• Brazil, the World Cup, and Development: Connecting Soccer, Politics, and Economics

Getting to Know the People

After visiting the massive Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain it was difficult to not notice the throngs of pushy people. It got me thinking about all the different opinions these people have and how they differ from each other. We all saw this firsthand with the people we have come across in our journey in Brazil. Besides all of the beautiful architecture, there is a culture here in Brazil that makes it so much more. From crazy spandex prints to no limits when it comes to displaying affection we realized very quickly that Brazil is a world very different than the cornfields of Iowa. The tours were very informative in Brasilia, Recife and Rio but getting to talk to the people is a very different element that all of us struggled with. Finding a Brazilian who also spoke English was like finding Waldo, hard but oh so rewarding once you finally found the little bugger. One can find themselves absorbed into the Brazilian culture with just one conversation with these ‘Waldo’ Brazilians. You learn so much by just talking!

While meeting with the Brazilian students in Brasilia at a local hangout for college shenanigans, we got to ask them how they felt about their government and what they thought should change. Hearing their opinions helped give a personal insight into their life and it gave us a chance to make our own opinion if we theoretically lived here. The students were strongly supportive of the Brazilian protestors’ efforts to make the government aware of their concerns; they were upset by the fact that the government is spending so much money on brand new soccer stadiums rather than on education and healthcare which seem so much more important.

In Recife, after unluckily getting a bill which was entirely wrong, we luckily met a group of Brazilians who had actually lived in Wisconsin working at one of our waterparks. They graciously helped us with our bill problems and then we bonded over being ‘cheeseheads’ and the Packers. We got to discuss much more educational topics later on. In contrast to the students, the group voiced that they did not agree with the protests and that the people should wait until after the World Cup to be upset because the event will more than likely boost the economy. They found it frustrating that the government was spending money on something not as important but their viewpoint was one which they knew that it couldn’t be changed now so why complain?

In Rio, we met one of our professor’s friends Lucia who is also a teacher. Her view on the Brazilian protests was rather unique. “At least they are putting money somewhere!” she exclaimed. As long as something is being invested that’s somewhat of a positive thing, right? She was also frustrated but she realized how difficult it is to put spending where it should be.

Also in Rio, we met a very interesting man, Alberto, who gave us a tour through where he grew up, one of the largest favelas in Rio, Rocinha. The way he saw the world was very evident as soon as he started to give us our tour: he filtered everything through a class system. He argued that there is no time to fix all the things that need to be fixed for the World Cup. And also the government is taking steps to ‘segregate’ the rich and the poor which is making the gap between the two increasingly larger.

All of the points that the Brazilians discussed with us are different based on their background and personal experiences. It’s hard to say which one is ‘more right’ over another because all are so different! However, all parties agreed that the corruption in the Brazilian government is one of the main holes in their democracy. Alfred Montero discusses this in his book Brazilian Politics that ‘Clientelism ‘is the Achilles heel of the Brazilian government and has been for a very long time. Larry Rohter, author of Brazil on the Rise, also discusses how in the past the elites made several attempts to make sure they stayed that way by preventing education for the masses and etc. Along with this corruption and bitter feelings by the Brazilians, the next few years should be very interesting. Will there be more protests during the World Cup? Or will the government make more small changes to combat the increasing threat?

 

Rohter, Larry. Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 20-22. Print.

Montero, Alfred. Brazilian Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005. 19. Print.