I often think of Brazil as the most diverse, complex, and beautiful country in the Americas, and I am fortunate to have traveled through many parts of it. Its wild nature is famous enough and its society is an intricate patchwork of global and indigenous cultures. In June 2001, I spent a Sunday walking the streets of São Paulo, a city that strongly reminds me of Bombay. It is the most energetic and cosmopolitan metropolis of Brazil, its financial and entertainment hub, and a city of great opportunity and strife. Of Brazil, I wrote in an essay:
Futebol, sun, sand, sex, hard bodies, music, dance, tropical fruits, and drinks—picture-postcard Brazil. But there is plenty to ruffle this youth-worshiping light-heartedness and hedonistic living in the present: extreme wealth disparity, urban violence, corruption, unemployment, illiteracy, high birth rate, cast off children, the horror of growing old. Children are ubiquitous in Brazil—half the population is under twenty. Evangelists strive for their souls in small towns and big cities ... Yet, Brazil has also made important strides. Communication, roads, transportation, housing projects, drinking water, and sanitation have come a long way. Multiple races and traditions coexist reasonably well. Villages and large cities rarely betray the kind of crushing poverty one finds in many other developing countries.
Here is some footage from my Sunday in São Paulo, with ordinary people, downtown, Liberdade (Japan town), evangelical Christians, soccer fever, street musicians/performers, sleaze district, prostitutes, the homeless, etc. The most hilarious part is that of a Japanese-Brazilian man in a public square, bursting spontaneously into dance—which later morphs into martial art moves—all to atrocious Christian pop!
(Music soundtrack by Adriana Calcanhotto, Cesaria Evora, Jerry Mulligan, Jane Duboc, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil.)