Brazil ushered in the 200th anniversary of the founding of the country on September 7, and entered the first round of presidential elections on October 2. Lula is temporarily leading, and the second round of voting will be held on October 30.
The incumbent President Bolsonaro declared before the election that even if he loses the election, he will not hand over power smoothly. And this election is the most polarized one in Brazil in decades, and it is still unclear who will win.
With a population of nearly 220 million, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of land area. It is rich in natural resources such as iron ore, gold mine, uranium mine, and oil. It also sits on the Amazon rainforest, the “lung of the earth”. As one of the “BRICs”, it has no shortage of “superpower” potential.
However, Brazil used to have a low self-esteem. It was colonized by Portugal before, and a large number of black slaves were introduced. After independence, it was deeply torn by race relations. Its economy and trade have been overwhelmed by neighboring Argentina for a long time. The political turmoil dominated by the extreme left or the extreme right many times has caused its country to flourish. Ups and downs.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil’s average annual GDP growth rate was above 5%. In 2011, Brazil’s GDP approached that of the UK, but in 2015 Brazil’s economy suffered a severe recession, and by 2021 its GDP will be only half that of the UK.
Even so, Brazil is still very attractive. Multiethnicity brings diverse cultures, and the tribes and landforms that have not been fully revealed are full of magic; in addition to the well-known “football power”, Brazil also has shining business cards such as samba, coffee and aviation; Although the “Brazilian rosewood” has almost disappeared in its native range, Brazil still guards the global treasure of the Amazon rainforest.
Brazil’s dream of becoming a big country has been ups and downs, but after wandering, it can be more tenacious.
Ten years ago, Susanna, a Polish girl, was studying Chinese in Guangzhou. At that time, she was still a typical Central and Eastern European girl: she liked to wear light makeup, wear slim long skirts, and had long blonde hair, which made people know she was a Slavic woman at a glance. Around 2016, she met her Brazilian boyfriend Breno, who also worked in Guangzhou, and the two finally got married.
After marriage, Suzanne’s appearance began to change: she prefers strong eye makeup and brighter lipstick, and her hairstyle has become quite unrestrained in South America. After leaving China, she lived between Poland and Brazil with her husband Breno, and became the mother of two children.
The disappearing faces of the East
Suzanne’s husband, Breno, despite his typical South American Latin appearance, has an unusual surname: his last name is Maeji, a Japanese surname. Breno’s grandfather was from Japan and belonged to the generation of Japanese expats who immigrated to South America in the late 19th century until the eve of World War II.
From 1917 to 1940, about 160,000 Japanese immigrated to Brazil, making Brazil the South American country with the largest Japanese diaspora group. 75% of these Japanese expatriates in Brazil settled in São Paulo, most working and living in coffee plantations. Unlike Chinese single men wandering abroad, Japanese workers tend to move their families to South America. After all, the meager wages made it difficult for the male workers to pay the travel expenses back to Japan. The first generation of Japanese laborers basically had no way out except to live with their families in the local area until the end of their lives.
Like those Japanese expatriates who never made it back to their native Japan, Breno’s grandfather gradually took root in Brazil. As the offspring intermarried with objects from other cultural backgrounds, in Breno’s generation, the appearance of the offspring was basically the same as that of South American Latins. However, in order to remember the grandfather’s Japanese roots, this multi-layered family still retains a certain degree of Japanese atmosphere.
”My husband’s family still insists on eating Japanese food. They also have strict Japanese family education and follow the etiquette of traditional Japanese families.” After marrying her husband, Suzanne also added a Japanese surname like “Maeji” before her name.
Over the years, the Japanese diaspora has not been without friction with the Brazilian government. As early as the 1920s, the Japanese diaspora formed a cohesive community in Brazil. With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Japanese Empire at that time, Japanese expatriates received education in Japanese schools, grew vegetables on their own enclosures, and prohibited intermarriage with foreigners. Their attempt to establish a purely Japanese community on Brazilian soil was condemned by the Brazilian central government, and the public opinion was not good. Brazilian society at the time believed that the Japanese diaspora were trying to implement their own set of “quistos raciais” (apartheid) policies.
