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September 04, 2009



She comes across as whiny and naive, and I tend to roll my eyes at Americans who think they're going to find amazing insights and/or fortunes in developing countries without a solid understanding of the local culture, so I'm going to offer her an important piece of advice.

Sarah, the next time you want to criticize Brazil, preface it with this: "Me perdoe. Eu fui alfabetizada em inglês." As Xuxa has taught us, this guarantees that people will excuse your ignorance.

I have to laugh, though, at her changing her ticket to China instead. Yeah, Sarah, speaking as an American citizen living in Hong Kong with a Hong Kong temporary resident ID, even I dread the process of applying for a Chinese visa, depending on what's going on in the country and how much they want to keep things locked down (e.g., the Olympics). Out of the fire, into the frying pan, I guess.

j. noronha

I've seen lots and lots of anti-american "intifada" in every corner of the Internet.

The fact is that people can't stand the USA anymore and use every opportunity to express that.

Blame it on Bush, decades of trying to rule the world by any means, I don't know. The fact is that it's happening more and more.

j. noronha

I forgot to mention one important thing, Brazilians bitch their (our) country all the time, but this is a native privilege, if any outsider does it, it's hell on earth =) .


I agree that Sarah’s defamation of the Brazilian flag was in totally poor taste. It was also quite unprofessional. Sarah explicitly states in her bog post that her visa issues were not the fault of Brazilian entrepreneurs and that she hopes to visit the country in December or January. Imagine if a Brazilian, angry over United States visa issues, plastered “EPIC-EST FAIL EVER” on our flag. In the eyes of many prospective American business partners it would be grounds for immediate dismissal. At best, it would damage a business relationship in a way that would take months or years to rebuild and may remain forever tense. Business leaders may always be murmuring about the slight instability of “that one woman who defaced our flag,” and if there were a choice between two potential business partners that incident could be the deciding factor.

There is definitely a possibility that Sarah waited until the last minute to obtain her visa. However, as a Brazil lover who has agonized over visa issues, I almost stood up and applauded when I read the following:

“You want foreign investment and attention, Brazil? Here’s an idea: LET PEOPLE ENTER THE DAMN COUNTRY.”

Hear, hear! She then goes on to say,

“But when you’re harder to get into than China, it doesn’t bode well for foreign investment, Brazil.”

In other words, while the way she manifested her frustration with the Brazilian government was tasteless and harmful to her business, she has a point.

I also read Fabio Seixas’ open letter to Sarah. While I liked that he talked about the resilience of the Brazilian people and extended an olive branch, I think his point about “reciprocity” was overly simplistic. “Reciprocity” is the same, tired old reason that all Brazilians cite when discussing visa issues between the U.S. and Brazil. They often inform Americans of this fact as if they were bestowing upon them some new concept they were previously too self-centered to understand.

However, I’ve noticed that the United States has more subcategories of visa types within broad visa categories than Brazil does. For example, a U.S. “student” in Brazil can not work whereas a Brazilian “student” can apply for a number of different work/study visas depending on the nature of their situation in the country. We offer more opportunities for entrance, employment, and advancement in our country for people who are willing to play by the rules than most countries ever will, including Brazil. In part, that is what our country was founded on. Combine that with the consideration that we simply have more wealth to protect and nurture, that we accommodate a bunch of refugees already, and that we are bombarded by illegal immigrants, many of whom we turn the other cheek to, and the reality of our nation’s visa issues starts to become clearer. It is not accurate to say we are perfect, but it is accurate to say we face a dynamic set of immigration challenges as a nation.

It looks like Sarah, Fabio, and the Brazilian government could all benefit from a little self examination.

Rio Gringa

@j vc viu o link para o comercial de Havaianas com o argentino que coloquei? :)

@bz someone actually did take the liberty of defacing the American flag in the aftermath, further proving my point that tit for tat is dumb: http://twitpic.com/gfo0c


Brazils main problem is their policy of reciprocity. The US policy is based on restricting the amount of visitors who decide to make a permanent, albeit illegal, home in the US. Most of these illegals provide basic labor services. US immigration prefers those who have advanced degrees.

