While there’s still no World Cup

A whole different story

When I tell people I am from Brazil I always get the same reactions. They say how awesome my country is, that we have the best soccer players, and the hottest women. But what I’ve been hearing more recently is how wealthy my country is becoming.

Well… There’s something not quite right about that last statement.

Yes, everything that people are saying about Brazil is true. We do have awesome beaches, Rio is beautiful and indeed very hot, soccer is a big thing for Brazilians, we have five World Cup trophies. We do have hot and sexy women, who are usually scantly dressed up shaking their asses in front of a TV screen. Unfortunately, what I cannot affirm is that we are getting wealthier, at least not in the positive meanings: the happiness of our population. We do have a lot of reasons to be proud of Brazil, but we have a lot to be sorry for as well.

With the World Cup getting closer, and the Olympic Games also confirmed to be hosted by Brazil, I can’t stop thinking of how our people are dealing with all this attention pointed toward my country. It’s true that we have an oddly free and relaxed way of living: Brazilians love to enjoy nature, to not take themselves very seriously. Instead, they’re very good communicators, easy to share their feelings (Brazilian soap operas play a big role in our people’s psyche) and to adapt in different environments.

However, people in my country are not happy with this up coming World Cup, with the Government’s lack of attention to our needs and for so many reasons that it gets complicated to bring everything up. The only good thing about this World Cup was to get other countries’ attention. We found that it was time to scream for the urgent needs that we have not been getting for a long time.

 The Giant is awake

It all started in the south. Porto Alegre is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and was the one planting the seeds. On March 23, 2013 a group of young protesters marched on the streets against the subtle fare-raise of bus passes. The government had inflated bus passes from R$ 2,85 to R$ 3,05 (Brazilian money). So people started to demand free passes; but, instead, the previous value was maintained. However, these protesters were beginning to build what later would become the main reasons why people were going to the streets: to retake our pride, justice, better conditions, respect, and voice.

The firsts real massive protests included most of the country’s states. Thousands of people, all ages, religions, and purposes got together to begin what would become one of the major protests that our history has ever had. There were thousands of purposes being marched for. In fact we didn’t know exactly what we were doing over there. But who cares? As long as everybody was shouting for the same reason – to be one strong voice – the effort was already worth it.

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Mass demonstration on Antonio Carlos Avenue leading directly to the Mineirão soccer stadium

Now, I’m going to tell how it was when the protests hit their highest point in this newest history of Brazil. In my town, Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais and one of the wealthiest and powerful states in Brazil, people are very engaged with what’s happening in our town. My generation likes to form events that will bring together all different kinds of people; we meet on public property to collectively feel how our artistic movements flourish. We have a lot of this happening there right now, and it’s great. But everything started to go wrong, our public transportation was bad, we didn’t have education that would open greater opportunities; poverty, crime, drugs and traffic have grown and in between all this we had thousands of promises with no results. We’re not getting any. So I woke up on that Wednesday, June 26th, feeling very excited. I remember everything about that day, when I became part of the huge mass of Brazilians claiming a better country.

As I walked from my apartment to meet a friend, I got the exact same feeling I would get if I were watching Brazil’s final match in the World Cup. We then went towards downtown where everybody would get together to march, almost seven miles, to the Mineirão, the stadium where Brazil and Uruguay were about to play for the Confederations Cup. The goal was to get there before the end of the game and bring a large number of people with posters displaying different feelings and political ideals. We wanted to get other countries’ media attention.  The least of our preoccupations at that moment was soccer.

Every time I think about that day I increasingly become more aware of my country’s needs. I love being Brazilian and I truly believe that we can improve our lives and be a better nation. The problem is that the more things get moving, the less I feel it changing. Everything we’re willing to achieve is becoming more utopic and distant. I hate being pessimist about it, but it’s very sad that we’re letting loose of our strongest ideals, when in fact we should be gaining more voices, as the time for people to see it is getting closer.

Can we make a difference?

I saw in the news the other day that Sweden has denied hosting the 2020 Winter Olympics, only because they have other priorities besides spending public money on these kinds of events. I cannot but agree with this inspiring country, which prefers focusing their energy and hard work in valuing the needs of their population, rather than doing something only for the benefits of their rulers, as we can sadly see happening in Brazil.

If I were to make an extensive list of priorities that our president Dilma Rousseff and our prime ministers should be working on to make real changes in Brazil, well, this article would be longer than it already is. Let’s at least point out the five most important things my country needs now, in order to make a real use of our money and also to better improve our system and the population’s happiness:

  1. Education
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Citizenship
  4. A trusting and workable justice system
  5. And to get over with our social boundaries.

