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February 01, 2012



Rachel, you do fail to mention that things have gotten better lately - though improving at a slow pace ('turtle steps' as we say here). There have been a variety of articles talking about different aspects of Brazil (not only related to the Olympics, etc.) since Brazil started gaining relevance worldwide. I think this "characterization" is a common trend - not specific to Brazil. I rarely see an article on Chile without talk on dictatorship and the military/political issues of the past. Though that is rarely the point as Chile is not in the international spotlight lately as is Brazil, for obvious reasons.

Recently I came across this article about Sao Paulo in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/world/americas/at-war-with-sao-paulos-establishment-black-paint-in-hand.html?_r=1.

I think the issue with Samba, bikinis, favelas, etc. come across a lot not only referring to Brazil as a whole but to Rio de Janeiro and some other beach-like cities or culture. Covering Sao Paulo, for example, a better-depicted reality (not always) certainly shows by the international media. They seem to know about us and our culture – or at least, try to, well beyond the common stereotypes.

Regarding the future, who know what it will be? My guess is that unless we, Brazil, as a country, take ourselves seriously - especially with our own Brazilian Media doing their job as they are supposed to - we very likely continue to be seen as an unimportant country despite all the "economical and political advances”. In my view, this has nothing to do with the “vira-lata complex”, as you put it. I am actually not sure why you mentioned it in the article. Anyhow, the idea that we lack a sense of worthiness might come simply from a lack of understanding we are vulnerable as people. Something that Americans are usually not familiar – in fact, Americans are often seen on the other end of the scale – could be the “super-hero complex”?

We do have quite a lot to learn from each other so my conclusion is that when the US start (due to recession and other major political, economical changes) learning to be humble - which again is happening at "baby steps" - they can learn from other cultures and smartly start “making it” somewhere else in the globe - like in China, India and, yes, Brazil! – we could also start (due to the apparent economical boom, political stability etc.) at "turtle steps" learn to valuing ourselves and learn from others! It won't happen from day to night, but it will happen I am sure as nothing stays the same forever. It just might take more than our or two, three generations ahead of us- or not, if we are lucky!!

Julia Michaels

Thanks Rachel,and you're right, this approach is worrisome. Though those editors would do well to read the results of a survey that Veja did, showing that only half of 7,200 respondents from eighteen countries are aware that Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup, and only 22% know about the 2016 Olympics...!

Rogério Penna

its important to notice the 20 floors building that collapsed was built in 1937 and had the upper floors increased in size about 10 years later, increasing the structural load... and with the reform, the already stressed old structure went down.

so, we are actually talking about brazilian building codes from the time of the 2nd world war!!


Rachel, I know I am grasping only at the last throw-away line of your post, but I love that despite the frequency with which the English-language media uses samba as a shorthand for Brazil (e.g., "samba kings" in about a million articles on soccer in the US and UK), most who use the word wouldn't know a samba if they heard it. There is, in my view, something antiquated about the constant references to samba. The Brazilians I know (OK, they're all from Sao Paulo or Rio) don't really listen to samba all that much. I feel like I spend more time listening to Cartola than Brazilians do. But maybe more non-Americans listen to Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters (can't think of a better parallel) than I do.

(Parallels are kind of stupid, but for some reason I like trying to explain Caetano Veloso to Americans as "a lyricist on par or better than Bob Dylan, plus he can actually sing, and he never broke Joan Baez's heart. That I know of.")

Anyway, love the blog.

Larry (or Lalulinho as my Brazilian wife calls me)

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