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Brazzil - Letters - August 2003

Caring for Portugal

Dear Mr Fitzpatrick,

Regarding your article "The Samba and the Fado," - www.brazzil.com/p132feb03.htm. I would disagree with you when you say "the average Brazilian cares little for Portugal". Today Portugal is full of Brazilians who care very much for Portugal because Portugal has given them the opportunity to become Portuguese citizens and EU members, whether or not they then decide to move on to more fertile territory within the EU. And if anyone is putting constraints on Brazilian request for Portuguese citizenship, it is other EU member countries. But many Brazilians remain in Portugal because they share a common language and the Portuguese are, in general, a people of racial and religious tolerance unlike many other "richer" EU neighbours.

I am indebted to Brazil for being the first country my Portuguese grandfather sailed to in the beginning of the 20th century and where he first sold fish and later became a cook on a boat that made trips up the Amazon River. He sailed to Brazil when he was 9 years old to help support his mother after his father had died of TB. He didn't return rich with gold plunder. but with fond memories of the friendships he made with the local and native people and the courage and maturity to face an unsure future.

Later he would sail to the USA, fleeing the poverty and dictatorship of Portugal. I am indebted to him and without his sacrifice I would not be the person I am today. I was born and educated in the US, but chose to live in Portugal and have continued to do so for the past 21 years and have never regretted this decision or the decision to become a dual national.

I have also traveled to Brazil in homage to my grandfather and visited the land where he lived, Belém do Pará. You speak of the poverty of Portugal but next to India, I have never seen such poverty as in the streets of Rio and São Paulo. What was most shocking to me were the orphaned children living on the streets. I won't go into detail as I'm sure you know all about their lives.

Do you blame this on the Portuguese too? I do not understand your apparent need to denigrate the Portuguese for every ill of the Brazilian people. It somehow reminds me of the plight of black Americans who still blame their past history of slavery for all their hardships of today. Fortunately there are many black Americans who have not used their past as an excuse to blame everyone else. but themselves for their inability to accept the responsibility for their own destiny and move on.

If you spoke more about the role of Portuguese government or the dictatorship of Salazar in the last century as the cause of the problems in Portugal's former colonies, your article would have been more plausible. Was Portugal the only nation to steal gold from Brazil? I think today you couldn't say that Portugal is the "big guy" in Brazil anymore. I'm sure you've heard of the Greater Carajás Development Program. And trying to compare the Samba to the "gloomy" Fado certainly shows a lack of cultural understanding when it comes to the origins of the Portuguese. Perhaps you need to read up on Portuguese history a little more.

"It may sound like a cliché but on my first visit to Lisbon I felt I was in an African rather than a European city." Yes, I would agree with you here. It is a cliché. Have you been to Paris lately? Or London? Or New York? Yes, the world is becoming a very small place indeed. But Portugal also have many immigrants from eastern Europe and they are opening businesses and thriving here. Maybe the Brazilians you speak of should have visited the US or Canada instead of Europe (most likely at the height of the crowded tourist season) to see how well the Portuguese are doing. And might I add that many of the Brazilians I know here are doing quite well.

Virtually every nation or people in the world has been exploited by another more powerful nation or people at some point in history. And sometimes the very ones who were exploited later became the exploiters. This is unfortunately the sad truth of man's tendency towards greed and cruelty in the name of power. In this, Portugal is no different from any other nation.

"Finally, I would like to stress that the point of this article is not to downplay the Portuguese contribution to the development of Brazil in any way (I'm afraid this is exactly what your article did as it mentioned nothing positive, aside from language, architecture and religion, that Portugal contributed to Brazil) but one cannot stop wondering how this continental-sized country would have developed had other powers been the colonizers." It's just like wondering how you would have turned out had you had different parents.

I would stop wondering if I were you because dwelling on what might have been only leads to illusions about what is taking place right now. Finger-pointing never solved anyone's problems. It's the luck of the draw really - could have been better or worse - and that's what makes this world such an imperfect and yet such an interesting place to exist. Be grateful and seek to understand more than to criticize. It leads to greater prosperity and happiness in the world.

