Brazil and the Brazilians, the book, gives an inaccurate
and dated view of Brazil. It does read well when talking
about entertainment and food, but in other affairs,
it is incredibly biased, and vengeful.
By Ernest Barteldes
Brazil and the Brazilians, by Ernesto Twegen, Vantage Press, New York,
2000 ISBN 0-533-13223-1
I received a book about Brazil from a relative. With the book, there was a message:
"This guy is almost as good as you are." That relative has evidently been
following my progress in the Greenwich Village Gazette, and maybe thought my
reading of the book would somehow enlighten me. I started reading the book as soon as I
received it. I was, in fact, about to start Agatha Christie’s Curtain, but left
that masterpiece for some other day. Soon I realized the true identity of Mr. Twegen. It
happens to be the same relative who sent me the book in the first place.
I sent him an e-mail but he denied even knowing the book, which sounds suspicious, for
he was the one who sent me the book in the first place. Did he make a mistake? That
question I cannot answer. I will not, however, disclose who he is, for if he chose to hide
under a pseudonym (but why MY first name, may I ask?), he might as well have had his
reasons to do it (his advertisement states that he will reveal his true identity when he
settles his unfinished business in Brazil, whatever that is.).
The book gives an inaccurate and also dated view of the country. It does, however, read
well when it mentions bars, restaurants and gastronomic customs of Brazil. In other
affairs, it reads incredibly biased, and to make matters worse, vengeful, considering that
the author has three Brazilian-born children and three grandchildren born in the region,
which he cites as "fetid, hot and disorderly as the black hole of Calcutta"
The northeast of Brazil is no longer like that. In fact, if the author had visited the
region in the last five years, he would notice that the region has changed muchand
for the better. Brazilians are not half the monsters Mr. Twegen describes. Although he is
right concerning the legal employment protections that most workers get in Brazil, which
were created because employers basically bleed their workers and are just as crooked as
the next person, he is completely wrong when it comes to peoples’ characters.
The only really good section of the book is the one on business. Of course, Mr. Twegen
was a businessman in Brazil and he knows that aspect of the country well, so I have no
intent of disputing his views on that area. However, some facts are incredibly outdated.
For example, the author states that the telephone and electricity services are
state-owned, and that petrol distribution is monopolized. That is no longer the situation.
Petrol distribution monopoly was broken two years ago, and the state-owned telephone
companies are all in the hands of big companies like AT&T, Sprint and MCI.
The same thing happened to the electrical services, which are no longer in the hands of
the state. Strikes do not plague the country as they did when Mr. Twegen was here. Due to
the new, globalized view of economy, you only hear of strikes when it comes to employees
from the Federal government. Most categories now try to negotiate their salaries in a more
civilized way, since jobs aren’t as easy to find here as they were not long ago. In fact,
jobs are harder and harder to find in this country nowadays.
In the entertainment section, the author claims that all women in nightclubs are
prostitutes. He is wrong. There are a number of such places in Fortaleza and other cities,
which are by no means pick-up bars, except in industrial small towns.
He briefly mentions the beaches. Understandably, in order to maintain his disguise, he
simply obliterated the fact that Northeastern beaches are rich in gastronomy. Although
there are a bunch of sleazy scum bags in Brazil, one should not trust Mr. Twegen’s views.
He is unhappy by the fact that his 27 years of residency in the country were so bad.
However, if he was so unhappy, why didn’t he just pick up and leave instead of investing
in such a "terrible" country for such a long time?
Brazil is not a paradise. I am myself on the verge of leaving the country, but that has
nothing to do with the motives expressed by Mr. Twegen. My reasons are personal and
professional. I am not "scared" of living here in any way. In fact, I love this
country, and if it weren’t for its current economic situation and if I could fulfill my
plans here, I would stay, and happily.
I believe Mr. Twegen is not a wicked man. He is probably the guy next door, who is
willing to help those in his family. If my suspicions are true, he is even more than that.
Had he disclosed (privately) his true identity, I would most likely not even be writing
this review. He might even be a great guy to talk with. However, he seems bitter about
this country, and has of course every right to express his opinion about it.
He has no right, however, to claim that his book is the ultimate guide for anyone who
wishes to know more about Brazil. Anyhow, I would like to invite "Mr. Twegen"
for an interview. His anonymity will, of course, be preserved so that he can solve his
"pending" matters in Brazil without being attacked not by a violent mugger, but
by an outraged citizen.
Ernest Barteldes, the author, was born in Michigan USA and has been a teacher of
English in Brazil for over ten years. He is a graduate from Ceará State University and
recently married a Brazilian. He wrote this article in Brazil just before moving to New
York City. Barteldes has been a regular columnist for the Greenwich Village Gazette in New
York City and has also collaborated to a number of magazines and newspapers in the US and
in Brazil. He can be contacted at email@example.com