As you could see there’s no soccer, no stadiums, no World Cup being demanded. And If I can, I’d also like to include a number zero on that list of 5 priorities. This is a very particular characteristic of every Brazilian citizen, and mostly applicable to our rulers and powerful people. It says a lot about our people’s colonization and how we’ve grown as Brazilians, the characteristic of always finding short cuts to fix our problems.  It’s called jeitinho Brasileiro. We’re still carrying the weight of our history, of our ancestors and colonizers. This is a deep and complex problem, as we’re still trying to set aside of all our past, strongly based on slavery, greed, corruption, exploitation and anti-cultural feelings, that still haunt us, though there’s a minority timidly starting to create a voice and demand changes.

There are a huge number of people being expelled from their homes, with no tenure or previous warning from the government. These people are loosing the only property that belongs to them. It’s very sad what “development” is causing them, and this is what people have been calling “democracy”. And you want to know the reason? So that FIFA can build stadiums and hide not only the reality of my country, but also these people’s dignity. I think we all have reasons to vindicate our rights. Don’t we?!

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Demonstrator standing on top of a construction vehicle. One year before the World Cup and still no infrastructure.

So what started as a peaceful, democratic, ideological and very exciting number of protests, with all the differences and idiosyncrasies being respected, turned out to become a huge mess, with people getting killed, overwhelmed and shouted at for showing and voicing their points of view. What started as a hope for concrete change to give back people’ rights as citizens and human beings, to give back their voices, long time silenced by oppressive governments full of mysteries and unfilled promises. When we were starting to create this voice, to tell people how we’re really feeling, and showing others that we’re more than naked women, Carnival and soccer, when all that started to happen… we lost our tracks and got silenced for reasons that I’m still trying to understand.

The oppressive government started to fight their own people, as they needed to silence us for their reputation. Then we were hushed, not only because we were afraid of what could happen, but because we never trusted our rulers, as they only gave us: shame, untruths and indignity. There are videos being made by a group of documentaries, Coletivo Mariachi, which is not affiliated with the monopolized media of Brazil, who never takes people’s side, only the leaders. This small group then, can show the reality, the cruel reality that is happening in our streets right now.

But let me finish this story by introducing you to another group of people that are still fighting for changes. And as every story we have the heroes and the villains. The problem though, is who are the good ones and who are bad?

We are hitting to the frontlines

I then found myself watching videos that could be a start for a big movie showing Brazil’s reality. Videos made by Coletivo Mariachi showing the conflicts between the police and the Black Blocs, a group of anarchists who use violence and depravation in order to get the authorities’ attention.

I thought about the Black Blocs and their attitudes in front of the “battle field” (because this is what the protests have become in the last months), most of the people who embraced this movement have also worked, or work for the government. They’re ordinary people: teachers, students, cops, filmmakers … they could be me, you. They could be anyone and I kind of envy them. Not when they break and destroy our banks, streets, monuments and public facilities; but I envy them for having the balls to do it. For having the balls to challenge the government while many are closing their eyes from their surroundings. They’re alive. For me, when they go to the protests to ask for new rights and conversations, and instead they get abused and threats from the police, I can only think of a mix of heroes and villains. Because, the truth is: there’s no right side. Not with when we’re talking about problems that affect the whole country.

 Everything is about to start again

I want get this very clear: I hate violence, and I honestly believe that we’re capable of getting everything we want by communicating. But I also believe that we can’t make any change while there’s no one listening, while there’s no one making noise right next to us. And when I say that I don’t know why we have stopped making pacific protests, with millions of Brazilians marching together, I can only think of one reason: weakness. Only a few are still believing and fighting for a new Brazil, though I can’t tell if they are choosing the pacific path, as most of their strategies to get authorities’ attention are very controversial.

However, I’m positive about us building this feeling of change again, in having faith for a better country, where we’ll find real and meaningful results, not quick solutions. I’m positive that we can grow as a whole nation, not only in parts, not just for the sake of a few. There’s no need in telling everything that my country needs right now, you’ll see that all in the pictures and videos attached bellow. But if we still keep closing our eyes and pretending that everything is good, at least now that we’re getting the World Cup, well, unless we turn ourselves to shout again and turn this World Cup into a whole different story there will be no reasons to celebrate.

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Large number of Brazilians standing up for their rights.

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If you wish to see more pictures from the demonstration in Belo Horizonte on June 16, 2013, you can visit photographer Lucas Marcal’s[highlight] Facebook album[/highlight].

Also, if you wish to watch videos by Coletivo Mariachi, you can visit their [highlight]Youtube site[/highlight].

 

 

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