By Brasil reciprocating the policy, as someone said before, they are limiting and discouraging foreign investment. I doubt most Americans who visit Brazil are those looking for labor work, but rather educated people looking for opportunity. Brasil does have some policies that try to promote investment, but involves jumping through hoops. The bureaucracy in place to imitate Americas policy towards Brasil just handicaps Brasil future potential.

Brasil is a hot topic in the world because of its abundance in natural resources. Instead of exporting these resources to China or the US, wouldn't it be great if they developed a strong internal infrastructure that utilized what they have? Foreigners looking to Brazil can accelerate this.


Rachel, i'm with you throughout most of the entry (two wrongs don't make a right), but I'm with Jen 100%.
A person needs to be absurdly naïve to play the flag card and think he/she won't get sh*t for it.
Like naïve to the point of near alienation.

We could really take the infantile approach on this one with "she started it" and "she had it coming".

But anyways, about the bureaucratic part:
I won't try to go to Uruguay without getting any kind of documentation years in advance.

Coming from the South, 99.9% of my friends have Italian heritage (hence, Italian passports) and out of these 99.9% about 95% live in Europe.
They didn't even dream of leaving Brazil without getting their papers in order.
Some of them had to wait nearly a decade, some a few years.
Actually, I've never even heard of anyone applying for a visa only months in advance -- except a tourist visa when going to Disneyworld for two weeks.

But all that precaution is because as Brazilians, we know what's coming.
We are used to waiting for years and years on end to get things done, and I guess to a certain extent, all this fuss was well deserved.
If the gov. hears about it and decides to make things actually work, everyone wins.

It's like when we're watching a Simpsons episode making fun of Australia and everyone laughs and thinks it's awesome.
But when it's about Brazil, let's sue!

No wonder people hate our guts.

Account Deleted

What made me so pissed off wasn't even the text. Although being unbelievable self-centered, arrogant and disorganized, she's entitled to have her (dumb) opinion, and write about it. I'm with Voltaire on this one. But doing that to the flag is so absurd and disrespectful that it enrages me. She's not complaining about a country's government, she's offending an entire nation's pride. If she had used the symbol of Brazilian Immigration Center, or the symbol/picture of the Embassy, whatever, it would be douchey but still tolerable. But what she did is unforgivable. Same, exact same principle of why Americans get so mad at Muslims burning their flags in public. What she did was just as bad.


I agree with you that those threatening messages were a too exaggerated reaction to her post, but you must also understand that you can't expect people to behave nicely when they see a foreigner criticizing their country.

If it was a British woman criticizing Argentina, the reaction would probably be the same.

She should know that behaving in such a naive way and defacing the Brazilian flag the way she did were very likely to attract angry comments as well.

Anyway, for me both visa systems are screwed and need improvement, and I do think that the US government has become too paranoiac about foreigners after the 11/09.

That's why I like Canada, Brazilian students don't even need a visa to enter the country. The Canadian government, unlike the USA's, don't think we may put their national security in danger.


I agree with Jen, the first poster. "She comes across as whiny and naive".

I would also add, Sarah Lacy comes across as arrogant. I got this right away, from my first reading. The arrogance that we, as foreigners (regardless the nationality), feel from Americans. I will never understand a system such as the American Immigration system. We are neighbor countries: Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. Why so much discrimination?

We are all part of the America continent, and still we have this nightmare crusade to enter the United States whether to visit, to study or to work. Many times we are treated as subhumans, and a comparison with cockroaches would be only fair in some cases. I am not talking about the selected few who can afford coming here all the time. I am talking about regular hard-working educated and many times wonderful citizens who come to this country to learn about your culture and to enrich this country.

For Sarah Lacy to even think of sharing her experience in the way she had simply shows her lack of understanding of everything that goes around the world. She is what we most hate about Americans. She is symbolic of American’s selfishness and ignorance. It does not mean you all are, far from it. But she represents that.

While I am not leaving a comment here to bash her, I want to say that I am happy, very very happy, that this happened to her and wish it would happen to more Americans.