Deborah Monteiro

Veja Burning

The article on the Veja special "Teen" edition - "Veja's Yankee Brazilian Teens - www.brazzil.com/2003/html/news/articles/aug03/p115aug03.htm  - was excellent. I am living in Salvador, Bahia and when I saw the magazine on the rack at my local supermarket I felt disgust at the cover, which shows a group of white, middle class teens with one token black guy.

When is Brazil's media going to reflect Brazil's racial reality? The damage to self-esteem and ethnic pride is enormous. How many times have I complemented someone here in Salvador on their beauty only to be told that I am more beautiful because I have blonde hair and blue eyes. It fills me with anger and sadness. I would love to see all the editions of Veja "Teen" be burned in the Praça da Sé in the Pelourinho.

Michael Andersen
Salvador, Bahia

I Feel Your Pain

Re: "If Only I Knew a Little Portuguese" - www.brazzil.com/2003/html/news/articles/jun03/p142jun03.htm  - Dear John Daniel, fear does not describe how I felt when I first went to Brazil (São Paulo and Rio in one trip). I am a musician (trombonist), and was on tour, playing Gospel music. I had never been to South America, and certainly had never been to a country where most of the population spoke no, I mean, NO English. I felt like a Japanese tourist here in New York City, I mean, I stayed in a pack man. "Never leave the group dude, just DO NOT LEAVE THE BLOODY GROUP!".

Folks were nice enough, actually, much nicer then here in New York City (my home town). But ugh, the language barrier was pronounced with a capital "P".

After 18 days, my head was bangin', I could barely speak 10 or 12 words of Portuguese (and I did that so badly I embarrassed myself regularly). Frustration became my middle name. Imagine, you get off stage having played your butt off, men and unbelievably fine women are coming up to you trying to talk to you, and you understand nothing, and you can say even less. As I said before, UGH!!!!!!! There is more to this story, but then, I would bore you.

New York, NY

Latin, Yes Siree

Brazil is a beautiful country that has many specific characteristics that make it special, however it is part of Latin America, and like all the other countries in Latin America it shares with them a history and traditions that are more important than its differences.

God knows I would love to die in a Carnaval in Rio, and yes their game is beautiful, but still a Latin American country nonetheless. Either we start seeing that the common factors that unite us are more important than our differences, or we continue in the dark ages of separatism.

Via Internet

Furtado and the Nobel

Thank you for introducing me to the life and work of Celso Furtado. - I Nominate Brazilian Furtado to the Nobel - www.brazzil.com/p116jun03.htm   - I am not an economist or historian so I am not well versed in the area of interest. However, I take some issue with generalizing about the previous winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, it is vexing and irreverent for both Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat to have received the prize. But so did Martin Luther King, Jr. A studied reflection on his life and his achievements should rejuvenate your respect for the Prize. It will also establish the philosophical and ethical connections between King's work, and Gandhi's work.

Herman C. Sullivan M
Via Internet

Pagode Roots

Mr. Gilman, I enjoyed reading your article about Fundo de Quintal - "Scene and Variation. - www.brazzil.com/2003/html/news/articles/jul03/p104jul03.htm. I now look forward to buying Ao Vivo no Cacique de Ramos. During my penultimate stay in Rio I purchased the latest CD by Grupo Revelação, and I am still listening in awe. I am also impressed with Só Pra Contrariar's new album, Produto Nacional. It is refreshing to hear this mainstream group, interpret more authentic sounds of pagode. It is interesting to trace how pagode has evolved with the contributions and influences of early pioneers such as Fundo de Quintal. Thank you.

Jean Pinner
Via Internet

True! It's a Lie.

I just read "The Big American Lie" - www.brazzil.com/p40nov02.htm  - and let me start by saying, "Bravo." My husband was recently deported; he was put on a plane in the same smelly work cloths that they arrested him in, with nothing but a few dollars, a few pictures and his wedding ring. Leaving his life, his wife and two children behind.

It is truly no wonder why every one in the world is anti-American, and for our government to be so appalled by it! They are just blind. Our government is only true to those born here and to no one else.

My husband is always telling me about the economics of it all, that you stated in the article. I truly enjoyed the article I just wish, stories like this would reach Americans more often.

