Monday, November 3, 2008
Barack in Brazil
For the five or six people that regularly read, or at least open, my blog BND, I am back today. After three weeks of unfortunate silence (or fortunate), I am back on the day before one of the most important days in recent American history.
And I am in Brazil. I have been, as some of you may know, and for almost five years. My wife, who is Brazilian, and I have been taking care of our two sons here in Bauru, in the state of Sao Paulo, and beofre that lived in the very poor city of Nova Iguacu, outside of the crazy and famous Rio de Janeiro.
For the last year and a half, I have been able to witness another country, namely, Brazil, size up the American race for the White House. I have read in Brazilian newspapers, watched Brazilian reports from the US about how the vote might go, and all the varied candidates. And I have seen some amazing things in a country that has been neglected, overall, by the US, since the military dictatorship finished in 1985.
To give the reader a little example of how big the election has gotten down here in Brazil, or at least in the state of Sao Paulo, the richest and most advanced in the country, in downtown Sao Paulo, Obama T-shirts are all the rage. To the point that Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest and best daily newspaper, ran a piece about how popular the shirts are, and how impossible they are to find, after selling out in a matter of days.
Even going back to Hillary v. Obama, the primaries were hugely covered down here. It got to thepoint where letters to the editor were asking why the American process was getting more coverage than the lead-up to mayoral elections around the country. And things have only heated up since.
For the last two weeks especially, my classes have been increasingly interrupted, or started by the question: 'Who will you vote for?" When I tell my English students that I've already voted, by absentee ballot, most are a little amazed and confused, since I tell them I voted a month ago. Here the process is completely uniform throughout the country, and completely automated. The same machine in every single voting venue. U.S. voting seems so antiquated to Brazilians, who look at the U.S., for all its faults, as a relative beacon of technology. Paper voting is just so old-fashioned to your average Brazilian.
I don't know who is going to win tomorrow night, but I do know that it has been really interesting and enlightening to see things from afar, and through the eyes of another american country, far to the south, but in the midst of the madness, too. It has been hard for Brazilians to not get at least a little caght up in the whole circus, and I sure have. I wish I could have done more to help the cause, but it was great to see how this election has galvanized and woken up so many in so many far-flung places, like Bauru.