I agree 110% with you Rachel, two mistakes don't make one right. But we ought to stand up for injustices, don’t we? Isn't that what David Goldman is trying to do by passing a law that punishes Brazil for not complying with the Hague Convention? I approve that. I think it is great. I am Brazilian. Even if that will do not good to many Brazilian people who have nothing to do with this story, I approve it. Do you know why? Because it is only fair. You can expect that after years of mistreatment and disrespect for the laws, you can get something done unless you treat your "aggressor" with the same token. Touch him where it hurts, when everything else fails.

Rachel, I am not in favor of Americans boycotting or bashing Brazilians for the mistakes of a few for the same reason you try to understand and even protect Sarah. After all, she does have the right to vent. I understand where you come from. I’ve met many Americans who have shared with me their frustration with xenophobia in Brazil. Well, welcome to our world!

We both agree something must be done for the benefit of the two countries, because to feel this way - the need for "revenge" - is mere stupidity. In fact, something must be done for the benefit of the United State’s image around the globe so that people can regain the respect they should have for this country. I think Obama is tackling that but it also depends of each and every one American citizen behavior. This ought to be reciprocal. The United States must be humble and understand the pain we have been through. In this case, she could have ranted it in her personal blog in a much different way she did it with her post at a "respectful" tech magazine.

I tell you this from experience too. Two sides have been hurt. But it is always the side that has less resource, the side that many times has no option but to cross the border risking its life to enter, that is the side that need to be heard, first.

You cannot compare the experience of Sarah Lacy with the typical Brazilian, or Latino American, or foreigner of any kind. Have you even seen an American crossing the border illegally out of sheer desperation? Have you seen people sacrificing their lives living away from their loved ones for years or decades just for the seek of a better life? Nope.

My parents were immigrants in Brazil; they suffer a great deal to get their papers in Brazil too. But they did it, they made it just like any other immigrant who follow the law does... waiting patiently and complying. Brazil had at some point as many immigrants as the US. It is also an inefficient and complicated system. Many times it is unfair. We do not want to compare to the US system, which is probably the biggest country in the world to accept immigrants, with Brazil’s but a comparison might be made. We do receive and have received many immigrants, so we know the hassles.

The point is, we both know this situation could be avoided in the Brazilian side and we both know it is not avoided many times simply because of the treatment we as Brazilian citizens receive.

Now, I wish I could share with the world my own story which is already sad enough to get a better treatment than Sara’s but I choose not to. Why? Because it is probably nothing compared to the suffering of thousands and thousands of LEGAL IMMIGRANTS, that's right, people like me and Sarah who have done things right, and have suffered, but I am talking REAL suffering. And, don’t even get me started in the horrendous stories of illegal immigrants... it will be too painful for someone who always had everything, education, family, etc. even for me, who comes from lower middle class to ever complain.

So for me, what happened to this woman it is well deserved and will continue to be.

This does not mean I am protective of my country (I do criticize what I love and respect when foreigners do it, because at the end of the day we are all humans) neither does it mean I do not want Americans to go there, just the opposite.

But sometimes you need to feel the pain so that perhaps you can advocate for us. Isn’t that the idea behind the HR 2702? When will this country stop punishing those who are here doing the right legal thing? Maybe then, just then, Brazil will improve not only its efficiency, but its attitude and that might just the change we all need it.

Peace and love.

PS: I only noticed what Sarah has done to our flag the second time I read the article. Quite honestly, I think that was not distasteful but went far beyond... It show an outrage and lack of respect for us, people of Brazil. It was offensive. Just imagine that in your own flag? Have you tried??? It is like I am bashing you, as an American citizen, isn't it? Now, I am not that sensitive as many might be, but still it is an offensive act (in my view) just like that Brazilian (clueless) singer not knowing how to sing our National Anthem. What I am trying to say is that what woman, Sarah, did is simply unprofessional and if it was up to me I will never let her enter our country until she offers the proper apologies.


I agree that she's whiny and immature and uninformed and distasteful.

But (sadly) she does have a point.

And some lawmakers in Brasilia actually agree with her and have been pushing to remove the visa requirement. They notice the lack of foreign investment (when compared to other countries). They see that the number of tourists that visit Brazil stays the same for year after year and doesn't increase. And they think: "Maybe it's due to the visa."

