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All Brazil You Can Eat in London

All Brazil 
                You Can Eat in London

Here it is:
the Guy Burton Guide to Brazil in London. I will
be the first to admit that it’s far from comprehensive and

bound to miss things out. This is a first step into finding out

more about Brazil in London. These are the resources I use
to gather information about Brazilian life in London and the UK.
by: Guy
Burton

Last weekend I became a free man again. Since Easter I have
been kept busy with the small matter of the London elections
where I was a candidate. Every other evening and on Saturdays
and Sundays I would be out with a small team of helpers, delivering
leaflets, knocking on peoples’ doors, surveying residents
and talking to voters in the market.

Then it
all stopped. Polling day came and went, followed by the count
the day after. After the results came out it became clear I
wouldn’t be easing my legs under a new desk at City
Hall and so I went home, for a long lie-in.

But then
I made the mistake of switching my computer on and checking
my emails. As well as the usual spam offers of ‘official’ degrees,
Viagra and promises to extend certain parts of my anatomy, there
were a number of messages from people who had read my articles.

It might
have been easier to avoid answering and delete them, but that
wouldn’t have been fair. Having made the effort to work their
way through my sometimes impenetrable prose, and then write
to me about it, they at least deserved a response (and I’m a
sucker for compliments!). And so yesterday I sat down to work
my way through the various comments sent to me by people I have
never met—and perhaps never will.

Despite
having posted it months ago, the story on Brazilian music and
nightlife was still doing the rounds and generating interest,
while other readers had points to make about the American Confederados
who migrated to Brazil in the aftermath of the Civil War.

But amongst
these various messages of support and criticism one theme seemed
to have motivated my readers to write: where could they find
further information about the subject matter in my articles?
Could I direct them to a particular band or book? The tone of
these messages suggested I was a guide of sorts, someone who
could help navigate my readers through the Brazilian community
here in London.

This idea
tickled me, not least because I never thought of myself as anything
of the kind. Although I’m a (bad) speaker of Portuguese
and know some of the local Brazilian hangouts in London, I don’t
pretend to know it all. Indeed, I am probably more of an outsider
than most. I may have been born in Brazil and lived there as
a child, but if truth be told, I’m more English than Brazilian.

But then
I realised that is probably the best position to be: neither
completely on the inside, or indeed on the outside. It’s
a good vantage point from which to observe the comings and goings
of London-based Brazil.

So I wrote
back to my readers, trying to help them with their requests.
I gave them the fruits of my knowledge, which really wasn’t
very much at all.

While I
was doing this, I suddenly realised what I should write about
next, now that the elections were over. Instead of writing to
each reader individually, giving them the same advice, I would
put together an article about it. I would write about the resources
I use to gather information about Brazilian life in London and
the UK.

Brazilian
London

And so here
it is: the Guy Burton Guide to Brazil in London. I will be the
first to admit that it’s far from comprehensive and bound
to miss things out. But as a first step into finding out more
about Brazil in London for my readers, I hope that it’s
a start.

So where
to begin? Perhaps with the most obvious: the Brazilian Embassy
www.brazil.org.uk.
Their website has improved dramatically over the last year.
I would like to think it has something to do with the new ambassador,
who took up the reigns in March last year.

Not only
does it have information about the country, which can be used
in the classroom (teachers take note), its front page lists
all Brazilian-themed events and happenings which are taking
place in the UK.

Recently
the embassy has been involved in work to raise the profile of
Brazilian style and culture, which culminated in a month-long
marketing spree during May, the most obvious example being the
‘Brazilianisation’ of Selfridges on Oxford Street.

As well
as a Christ the Redeemer mock-up on its façade, the windows
were taken over by Brazilian fashion designers and their work,
while inside the store, a range of promotions were on offer.
In the basement a bar had been set up, from which fruit juices
and açaí were on offer. Compared to the
rest of the store, it was down here that the local Brazilians
had congregated for the best part of a month.

But the
embassy doesn’t only involve itself with publicity like
that in Selfridges. It was also one of prime movers of a meeting
last August which brought together representatives of the Brazilian
community, including preachers, academics, civic groups, and
those British individuals, who have a connection with Brazil.
The idea was to put together a consultative and advisory group
which the diplomats at the embassy and consulate could tap into.

Called Diálogo
Brasil, it established a presence on the embassy’s website
and has broken itself into particular groups, which address
particular subjects from immigration to advice on navigating
other aspects of British bureaucracy to publicising upcoming
events.

At its last
meeting in February, it identified a range of groups and organisations
which could be contacted on particular issues, from the Brazilian
Society at the London School of Economics which puts on seminars
about Brazil to Radio Vida Brasil (AM 558), which provides information
to the community on a daily basis.

