I always knew I was special. And apparently, so did Brazil. And so the cities of the magnificent Emerald and Topaz plunged into chaos and excitement at my arrival. Riots broke out as people clamored to catch a glimpse of my royal highness descending for the first time ever onto Brazilian soil. A truer story has never been told.
And upon my overactive imagination calming down, I will say that I arrived in Brazil in the midst of an actual revolution that had nothing to do with me. Constituting a collective sleeping giant, Brazilians are protesting the country over to claim fairness and rights. Demonstrating against corruption, civic priorities, and lack of transparency amongst other issues, the Brazilian people have taken to the streets to show everyone that the World Cup is not the most important of their main concerns; that the necessity of quality hospitals, better schools, and transparent government activity far exceed even its beloved football. And this uprising all began with the fares of public transportation going higher than many people are able to pay.
I have had the privilege to witness a peaceful demonstration in the streets of Surubim, a small city in Pernambuco numbering around 60,000. Working with the local police, who cleared out streets to make way for the demonstration march, Surubim protestors painted their faces in the iconic national colors green and yellow, and held signs showing what they cared about most: education, political fairness, and healthcare.
The organization O Brado Retumbante (an expression from the Brazilian national anthem meaning “The Resounding Cry”) led the protest, speaking passionately in Portuguese as they marched. The wireless microphone connected to a truck behind the procession with booming speakers that amplified the voices of demonstration. I got to meet the organizers, who apparently were not holding demonstrations in my honor, as my ego had thought, but who genuinely cared about the state of their nation, and who wanted most to see Brazil progress into the future on the right foot.
At the end of the protest, the organizers, young people between the ages of 18 to 24, went from passionate demonstrators to regular people who joked around with me, but also let me know something that would be relevant later: there are some people who make the legitimate grievances of the Brazilian people look bad. From comparisons to famous contemporary Jamaican track stars to speaking with the most adorable small child who asked me a million random questions in Portuguese (Where is your wife? Do you have a son? You speak like me sometimes; why? If you don’t have a son, how can I play with him? Where are you from? Is your son there with your wife? How do you have a son with no wife? Are you going to stay here long? Want to see me do a cartwheel? Can I play with your son? Want to see me do it again?), my first full day in Surubim was nothing short of awesome.
Later that night, I rode backsies on a motorcycle home (terrifying at night when the streets are paved unevenly and there are speedbumps that go ignored except for when it is absolutely impossible and rumor has it that certain spots are hot with bandits) where I watched the news and learned what Erivando meant: In the streets of Rio, Sao Paulo, and other cities in Brazil, violent clashes between police and populous ensued. In Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, rioters and instigators (not protestors, I’m told) stormed the Presidential mansion and laid siege to it with flaming objects and traffic cones before police forces could push them back a fair distance. These were those people I was warned about: people whom, when asked, could spew talking points of the actual movement, but in reality used the opportunity to loot and take advantage of the unrest.
It is odd to see the news and know that such civil unrest was happening in cities all around the one in which I currently reside. And it is odd to know that I will be going tomorrow to a city where another protest is taking place: Caruaru, Pernambuco. There’s just something about not changing my plans in the face of possible danger that speaks to the daredevil in me. I will definitely be keeping far away from the front lines of the looting and whatnot, but I do hope everyone stays safe and doesn’t do anything stupid.
(Internet in my current location is terribly slow–please stay tuned for photos! 🙂 )