored by Brazil’s largest TV network, and has always star-artists from our country on-stage. According to the New York Department of Police, the 2007 party had an attendance of 1.5 million people, spread thru 25 blocks of the big apple.

The reason I’m talking about this is: in the previous post I’ve said that few people go to military parades in independence days, and that’s also hard to find brazilian flags on top of public or private buildings. The idea behind that was to show a lack of patriotism, even in a national day, caused by a general misbelief in brazilian State.

Well, Brazilian Day, in America, shows another side of brazilian people behavior to their country. You see tons of green and yellow flags, demonstrations of joy, happiness and pride to have Brazil as a homeland – all that, of course, standing on the floor washed by uncle Sam, miles away from here.

I admit it: it’s easier to be a brazilian when you go abroad. Brazilians share a common taste for travelling to developed countries, like the United States and some places in Europe and Asia. Unlike american, french, german or english people, we don’t like to visit places like Africa, Middle East or even our latin american neighbors. We already have too much social problems around here.

I’d say there’s no better place to show-off a prideful brazilian flag than standing side-by-side with Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World.

Why does this happens? Why we are more brazilians when we are not standing here? I’d put like this: we are, surely, patriotic. We love Brazil. I love Brazil and everybody I know loves Brazil. But sometimes it feels that Brazil doesn’t loves us. We get sad, hurt.

Brazilians are passionate people. We are driven by our emotions. We like to talk to everybody, laugh, argue in a loud voice, dance, everything. Leave all your englishmen attitude before you arrive here, you won’t fit in. We love love, and we hate hate. No middle terms.

Crowded street in New York for Brazilian Day party 2008

Crowded street in New Yorkfor Brazilian Day party 2008

That said, it’s easy to get one important thing about abroad patriotism: brazilians, and I include myself for sure in this sentence, are taken by a crushing feeling of homesickness when away for too long. We cry and clap hands when the plane lands here. And we embrace every opportunity to feel a little closer to home when abroad. That, I believe, is the reason for our patriotic demonstrations in away countries.

All I know is that if someday I’m in NY, and Brazilian Day shows up in the calendar, you’ll find me for sure in the middle of the crowd with my soccer jersey and my prideful green and yellow flag.
To visit the official Brazilian Day website, click here.
To read an interesting story about Brazilian Day not making everyone happy, click here.

Independence or Death!

"The yell of the Ipiranga", painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

"The yell of the Ipiranga",
painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

Today, septemper 7th, is Brazil’s Independence Day. Exactly 186 years ago, Dom Pedro I, royal prince in charge of the portuguese colony back then, took his sword out of the sheath near the Ipiranga River (where the city of São Paulo is nowadays) and yelled “independence or death!”, being after that declared Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil.*

Practically two centuries have passed by, and we have no kind of submissive relations with our former metropolis. In fact, we are way ahead of Portugal in a lot of subjects. But, in a modern perspective, can Brazil consider itself really independent from anything?

My opinion is that no, we have never truly experienced a real independent life, and there’s still a long way to go before we can think of calling ourselves independent.

I say that based on the conception of independence that matters not only to foreign relations, but mainly to internal issues.

It’s easy to notice a lack of credibility to the country’s independence day. Public patriotic demonstrations are becoming more and more rare when the september seventh’s arrive in the calendar. Several military parades are happening right now throughout our territory, but who attends to them? Last year’s parade in Brasília, our capital and home of the largest military parade, had the not so impressive mark of less spectators in the history.

Does that shows a common sense of disbelief in this so-called independence? I say yes. When you go to the United States, England, France, Germany or Italy (or any developed country), every corner, every building, public or private, have their countries flag raised on poles. Independence days are celebrated at its fullest. In Brazil, not even big cities City Halls have the country’s flag waving on top of them.

In a country where government let people die in hospital waiting lines, die with no medication, die from abandon, die because of the crescent and apparently uncontrollable urban violence, die with no education, die with hunger, die with no perspectives, no dreams, no hope… it’s easy to understand why flags only come out in World Cup period.

Personal independence is also a matter of analysis in big cities. People are more and more often depending on luck to live everyday. There are some periods in the day-by-day living in Brazil, specially when media coverage shows murders and shootings like they where showing soccer goals, that you actually believe returning home after a day of work is not guaranteed as it seems.

We have a long way before calling ourselves independent. We must break from the chains of corruption, populism and personal interests in the public sphere, and from the irons of apathy in the private sphere. Then, one day, we may actually celebrate our independence and cheer a true condition of free human beings. 

* Modern historiography considers that the process of brazilian independence from Portugal started when the portuguese Royal Family first came here, in 1808, running away from Napoleon’s army. Also, the utterly romantic version of Dom Pedro I shouting such words of independence mounted on a horse is questioned too.

The list: 10 points over Brazil

WordPress has an interesting stats engine that allows bloggers to see not only how many visitors have read their blogs, but how these readers got there. When it comes to this blog, I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people searching the web for “brazilian lifestyle” and ending up here.

