Small idiosyncrasies and the eyes to recognize them give life a little more color. Just as it began to rain cats and dogs in Curitiba, Brazil, a city in the southern state of Paraná, my friends and I stopped in the nearest dry place we could find, which happened to be a German pub decorated with coats of arms and filled with medieval banquet tables. After eating there, we walked back outside into the street crowded with vendors. Mingling in with the crowds were wandering musicians. One such group represented Hare Krishna as they rambled through the market chanting and beating their drums. In an open plaza just up the street from the pub we saw a group of Ecuadorean indigenous men wearing North American style headdresses singing “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. I felt like I had walked through parts of Germany, Brazil, India, Ecuador and the U.S in five minutes.
In my experience Brazil is full of oddities such as this that highlight different facets of its varied society. The buzzword globalization is tossed around so much that in some ways it is beginning to lose its meaning. The discussion of the blend of Western and Eastern ideologies, mountain and tropical cultures, New World and Old World is almost worn out. But at the same time, the trend is no less relevant. Many people on the island of Floripa fear that the precarious balance between nature and urbanity will be tipped to the detriment of the environment as tourism grows. The man who cut my hair today said he left the steel jungle of Sao Paulo for the tranquility of the island. I met a carioca surfer on Praia Mole beach who said that he feels that Brazil has been “rediscovered” in recent years. Now more economically influential than ever, part of the bloc BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the country is being watched carefully as an emerging global player. The looming spectacles of the 2016 Olympics and 2014 World Cup are both a product of this process and an acceleration of it.
But this is the essence of Brazil. There is perhaps no other another country that has absorbed so many people groups and changed shape so many times. This elasticity is essential to its culture, to its identity.