Amy Azevedo
Via Internet

Derrière Solution

I am looking for the best plastic surgery doctors because I want to enlarge my wife's ass. I heard that Brazil is the best place where these operations are done. Thanx and best regards.

John Luolie
Via Internet

Who You Think You Are

"The people of São Paulo never fail to amaze me. Often they are noisy and vulgar, with no apparent intellectual curiosity and show only the lowest taste in culture…"

Dear, Mr. Fitzpatrick,

Searching for some articles in English about Brazil I came across your article, and to tell the truth, I as person who isn't "paulistano", but love this city, felt offended by your opinionated article. As you have been living here since 1995, I guess you know all problems we have to cope with due to unemployment, financial crisis, etc., and cannot accept such generalizations from someone that came here and is making a living here.

I hope y find a way to get amazed, otherwise try monkeys, circus or other stuff

Carlos A. Schafranski
São Paulo, Brazil

Portuguese for All

Hi Mr. John Fitzpatrick,

How are you doing down in the jungle? I agree that maybe Prez. Lula and his comrades should speak English. Should Mr. Bush learn Portuguese and a better Spanish ( or correct understandable English )? Should other Presidents/ Prime Ministers of other countries learn the fourth spoken language of the world... Portuguese? That's why interpreters exist.

Americans/ EU, would like everyone to speak English. Meanwhile, when these gringos visit outside their country, they are treated like unwanted tourist but please leave the dollars. Poor excuse for the demanding Americans for not being more worldly, after all they want to have their feet in every country.

After being in this country for too many years, I learned English, Spanish and when I lived in Louisiana I learned as much Cajun/Acadian French as possible ( still learning ). When I was in Brazil dealing with the Italian "Dagos" I learned a little Italian. I never forgot my Portuguese language.

I just hope that the Brazilian VIP's will accomplish the right obligations for the future generation of politicians ( hopefully uncorrupt ones ) and the country they have been milking for so long. I'm not sure if Prez. Lula will be able to turn this large ship around with a bunch of crooks/pirates on the deck and probably also in the pilot house. These well to do, rich and possibly educated judges and civil servants are concerned with their own coffers.

Caio Valladares
Via Internet

Transfer of Property

My brother in law's mother passed away in Brazil and left her home to him. He lives in the US and wants to transfer ownership to his niece that lives in Brazil and has taken care of his mother. He received a bunch of paperwork and we don't know what to do. Should his adult niece get a lawyer or what down in Brazil and get everything prepared for his signature or does he need a lawyer here? Where would we find one? Please advise.

Rolling Meadows, IL

Wonder Days

Dear Monica Trentini, I am writing to thank you for the recent series of food and drink articles you wrote for Brazzil. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. Our introduction to Brazil came through my membership in Rotary International. Our club sponsored exchange students each year and in 1994 a young man from Brazil came into our lives. He stayed with us for a few days while his host family was out of town (our son played soccer with him at the high school).

We immediately liked this shy, quiet, and very respectful boy, and the feeling was mutual on his part. He moved in shortly afterward and spent the next five months with us. When he returned to his homeland, he invited us to come and meet his family. We are still going back, and hope to spend our winters there very soon. There is not a more wonderful and gracious people on this earth than the people of Brazil. My wife and I struggle with the language, but it really isn't a problem.

Three of our four children have also been there and they all love it. Your articles remind us of all the wonderful things we have enjoyed on our visits.

Steve and Linda Elkins
Via Internet

The Cry of the Excluded

Dear Mr. Hayes, I read your article in Brazzil on the MST. Having lived in Venezuela for 17 years and seen up-close some of the disasters Mr. Chavez is committing in that country, I have been watching Lula's progress with great interest.

I was wondering if you could share some of your time and possibly help me to better understand the MST. I did some research and saw that they have sought social justice and land reform through non-violent means, which in itself is an intriguing concept for Latin America, given the region's high levels of violence.

How do you think MST will evolve in coming months and years under the Lula government? Do you think it will continue to avoid violence, or would stepped up attacks by groups financed by landowners force the MST to defend itself? Can Lula find a way to balance the scales between landowners and the landless poor without upsetting Brazil's agro-commodity exports?

