A friend of mine recently posted a status on Facebook that read something all the lines of “Report says South America just like America but south”. I knew that he had posted it as a joke but I responded because I felt or maybe assumed I had somewhat kindred feelings with the writer of the article. I felt as if I knew what he meant even though the phrasing might have been a tad comical. I wrote “It’s true. At least in Brazil in many ways.”. Maybe sometimes I and my fellow Americans tend to neglect or are completely ignorant of the similarities between us and our neighbors to the south, our neighbor worldwide for that matter. As a somewhat isolationist country with lessons beginning at cradle side teaching a sense of overall superiority and exceptionalism, maybe other countries’ histories, cultures and similarities get lost in the shadow cast by our own blown up, maybe at times overblown self image. Do I love America? Absolutely! It’s citizen’s (including myself) clothed me, educated me, feed me, sheltered me and generally helped me along my way in every way. Some through taxes, from others through community and several through lineage. But… speaking of lineage what if several generations ago my relates had decided to migrate somewhere else. What if, on the other side of my family, Portuguese/Brazilian slave traders instead of British/American ones had shipped my ancestors to Brazil. Several generations later, this could have easy been my home from birth. I might have been so many other things but circumstance, opportunity, luck of both varieties and fate put me where I was and where I am now. So, what exactly is really different between here and there? Of course there are so many things on the surface of it all. I’m trying to write a blog about all of the little things and seemingly bigger ones. However, at the core of things maybe it’s not so different at all. I think all human beings have some basic needs no matter where they are. We all need food. We need shelter. We need air and water. On more complex levels we may need a sense of community, whether it is belonging to a certain religion, fan of a particular sports team or band, bar where everyone knows your name or a political party. I think we also all need love, not only or solely romantic love but understanding, patient and forgiving love.
Countries, like every individual person, (even ones from the same families or twins), do various things to get what they need or think they need and should have. The paths those decisions lead them down are what make the surface level differences.
Brazil and the US could be sisters. “Discovered” in 1500, eight years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Brazil has grown up right along with the US. But like many sisters there are differences in their respective outlooks, actions, influences and the reactions of others to them. Brazil was a pretty little sister and unfortunately most of her foreign suitors just wanted to use her to get what they could and profit from her. In the US, many settlers moved with the intent to start a new life and thought of their new land as a home. They mostly (arguably) tended to it accordingly. Both countries however, when they were “discovered” already had native inhabitants who would have to for centuries and continue to this day deal with the sometimes harsh and unjust repercussions of their lands being “settled” by the Europeans.
The use and abuse of slaves also occurred in both countries but in some ways the practices and the outcomes were slightly different. Brazil’s slaves blended what they knew with the new places they were. Music, cuisine, dances (fighting disguised as dancing also) and their genes all mixed in with the other Brazilians (landowners and natives). Was it all easy going and laughing, singing and eating? Of course not. It was horrid as all forms of slavery are, it happened a little differently than with it’s older sister to the north. In fact there are a couple of glaring differences. In many cases, slave owners in Brazil, when they fathered a child with a slave, registered themselves as the father on the birth certificate. The child then later had rights as an heir. Another difference is the blending of the cultures. Many Afro-Brazilians traditions, cuisines, music and even religions make up a major part of the the overall cultural of Brazil.The evolution of religion in Brazil involved a lot of syncretism. Various religions from the Portuguese Catholicism, the native religions and the religions the slaves brought with them blended together and practices melded and morphed over time sometimes into whole other religions.
There are lots of other differences in growth between the two countries and I do plan to go over more if not all of them in more depth in the future but for the moment let’s get back to now and how in fact Brazil could be thought of (by me) like America but in the south. It’s basic again, like I was starting to say before I went off track. The needs are the same. The core needs that is. I’m finding that they are just sometimes expressed, sought after and cared for a little differently. Another thing is some of the actual things. There are the some of the same brands (sometimes with slightly different names, flavors or model names for cars but made by the same parent company.) There are several channels still playing the same shows I watched in America (only now with Portuguese subtitles). There’s Facebook and Google (also Orkut and UOL here). There is the internet which connects us all more now .. .and is letting me write this to you at the moment. There are even internet cafes in the comunidades (also know as favelas, shantytowns or slums) and satellite dishes on the sides of their houses. There are movie theaters playing the latest blockbusters from the US and the new movies made in Brazil. On more basic levels, there are plants, both to harvest and to just enjoy looking at. There are pets and there are predators and pests. There are friendly people and there are thieves. There is corruption and there is progress. There is decay and there is growth. There is disaster and there is beauty. There is sadness and there is dancing. There is sport and there is crime. That’s not that different than the America I love. It’s just different ways of doing the same thing, living.
So that’s all for now. Reporting from the deep deep deep south, this is c the gringa over and out.