During World War II, Brazil and Japan belonged to two camps. After the two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 1942, the situation of Japanese expatriates in Brazil went from bad to worse. Until the end of World War II, Japanese expatriates in Brazil were not allowed to relocate casually. Speaking Japanese in public would face criminal punishment, and Japanese newspapers and books became illegal publications.
After World War II, the situation of the local Japanese diaspora began to reverse. The industrious character of Japanese expatriates began to be recognized by Brazilian society, and Japan’s economic boom after the war also added credit to the expatriates. As the number of Japanese expatriates intermarrying with other races increased, many expatriates eventually chose to return to Japan. The descendants of the remaining expatriates prefer to speak Brazilian Portuguese, and those pure oriental faces are still becoming less and less.
Suzanne told reporters: “My children don’t look Asian either, so they are considered white in Brazilian society.”
The largest Japanese pagoda in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Their attempt to establish a purely Japanese community on Brazilian soil was condemned by Brazil’s central government.
The dark side of racial integration
Among South American countries, Brazil can be considered an outlier: it is the only South American country with Portuguese as its official language, and it is almost completely surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries; it is the only one run by the royal family and ruling class of the former colonial master As a South American country that declared independence, Brazil did not have a bottom-up tradition of resistance in the national consciousness established during the founding of the country.
Brazil has 120 million nationals of African descent, accounting for 56% of the country’s total population.
brazilian president bosonaro
In Brazil’s 200-year history of trying to shape a “Brazilian nation”, the integration policy of domestic race relations has been the result of the top-down leadership of the government for a long time. In the early 20th century, such top-down racial integration policies were often “toward the right,” guided by pure racism.
After the end of slavery in 1888, a large number of African slaves were liberated, and what made the white colonists feel very nervous was the issue of “Brazil’s blackening”. Ironically, one year after the abolition of slavery, the Brazilian monarchy was overthrown, and the military government replaced the Brazilian royal family, which had been willing to promote the cause of abolition. The beginning of the Brazilian republic was accompanied by a military dictatorship full of racial anxiety.
In the eyes of the white elite of the military government at that time, if Brazil wanted to “modernize”, it had to follow the model of European nation-states, control the population of people of color in the country, and create a “purified” Catholic society dominated by whites . Under this kind of thinking, with the military government and the middle class as the cornerstone of governance, the Brazilian rulers advocate white culture, aim at “whitening” and take “blackening” as their commandment.
From the 1920s to the end of World War II, there were strong racist motions in the Brazilian Congress, including “prohibiting the immigration of black individuals to Brazil” and “the number of Asian immigrants to Brazil shall not exceed 5% of the original ethnic groups in Brazil every year”, etc. ; Brazil’s mainstream media has also been full of racism for a long time, calling Asian immigrants “sulphur that is difficult to disperse and dilute.” Until now, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s statement “My skin color is the color of Brazil” is still considered to reveal a certain sense of white supremacy.
In this atmosphere of public opinion, Japanese expatriates are actually regarded as an unwelcome group that hinders the military government’s “whitening” policy. But the Asian diaspora is far from the bottom group that has long been suppressed by the military government in Brazil, which has the largest population of African descent in the world outside of Africa.
Brazilian dance musicians perform during the “Day of Black Awareness” on November 20, 2013. The festival commemorates the murder of Zubi, the leader of the indigenous tribe in Brazil in 1695.
According to the 2022 Brazilian census data, Brazil has 120 million citizens of African descent, accounting for 56% of the country’s total population. Among them, “dark-skinned people” (preto) accounted for 7.6% of the total population, and 43% belonged to mixed races (pardo) with black ancestry. The data show that the decade from 2000 to 2010 was a period of surge in the number of these two ethnic groups. Along with the changing demographics of Brazil, the social landscape and cultural awareness of Brazil have also undergone dramatic changes.
”I heard that there are quite a lot of black people in Brazil, right?” US President George W. Bush asked lightly in a chat with the Brazilian President.
