Northern Ireland’s Liam Gallagher arrived in Brazil in August 1979 and stayed. He has lived in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Curitiba and has a wealth of information about Brazil. He shares with us his love of mineiro cuisine, cachaa and the Brazilian people. He also maps out for you a great bike tour around São Paulo.
Where are you from?
I was born and educated in Northern Ireland, graduating in Modern Languages from the Queen’s University of Belfast in 1978.
When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?
I arrived here in August 1979 on a two-year trainee contract, after joining Lloyds Bank International in London, which in those days operated in Brazil under the banner of Bank of London and South America. My visa was extended, the bank was expanding here and the career opportunities began appearing. In 1988, I accepted the bank’s proposal to become a local executive, thereby giving up my contract staff status. This was really the watershed in my relationship with Brazil.
What do you do?
I worked for Lloyds Bank for 14 years before joining Banco Mercantil de São Paulo. I worked in their international division for just over 8 years. I was made redundant when Bradesco acquired Mercantil in 2002. Thereafter I got heavily involved in teaching Business English and freelance translating. Today, I am International Business Development Manager for Brazil’s premier technical translation / software & web site localisation company, All Tasks Tradues Tcnicas.
What do you miss about home when you are in Brazil?
Firstly, I miss my parents who still live back in Ireland, and they for their part sorely miss their Brazilian grandchildren. Also, I was born and raised in a rural town in county Derry called Limavady, surrounded by mountains, farms, woodlands and rivers. Although a large part of this has disappeared with urban progress” I still miss walking and trekking through the wooded uplands and riverside park that were our playground as kids. In those days I had a Border collie dog, and I used to spend my holidays from school and university taking him for long walks along the river. I would chat to the locals, watch the fishermen at work, before coming home to a true Ulster fry, by way of a detour for a pint or two at my local pub, of course.
What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?
That is a tough one! With the passage of time, I have fully adapted to life here, especially since I have lived in other parts of Brazil besides São Paulo – Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Curitiba – and have travelled extensively, too. Very few things rattle me today. But when I was getting married here, back in 1982, I had to produce all manner of documents in sworn translation, including, believe it or not, a declaration from the parish priest of my home town to the effect that I was indeed single and unencumbered! We accomplished all this without the intermediation of that most Brazilian of characters, the “despachante”. This was my first large-scale encounter with local bureaucracy. To complicate matters, the bishop of Belo Horizonte refused to authorise our wedding in the local churches under his jurisdiction. Fortunately, my wife was able to find an alternative solution, in true Brazilian “jeitinho” style.
What do you most like about Brazil?
The people, in general. They are so varied, there is no stereotyped Brazilian, and that fascinates me. The racial mixture is a cultural cauldron. I particularly like meeting people who live in the interior, so to speak, outside the large urban centres. I find them to be honest, down-to-earth folk, ready to open their doors to you, invite you to visit them and chat to you endlessly. This is particularly true of the “mineiros”. I have a soft spot for Minas Gerais, my favourite region. That is also why I adore mineiro cuisine. Minas Gerais is also home to the best Brazilian cachaas, especially those from the Salinas region.
What is your favourite restaurant here?
In São Paulo I enjoy eating at Graa Mineira, for good mineiro cuisine and a fine selection of cachaas. It is located in Vila Mariana, close to the Santa Cruz Underground Station. Nearer home, in Moema district, my favourite haunt is the Don Pepe di Napoli for Italian cuisine, on Alameda Arapans. And for a good churrasco, it is hard to beat Fogo de Chão, near Congonhas Airport. They also have premises on Avenida Santo Amaro, in the Brooklyn district, close to the Borba Gato statue.
Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?
I am sure I could write a book on this subject. But one of the funniest (pseudo-tragic) incidents happened just after I arrived in Salvador, Bahia in 1980. A colleague and I went with some friends to a beach restaurant for some typical Bahia cooking. We ordered a fish casserole (moqueca de peixe), but when asked if I wanted mine hot (quente) I said yes, of course, who wants to eat cold fish? What I didn’t realise was that ” quente” meant lots of dend oil and other spices! So imagine my reaction to the first mouthful, not to mention the after effects. But I will spare the readers the details!
What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?
Mainly the sheer, physical size, the distances involved in travelling. When Brazilian friends ask me about Northern Ireland, its size and population, they are absolutely amazed it is so small. I have not yet worked out how many Northern Irelands would fit into the city or even the state of São Paulo. But in terms of population, the ratio is in the region of nearly 20 to 1. Also, the regional cultural diversity, including music, food, traditions. This is something that the folks back home have difficulty in grasping- the fact that there are many Brazils.
What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?
Get on your bike! Literally speaking. On a sunny Sunday morning, get on a bike and tour around São Paulo. I’ll only be too happy to come along as your guide. Pedal at your leisure, especially around the old centre calling at the Banespa Building, the Stock Exchange Building, Praa da S and Ptio do Colgio (check out the caf). Tie up your bike to a secure lamppost and go listen to the Gregorian chants in the Mosteiro São Bento – but get there early, it tends to fill up very quickly. Spiritually refreshed, cross the Viaduto do Ch to the art and crafts fair on Praa da Repblica. And if you’re feeling peckish after all this culture, tuck into a “pastel de carne”, a meat pasty washed down with a refreshing glass of “caldo de cana” (freshly squeezed sugar-cane juice.) while taking in a “capoeira” dance presentation. How about biking and making friends? Join the Sampabikers night biking group every Wednesday evening (when it’s not raining). Meet up at the Camelo Pizzaria on Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek, close to Avenida Santo Amaro. The trip lasts between one and two hours. Gringos are always welcome, and you can practice your Portuguese as you cycle or during the post-ride pizza session.
There is so much to do, I could write a book. Suffice it to say São Paulo has something for everyone. Looking at a wider Brazil, with so much on offer we are spoiled for choice. But my short list would include visits to Gramado and Canela in the Serra Gacha, Rio Grande do Sul, the Iguau Falls in Paran, and the amazing rock sculptures at Vila Velha in Paran, about 50 miles (80 km) from Curitiba, near Ponta Grossa. Closer to my heart, Minas Gerais is a must – the historical cities of Mariana, Sabar, Ouro Preto, Congonhas do Campo, São João del Rey, Tiradentes and the mystical São Tom das Letras. In Belo Horizonte, check out the arts and handicraft fair on the Afonso Pena Avenue, a good place to look for Brazilian gemstones and handmade leather goods. Afterwards, make your way to the Mala e Cua Restaurante on Tom de Souza Street, in the Savassi district and tuck into a great “feijoada” accompanied by a delicious caipirinha or two of local cachaa while listening to the sound of two local crooners, one on guitar the other on accordion. However, be sure to leave some room for the delicious local desserts made from milk, guava fruit, pumpkin and bananas.
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To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:
Ken Marshall – Australia
John Milton – England
Pari Seeber – Iran
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Kim Buarque – Wales
Carl Emberson – Australia
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Aaron Day – Canada
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Adam Glensy – England
Lorelei Jones – England
Are you are foreigner living in Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send an email with contact details and a brief description of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org