October 28, 2008
By John Fitzpatrick

The humiliating defeat of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s candidate in the São Paulo mayoral vote is being treated with glee by the anti-Lula media which is painting it as a setback for him. This is wishful thinking as Lula still enjoys massive popular support and the defeat was more of a rejection of the Workers Party (PT) candidate, Marta Suplicy, who is detested by a large section of the electorate. The real winner was not the incumbent, Gilberto Kassab of the DEMs, but the state governor, Jose Serra, who backed him against the wishes of a section of his own PSDB party. Kassab’s victory paves the way for Serra to target the Planalto Palace after Lula steps down. In fact, the São Paulo contest may well have been a forerunner of the 2010 election with Serra pitted against another woman candidate backed by Lula, Dilma Rousseff.

Another victor may have been the DEM party which used to call itself the PFL and originated in the ARENA party which backed the military. When democracy was restored, the PFL tried to position itself as a center-right party which supported free market policies. It failed in ideological terms since there is little appeal for this message in Brazil even among right-wing parties which are strongly nationalist and in favor of a strong role for the state. The party was also closely identified with Senator Antonio Carlos Magalhes who died last year and the northeastern state of Bahia which he dominated for almost 50 years as an old-style autocratic boss. Despite this background, the PFL has always had a good relationship with the PSDB which is a social democratic party. The PFL even provided Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s vice president during his two terms in office – a Northeasterner called Marco Maciel.

The DEMS aim to use Kassab’s four-year term to build up a power base and become a national force. Whether this will work is doubtful as Kassab is seen in many quarters as being almost a puppet of Serra. Some reports say he even wanted to join the PSDB but agreed to stay put at Serra’s command. At the same time, Kassab has little dynamism and if there had been a stronger candidate facing him he might not have won. His victory was due to a combination of antipathy for Marta Suplicy from voters who blamed her for high taxes and poor services during her administration plus an incompetent campaign by the PT which tried to insinuate that Kassab was a homosexual. One particularly inept TV slot targeted his background and raised questions such as Is he married? Does he have children?” as though being unmarried and childless ruled anyone out of politics.

Returning to Serra, he will now have to win over the faction within the PSDB that was annoyed with him for ditching the PSDB candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, for Kassab. This should not be a problem as Serra is now the one of the strongest politicians in São Paulo. A tougher task will be to entice the PMDB, which did well in the elections and (narrowly) won Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, where its candidate, Eduardo Paes, made much of the message of support he received from Lula. Although the PMDB officially supports Lula’s government, it was also a member of Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s governments. It is more interested in sitting at the top table than having the presidency itself and if it feels that Serra is a winner then it would not hesitate to ditch the PT and return to a PSDB-led government. The same goes for a number of the smaller parties which back Lula.

In any case, the presidential election is not usually seen as a contest between parties but individuals and much will depend on the PT’s choice of candidate. At the moment this looks like being Lula’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff. Despite being Lula’s favorite, Rousseff has no political experience and is unknown among the general public. The PT may decide that a heavyweight would be a better choice and opt for someone like Jaques Wagner, the governor of Bahia, or the justice minister, Tarso Genro. One long-standing PT member who will not be called up to dispute the presidential election is Marta Suplicy although, who knows, we might see her returning to the federal government as a minister or stand for the state governorship elections in two years time.

One final point, there is still a long way to go to 2010 and, given the present financial and economic volatility, it would be unwise for Serra to take anything for granted. Lula might find that the last two years of his presidency will be devoted to coping with the fallout of a world recession which could hammer Brazil and overturn all the benefits of recent years. This could lead to him throwing caution to the winds and turning his back on the “neo-liberal” policies hated by leftists in the PT and returning to its traditional policies of raising government spending, ignoring inflation and sending Brazil back to the bad old days. In circumstances like this the next election could become a battle between a social democrat like Serra and a socialist like Rousseff where ideology rather than personality plays a big part. In this case, Serra could face a tougher battle than he might imagine at the moment.

John Fitzpatrick 2008

John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish writer and consultant with long experience of Brazil. He is based in São Paulo and runs his own company Celtic Comunicaes. This article originally appeared on his site http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. He can be contacted at jf@celt.com.br.

