Go Back

Brazzil - Behavior - May 2004

Let Senna Rest in Peace, Brazil!

It is typical of the natives of São Paulo, Brazil, that they should make
a hero out of someone whose only "talent" was driving fast cars,
making a lot of noise and polluting the atmosphere. Racing
driver Ayrton Senna was also not nearly the nice guy he is made out
to be. Alain Prost, who almost got killed by him, could testify to this.

John Fitzpatrick

Ayrton Senna—RIP Please...


Picture A lot of people are making a lot of money out of the cult of Ayrton Senna, the racing driver who was killed 10 years ago. It is impossible to pass a newsstand or go into a bookshop without seeing books, magazines and videos about his life.

A common title or headline has been "10 Years without Senna" as though something important has been missing from our lives since his death. The cult is greatest in São Paulo where Senna was born. It is typical of the natives of this place that they should make a hero out of someone whose only "talent" was driving fast cars, making a lot of noise and polluting the atmosphere.

Senna was also not nearly the nice guy he is made out to be. Alain Prost, who could have been killed when Senna recklessly banged into his car during the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990, could testify to this.

...God Save Us from Padre Marcelo Rossi

One of the most nauseating items among all the tributes and hagiography about Senna came from a publicity-mad Roman Catholic priest called padre Marcelo Rossi who was to hold a mass in remembrance. Father Rossi is the Brazilian Catholic Church's answer to the tele-evangelicals who shamelessly exploit the less educated members of society.

Rossi is a young man with the kind of fixed grin you associate with the village idiot. He condescends to his congregation and treats people like imbeciles. Watching him praying in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary would turn the stomach of the most fervent Catholic.

There is no religious dignity or spirituality about him. He has appeared in films, videos, television programs and CDs and been pictured alongside anyone you care to name—the Pope, Lula, lowbrow TV presenter Ratinho etc.

It is not surprising to find him on the Senna bandwagon although Senna fans are generally more upper class than his usual flock. If the Catholic Church in Brazil needs the likes of padre Rossi to turn back the tide of evangelism then it should just give in gracefully. As for Senna, he should be allowed to rest in peace.

May Day—Music, Dance but No Lula

There were two big May Day rallies in São Paulo this year. One, organized by the Força Sindical trade union body, was held in the north of the city, while the other, by the CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores—Unified Workers' Confederation) and took place in Avenida Paulista.

The FS event drew an estimated 1.5 million people while the CUT rally attracted an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 depending on whether you believe the police or the organizers. I went along to the Paulista bash. which took place in bright sunshine, although the towering inferno buildings ensured that we saw little of it.

Despite the political dimension of Labour Day there was a festive atmosphere and lots of music and dance. Culture Minister, Gilberto Gil, and veteran singer Djavan did a double act while the younger crowd was entertained by pop group Jota Quest and teenybopper idols Sandy and Junior. There were also some dull speeches by hack politicians which no-one listened to.

Unfortunately one man was missing: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Some reports said he had been advised not to attend in case he was booed and heckled but, despite the fall in his government's popularity, I never heard or saw any criticism of him and am sure he would have received a warm welcome.

By choosing not to come he let down his traditional supporters. He also gave the FS rally more prominence than it would have had since some of the speakers there were his political opponents and made critical remarks. This gave a misleading impression of the scope of the opposition to Lula.

Google Brazil News, for example, presented this headline "Millions take to streets to protest against Lula" from a news agency called DPA appeared on a site called globalindians. I don't know if this DPA is the German agency Deutsche-Presse Agentur, but the headline implies that millions of people took part in anti-Lula protests, which is completely false.

Che Guevara—Greasy Rider

The Culture Ministry is reported to be drawing up a list of the 100 best Brazilian films. which will be sub-titled and distributed to embassies abroad. Presumably the locals will queue up to see some such marvelous films as...? Well, without trying to be funny, I cannot think of a single Brazilian film worth watching or which would be of the slightest interest to a foreign audience.

I can't wait to read the list, but I wager it will take the Culture Ministry a long, long time to find 100 films worth recommending. The latest film to be getting the star treatment here is called Diários de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) and is about (don't yawn) a motorbike trip which Che Guevara and one of his pals made through South America in 1952, a sort of Greasy Rider rather than Easy Rider.

The film by Walter Salles, the same director who brought you Central Station, in 1998, has been included among the official selection at the upcoming Cannes film festival. The Brazilian press will be banging the nationalistic drum, as it did with Cidade de Deus for this year's Oscars. You can be sure of one thing—it will win nothing.

Maradona Madness

The antics surrounding Diego Maradona's recent stay in the hospital have been followed avidly here. Brazilians have a love-hate relationship with Maradona, respecting him for his sporting genius but annoyed that many people throughout the world think that he was a better player than Pelé.

The television and media here gave saturation coverage to Maradona's treatment and the strange scenes outside the hospital where fans kept up a vigil. On leaving hospital. Maradona gave an interview to an Argentinean TV station which I urge you to watch if possible. It showed that when it comes to vulgarity and tackiness Argentinean television can easily beat Brazil.

I am not sure if the interviewer was a transvestite but let's assume it was a real woman. She towered over minuscule Maradona and was wearing tight, black leather trousers. which looked like incontinent pants. Her hair was dyed the brightest, yellowest blonde you could imagine and came down to her waist.

She and Maradona kissed and cuddled and, at one point, she got up, turned round, bent over and virtually shoved her ass in Maradona's face. For someone who was said to have been critically ill a week beforehand Maradona responded remarkably well.

He gaped and gloated, leered and letched, salivated and started muttering to himself. He looked as though he was about to jump on top of her but, thankfully, settled for another grope and cuddle session. Let us hope that Brazilian presenters like Ratinho were not watching because, if so, we can expect Brazilian television to sink to even lower depths than it already has.

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações - www.celt.com.br - which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br.

© John Fitzpatrick 2004

Discuss it in our Forum

Send your comments to Brazzil

Anything to say about Brazil or Brazilians? Brazzil
wishes to publish your material. See what to do.