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

The Wild Sides of the Amazon

Our time in Brazil is coming to an end, but the group is not letting that bring us down. We are still making the most of every day we have left and today was no exception. The day started with a long speedboat ride on the Rio Negro. After about an hour of cruising on the dark water we reached our destination. We pulled onto a beach that belonged to a native Brazilian tribe. The tribe greeted us with a couple of their common dances and rituals. It did not take long until the tribe members invited us to dance and join in on the fun. After the dancing we had some free time with the tribe. Some of us demonstrated our skills with a blow dart gun while others got temporary tribal tattoos. The next stop on the river was the one we were all looking forward to the most. The entire group was able to swim with river dolphins. These dolphins were some of the ugliest animals I had ever seen but were somehow incredibly cute at the same time. It was impossible not to smile while rubbing their pink bellies. Our guide nearly had to drag us out of the water because none of us wanted to leave our new pink friends behind. After another long ride on the boat we reached the part of the Rio Negro that meets up with the Amazon River. I never thought seeing a tributary flow into a bigger river would be exciting, but this was breathtaking. The place where the Rio Negro and the Amazon River meet is very unique. The dark water of the Rio Negro does not mix with the light brown water of the Amazon River. The rivers flow side by side each other without mixing. The cause of this phenomenon is the difference in temperature, speed and water density of the two rivers. Later that day we saw many other animals that call the Amazon home, such as anacondas, alligators, piranhas, and sloths.

Despite the massive amount of fun we have had, I assure you that we have been learning. The effects the World Cup is having on the Brazilian economy, society, and politics are right in front of our eyes. It seems that every day there is a news story discussing the World Cup, whether it be about protests or stadium updates. Just this past weekend for example, there was a large anti-World Cup demonstration in Sao Paulo. More than 1000 people showed up to protest the upcoming World Cup. The demonstrators are angry that the Brazilian government is spending millions of dollars for the World Cup instead of investing it in public services such as education, health services, and transportation. “Any democratic state that ignores the needs and perceptions of such a large segment of the population does so at its peril” (Kingstone Power, 260). The citizens want their voices to be heard. They feel that they have the right to better public services than what the government is currently offering. “Over time and with each successive generation, more people can differentiate between citizens’ rights and duties and believe in citizens’ rights, in democratic participation, in trying to influence government decisions, and in importance of taking an active role in politics” (Kingstone Power, 261).   The protest was mostly peaceful but the police did conflict with some of the protestors by using rubber bullets and tear gas. More than 100 people were arrested during the protest.

It is almost time for us to return to the United States and although our time in Brazil is over we will be bringing a lot back with us. Of course we will come back to the United States with unforgettable memories, golden brown tans, and souvenirs such as Speedos and blow dart guns, but we will also be bringing some Brazilian culture to America. The past month we have all witnessed first hand the culture of Brazil and were able to identify differences and similarities with that of our own. There is one aspect of Brazilian culture that I personally would like to bring to America. We learned that kids in Brazil usually live with their parents until they get married. We met some people that were in their late twenties and early thirties that were still living at home with their parents. I’m going to try to take advantage of this idea. Sorry mom and dad, Brazilian culture says you can’t kick me out of the house just yet.

Kingstone, Peter R., and Timothy J. Power. Democratic Brazil Revisited. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2008. Print.