Beyond the
embassy there are a number of print and electronic media which
I make use of. Leros – www.leros.co.uk
– is perhaps the granddaddy of them all, a Portuguese language
magazine which has been going for more years than I can remember.
As well as its listings guide, it carries a number of interviews
with visiting Brazilian artists and musicians, as well as snippets
of news from Brazil.

Much of
the magazine is given over to advertising as well, which gives
you an idea of the interests of Brazilians in London: evangelical
churches vie for space with Brazilian restaurants and food shops
and English language schools (which is one of the main reasons
so many choose to come over).

And because
Leros is targeted at Brazilians living in the UK, it
will come as no surprise that many of the advertisers are hair
stylists and waxing specialists, as well as cosmetic surgeons.
Leaving the land of the beautiful bodies, Brazilians will not
make do with second best in London.

Bilingual
Fare

Jungle
Drums – www.jungledrums.org,
which began operating last year. Compared to Leros
it has a more youthful presence and appeal—and doesn’t
seem overrun with advertisers. For those who don’t speak
Portuguese, or who are learning, it’s a good magazine
to read: its articles are presented in Portuguese on one side
of the page and English on the other.

Unlike Leros
which tends to regurgitate stodgy news from Brazil, Jungle
Drums offers stories about Brazilian culture in London.
Recent stories have included the development of capoeira
in London and the tropicalismo movement during the
military dictatorship (when two of its main protagonists, Gilberto
Gil and Caetano Veloso, lived in exile in London for awhile).

Both magazines
can be picked up at any of the Brazilian haunts in the city:
usually the Brazilian restaurants like Terra Brasil near Euston
and Paulo’s in Hammersmith. But I tend to go to the hidden
café at the back of the Whistlestop newsagents on Oxford
Street.

Over a feijoada
I get to read the latest edition of Leros or Jungle
Drums as well as look at the message board offering accommodation,
cash-in-hand work and details of the next Brazilian party or
event. Flyers are stacked by the cash till, announcing a forró
party here, a capoeira grading ceremony there: everything
the London-based Brazilian needs to know.

Oi!
Londres – www.oilondres.co.uk
– is another magazine which carries the usual details of Brazilian
club nights and musicians. Through it I know that the Brazilian
Summer Festival club nights will take place at the beginning
of July, while later in the month Bebel Gilberto, Jorge Ben
and Trio Mocotó will also be playing.

But it’s
different to Leros and Jungle Drums in that it appears to be
a primarily web-based operation. And besides its listings, its
main feature seems to be about bringing UK-based Brazilians
together electronically.

It has a
blog where Brazilians’ observations about life in Britain
are posted and news is publicised. A recent search brought up
details of a new shop in Swindon which sold Brazilian food and
the best place to buy women’s knickers like those you
can get in Rio.

Visitors
are also encouraged to share their experiences, which tend to
focus on the shock of being properly cold for the first time
(I’ve seen Cariocas walking around in Rio in
gloves and woolly hats when the temperature dips to 18C!) and
the challenges of making their way through life with very little
knowledge of English.

For
Researchers

As for those
who are less interested in the latest gig or where to buy goiabada,
and who want to do research, there are a number of really useful
locations. Both the Institute of Latin American Studies and
the London School of Economics have good collections of books
about Brazil in their libraries, ranging from politics to sociology,
history to economics.

Unfortunately,
they’re not open to the public and readers need to get
permission to use them, but I particularly find the LSE library
a useful resource in my articles on Brazilian history.

Like many
an immigrant community, many of the London-based Brazilians
stick together. This is especially the case when they have recently
arrived, in an unfamiliar, cold country where the language is
strange and the day gets dark early.

They are
therefore likely to be present in large numbers at any event
or activity which has a Brazilian theme to it. But the trick
is to find out where they will be. The easiest way of finding
out is to have been at the previous event. But just as useful
is to use the magazine listings or on the various websites as
well.

So
for Londoners keen to find out more about Brazil in their city,
it’s not that difficult to do. Pop into a Brazilian restaurant
and pick up a copy of the various magazines. Check out the Brazilian
Embassy and Oi! Londres websites. But better still: talk
to the Brazilians at the events. They know more than I ever will.
They’re not hard to spot and they won’t bite. And
hopefully you’ll be able to discard my guide and find yourself
immersed in London’s Brazilian scene.

Guy Burton was born in Brazil and now lives in London.
He has written widely on Brazil both for Brazzil and on his
blog, Para Inglês Ver, which can be read at http://guyburton.blogspot.com.
He recently stood as a candidate in the Greater London Assembly
elections, where he came fourth in the City and East London
constituency. He can be contacted at gjsburton@hotmail.com.

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