Previous articles by John Fitzpatrick on www.gringoes.com:

Looking for Brazil’s Moon Under Water
Brazil’s Lula Finally Stops Playing the Blame Game
Brazil: Coming Up – Serra versus Dilma?
Brazil Becomes Middle Class but Not Bourgeois
Where is Brazil’s Barack Obama?
Brazil: Lula Loses Some of His Moral Luster
Lost Your Job on Wall Street? Head for Brazil!
Brazil: Lula Loves Investment Grade – Whatever That Is
There’s No Business Like Oil Business – in Brazil Anyway
Benefits of Brazil’s Growth Start to Spread
Let Brazilians Sort Out the Problems of the Amazon
Brazil’s Politicians Set to Cash in on Oil and Gas Discoveries
Brazil: Lula Learns the Lesson of Not Planning Ahead
Cops and Robbers Brazilian Style
Brazil: Oscar Freire – São Paulo’s Street of Dreams
Brazil: Lula Called to Account on Tax
Will Lula Leave Brazil in Safe or Unsafe Hands?
Senate Spits in the Face of the Brazilian People
The Lord Mayor Goes Zapping the NYSE in Brazil
Brazil: Economic Boom – Political Gloom
Around Brazil: Natal – Sun, Sand Dunes and Solitude or Hassle, Hustlers and Hookers
ACM – Brazil Will Never See His Like Again
Brazilians Let Politicians Treat Them as Doormats
Senate Chairman Upholds Tradition of Treating Brazil with Contempt
Brits Turn Their Backs on Brazil
Look Out for the New BBC – the Brazilian Broadcasting Corporation
Navel Gazing in Brasilia – Largesse in São Paulo
Brazil’s Politicians Share the Spoils
Cida – A Brazilian Entrepreneur
Ten Top Brazilian Songs to Download on Your iPod
Lula Lets Brazilians Down by Failing to Exercise His Authority
Brazil: Laid Back Lula Finally Gets His Team (Almost) Together
The George W. Bush PR Show Comes to Brazil
Briefing Bush on Brazil the CIA Way
US Authorities Tackle Brazil’s White Collar Criminals
Brazil’s Opposition Parties Try to End Disarray
Lula Faces Arm-Wrestling Contest with New Congress
Brazil Waits for Lula to Return from Holiday
Around Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba
Brazilians Start to Stand Up for Their Rights
Darfur – Brazil’s African Side Show
Economics and Politics in Brazil – a Tangled Web
Brazil’s Strange Idea of Democracy
Brazil: John Pizzarelli – the Boy from Ipanema
Brazil’s Stock Market: the Path to Riches or Rags?
Brazil: Lula Unlikely to Change Course after His Massive Victory
Brazil: Privatization – Lula and Alckmin Defend the Indefensible
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 2
Brazil: Many Emigrants, Fewer Immigrants Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin Hits Lula but Lands No Killer Blow
Brazil: Lula Pays the Penalty for Complacency
Brazil: Does Lula Deserve to Win?
Brazil: Cardoso Writes a Poison Pen Letter
Monte Verde – Brazil’s Green Mountain
Brazil’s Gross Disappointing Product
Brazil’s Election – Alckmin Hands Lula Victory on a Plate
Lula Hits Back at Congress
Brazil’s Presidential Election May Not be a Walkover for Lula
Pity the Brazilian Voter
Brazil’s Fainthearts Let the Nation Down
Now is the Winter of Brazil’s Discontent
World Cup brings Out the Best and Worst in Brazil
Brazil’s Big Spender
Brazil: The Dogs of War are Unleashed in São Paulo
Brazil: Self-Righteous Indignation Marks Bolivian Nationalization
Brazil: Lula Still Vulnerable
Brazil: The PSDB Takes the Hard Road
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 3
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 2
Fooling Around with Brazilian Politics and History Part 1
Brazil: Alckmin the Hare Takes on Serra the Tortoise
Patronizing Brazilians the Politically Correct Way
Brazil: Election Gives Voters Chance to Clean Up Congress
Brazil: João Pessoa – a Victim of its Own Success
No Consistency in Brazil’s Foreign Policy
Brazil: Sitting in the Shadow of Sarney and Magalhes
Brazil: Gentrification Creeps Up On São Paulo
Dirt Flies as Brazilian Parties Aim for Presidency
Brazilians Vote for Guns and Death Not Peace and Love
Brazil’s Gun Lobby Launches Hysterical Campaign Against Arms Ban
Jews and Arabs Find Success in Brazil
Brazil’s Politicians Start Looking Ahead to Next Year
Brazil: Lula Down but Certainly Not Out
Brazil’s Congress Struggles to Cope with Ongoing Crisis
Brazil: Scandal Threatens Presidential Mandate System
Brazil: If Lula is to Survive He Needs to Change His Tactics
Brazil: Many Parties – Few Ideas
Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Helping the Helpless in Brazil
Pinheiros – São Paulo’s Best District
Growing Old (Dis)gracefully in Brazil
Canudos, Still With Us 100 Years Later
The Rise of the Brazilian Empire
Brazil and Portugal – The Samba and the Fado
Brazil – Just A State Of Mind
Brazil: For Lula, is Ignorance Bliss?
Brazil: Pay Day – or Pay Dirt?

October 28, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

I just know you’re not going to agree – and would be interested to see other gringoes comments, but I have a couple of burning issues.

