I am not going to pose as any kind of an expert on Brazil, even though I am writing this from Sao Paulo. Nevertheless I can’t help marveling at how internationally invisible this huge, wealthy and bustling country is. Brazil has 200 million people, two thirds of the US population. It is the Latin American colossus, with a very vital economy and a strong political democracy. But the fact that it speaks Portuguese–and somewhat proudly doesn’t speak either English or Spanish–makes it something of a cultural island. A tourist visa from the US costs $160. You can’t easily find English speakers. I’m told–I don’t know whether it is true–that our hotel desk clerks all speak English, but they don’t volunteer that fact. Brazil seems to be in but not of Latin America, at least regarding cultural products like books and movies. By distance it is very far from Europe or Asia. And by intention it keeps the US at arm’s length. To a surprising extent it appears to be a world of its own.
I admire the cultural pride, the resistance to any suggestion that Brazil needs help from anybody. No doubt that partly explains its strength. But I wonder how realistic it is in today’s global economy.
Any thoughts from those who know Brazil?