Opinion, by Samantha Barthelemy
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – I’m half-Belgian, a fact most people don’t know about me. It’s not that I’m not proud of my European heritage, but saying “I’m from Brazil” is just so much cooler and always followed by “I love Brazil” or “I really want to visit.”
I cannot empathize with American friends who tell of trying to conceal their nationality when traveling abroad. I’ve been fortunate to visit nearly thirty countries in the past twenty years and, every time, to be greeted with nothing less than smiles, open arms and praise for being Brazilian.
I’m from a tropical country, blessed by God and naturally beautiful.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Brazilians? “Fun,” says my Mexican friend, “I imagine a people full of life.”
“In Lebanon, during the World Cup, if the people have to choose between the Brazilian soccer team and the president, they will choose the team,” jokes my Lebanese friend.
We are the country of alegria, music, five World Cup victories, Carnival, chopp, beaches, year-round sunshine, and the world’s most beautiful women. Being Brazilian comes with a unique feeling of belonging to the “best people in the world” only my compatriots can understand. Is there a reason not to be proud to be Brazilian?
We are the fifth largest country in the world, in size and population, the fourth largest democracy and, if Lula’s dreams come true, soon to be the fifth largest economy. Our relations with our neighbors are generally good. We keep finding vast oil reserves in our territory. We are a country free from war and (generally) the threat of natural disasters. We were one of the last ones to enter the recession in 2009, and first ones to get out.
We were selected to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, the world’s two biggest sporting events. In 2010, we did what many of the “more developed” nations have yet to achieve: with less than three decades of democratic rule, we elected a woman president.
Our economy grew nearly eight percent last year. According to the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of Brazilians say their nation is already one of the most powerful in the world, while 53 percent think it will eventually be among the most powerful.
Our country is, unquestionably, on the rise and we are celebrated and admired worldwide.
True, there is the bureaucracy, the corruption, the “Brazilian way,” the inadequate infrastructure, the abysmal education and health services, the drug traffic, the violence, the high rates of homicide, poverty and inequality.
But every single problem pointed out is surmountable. And trying to surmount them we are.
On top of that my people are generous, welcoming, cheerful, dynamic, creative, beautiful and hopeful. Even in the face of neglect, violence, poverty, marginalization and hardship, Brazilians believe in and hope for the best.
Imagine how high our country could rise if Brazilians’ hopes were coupled with politicians’ commitment to making this country a land of opportunity for all.
A Belgian-Brazilian native of Rio de Janeiro and former United Nations journalist, Samantha Barthelemy is a dual degree Masters of International Affairs student with Columbia University and the Paris Institute of Political Studies, specializing in International Security Policy, Brazilian Studies and Communications. http://samanthabarthelemy.blogspot.com/