Even though this is the exact idea of my writtings, my concept of transmitting characteristics of brazilian lifestyle is not resumed to a single post. The entire blog is about brazilian lifestyle. Even my style of writting reveals a part of brazilian lifestyle. Everything depends on how readers face what they are reading.

But, as we live in the fast-food, fast-cars, fast-web and fast-sex world, I would be an alien to think everybody has patience and feeling to absorb things in an analytical and critical way.

SO, I’ve decided to cut-the-crap on this post and give to you, dear reader, a small, but essential, list of THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT BRAZIL BEFORE COMING HERE:

1 – We DO NOT speak spanish. Our mother language is portuguese, that has little or nothing to do with spanish.

2 – Our capital IS NOT Buenos Aires. This is Argentina’s capital city. Ours is Brasília, D.F. The letters D.F. stands for Distrito Federal, which in english means Federal District.

3 – São Paulo is written like this. It is wrong to write São Paolo or San Paolo. We are not in Spain or in Italy. If you want to translate the name of a city, which I find wrong to do, please, translate it right. São Paulo, in english, would be Saint Paul. But please, swear you’ll never translate Rio de Janeiro as “January River”!

4 – Our coin is called Real. It’s worth something like US$ 1,70 and 2,5 Euro today.

5 – We don’t dance samba around every corner, nor we drink caipirinhas in breakfast. You can easily find samba houses and official samba organizations that allows you to go in their club to samba yourself out. Samba on the streets only happens in Carnival time, generally in February. Something like Mardi Gras, but way, way funnier and happier. About caipirinhas… well, those you can find almost everywhere. But remember: the true caipirinha is made with cachaça, not with vodka.

6 – Yes, there is violence here. Despite our incredible natural beauties, we are still a third world country. So, please, don’t act like a tourist. But I must say: the image that if you step here a bullet will cross in front if you is false. Just pay attention, as you would pay in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris…

7 – We are nice and kind people, more than you can imagine. Keep that in mind if someone starts up a conversation or extend their hands in order to get a handshake. It’s not necessary to call the police!

8 – You will find several beggars and abandoned children in the streets. Feel free to feel shocked and sad with it. I feel everyday.

9 – You will find several incredibly beautiful men and women in the streets. Feel free to feel shocked and amazed with it. I feel everyday.

10 – Going out to a bar at night, or to a disco, is a nice way to feel the brazilian vibe. But, please, stay away from these whorehouses-specially-made-to-drain-tourist-money. Brazil is not just sex and liberation. The industry of sexual tourism makes me feel ill.

Hope that’s helpful. I’ll write a better post about brazilian lifestyle in the near future.

Ps: If you check this blog, you’ll find a different way of viewing sexual tourism, specially in Brazil. Written by “Rio Joe”, he says he’s addicted to sexual tourism since 2003. Interesting reading!

Barack Obama in Brazil

It seems that Mr. Barack Obama’s campaign crew has reached a superb, and humorous, ability to spread the presidential candidate image around the world.

Meet Mr. Cláudio Henrique dos Anjos, 39 years old, the brazilian Barack Obama, as he presents himself, in his campaign running for Belford Roxo city hall.

Who's the real deal?

Who is the real deal?

Belford Roxo is a poor city near Rio de Janeiro, and has never been governed by a black man or woman.

Mr. Obama (the brazilian one) is one of the six candidates in Brazil that uses Mr. Obama (the original) name in order to catch a hike along publicity between voters.

I could write something about how diminishing this is for a serious candidate and for brazilian electoral process. But I’ll leave it to you. This time, this post will stay with the funny part of it.

Build me up!

We are beer bottles

We are beer bottles

Dictatorship of beauty is a well known concept in western countries. The United States and Europe are, in my point of view, the icons of this modern and sad culture to glorify good-looks, leaving behind the true beauty of a fruitful mind.

But Brazil does not stand far behind. In fact, our behinds are way more advanced than other country’s. And this is not a joke, it’s a matter of national care. Here, having a perfectly shaped body that matches the common pattern of beauty may represent the only way to have a way in life.

We see beauty clinics opening and advertising everywhere, aiming to attract both the rich and the poor to a massage table or to a surgical center. Gyms pop out from nowhere and get packed everyday, no matter how much they cost. Stores specialized in selling supplementary products, like amino-acids, proteins and fat burners are easily found wherever you look. It’s not even difficult for a normal citizen to find and buy prohibited steroids in some gyms and drugstores.

There are plenty of factors that contribute to this paranoia. The main one, in my opinion, is the large influence of TV and magazine ads.

Brazilian women are definitely amongst the prettier of the world. But it’s a shame they’re treated like garbage by ourselves. Actresses are compared to beer bottles; auditorium TV shows have their peek of audience when the camera zooms almost inside of their soul; sex tourism is one of the main income activities of some cities, and nothing is done to, at least, try to cover it up a little.