Sure, reciprocity: that's the passionate, nationalistic reason to support visa requirements for Americans. But I really believe that Brazil can be "the bigger man" and eliminate this "EYE FOR AN EYE" policy.

Anyway, as Rafael said, "both visa systems are screwed and need improvement".

PS: Thanks for linking me, Rachel.

Ray Adkins


Sarah changed the entire focus of the discussion when she defaced another country's flag period, what did she achieve? Nothing and she should most definitely loose her job in my opinion, she didn't act professionally when she exposed herself and her company in the irresponsible way that she did.
Back to the original discussion, the inefficiency of the Brazilian government, let me be VERY CLEAR here, I LOVE BRAZIL and respect BRAZILIANS very much but their CONSULATE works are COMPLETE IDIOTS, LAZY and UNPROFESSIONAL and I speak from experience.
However I have to point out that I have encountered WORSE IDIOTS at the ITALIAN Consulate in MIAMI and the SPANISH Consulate in Boston, the Spanish Consulate is really bad, each Spanish Consulate can, by law, create their own rules regarding VISAS, the New York Spanish Consulate is much better.
The American Consulate in Sao Paulo is super ARROGANT and most American Consulates in Brazil treat people like garbage, it is embarrassing to me as an American.
According to my own experience, if you would have to put on a scale of efficiency, I would place the American Consulates in Brazil as more efficient, Brazilian Consulates in the US in a middle range, with varying levels of Arrogance, lack of professionalism and plain stupidity, Spanish Consulates a little lower, depending if you are dealing with the Spanish Consulate in Boston or in New York and at the bottom of the scale I would place the ARROGANT, LAZY, UNPROFESSIONAL and INEFFICIENT ITALIAN Consulate in Miami, they are the ABSOLUTELY WORSE I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.
Plus, it is time for Brazilians to get over their inferiority complex and stop being so insecure and super sensitive regarding any criticism towards Brazil, it is time to grow up and take foreign criticism towards Brazil, Why not? You should take criticism as a motivation to be less complacent with all the CRAP that goes on around Brazil and not much is done about it.

Forte abraco aos Brasileiros


Marcio E. Goncalves

"Unfortunately for her, Sarah didn't know that any minor bit of criticism towards Brazil will provoke sheer outrage, and since her post was very accusatory, she actually got death and rape threats (no joke). "

Let me share a little secret with you Rachel - this knee jerk reaction is not only towards gringos but anyone, including brazilians, that dare to criticize Brazil and at the same time comparing to another country.

How do I know that? Well, because I'm brazilian and I lost the count of how many times I herd the magic phrase "Entao vai embora daqui" that some gringos think is exclusive used towards them - it is not.

A lot of Brazilian Expat are treated the same way when they return to Brazil - the problems in our country seem to be even more clear after living abroad and we commit the sin to say things like "Isso ta errado, nos EUA eles fazem de tal jeito, etc...".

Any comment like that will automatically receive a angry response and some variation of "Va embora daqui".

So, for all "gringos". don't feel segregated - you're being treated exactly like other brazilians are.


Not surprising just like the black gentleman who was assaulted in the


Brazilian society is anti-individual/civil rights. It is absolutist and

extremely prejudiced. People raised there dont know how to handle

conflict be it constructive criticism, difference of opinion or

competition. It usually ends in violence. Foreigners could and do bash

America alot and Americans dont give a hoot but Brazil? A foreigner who

comments in any aspect of their culture or shortcomings, be it bashing

or suggestive, suffers retaliation (verbal or physical harassment).

There is also the fact that ideologically Brazilian people are free to

hate outsiders and the weak in society because it vents all their

frustration against the govt, elite etc in a non-destabilizing way. So

someone who is politized will not be hurt if they protest in front of

the American embassy, reads and preaches ideas blaming foreigners or

the "inferiors" (like the blacks) in society but if instead they

protest and mobilize against interests of powerful Brazilians or

preachideology against the country's culture or traditions then he will

most likely face retaliation.