1) why can’t Brazilians say no! I would much rather be told the truth! So many occasions have passed during the past 2 years of knowing this amazing country, people say yes to something, for example, so you will be here at 11:30, that’s great thanks! When the outcome is they meant no, I had no intention of being anywhere near your address on that day, and will knock on your door in the future and appear to have not an ounce of apology for letting you down! It is so frustrating, it has left me with a rather giddy feeling of wondering if they mean it – yes that is! Next…

2) What on earth happened to being on time?, close to it, near to it (which is still wrong). A long ago I realised that time is, well, not really the big issue it would appear – of little importance, people have told me it is expected to be late, what? An appointment albeit business or social is a specified time, our daily lives go round it! Even at my daughters school when the invitation said for example 6pm as it did recently at an event, we duly turned up and sat, and sat… watching the decorations being put up, the sound system being checked – the tables being neatly laid… it eventually started at 8:23 – what message does this send out to the next generation, I am laughing by the way, a little hysterically. Please don’t let me start telling about workmen who arrived days late, or those who had said yes they will start tomorrow, when in fact they had as it turned out meant no. If you don’t agree with either of my two heartfelt pleas to be let into the secrets so I can understand more, then just tell me one thing, why when an appointment is made by myself to a new client am I asked – is that British time???!!!

— Jane

Dear Jane,

Ive mentioned before in this column: Brazilians see themselves as a group, it is crucial to keep a good relationship with everyone and saying “no” is a way to ruin a relationship for a Brazilian.

We cant say no. It’s rude. Unless someone is offering you something, then we have to say “no, thanks”, but then youre suppose to insist, until we say “ok, I will have a bite”.

Would it be easier to say no when you mean no and say yes when we mean yes. Of course. But that’s the way we are. We are different. And believe me, we get frustrated too with you guys: I remember I was in England, I was starving after a 12 hour flight, when I got to the host family house, the host mother asked me once if I wanted something to eat and I said “no, thanks, Im fine”, and she said, “ok, good night”.

I understand youve been here for two years, so you probably already know how nice a Brazilian tends to be. When youre invited for a party you gringos say “sorry, I have plans”. Brazilians say “Sorry, it’s my Mom’s birthday, what a drag”.

It’s only a lie. Or a big lie: “Sure, I will be there”.

Here’s the thing, Jane, Brazilians socialize all the time and usually are very insistent: “Come to my place! Eat with us! Call me tonight!”. You have no idea how many invitations I get in a week. It’s impossible to make it, so we lie to avoid the insistence. “Ah, sim claro, vamos sim”. “Não, pode deixar”, “Eu te ligo”.

All these sentences are lies.

From this column Ive learned you gringos get very frustrated with Brazilians (time, lies, wrong answers) and I see that I rarely feel like the same, and I dont know why… but now I know: I am Brazilian! I know exactly what “Ah, sim, claro” means. It means NO.

There are plenty of NOs that might be a puzzle to you gringos, but we Brazilians know what NO is. I really never get disappointed with people not showing up, because I know when someone is just saying yes to please me. I instantly recognize that. I do the same!

I am teaching Portuguese to a gringo friend and this is a great insight for his next class. The yes that means a no: “Ah, sim claro, vamos sim”. “Não, pode deixar”, “Eu te ligo”. NO. NO. NO.

Now, about being on time:

The scene you have described at the school is just the most hilarious Ive ever heard. And yes, it is absurd. Im so sorry to say that you will eventually learn to set the Brazilian clock and, as someone else told you before, be late too. Or, as Brazilians do, if you need someone to be there at 20h, say they have to be there at 19h. It works!

There are two basic rules that every Brazilian knows from birth:

#1: The smaller the event is the less late people will be.

#2: The bigger the event the later.

Business appointments are not meant for lateness, Jane. It will happen for 15 minutes, later than that you allowed to frown upon. I do. (Everyone else I know do it too, unless the boss is the one late… or a client).

I tried to make a list of how late you should be, for a Brazilian appointment:

Birthdays at home: 45min expected. If a Brazilian tells you “be at my place at 20h”, be gentle and get there at 21h30. If you get there at 20h you might catch your Brazilian friend in the shower.

Birthdays at restaurants: Someone will have to be there on time to get the table, if youre the one on time, you will be this someone waiting for the rest of the crew, alone. So make sure to get there 30-40 minutes later.

Dating: Of course if you have an appointment, like a movie or a play, you cant be late. Other than that… you gained 30 minutes to choose a nicer outfit. It’s good!

Night club parties: There’s no such thing as a specific time when youre invited for a party at a night club. Brazilians will get there between 00h and 2h.

Home parties: 1h is late is chic.