What would finding such a balance imply politically and economically for Brazil? If Lula reaches out to the MST with land reform initiatives, how would this be perceived in the urban favelas, where the poor also are landless and excluded? Will the favela dwellers also demand land distribution from the government in the more urbanized parts of the country?

Jack Sweeney
Via Internet

Not for Blacks

I read your article on racism which was also a response to a certain Mr. Cristaldo. I live in Namibia, a country that got its independence from South Africa in 1990. Until then, the black majority suffered from the same minority oppression as in South Africa. After independence a lot has changed but of course racism was not totally wiped out. The white minority still control some important private businesses like banks. Some black Namibians who work for whites still experience the same conditions as before independence. Even with the lack of legislative backing, whites will still continue to treat blacks as people of lower social and economic standing.

I am a young black university graduate in my early twenties. One day I walked into a music retailer and asked to listen to Tracy Chapman's `Let It Rain." The "colored" female attendant curtly replied that "You must buy first, then you can listen." While at the same time there were (mostly white) people waiting to listen to the CD's that they wanted to buy.

Just because I am a black young man, I am refused this privilege to listen before I buy. Black people (especially young man) in Namibia do not get the same service in shops as white people do. The sad part is that blacks form about 90 percent of the population. What is even more shameful is that some of the racism in Namibia is practiced by blacks against blacks. Perhaps no-one can blame them if their white bosses instructed them to be wary of black young men.

I agree that people who do not consider themselves to be black cannot speak out and say racism does not exist in this or that society. You can't argue that something does not exist when there are people who argue that it does not exist because there is no scientific formula for proving the non-existence of something, but there is a sure-fire way to prove that something exists: First-hand experience!

And from my experience, even if you hold a degree and are in a secure job, your black skin gives you away as a potential thief! (Colored people in Namibia are people of mixed race)

Willie Nandi
Via Internet

Getting High on Speed

You guys did it again.! Feedback on "Brazil Autoracing: Speed Is in The Blood" is an outstanding piece of work! Being a Brazilian myself I feel a little biased to comment in the matter but all bairrismo aside one has to agree that Mr. Wagner's article demand a lot of research and love for the subject.

Yes, racing is in the blood of every Brazilian and, along with Carnaval and soccer, it is one of the few things that brings us Brazilians pride and happiness despite all the misery, crime and poverty that goes on in our country. I hope you will keep Mr. Wagner for a while... I, for sure, will always return to read his racing column.

Geraldo de Oliveira
Via Internet

Resentment Journalism

Re: "Brazil: Which Part of Poor You Didn't Understand?" Dear John, I don't want to hide Brazil's misery and make it look like a heaven on Earth (rainy Scotland is certainly not the one either), however, your article goes beyond what we can call objective observation. It is full of resentment.

You know very well, since you chose to live in this "horrible" corner of the world, that those who have some education will not earn minimum wage. You failed to demonstrate that earning a low wage or working for the informal sector is not the only way to go for Brazilians. You also failed to put remuneration into perspective, as the cost of living in Brazil is one of the lowest in the world.

You should write a story about the hard working Brazilian who worked 6 nights a week for R$ 40 instead of accepting a job in the drug dealing industry. What would the Scottish do if they had to work for that money?

All your criticism leads us to an intriguing question: why would someone want to be a foreign journalist in such a poor and corrupt country? Well... perhaps unemployment in the `first world' is worse than I expected.

Via Internet

Face of Violence

Antidotal material can say quite a bit about the larger society. For example, the ability of the Rio's drug gangs to shut down schools and businesses from time to time reveals a great deal about just how powerful those gangs are, as did Lulu's willingness to send in troops during Carnival.

That said, you are right about some people playing up antidotal stuff when they have no business doing so. Sure, antidotal evidence can only add up over time. For example, if everyone you know from Rio has been held up at gun point and this group is relatively large and diverse, then one has some cause to believe that such events happen often enough. In other words, antidotal evidence can amount to a kind of statistical sampling. However by and large it is a mistake to believe that a personal connection to a crime is evidence that that type of crime is widespread.

