Monday, April 16, 2007

Brazil: A Bird's Eye View

Just got back from a visit to Brazil, where we went to size up an opportunity to start a small hospitality business.

What a colorful country of contrasts. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Brazil - contrast
Recycling bins and satellite dish next to the simplest of living accommodations.
[Copyright Katy Delay]

Here's my unscientific, first-glimpse assessment, likely to be revised by future visits.

As a young Frenchman once said after his first visit to the U.S., Brazil hit me "like a brick." (Actually, what he said was, "Je l'ai pris en pleine gueule.") What he and I mean is that it was not at all as we expected.

In my case, I thought I was going to find a young, energetic, completely homogenized, enterprising country full of opportunity and opening markets. What I found -- in the northeast and mideastern coastline cities, at least -- was a social structure promising little hope of change for most, imprisoning the grand majority of the various-shades-of-brown-skinned population in a kind of Felliniesque state of rigor mortis, and catering to the same old, entrenched, oligarchic, privileged white few. I would estimate that at least two-thirds of the country are rotted by municipal corruption (which is colorblind); and the banking system dates back to the Middle Ages.

In Brazil today, in spite of all you hear, you still have (1) an elite minority who control all the mineral and agricultural wealth and who split the power with a very centralist government; (2) a very small, slow-growing middle class, ironically represented on TV by those blond, blue-eyed, beautiful people who appear in endless hours of "novelas" -- "Days of our Lives" a la Bresilienne -- who must all live in Sao Paulo (from the plane, it looked like a patchwork quilt of ten New York Cities); and (3) the other 95 percent of the population (not an accurate figure) who believe that their main focus in life is survival and the enjoying of it, inasmuch as there is little hope that tomorrow will bring anything other than the neglect, disdain and abuse they've become accustomed to over the generations.

On the positive side, I also found a kind of consensus among the variegated regional amalgamations of cultures and ancestry, that has fused this huge nation into a people called "the Brazilians." A common trait has evolved among them: The capacity to evacuate awareness of their own material difficulties, replacing it by a fundamental "joie de vivre" that is as soothing as the liquid, negative-ion-charged ocean breezes that cool their shores and calm even my WASPy, uptight and perennially-agitated spirits.

More, perhaps, after a future visit. Perhaps my vision will change; but I'm too aware of South and Central America's past and present to believe that Che Guevara doesn't still hold, if not the minds, at least the souls of the vast majority of the inhabitants for the immediate future, in spite of the economic inroads of geniuses like Hernando de Soto. For the Berlin Wall to fall, there had to be a massive upheaval from the ground up. This kind of repression doesn't fall so easily when pushed from the top or the side -- the foundations are just buried too deep.

Having said all of that, the country is most beautiful and many of its world-class beaches are still undiscovered. We toured around the eastern coastline, visiting Rio, Buzios, Natal, Fernando de Noronha, the state of Ceara, Jericoacoara, and Salvador de Bahia. Here are some photos for your enjoyment. [All photos copyright Katy Delay.]

Rio

Rio

Buzios

Buzios, Brazil

Natal

Natal, Brazil

Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Caponga in the State of Ceara

Caponga, Ceara, Brazil

Jericoacoara

Jericoacoara, Brazil

Salvador de Bahia

Salvador de Bahia

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