Notice how most here are saying what summarizes to "i disagree with her

so i dont mind her facing death threats or the like". This is the rule

in Brazil, the concept of disagreeing yet respecting the others rights

doesnt exist.

civil rights: "Individual freedom, including rights of individuals

(freedom of speech and expression) and the right to participate in

civil society and politics"

freedom of speech - i disagree with you so i dont care if someone kills

or beats you.

right to participate in civil society and politics - what? those blacks

are forming groups to fight racism? I strongly disagree with them so

ill be glad if they are killed in retaliation.

No concept of democracy or freedom in this society. Hierarchical,

absolutist (one is right or wrong no points of views), collectivist,

xenophobic, anti-intellectual. The whole "master-slave" relationship

between people and groups (international reciprocity anyone? brazil

doesnt want to be the slave in the relationship!) instead of

relationship of equals.

Ray nailed it about taking criticism as a possibilty of self

improvement instead of offense to honor/ego.

Nice to see you again with analways informative opinion Marcio E.


Carlos Eugenio Fox

Because of her unfortunate attitude, Sarah misrepresents U.S., and so I agree, she's a symbol from evrything that makes to wake up an anti-americanism feeling inside us and worldwide.

Marcelo Silva

E se fosse ao contrario? E se um jornalista brasileiro desrespeitasse a bandeira do EUA da maneira que ela desrespeitou a brasileira? E se ainda por cima escrevesse um artigo a criticar o RAIO dos EUA?

Pois é, é a velha máxima: Olhem para o que eu digo não olhem para o que eu faço.

Absurdo é alguém conseguir ver anti-americanismo na reação que alguns brasileiros tiveram a essa brutal falta de educação por parte da Sr.ª Sara Lacy. Aos olhos de alguém menos arrogante, isso seria apenas uma reação normal da parte ofendida, mas aos seus olhos isso é anti-americanismo ... se isso não é egocentrismo e arrogancia, é o que? ... dá me paciência ...

Carlos Eugenio Fox

Ok. It means that if I post an opinion here that isn't according to Rachel's ideology or point of view, it'll be deleted, as happened to my last post. Good to know.

Rio Gringa


In case you didn't notice, comments are moderated. That means until I check my email, no comments get approved. And I have better things to do on Sunday mornings than check my email, in today's case, going to Brazilian Day. Thanks for proving my point though.

Ray Adkins

Her rant wasn't that bad at all, I actually think she was reasonable with the complaint, she should probably have refrained from writing on the flag to keep the crazies away...
What she said is absolutely fine, and Rachel made an important point, her discussion was the poor efficiency at the BRAZILIAN CONSULATE, that was her experience PERIOD, BRAZILIANS need to get over it, your government workers SUCK big time, just like OURS, they are terrible or super terrible, depending what city you have to put up with them, welcome to the wonderful world of public workers...



If the opposite had happened, I doubt Americans would be throwing a hissy fit. As an American I can't tell you how many times I have seen videos/images of people defacing and burning the US Flag during protests. From traveling overseas to both south America and Europe, I cannot tell you how many times people have attempted to tell me how great their country is compared to the US.

The arguments are always:

Brazil vs USA
France Vs USA
Basically (your country) vs USA

Americans are use to getting dished on, it comes with territory of being a superpower. When I find myself in these pickles, I just shrug it off.

Marcio E. Goncalves

"E se fosse ao contrario? E se um jornalista brasileiro desrespeitasse a bandeira do EUA da maneira que ela desrespeitou a brasileira?"

Actually here in the USA you can burn the American Flag as much as you like - this is protected by the American Constitution, it's considered a act of free speech. This is one of my favorite things in the USA, this extreme right of free speech that only exists here.

Of course that everyone tries now and then (both the Left and Right) to suppress this right but in the end it always prevails.


It's worth noting that Brazilians tourists spend more traveling outside of Brazil than foreign tourists spend traveling inside Brazil. http://g1.globo.com/Noticias/Economia_Negocios/0,,MUL1167937-9356,00.html (h/t not quite a gringo).

The visa requirement clearly hurts casual travel. If you live in Seattle to visit Brazil you must go to the Consulate in San Francisco or pay an expeditor $130ish. The rules regarding whether you must use an expeditor and how are different at other consulates (I don't think you need to use an expeditor in Chicago--you can just mail it and the consultate itself will send it back. Or, in D.C. you can leave a $3 Priority Mail Envelope and they will mail your passport to you, whereas in SF you must leave a $10 Express Mail Envelope...)