Weddings: If you are going to the church, be on time to gossip about the flowers and everything among the old ladies. If youre only going to the party… remember rule #2.

I think were covered, but please send more events so we can try to make this list better.

If you wanna know more about the Business Rules read this previous Q&A Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

October 28, 2008

Join fellow São Paulo expats for a Thursday evening of classic rock and Guinness on tap, October 30, at 9pm.

Finnegan’s Irish Pub
Rua Cristiano Viana, 358 – Pinheiros
R$9.00 – Call (11) 3062-3232 to reserve a table.

For future gigs refer to

0 Comments/by

October 22, 2008

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

I am curious to know more about traditional gender roles in Brazil – particularly the responsibilities and qualities of husbands and wives. Also are these traditional roles still observed or have they changed with time and cultural shifts?

— Heather

Heather,

I haven’t get married yet, but in general the roles are:

Husbands make the money (men generally make more money.)

Wives are in charge of the house, and the kids.

They both work. they have to; to be able to raise the kids with the best there is, with things they didnt have e.g. a bachelor degree, a doll, a trip outside the country (most Brazilians recently reached middle class, they used to be poor).

In a Brazilian marriage, everything is about the child and being able to see them make it.

Im not saying it is an obsession, only a pleasure, a relief.

Of course it’s hard to talk on behalf of everyone, every marriage is two different people, but Brazilian families tend to be close, children tend to be overprotected, parents tend to be forever worried about you.

Brothers and sisters will always be a part of your life, even in a weekly call, and it’s hard when they leave, for marriage, and they suddenly became a member of another family, their wive’s.

The daughter’s marriage is every daddy’s dream. and we are supposed to get married, and then have kids immediately, to make another Brazilian family, a bunch of very emotional people, that will always be attached, no matter what.

Thanks for your question,

Vanessa Taguchi Bauer

Readers comments:

As a Brazilian, I can pretty much say that what Vanessa described is not fully true – and as she said, every couple is different.

In matter of past and statistics, males make more money than females. And often females are due to take care of the children, but this is changing dramatically.

Even though my mother is at a higher educational level than my father – she attended college and my father didn’t – I can say my mother was still in charge of the household (we had a maid but she was kind of managing the whole thing).

The last generation (my parents) were pretty much used to the paternalist system, but nowadays it’s easy to see that many girls are attending college and they want more than that – they want a career. Many of them are giving up marriage – some of them even dislike the idea – because they want to be on the same “level” as men are. Equal rights.

So it really depends: I would conclude we are living in a transition era (which will take a while, anyway).

— Diogenes

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Ask a Brazilian” in the subject. We will forward to our Brazilian experts, and publish the best questions (and replies) on the site.

Previous articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

October 22, 2008

The Holiday season is approaching, and no matter what nationality we are, we all have something to be thankful for. This year you have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving at the annual Graded PTA Thanksgiving Celebration, an event open to all within the international community of São Paulo.

The Thanksgiving Celebration will take place on Saturday, November 29, 2008 at Graded School in Morumbi, from 11am to 4pm. The day’s activities will include musical performances, a traditional Thanksgiving meal, games and activities, and a mini-praca of artisans and vendors. This is a celebration not to be missed!

The festivities will begin at 11am with an Opening Ceremony introduced by the US Marines. The Ceremony will feature a patriotic holiday musical program by talented Graded students. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies will lead a Flag Ceremony, followed by the National Anthem of the United States of America and the National Anthem of Brazil. Richard Detwiler, Graded’s Superintendent, will also give a welcome address. Then it will be the turn of the Graded School Band and the 4th and 5th Grade Choir to perform a program of songs, and finally some students will lead a reflection on what we have to be thankful for.

After the opening ceremony the children will be able to go and join in with a whole host of games and activities, that will continue throughout the day. You will have the chance to start your Christmas shopping at the mini-praca, which will feature around 60 vendors and artisans, as well as local charities selling handmade items to raise funds.

The highlight of the day is the traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with succulent roast turkey and all the trimmings, including cranberry sauce. This will be followed by a tasty slice of home-made pumpkin pie or apple pie. The meal will be served from 12.30pm onwards (continuous seating style). Left-food will be available for sale and is always snapped up quickly!

Why not put November 29 in your diary and bring your friends to share Thanksgiving at Graded this year? Join with the Graded PTA in its long-standing celebration of sharing and giving thanks together with the community. Happy Thanksgiving from the Graded PTA!

Tickets are R$30 per adult. Children aged 6-12 years pay R$20, and under fives are free. Tickets go on sale November 3. For more information and your tickets please contact Stephanie Peters smpeters3@hotmail.com. Tel 8477 9813.

Please note that your ticket will be required to gain entry on the day. Entrance to the school will only be via the entrance on Jose Galante.

Can’t make this up