And, thanks to the massive brainwash, a large quantity of women think this is ok and actually work hard to become the most desirable object of the society.

For me, the most dramatic issue of this regards young people. Not just girls, but boys too are unsatisfied with their bodies, even tough they all have no apparent reason to feel this way. Beauty treatments (even surgery) are attracting more and more teenagers to a situation that can definitely ruin their health. And nothing is being said about it.

I believe there should be a more reasonable way of creating ads, specially those made for men. If the message continues to be sent like is being sent today, maybe tomorrow no one will have brains to understand that the ad is to buy the beer, not the woman.

Campaigns under siege

Supreme Electoral Court discussing army forces in Rio de Janeiro

Supreme Electoral Court discuss
sending army forces to Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court has authorized today the use of army forces in Rio de Janeiro, in order to guarantee a free-of-violence campaign period for the city’s candidates for mayor. Union forces are now waited to act togheter with local police and Federal Police.

Since the campaigns period started, a couple of months ago, several candidates have been prohibited by drug dealers to enter some favelas (slums). This outlaw force has also prohibited journalists to cover campaigns in those places. Only candidates supported by drug dealers are welcome in certain poor communities, leaving democracy and free will of choice for inhabitants behind.

In a certain way, I’m surely in favor of the army in my city. We live today a situation of civil war that hasn’t been treated like a civil war so far by no one in power. Of course. With a vast majority of voters living in poor areas, actions to stop drug dealers would certainly affect people living there. By consequence, mayors and governors would have their votes affected too.

But, in other way, I feel awfully ashamed of this. It’s a sad, sad feeling for cariocas (how Rio de Janeiro born citizens are named) to live in such a beautiful place, but without any sort of freedom.

I keep asking myself why politicians have led Rio de Janeiro to the actual situation of total abandon. Maybe the answer is written above in the third paragraph. But I believe it’s more, it’s got to be more. I can’t accept that my dear city is abandoned and thrown into it’s own luck because of one or two men greed. I can’t accept that, as years go by, as elections go by, things continue to be the same.

The presence of army forces, as “comfortable” as it seems, just serve to tell us one more time in the face: Rio de Janeiro is gone.

We have had army support several times in the past, but we must remember that their presence should be seen as band-aid, something that must be removed after the cut stops bleeding. The problem is that our blood never stops to drop.

I hope at least that, from now ’till the day of voting, people, wherever they live, rich or poor, are able to see, listen and choose any candidates they want. Democracy is the main pillar for hope in every place. If we lose this, than you can consider us officially dead.

Speaking of hope, I hope the next mayor will be more serious, more efficient, more fair and more in love with Rio de Janeiro than the actual one. Let’s see.

Going underground

I’ve been to the States a few times and have just come back from Europe, where I visited several west-bank countries. When it comes to public facilities and conservation, comparing Brazil to these countries is like throwing a rat in a snake pit. No competition.

But one thing that actually surprised me was the fact that here, in Rio de Janeiro, we do have a much more well preserved subway than Paris, London, Lisbon or Madrid. I’m not talking about the quantity of lines or their length, nor electronic devices available in these first-world subway systems. I’m just referring to cleanliness.

It may seem a little unnecessary to write about this, but I saw in this comparison an interesting subject to be analysed.

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and the main tourist port of the country. But the city is a huge mess. As a native, I feel around every corner the lack of public conservation and care. Sometimes I feel there’s no State looking for us. But when I go underground, it’s like a new world.

Here, and I imagine in the rest of the world also, subways are used mainly by lower classes men and women. People that live far from the city centre, sometimes in favelas (slums, ghettos), and have little school education. In rush hours, subways get packed with workers, and people travel inside the trains like they were matches in a box. A true chaotic scenario.

But once the storm passes by, you can easily see that there’s no consequences left behind. No trash on the floor, no windows or benches broken, no bad smells, no graffiti. This last item specially was the one that surely popped in my eyes when I traveled first-world subways. In Paris and in New York, I’ve seen graffiti not only on the station’s walls, but on the trains bodies!

That surely is something that I can’t understand. I’m not saying here that brazilians are concerned about keeping everything clean, because sadly, we aren’t. As I said, it just take a simple walk on the streets and dirt will come around sometime. But the metro seems like an outsider. Something that crosses under a city that has nothing to do with it.

Some may say that our subway system is public service run by a private company, but that’s no demerit for saying in a loud voice: we have a clean subway. The same partnership between government and private happens with our bus system, but the vehicles and drivers are terrible, and I’ve already seen cockroaches inside.

It’s hard to find a reason for this subway-care-phenomena. Maybe it’s because the system is new (opened in1979) and was a huge improvement in people’s lives; maybe because it’s a very, very popular mass transit system that works fine, unlike buses. Or, the reason could be simple: rich or poor, people can treat well things that are public and useful to them. Too bad this last sentence can’t be said when it comes to the aboveground city.