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

Culture in a Can

When the notion of Brazil wonders through my head, it’s not only soccer that consumes those thoughts, but rather the surplus of culture, music, and I think it’s somewhat of an obligation to bring coffee into the conversation. Throughout the trip we have had the opportunity to encounter all of these things in one way or another.

Culture, the most prevalent way that I have seen culture displayed throughout has been that of graffiti. Here in Brazil graffiti is not simply defacing property, but it’s a form of art and an expression of feeling, and culture. The meanings of these works are endless and it has been so very apparent of the ability to portray a message through the medium. With the recent protests the common theme of these markings are that of strong distaste for the World Cup. I know that this has been recycled through a couple blogs, but it’s important to emphasize because of how apparent it has been within Brasília, Recife, and now Rio. Some are extremely beautiful and abstract with their meaning, but others are blatantly obvious regarding their demeaning message toward the World Cup. The graffiti in all these cities certainly gives us a reminder at the differences in view points upon the up and coming World Cup.

Getting in a van crammed with twenty gringos heading up the half way constructed cobble stone road, only to realize the restaurant of choice has closed, might be best decision I’ve made all trip. Siri-Brasil, a little black guy with longer somewhat afro shaped hair blessed with a smile that is contagious and a voice that will melt your heart was on stage welcoming us as we walked through the door. On the corner somewhere within the artsy community of Santa Tereza, a small restaurant radiated with the voice of my new amigo. We listened, danced, and sang with Siri for the next couple hours enjoying music in a language we didn’t understand at all. It is amazing to be apart of an experience that tears down the language barrier and allows us to enjoy ourselves with no worries of confusion. We met some more locals as the night drew on and they embraced our gringo-ness making the night even more entertaining by bringing us to a small street samba. Getting a taste of the music scene in Brazil has been a remarkable experience and it’s allowed us meet some amazing people.  

Last, but certainly not least, the coffee. Waking up with a fresh cup of Brazilian coffee is a party for our taste buds, but when we dig deeper it’s more than simply a cup of Joe. The coffee farms are an economic livelihood for millions of people throughout Brazil, amounting to the leading producer of coffee in the world. Democratic Brazil Revisited explores the difficulties for laborers as the jobs are getting fewer and harder to come by, “The modernization of agriculture has reduced the demand for labor and millions of the rural poor have streamed into the cities” (Kingstone and Power). As much as we enjoy the sweet taste of coffee in the morning, the sad realization is that the coffee industry has a large part to do with the influx to the cities and in turn causing more inequality within communities. This is where the conflict begins, do the industries choose to keep up with others around by moving to more of an industrial focused company and continue to bring economic success to Brazil or do they fail to make progress and continue supplying millions of labor jobs to workers? This is very similar to decisions being made by the Brazilian government regarding the balancing of policies. Balancing the two requires a precise compromise between both parties, and as the conversation continues within government, incorporating both ideologies into a policy seems to be an impossible task. Some food for thought as we sip on our coffee in the morning.

Culture, music, and coffee give us a different lens to look through while conversing about politics and economics. It also gives us a better outlook on life when we dig beneath the surface and realize how truly fortunate we are in the United States. Throughout the trip we have had the opportunity to encounter both the good and bad of Brazil and it has been an incredible adventure that I’m sure will continue!

Side note- Jon Cochrane made his inaugural debut as a solo artist performing a version of “White Christmas” at a somewhat open mic night.

Obrigado!

Enjoying a cup of Joe at the Bossa in Rio Hostel with my feline friend.
Siri and his friend closing up a sweet performance in Santa Tereza
One of our final glances overlooking the beautiful city of Rio