Brazil, Lessons in Coexistence and Incongruence

By Daniel de la Calle

What you see below is Brazil:

While going through some of the pictures I took here I was struck by the realization that exactly what makes this country so fascinating is what turns it so easy to hate, impossible not to love, so tricky to fully grasp.  Everything happens together, kind of simultaneously and often in an extreme fashion.  Opposed elements coexist one on top of the other, like the favela slums that levitate over the Leblon and Ipanema penthouses of Rio de Janeiro, and shoulder to shoulder, like that cactus sharing a rock crevice with some moisture loving ferns and moss, or like the oil platforms that will soon fill the waters of the beautiful and pristine Ilha Grande and neighboring islands:

Yes, it is ubiquitous situation, but in no country that I have been to have I seen it taken to this extreme.  This is a nation filled with natural resources, blessed with an ideal climate, but with tens of millions of poor families living in peril at slums, scraping for food and shelter, a country that hosts the largest green lung in the planet, the largest river, the area with the greatest biodiversity, but at the heart of this realm of nature an ever-growing mammoth city, Manaus, thrives with industrial development and threatens the endless foliage that currently envelops it.  Maybe not for much longer, though: two severe dry periods have recently affected the Amazon jungle, one in 2005 and another last year.  The darkly poetic paradox comes now: due to the death and putrefaction of its trees the Amazon jungle emitted almost the same amount of CO2 as the USA did through the use of fossil fuels (5 billion during 2005 dry and 5,4 billion in 2009 in the USA).  I say this is totally unacceptable and propose for the whole jungle should be cut down as soon as possible.

Brazil has been facing problems of great magnitude for decades, inequalities completely up your face, tangible, heartbreaking, even more inexcusable in the middle of its vast wealth, but its politicians and decision makers just decided to embark in the romantic mission of changing the constitution to include the right to happiness.  In order to survive this, between madness and samba I am going to go for the latter tonight.

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