Brazil is not the United States. I like that about Brazil. Actually, I really like that about Brazil.
From day one when I first visited this country 13 years ago I loved the fact that vendors walk the sand at beaches everywhere selling cold beverages, warm fresh foods, sun bathing products, sunglasses, bikinis, children’s play toys and whatever else you may desire. I like that about Brazil. In Salvador we even had a little boy come by our spot on the sand every 15 minutes or so and empty a garden watering can over our feet to cool us down (for a small tip). Cute!
To my mind, street vendors selling beverages, hot dogs, Xtudos (cheese burgers w/ everything), ice cream – and on and on are a convenience when hanging out at a block party or waiting for the party to get started inside the Sambadromo.
Is the bus stuck in traffic? Hop on the back of a motorcycle and pay a Motoboy to get you to your destination on time, zig zagging between the backed up cars and trucks. Or, if you are on the bus, reach out the window and buy an ice cold water (or beer) and maybe a package of cookies from a vendor walking up and down the lanes in the traffic jam.
Brazil is not the United States. In the States these kind of entrepreneurial efforts would be forbidden by law or so severely regulated as to significantly reduce the convenience and surely raise prices.
Living in Brazil I can do without the seemingly ever expanding desire by many to “Americanize.” I want to warn people that it is the wrong path forward and that they should be careful what they wish for. But I can understand how television presents the illusion of universal wealth and carefree consumption in the US and how this then ignites a desire in people to get some for themselves – or for politicians to promise they can deliver these wonders once elected.
Personally, I like the fact that 2 liter plastic soda bottles are so thin they collapse under the slightest squeeze (consuming less plastic!) And it seems better in the long run to raise your children with small or very small soda or ice cream portions (which are still quite satisfying) rather than always tilt toward a wasteful and dangerous Super Size for everything.
It is my hope that Brazil will resist the temptation to emulate all that is “American” for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the class dynamics here are very pronounced and the rich seem to reach for the “American” version of things. Thus setting a coveted example. Alas. Television, advertising, peer pressure, all the usual suspects, are homogenizing so many facets of Brazil’s amazing multifaceted cultural expressions. And they are moving us all toward a more wasteful, consumption oriented way of life (among other things).
This “progress” is already infringing on our local experience in a big way. Sadly, it appears to be a tide that will not be reversing any time soon.
|Right next to the "Whole Foods" look alike grocery.|
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for economic progress and how some of this has lifted some (quite a few, in fact) Brazilians out of severe poverty. But being like “America” in and of itself is not synonymous with progress or good. I would argue that Brazilians have created a proud, uniquely multicultural history which can progress all on its own without morphing into a USA clone.
The motivation for this post came from a walk through our neighborhood recently that made me a bit sad. The first Starbucks coffee shop has opened near our apartment (which looks identical to all those I have seen in the States). To my disbelief there is a new (franchise) sports bar named All Games that features US-style football. WTF? (Who goes there?). The worst of it all was discovering a new Burger King opening at an intersection that already has a McDonalds, Dominos Pizza and Subway sandwich joint. Argh – my neighborhood is becoming an “anywhere USA” junk yard.
|Value meals start at R$18|
|You pay for delivery.|
|Three slices of meat per sandwich.|
|If you can find someone in my neighborhood who knows who played in the Super Bowl, I will buy you a venti Starbucks 4 shot espresso latte with a pump of vanilla syrup.|
Brazil is not the United States – and I have always liked that about Brazil. Too bad the status conscious young professionals in the neighborhood are willing to spend R$9 or more for a latte. I have a secret desire that people who grew up drinking a 2 ounce shot of coffee after lunch will not switch to a ‘grande’ or ‘venti’ super sized dose of corporate Kool Aid.