Monday, October 4, 2010

Decision 2010

Prepare´s time to talk politics--Brazilian style. As some of you may have heard, yesterday was election day in Brazil. However, because none of the presidential candidates received a majority of the votes there will be a re-vote on October 31. I will briefly walk you through the election process in Brazil and explain how they got to this point, and what will happen in the next month.

To start off I will run through the basics:

-Brazil is a democracy and has a similar set-up to the United States. There´s a president who is elected every four years by the general public. The current president is Lula, a member of O Partido dos Trabalhadores (The Worker´s Party).

-There are 26 states, plus a Federal District, and each one has a governor, who is elected at the same time as the president. My state is called Minas Gerais, and the new governor is Antonio Anastasia of O Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democrat Party).

-There is a national and state congress, and senators are elected along with everyone else.

-You can vote at the age of 16 here. It becomes manditory once you turn 18.

-The top three presidential candidates are/were:
  • Dilma Rousseff, Lula´s hand-picked successor, also a member of o Partido dos Trabalhadores.
  • Jose Serra, of o Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, and
  • Marina Silva, of o Partido Verde (the Green Party).
Since no one received a majority of the votes, the top two candidates, Dilma and Serra, will go into round two. Voting is scheduled again at the end of this month and either Dilma or Serra will be elected president after another month of campaigning.

An important thing to note about Brazilian political parties is that there are a lot of them, and power can shift among many of them. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between Brazilian and American politics is that there is a lot less partisianship in Brazil. Because voting is mandatory, peope are forced to take the time to really learn about a candidate and vote beyond political parties. Each candidate is assigned a number, and the voter must know the number in order to place their vote. This is another convenient way to make people do at least some research about the candidates. The other thing that I have noticed is that people here openly talk about who they are voting for--something that is kept very private in the United States, people being afraid that the information could be used against them as some huge personal judgement. In Brazil, it's not necessarily party versus party, rather than issue versus issue. Hey America, let's take note of this.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to through the actual voting process with my host family. Similar to the U.S., you are assigned a location to vote based upon where you live. They split you up even further once you arrive based upon your name. I went with my host mom and sister to a classroom (voting was being held in a technical college) where there was one booth set up. Voting was done electronically this year, which greatly sped up the process. We had a list of the numbers of the candidates and all you had to do was enter in the numbers in the booth and you were done! We had cast our vote in about 2o seconds! Afterwards we went to meet up with my host dad who was still waiting in line and I was able to vote a second time with him.

Electronic voting is a very convenient method of voting. Not only is it fast while you are actually voting, but the results are announced much faster as well. Only about 45 minutes after the polls closed we knew who the new governor of Minas Gerais was. It took longer for the presidential results to come together because the Amazonian states had voted by paper, and their ballots had to be counted. By nine o'clock that night we learned that none of the presidential candidates had received a majority vote and that, as a result, there would be a second round.

Over all, I found the whole process incredibly interesting. I look forward to comparing my voting experience here with voting back in the United States (I am missing my first election year as an eighteen-year-old back in the US).

As for Decision 2010 here in Brazil, there is still one more decision to be made. I am sure I will have some more political comments after election number two. For now, tchau e beijos do Brasil.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


When people ask me what I knew about Brazil before I arrived I have two answers: the Amazon, and soccer. I am going to devote this blog entry to the latter, and in many respects, more well known aspect. There's a reason Brazil has won the World Cup more times than any other country in the world--they are obsessed with the sport, and (excuse the language) they are damn good at it, too. At least, the boys are. Girls have yet to embrace the actual playing of soccer, though they are equally enthusiastic about all other aspects of the sport.

(Pictured below: Cruzeiro's starting line-up. My little sister was one of the kids who walked in with the team. She's in the middle wearing blue shorts and a blue jersey.)

The "futebol" culture is taught at a young age and begins with the selection of a team. In Minas
Gerais you are either a "Cruzeirense" or an "Atleticano".

I will now take a brief moment to interject with my bias.....CRUZEEEIIIRROO!!!!....The team selection can vary family to family. My family right now is Cruzeirense. My next family is Atleticano (my host mom's grandfather was one of the original founders of the club), and my third family is divided between the two teams. Once you have chosen your team (or have been born into a team), it's your team. There's no going
back. No matter how many times Atletico loses this year they will still have their fans screaming that "Galo" is the best (the team's mascot is a rooster, or "galo" in Portuguese). And no matter how many times Cruzeiro wins, Atleticanos will never jump ship. There just is not a true comparison to Brazilian futebol fans' dedication in the United States. I think the greatest contributing factor to this is that Americans follow many different teams of different sports and levels, whereas in Brazil, it's soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Their enthusiasm is concentrated in a single sport, and therefore, general craziness ensues.

(Pictured below: Fans celebrate after Cruzeiro scores their first goal of the game.)

I have experienced three Cruzeiro games (four after tonight) and consider myself a new Cruzeirense for life. It's hard to put a Brazilian soccer match in words, though I will do my best, accompanied by some photos. The first thing that you should know is that Brazilians are
generally very warm, welcoming people. However, at a soccer match, they are not. There's not really such a thing as good sportsmanship here. The other thing to know is that the fans also have a very limited vocabulary at these games, comprised mostly of swearwords, inappropriate name-calling, "VAI!" (which means "go!"), and when it occurs, "GOL!" ("goal!"). In general, the swearing and name-calling is reserved for the opposing team and referees, and occasionally the coach. Whenever a player from the other team gets close enough, for example, when there's a substitution, fans take the opportunity to bombard the player with name-calling, as illustrated by my host father and sister in the picture below.

My favorite is when the older men yell, like the man pictured on the left, after the picture of my host dad and sister. I can't put it in to words, firstly because it would be hugely innapropriate, and secondly because I don't know how to spell half of what was said.

The third thing about Brazilian soccer matches is that there can be a lot of violence. This is why only fans from one team are allowed to watch the match--at least, that's how it happened in Sete Lagoas in the game between Cruzeiro and Atletico. Only Atletico fans were allowed to attend that game in order to prevent fighting between the fans. The three other Cruzeiro games were attended entirely by Cruzeirense, minus maybe a dozen supporters of the other team, who sat in a small section on the end. Not only is there violence between the fans of opposing teams, but there can be violence directed at, and between, members of the opposing team as well as the referees. One of my favorite parts of the game (besides Cruzeiro scoring goals, of course) is when the referees are walked off the pitch by five fully armored police officers (pictured above). It's great.

These games are not all violent and hateful, as it may have come across. The fans are just very passionate people! One example of the love shown by fans was at the last game the entire stadium sang "happy birthday" to Cruzeiro's amazing, beautiful goal keeper Fabio (pictured on the left). It was seriously so cool! I want a stadium of 17,000 people to sing me happy birthday...

I get so much joy from going to these games, and will never miss a Cruzeiro game in Sete Lagoas if I can help it. The stadium is conveniently located just up the street from my first host family's home. Before the game there are usually between a dozen and twenty other people all hanging around, drinking beer and talking about the upcoming match. We walk up to the game, watch and cheer, and return only to turn on the television and watch interviews with the players, highlights, and clips from other games. The next morning at breakfast, the television is on and once again we watch highlights from the night before. So. Much. Soccer. But, I love it!

Tchau e beijos gente......e VAI CRUZEIRO!

The pre-game huddle and the "Raposas", the Cruzeiro mascot.