Speaking of crime stats, you are also right. Many people do, indeed, wrongly misapply crime figures (e.g., taking crime figures from Rio proper and attributing them to greater Rio) and wrongly assume that incidents of crime are dispersed evenly over one geographic area. (You are wrong in what you say in this regard, though. The root cause of the problem is not the statistics themselves, but rather that people do not have access to enough of them. All you need to prevent people from making such errant assumptions about crime distribution is to present them with stats about how crime is distributed.)

As well, you are right in saying that people often make unwarranted assumptions when comparing the crime figures of two regions. Legal definitions differ from country to country, from one time period to the next and external factors such as the quality of medical care will also impact on the of homicides numbers. This leads you to suggest that "we have no meaningful means by which to compare "crime" between one place and another"

Well, there are times when it would, indeed, be folly to do a comparative of analysis of frequency of this or that type of crime. For example, it would be silly to compare whether statutory rape occurred more frequently in the States than say in Canada. In Canada the age of consent is 14 and in the States it varies from State to State and some States it is as high as 18. The multitude of legal definitions vary to such a degree that there is no question begging way of even getting started.

However, you are wrong to assume that differing definitions prelude one talking about differing rates of, say, homicide. There is a simple reason for this. When calculating the homicide rate the legal distinction between, for instance, 1st degree murder and manslaughter simply does not factor in. Homicide is the killing of one human being by the act of another. Homicide, need not, however, be a crime (e.g., in cases of self-defense, or when the perpetrator is not criminally responsible.) The term "homicide" describes the act and pronounces no judgment on its moral or legal quality. That being the case, one can, with some qualifications of course, meaningfully compare homicide rates in, say, Costa Rica to that of Columbia.

So what makes a city "dangerous", particularly for tourists? Without a doubt having a high homicide rate is at the top of the list. A high crime rate in touristy areas is a factor. Telling tourists that Rio is great just as long as you avoid the beaches in and around Copacabana because of crime is akin to saying that London is great just as long as you avoid Buckingham Palace, the Parliament Buildings, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square and The Museum of National History for the same reason. It is simply of no use. The presence of powerful drug gangs, who from time to time do attack hotels, buses, schools, and who from time to time close the highway leading to the international airport, certainly has to be considered as well.

The problem with saying that Rio is a dangerous city and Kyoto a safe city, though, is that someone can misconstrue this to mean that Rio is in some absolute sense dangerous and Kyoto in some absolute sense safe. This is not the case. Whenever someone says that or that place is dangerous they mean that relative to other places the risks are higher. They do not necessarily mean that the risks of harm coming to your person are significant.

Via Internet

Nothing to Take me Back

Dear John Fitzpatrick,

You've done a beautiful job on this article. I liked the "in your face" update. No bitching from this Carioca/Cajun/San Diegan. I've heard that long ago all the educated/wealthy people came north and all the crooks went to South America. That's why the place is in such disarray.

In my forty years of life, nothing really great has happened to my native country ( other than penta world champs ) that would make me return. Except some of the nicest people I've met there, food, beaches and babes dancing all night (with me of course ). I miss that place almost everyday. I'm doing ok, hopefully I'll visit next year.

Caio Valladares
Via Internet

Lyrics, Please

I am a man of 83 years, born and living in Norway In my youth I worked in Lisbon, and I loved Chiquita Bacana. Now I have a horse by that name. I should like so much to get hold of the text of the song. I just remember it vaguely as: Chiquita Bacana, la de Martiniqua, se veste com uma casca de banana nanica, não usa vestido não usa calção, inverno pra ela é pleno verão, existencialista com todo razão, só faz o que manda o seu coração ! I suppose my language is terrible ! But it may give you a laugh.

Do you think it is possible to get hold of the complete (and correct) text? And what about a CD with that melody (and possibly some of the other good old marchas / sambas ? I wonder if anybody will take the time to send me some words? I have been to Brasil once, a memory for the whole life. Kindest regards to you from Johan Danelius, Nils Collett Vogts vei 79, 0766 Oslo, Norway, tel (47) 22145366, e-mail danelius@online.no 

Johan Danelius
Via Internet



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