A couple of examples recently highlighted something that has been obvious to me a while now – many foreigners (media especially) think Brazil boils down to just two things: the Amazon and Rio de Janeiro. Heck, you’d forgive people for thinking that Rio itself is a country in its own right, or at the very least the capital of Brazil (ignoring distant history of course).
The first recent example was CNN’s international weather forecast that popped up while I was channel surfing. Of course being an international forecast it meant that South America got a brief mention, and what was the single city that popped up that represented Brazil… the capital?… the largest populated city… both? Nope, none of the above. It was just Rio. The second recent example was a web site, in this instance the BBC’s very own country profile site for Brazil. The map, smack bang at the top, does admittedly show two cities at least, with the capital getting a look in, and inevitably Rio is there again. Other cities get a mention later on in the text, but there’s no space for them on the map. The bottom line is that the media away from Brazil are perpetuating the above stereotype.
But why is it a stereotype that needs breaking? For starters Brazil is a vast country, with that often repeated statistic that it’s bigger in size than the continental USA and about twice the size of Europe. Surely international weather reports highlight more than one city in the USA? The equivalent would perhaps be a dot for New York city, and nowhere else.
The other thing that sticks in my craw is that Brazil’s biggest city often plays a third and very distant fiddle to Rio, and its perhaps equally distant second cousin Brasilia. Do you know what Brazil’s biggest city is? I’m fairly sure that those reading this article, who have more than a passing knowledge of the country, will appreciate it’s São Paulo. Perhaps a better metaphor for the city is the ugly stepsister to Rio’s Cinderella. Although having visited both, on reflection it’s not a fair comparison.
I find it hard to understand why São Paulo is forgotten, particularly when the city is quite simply enormous, and one of the largest in the world (somewhere around 20 million people, depending what source you read). Also it’s widely recognised as Brazil’s primary business city, with Brasilia arguably the political centre, and Rio the tourist centre (although tourism is much wider spread than just Rio, and deservedly should spread beyond Rio). Like any large city, São Paulo does have its less than desirable areas, which tend to be focused on a little too much. Although equally they shouldn’t be forgotten. Even so, the city has a thriving culture, which is exemplified in some of its varied architecture, frequent art exhibitions, and plentiful nightlife.
When it came to naming this article I was in two minds whether to go with: The Forgotten City, or The Forgotten Country. The latter seems equally applicable when it comes to international news. Anyway, I put a challenge out there for journalists and visitors to Brazil alike, to see and research more of the country than just Rio, and not just the forgotten megalopolis of São Paulo. Then make sure you communicate that which you visit to others who don’t know Brazil, so that they in turn can educate. Perhaps in a year or two’s time we might see another Brazilian city on that weather map or country report?
If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would simply like to contact him then email email@example.com.
Previous articles by Mark:
Brazil: Enough of the “Estrangeirismos”
Understanding Brazil: Sense of Humour
Brazil: The “Turistas” Storm in a Teacup
Understanding Brazil: Christmas and New Year’s Traditions
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 5
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 4
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 3
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 2
Brazil: An Interview with Marcia Loebick
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 2
Brazil: Google Maps Gets an Upgrade
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 1
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 1
Brazil: Daylight Savings Time
Brazil: Carjacking and Theft
Brazil: Airport Delays Grow Among Crash Speculation
Brazil: São Paulo&rsquot;s International Film Festival (and The Fountain)
Brazil: Single Gringo Beware!
Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
Brazil: Film Review
Brazil: The Portuguese Language Museum
Brazil: Election Time! Part 2
Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
Brazil: Book Review
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 1
The PCC Shows a New Level of Organisation
Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulo&rsquot;s Pinacoteca
Brazil: Don&rsquot;t Forget, You&rsquot;re in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil’s World Cup Defeat Party
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 4
Brazil: Japanese Standard Chosen for Digital TV
Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman&rsquot;s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let&rsquot;s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil&rsquot;s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN“