Growing up, I went to school at a wealthy, Anglo-Saxon prep school during the day and retired to my working class, Dominican family at night. I was exposed to plenty of cultures via film, literature, and music, but my lens was Dominican-American and the real-life interactions I had with other cultures were never immersive enough... Continue Reading →
This is the ugly Brazilian paradox. While the country appears celebratory of LGBTQ individuals, on most days LGBTQ people are neglected, abused and often killed. Just as Brazil is the country with the largest Pride parade in the world, it is also the country with the most reported violence against the LGBTQ community. To better understand how these two contradictory realities can apply to a single country requires a greater understanding of how conservative cultural norms and social values contribute to regression in acceptance for the community.
The question of people versus state has been particularly visible this decade. In the last five years, Britain voted to leave the European Union and the autonomous communities of Catalonia and Scotland have made notable efforts to leave Spain and the United Kingdom, respectively. Although it has obtained less traction and media attention, another interesting example, which will serve as the focus of this paper is the Southern separatist movement in the state of Brazil. Known as “O Sul é O Meu País” (The South is My Country), this political organization seeks the independence of Brazil’s three most southern states: Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The organization cites that historic, economic, cultural, social, and geographic differences between their region and the rest of the county, as well as the central government’s (Brasilia) corruption, have driven them to seek secession as the rightful next move.
Civilian inaction exists on a much larger scale than what you likely accredit and it stagnates the efforts made to close socioeconomic gaps between the rich and poor. Specifically, there is a pronounced lack of support for the third sector: NGOs and nonprofits. The organizations comprising this sector are the primary actors and agents of change in the lives of those homeless, hungry, ill, jobless, and poor that you walk by day-to-day. These organizations, often lacking in resources to sustain themselves, are the primary vehicles providing resources to the needy. If you want to help you should be supporting these organizations, but research shows you likely do not.
There is a vulnerability you expose yourself to when you travel, but it is not something to be feared. The awareness, both inner and outer, you gain is rewarding and can definitely be earned without the presence of your family, friends, or partner. I just visited Argentina, the Brazilian state of Parana, and Paraguay (kind of) by myself. Rather than isolation I felt liberation.
“Am I in Europe?” This was what I first thought when visiting the city of Curitiba in the Southern Brazilian state of Parana. Much of Southern Brazil (the state of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul) feels that way because over the last 150 years it has become a melting pot of European cultures. It is evident in the architecture, celebrations, food, and people - it is really White compared to the rest of the country.
Iguazu Falls are the crowning gem of the Atlantic rainforest, but there is so much more to see and explore in the neighboring cities. Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Foz do Iguacu, Brazil; and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay are replete with cultural and tourist attractions fit for everyone. Make the most out of your days (and money) while you visit the falls by checking out these other 10 spots. Here is my all-inclusive guide based on a three-day visit I completed in April 2018.
Niagara Falls on the Canadian-US border may be the most famous waterfall system on the planet, but there are another set of waterfalls that put Niagara to shame. So much so, that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” when she saw them. There is simply no comparison. When you visit Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, you are enveloped by the verdant Atlantic rainforest and over 275 waterfalls (yes, 275). If you need more convincing of their grandeur, know that in 2011, over 100 million people selected them as one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. Oh, I also cried because of how pretty they are (several times)!
Thanks to recent athletic events like the Olympics and World Cup, classic songs like “Girl from Ipanema” (1964) and “Copacabana” (1978), and the Pixar film, Rio (2011), the city has gotten the distinction of being one giant party. But this narrow viewpoint is very American and Europeanized. It erases the rest of the city’s worth. To understand the city, you really have to visit it. Besides retaining some of these elements, Rio also preserves its history and culture.
Regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or background, everyone there felt and acted truly equal. We talked to, danced with and got numbers from complete strangers. It felt normal. Gender and sexual fluidity which still feels so regulated in the U.S. felt normal here. Carnaval felt like one giant middle finger to elitism and structure. This gave our drunken stupor some purposeful action. That is why Brazilian Carnaval is “The Greatest Show on Earth.” No longer do masks and performances hide our real identities, but they are rather used to amplify our true colors.