My son married a lovely Brazilian woman. Their friendship, romance and
eventual nuptials extol the benefits of a highly integrated world economic
community. They met while employed by a multinational computer firm. The melding
of their two cultures is a testament to the vitality and diversity created by
They planned two wedding ceremonies. The first was in March of 2006 – a brief civil ceremony held in their hometown of Seattle , Washington. The purpose of this proceeding was to allow my daughter-in-law to obtain a spousal visa.
The formal wedding was held in June 2006 in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. This affair was attended by over 200 friends and relatives. As I thought about this party, I began to grow tense and worried.
I do not support the current administration’s conduct of foreign affairs. My current events awareness set me up for a major dose of anticipatory anxiety. I assumed that my role in São Paulo would be somewhere between either defending the history of the U.S. foreign relations or being an apologist for U.S. policy errors.
Given our history of intervention in Latin American affairs; I knew that Americans would not be too popular. Dollar, diplomacy, Yankee imperialism and our unqualified support for military dictatorships would tarnish my image. Visions of angry confrontations with wedding guests became a source of nightmares.
We arrived in São Paulo one week before the wedding. We had met my son’s in-laws in Seattle. They were gracious hosts who went far out of their way to make us feel at home. However, I perceived a subliminal pressure to discuss America’s role in world politics. Was this pressure coming from my counterpart (my daughter-in-law’s father) or was it guilt spewing out of me?
I googled US-Brazil relations when my son got engaged to his Brazilian fiancée. Much to my dismay I found out that the newly elected President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had expressed admiration for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro – both anti-American socialist dictators.
Additionally, he had written off President Bush’s call for a Free Trade Area of the Americas as an American plot to annex Latin America. If the President of Brazil was so ready to clash with the United States, what would 200 or more friends and family have to say to an American in São Paulo?
The pre-wedding week went by very quickly. Finally the big night arrived. After the ceremony was completed my daughter-in-law’s wave of over 200 family and friends began to approach my wife and I. My anxiety level increased and my endocrine system began preparing me for fight or flight. My heart was pumping; However, I was still not sure what I was going to do.
I do not know how these people truly viewed me, but their grace and manners were exceptional. Not one anti-American joke or comment was transmitted by anyone. The common theme was their unrestrained joy that we had traveled such a great distance to attend this wedding.
Their warmth and sincerity began to convince me that this wedding was about my son and his lovely wife and did not deal with the United States versus Brazil. The joining of two families was the focus of these gathering, not geopolitical imperatives.
The containment of communism ran a distant place from this celebration of love that transcended national boundaries. To the 200 guests family was the most important objective of the evening.
Further proof of my admiration for my new Brazilian family and friends was provided by an exchange of emails with my daughter-in-law’s father. My wife and I were so overwhelmed by the reception we received that when we returned to the United States, I wrote an email to my son’s father-in-law.
I thanked him and told him that his family and friends made us feel just like family. In his response he mentioned that as a rule Brazilians do not like the Americans that they encounter. However, he mentioned that in private conversations with many of the guests that my wife and I were universally showered with praise.
Our new Brazilian family and friends had not allowed politics or prejudice to interfere with the joy of two young people starting their lives together.