Brazil has been traversed. The coast between Fortaleza and Rio has been explored. My freckled skin has experienced the unmeasurable pleasure of the sun and my continued love affair with the beach perseveres unabated. I never realised the extent that I would miss small grains of crystal white and yellow sand scattered in front of an endless body of water. I will never take it for granted again, the beach is not my second home, it is my first! I will always belong there in the endless summer of my dreams.
After my trip the one thing that struck me most was the continuing dualities of rich and poor, North and South that persist in Brazil (believe me, there remains a plethora of interesting topics to discuss about Brazil in the 21st century).
The North has a reputation for being a land of relaxation, where people prefer not to work and spend their time lying in hammocks. The truth is that the North has suffered from a lack of sufficient infrastructure planning and reliance on primary resources over more sustainable growth strategies throughout its history. Cities like Recife or Salvador relied on sugar exportation to fuel their economies during colonial times and now the North is heavily dependent on a growing tourism industry. As a result of a historically less diversified economy combined with higher rates of poverty comparative to the southern region of the country, the North requires a faster rate of growth to catch up with the South. In Salvador it was clearly visible that urban poverty had also led to widespread drug use. I spoke to some locals about the problem and many of them felt that the disastrous cocktail of pervasive poverty and increasing drug use in the youth population would be the defining challenge of their city. A challenge that will need increasing attention from the government as Brazil renovates its global profile and looks to define itself in coming years.
I think an important marker of social cohesion is when people have respectful opinions about their fellow countrymen. Brazil is a country of great diversity but in the end all must feel a part of the greater society of BRAZIL. I met a Southerner while I was travelling in the North who had a genuine distaste for Northerners, with the idea that they were the cause for Brazil’s underdevelopment. He labelled them all as lazy and unwilling to work hard to change their situation while Southerners were hard workers carrying the country towards a higher economic status. He said that he had already felt these sentiments prior to his first trip to the North. Upon arrival his vision was confirmed.
I do not want to say this is typical of all Southerners or that all people in the North are actually hard workers, striving to reach the development standards of the South. I mention this man’s opinion as it reflects the current dichotomy that is Brazil. In truth it is a country far more diverse than North and South but in popular discourse the country is simplified in this way. There is an underlying (although sometimes overt) discrimination against poverty and since the North is the least developed region, it is no surprise that it suffers greatest from such stigmatism.
In most nations racism is the cause for relevant inequality debate. Immigration of a particular ethnic group and the consistent finger pointing at minority groups for their role in national problems. Brazil is different in this sense. Although racism exists it is far less prevalent than in any country I have ever visited. Brazil’s greatest strength in my opinion is its truly multicultural form, a society where almost everyone is an example of ethnic diversity. This could be one of the reasons that there is such an intense cultural vibe through the streets of Brazilian cities, one that I hope is maintained as the country benefits from greater economic growth. What I would also love to see in the coming years is the narrowing of the gap between rich and poor, between North and South, between Brazilian and Brazilian.
Brasil tem muito carinho meu. Brasil has my great affection…