I don't think any other countries in SA require US tourists to go to a consulate first to get the visa. Maybe Suriname/Guyana. It's not just the reciprocity fee, which is fine, it's that you can't pay it in the airport. The extra trip, or the extra step of getting an expeditor clearly discourages tourism.

And while as a sovereign Brazil can do whatever it wants, I wonder if the satisfaction it gets from hassling foreigners as bad as Brazilians are hassled by foreign consulates is greater than the satisfaction Brazil would get from a ton of extra tourist dollars.

What's more important pride or economic activity?

And I'll add to that the need for Brazilians to compare themselves to the US on this issue says more about the Brazilians than about the US. I don't any think less of Colombia just because Colombia is easier for me to visit than it is for a Colombian to visit the US. And I'm not more impressed with Brazil because it's equally hard to visit. (Ok, that's a little harsh. I love you guys).

Marcio E. Goncalves

"What's more important pride or economic activity?"

The rational answer would be, of course, more economic activity. But if you know anything about the culture of my country, you'd know that rationality had never stood a chance against brazilian pride and sensibility.

By the way there's a lot of other reason of why there's so little tourism in Brazil. One is really simple: is fucking expansive to fly to Brazil. I mean, is so ridiculous expansive that I, a brazilian, won't be going back to Brazil so soon.

With the same amount of money of a round trip from San Francisco (where I live) to Brazil I could visit Japan, Taiwan, UK and Spain (believe me, I did the math).

But being a Devil's advocate here, you have to see that Brazil see itself in a similar way that USA see itself - a continental country that doesn't really need or care for the rest of the world.

Understanding this you will understand why Brazil has this kind of stupid (in the economical sense) attitude - Brazil (and for that I mean the government and the population) see themselves as basically a country that SHOULD HAVE BEEN rich and powerful as the USA.

So it doesn't matter if Colombia or any other country accept an unequal relation with the USA - because Brazil would never compare itself to Colombia or any developing country, but only with the USA and Europe.

Of course it's a stupid position to take - it's like a rebel teenager that wants to be independent and treated like an equal but without having money to live outside his parent's house.


Very thoughtful, Marcio. I like the connection between the continent-sized geography and the continent-sized ego.

I wonder if you and I have the same reaction to Salvador. I've visited Bahia three times and each time I like it less. I go to some praca in Pelourinho and am surrounded by ornate, Baroque churches on five sides and listening to some of the most creative, soulful music in the world. Yet I never seem to enjoy it fully. Why?

Because there is this weird mix of arrogance and desperation in so many of the people there--whether they're tugging on your sleeve to bring you to an internet cafe, a highly-skilled capoeria performer with slightly angry eyes or a boutique owner apologizing for something that isn't her fault.* There is justifiable pride at the richness of the culture, its music, food, and sophisticated Candomble spiritual life. But there is so much shame in the economic needs and material deprivation. And as a consequence it ends up being off-putting.

I think this same dynamic plays out at the immigration office with respect to visas and in lots of other areas of Brazilian life, including wealthy areas in the South.

(*caveats: this generalization is mostly based on folks in the tourist industry; most folks in Salvador avoid Pelourinho and aren't part of the tourist industry)


"Of course it's a stupid position to take - it's like a rebel teenager that wants to be independent and treated like an equal but without having money to live outside his parent's house"

LMAO, that was an excellent analogy.

Ray´s post was very good. I agree fully with him.

This Sarah was very idiotic. Sincerely, I dont care much about flag defacing... it happens all the time with the US flag. On the other hand, its not respected journalists who will do the defacing. The rape and death threats are nothing that you shouldnt expect from the internet... specially when you attract an audience that only heard about her post by means of "mouth to mouth" and got there just to attack her. Not justified AT ALL, but "expected" considering the general level of idiocy on the internet.

Anyway, you can expect idiotic reactions from the internet mob... the sad thing was the idiotic childish rant from a supposedly respected journalist.

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