From the 16th to the 19th century, a total of 4 million black slaves were brought to this land. Until 1888, they were all slaves who had no basic rights in the plantations. Under the influence of Western racial eugenics at the end of the 19th century, this ethnic group was considered mentally retarded and advocating violence, and their culture has long been discriminated against and suppressed. In the words of Brazilian black rights activist and writer Lelia Gonzalez: “Brazilian racism consists in negating and erasing our culture and face.”
As the military government collapsed in 1985, Brazilian society reflected on One of the issues of past racial policies was to make Brazilians of color proud of their culture, history, and even their bodies. In the past, Brazilian girls even thought their hair was ugly. And this inferiority complex is exactly what Brazilian black rights activists hope to correct. For another example, black scholars set out to excavate the historical and cultural heritage of the community spontaneously formed by African black slaves after they escaped from the plantations, which extended the historical origin of Brazilian black culture by a lot.
In writing over the years, Princess Isabella of Brazil has been credited with being a key figure in pushing for the abolition of slavery. However, under the impetus of the current black movement, this top-down historical narrative centered on white people has been overturned. In the eyes of black activists, the resistance of slaves themselves to drive social awareness is the key to the end of slavery in Brazil.
The fruit of cultural fusion
Since the end of World War II, the Brazilian government has been advocating the “racial democracy” social system, which means that all citizens, regardless of race, can participate in the daily democratic life of the country. To use the idea of Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Flair to describe it, that is, Brazil has entered the period of nation-building in the 20th century, and racial divisions are about to become a thing of the past. With the rise of a Brazilian main nation that combines east, west, north and south, Brazilian society will Enter the “post-racial” era.
Poles love to complain; in Brazil, joie de vivre is one of the basic values.
In the past, Brazilian girls even thought their own hair was ugly
Even under the military junta, Brazil’s “racial democracy” system was considered somewhat superior to the harsh apartheid regimes of the American South and the anti-Semitic episodes of continental Europe during World War II. After the German Jewish writer Stefan Zweig went to Brazil in exile, he once believed that the racial and cultural barriers here were much less than those in Nazi Germany. Intellectuals tired of the narrow nation-state ethos of the Old World once thought of Brazil as the new land pointing to the future.
Of course, “racial democracy” has a back door: those classified as “illiterate” are disqualified from participating in elections and political activities. And which ethnic groups are most likely to be classified as “illiterate”? That is a lot of native Indians and descendants of black slaves. It may only be a gradual process to promote literacy and allow more people from different cultural backgrounds to shine in Brazilian society.
In Suzanne’s view, to some extent, the Brazilians have distilled a certain cultural identity. “The way of life here is also very attractive, unlike Poland, the country I come from. For example, in Poland, sacrifice is seen as a value and life is more like a series of difficulties to be overcome, while in Brazil, enjoying life is Something to learn from the people here.”
”Interestingly, there is no word ‘enjoy’ in Polish. Poles love to complain; while in Brazil, the joy of life is one of the basic values. Sometimes I go to the barber’s Sometimes, the shopkeeper will provide guests with free sparkling wine, which is really unheard of in other places.”
Allowing citizens of all cultural backgrounds to participate in the construction of the country and the construction of Brazil’s main ethnic group, Brazil’s cultural outlook has become diverse. Like an undiscovered treasure trove, hidden segments of Brazilian society have continued to resurface in recent years. For example, a town of Polish immigrants hidden in southern Brazil was only discovered this year. This border town on the border with Argentina was established in 1906 by a group of Polish immigrants. Today, 90 percent of the town’s residents still identify as having Polish ancestry.
After being exposed by the Polish media, the town finally succeeded in obtaining the right to register Polish as the town’s official language. Of course, their Polish is the Polish of more than 100 years ago, an old-fashioned Polish that has not been baptized by the two world wars and the Cold War.
In Suzanne’s words: “Native South Americans, African cultures, Italian and Portuguese immigrants, even Chinese, Polish or German immigrants, all of these mix together to form a unique whole that tastes like we taste Brazil’s national dish feijoada Same.”