In the midst of rolezinhos, controversial middle class teenage encounters happening in important cities of Brazil, many things came to mind about socio-economic development in this country. Therefore, today’s post I’ll dedicate it to providing my perspective on general social realities instead of only talking about gender. Analyzing the structure of the city of São Paulo that I’ve been experiencing since a little more than a month ago, I can say that my view as a foreigner allows me to have a total different perspective and opinion regarding social issues in this country. While owners of shopping malls complain about having full-of-hormone-teenagers meet at their businesses to se divertir, young activists claim their right for recreation and use of public space, and protests on the expenses on the FIFA World Cup keep rising, I have a partially different view on social development in Brazil.
I remember a month and a half ago looking out the window in a plane, seeing the incredibly large view of one of the biggest cities in Latin America, and thinking: “was this really a good idea?” I was scared. I remember people telling me to be careful, that Brazil was unsafe and what not. This had just come to my head once again. While looking at the infinite traffic and city lights of São Paulo, I remembered that in this majestic city, I barely knew how to say hi and thank you in Portuguese. When I got to the hostel a few hours later and my stomach was obviously begging me for food, I remember running to the closest place (one block away), frightened, thinking that something would happen to me. But nothing happened, and nothing has happened yet. Someone had told me before: “it’s like a New York City, but crazier” so I was, of course, expecting madness. But no. For being one of the most important cities in the country and one of the main financial capitals of the continent, the city is extremely well organized. The subway is impeccable, fresh air surrounds it, people don’t push, it smells really good, and it’s not complicated to understand. People are extremely helpful and nice on the streets. They might be getting late to work, but they are always willing to get out of their way to help foreigners and other people get to their destination. A big apple full of kind people. How awesome is that?
There’s a really interesting initiative that offers (generally free) health, culture, and recreation for some of the inhabitants of the main cities. These places are called SESC (Serviço Social do Comércio) and here in São Paulo they have different locations which include tennis courts, Olympic swimming pools, track fields, gym, and other health, well-being, and lazer (recreational) commodities. Also, young people are extremely encouraged to go to college. Students get an array of awesome (yes, there’s no other way to describe those) benefits: They get half price in public transportation as well as in movie theaters- watching a movie in the big screen costs only 5 US dollars. Public education is strongly funded by the government- making public universities the best in the country and the best in Latin America. Moreover, students that study hard and go through the extremely stressful period of terceiro ano (Senior year of high school) and taking cursinhos to pass the tests required by the faculdades, are often able to get economic support to complete their higher education.
I’m not trying to deny the fact that there are still many socio-economic issues in this country. From my personal perspective from a foreigner that was raised in a developing Latin American country, I believe that Brazil is not in such a bad place. Safety issues, favelas, economic inequality, and accessible healthcare are some of the issues that the country faces. Rolezinhos are certainly an issue, as well as the non-inclusive aspects and expenses of the upcoming FIFA world cup but I just wanted to point something out. Foreigners: Brazil is NOT a slum full of soccer players with samba music playing in the background and garotas dancing all over the place. It is much more than that. Brazilians: Vocês não só moram num pais tropical, moram num país mágico, com problemas que vão ter uma pronta solução. Once again: parabéns!