What are we Portuguese talking about
when we speak of Brazil?
Are we aware of the country’s
greatness, richness and endless potential? Do we know giant Brazil (world’s
fifth largest nation in area), and the real, authentic and profound Brazil?
What do we know of Brazilians besides samba, carnival, telenovelas [soap
operas] and soccer?
And what do Brazilians truly know
about the Portuguese beyond fado music, bacalhau [cod], and
stereotypical jokes: A ship at sea is going full speed ahead. Two Portuguese
guys are swimming behind it. Says one: "Didn’t I tell you that wasn’t the
I often tell my Brazilian friends
that not all Portuguese have mustaches or are named Manuel or Joaquim. In the
Brazilian imagination, Portuguese has always been associated with the figures
of the baker and grocer on the corners of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Certainly there will be a feeling of
nostalgia on Portugal’s part regarding Brazil for the irremediably lost empire.
Just as there will be a certain Brazilian Oedipal complex in relation to
Portugal due to our status as former colonizers and for having given Brazil its
land, people and language – the fifth most spoken in the whole world, precisely
because of Brazilians. Both countries have only to gain from this immense and
valuable linguistic heritage.
Unlike us Portuguese, who are almost
always depressed, sad, distrustful and unsatisfied, Brazilians tend to be
affable, cordial, communicative and happy. In fact, as the chronicles tell us,
we have in Brazil are our greatest invention: the mulatto man and woman. And,
late in life, I always have to admire the Brazilian accent and the musicality
of the open vowel, that "Portuguese with sugar," in the words of Eça de
An uncritical supporter of fine
music, great literature, and the admirable Brazilian cinema, I have been three
times to the lands of Santa Cruz, where I found sweet intimacy and the generous
sympathy of a profuse mixed-race people. A country of the impulsive clarity of
the tropics. A nation of greatness, misery, and unusual looting and corruption.
Operation Car Wash and Jair Bolsonaro afford no future.
On the island of Santa Catarina I
found family roots I thought were lost. And I saw in Florianópolis the most
elegant and beautiful women in the world!
We have an "immense Portugal" and
great Azorean influences in Brazil. For example, the following facts are
significant: the mother of the great Brazilian writer Machado de Assis was from
Ponta Delgada, São Miguel. Also a native of this island was the maternal
grandmother of the consecrated poet Cecília Meireles. Other great Brazilian
writers, according to information from António Valdemar (in Vitorino Nemésio
sem limite de idade, CTT, Correios de Portugal, 2002), also had Azorean
ancestry: Guimarães Rosa and Pedro Nava (Faial); Voldimiro Silveira, Tasso da
Silveira, Dinah Silveira de Queiroz (Pico); João Cabral de Melo Neto
(Terceira); and, Euclides da Cunha and Erico Veríssimo (Graciosa). In addition,
five presidents of the Brazilian Republic were known to have had Azorean blood:
Getúlio Vargas, Eurico Dutra and João Goulart (Faial); and Nereu Ramos and
Tancredo Neves (Terceira).
On the other hand, Brazilians have
an immense Brazil in Portugal. What’s needed is to join hands, intensify our
bridges and fortify the wills between the two countries. In music and
literature some steps have been taken in this direction. The rest, not so
It’s true that not all Portuguese
like Brazilians, and vice versa. With virtues, defects and some prejudices in
the mix, we have tolerated one another since Brazil became independent. In the
1990s, when Portugal lived the illusion and hope of being cavalierly
transformed into an "oasis," we received thousands of Brazilian immigrants with
the haughtiness, envy and distrust of those who fear that people have come to
steal jobs from us.
And under the New Orthographic
Agreement, in which Portugal clearly makes concessions to Brazil, we don’t
always understand each other. As George Bernard Shaw quipped, referring to the
English and Americans, it is a case of saying that Portugal and Brazil are
sibling "countries separated by the same language." And in a stroke of irony,
my good friend Onésimo Teotónio Almeida does not lag far behind the Irish
playwright: "The Portuguese do not discriminate. The Portuguese are not racist.
Brazilians are our brothers. It’s just that we prefer them on TV. And in