Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Choro Curitibano

Brazilian Portuguese

I am already in London but I have an overdue blog post from the other hemisphere. In English. About the Portuguese language.

One of the small spontaneous research projects I conducted during my stay in Brazil was to take note of where from people thought I was. The other one was to record the first thing that they referenced about Portugal as soon as they knew my nationality.
As for the first one, I had various experiences. One person guessed, after hearing me and my Brazilian friend, who was unconsciously trying to use some of my Portuguese expressions, that we were from Santa Catarina. This neighbour state has a strong Portugese presence, especially from Azores. In rapid interactions, especially when I forced the Brazilian accent in order to be better understood, the confusion was bigger. I overheard two shop assistants arguing about whether I was Argentinean, two security guards sentencing, He’s French, and I was confronted with the odd question, Are you Italian. In this respect, weirdly enough, my accent does not cause less confusion in Brazil than it does in London.
It must be added that I was mainly in Curitiba, a city where there are not much Portuguese presence among a vast European contingent. The largest chunk of the city’s immigration originates in Ukraine and Poland, followed by Italy Germany and Japan. In all cases we are talking about second and third generations already. The knowledge of Portugal is still reduced to the history of colonization and independence, and to an immigration of small commerce and property owners, which caused strong hostility. The result is a huge list of jokes involving a Portuguese character, named Joaquim ou Manuel, usually portrayed as dumb and prone to misunderstanding the Brazilian way of speaking.
I realized that the crossed ignorance about Portuguese and Brazilian 20th century histories is almost tragic. On the 25th of April, 36 years after the end of the 48-year old dictatorship, I talked with some people about the date, maybe the most important in Portuguese History. I realized that many didn’t know about it, or even about the dictatorship. As some of them told me about the Brazilian military oppressive regime, which happened in part at the same time, I realized I didn’t know much about it either. Apart from Chico Buarque’s wonderful song “Tanto Mar” there is not much effort to celebrate what unites two peoples who oppress themselves in the same language, who resist in the same language, who are led to believe, in the same language, that they are a threat to each other, through ghosts of colonialism and immigration.
So, as for my second research exercise, I heard the most surprising things from the most unlikely people as a first expression of recognition to my country. Curiously, the most predictable comment, to football, to Cristiano Ronaldo, to the upcoming World Cup confrontation between Portugal and Brazil, was not as dominant as expected. This would be more likely in a country that breathes football. Last Monday, when Dunga, the manager of the national team announced the squad he is taking to the world cup, I saw a group of people gathered around a car with a very loud radio on. As the names were being spelled out, they would vibrate, celebrate or react negatively, protesting with absences. And all the people around it, on the other side of the street were talking about it, the discussions disseminating with the sound and every one stating their opinion. The World Cup, they tell me, is a fantastic event in every city that involves everyone, a general party, especially when Brazil wins. One of the questions I asked to people who spoke to me about football was, Who would you support in case Brazil went out of the Cup. The most common answers were along the lines of, Are you kidding, Brazil is going to win it. If I managed to convince people that it was only an exercise, then the only answer I got was, Anyone who plays against Argentina. Portugal, I would ask, No way. Only after being reminded that Portugal has 3 Brazilian born players, one of which, Liedson is a Catarinense who started playing in one of the city’s teams - Coritiba, which recently won the State’s Championship- did a few people admitted the possibility of supporting Portugal in that very unlikely scenario of Brazil being out before. Everybody would also be very surprised to learn that, when Portugal didn’t qualify for World Cups, all Portuguese people would support Brazil as their own team.
Football was a common – maybe he most frequent theme ¬in Brazilians’ first interactions with this ‘gringo’ – as they call foreigners in general – but for me not at all the most relevant. In terms of frequency, Fernando Pessoa came straight after. But one of the cases that compose this frequency is more relevant than the others. I was sitting at a table outside a bar in the sidewalk of a quite ran down place near the Port of Rio de Janeiro called Praça Mauá. An old and thin toothless man approached us, street talking, asking to sit and to drink from our beer, common occurrence in this city. The scene became uncommon when he started, in a very kind and seductive way saying that me and my friend looked like Frederico Garcia Llorca and Pablo Neruda. Then as we start talking he realizes I am Portuguese. His first reference, Pessoa, of which he mentions a poem. I start saying it. He corrects me gently, and says it all from beginning to end. Quite mind blowing.
Another very surprising reference was to Escola da Ponte, a school from a small place in the North of Portugal, which, for the last 35 years has been putting in place a revolutionary pedagogic practice, which does away with strict timetables and traditional disciplinary divisions. Decisions are made in democratic ways through general assemblies and class meetings where students as young as 4 get to participate alongside older colleagues and teachers. Some of these things were taught to me by the 3 different Brazilians in different places, who referred this school.
The last surprising reference I will mention was to Boaventura de Sousa Santos. It also happened quite often among some sociologists I met, no surprise in that, Boaventura has been working in the USA, in Brazil and in the rest of Latin America for many years. What was really surprising was to hear a trash-picker, who I interviewed, a woman who can read but who is still learning how to write, mentioning the Portuguese sociologist in the second after I told her my nationality She had met him in a national event about informal recyclers, and she knows his work through a jurist who worked with him and who also works a lot with the informal waste collectors
Still a lot to do in terms of using our common language for this international interaction. I met a professor from a school of architecture in Lisbon doing an interesting project about Lusophone metropolises. She understood that our common language is apart from the sea, the only environmenrt in which we may transcend ourselves. And exchanging stories and histories is highly necessary. One day I was talking with a few people and someone asked me, So what is the view your history classes convey of Brazil. I replied that we have this not-so-bad approach, convincing ourselves that all the bad things of our colonization were surpassed by the other imperial powers of the 1600s, England and Spain, especially. So, we are not so bad. Someone said d that there is one thing Portugal is really bad with: PR. She noticed that when she was last in Portugal, because of the quality of the TV ads, and it is true that Brazilian creative advertisers were responsible for a revolution in Portuguese marketing, from politics to soaps, which became at short distance from each other. I noted that when I am asked about Portuguese culture and I respond humbly only to find out later that there is actually a huge common patrimony and enough public creation to be proud about. Without that kind of nationalism that divides us from the foreign people with more in common with us than the fellow countrymen who work the flag for their private good only.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Cuando Alana y Osiris me miran no puedo quejarme del menor disimulo, de la menor duplicidad. Me miran de frente, Alana su luz azul y Osiris su rayo verde. También entre ellos se miran así, Alana acariciando el negro lomo de Osiris que alza el hocico del plato de leche y maúlla satisfecho, mujer y gato conociéndose desde pianos que se me escapan, que mis caricias no alcanzan a rebasar. Hace tiempo que he renunciado a todo dominio sobre Osiris, somos buenos amigos desde una distancia infranqueable; pero Alana es mi mujer y la distancia entre nosotros es otra, algo que ella no parece sentir pero que se interpone en mi felicidad cuando Alana me mira, cuando me mira de frente igual que Osiris y me sonríe o me habla sin la menor reserva, dándose en cada gesto y cada cosa como se da en el amor, allí donde todo su cuerpo es como sus ojos, una entrega absoluta, una reciprocidad ininterrumpida.

Es extraño, aunque he renunciado a entrar de lleno en el mundo de Osiris, mi amor por Alana no acepta esa llaneza de cosa concluida, de pareja para siempre, de vida sin secretos. Detrás de esos ojos azules hay más, en el fondo de las palabras y los gemidos y los silencios alienta otro reino, respira otra Alana. Nunca se lo he dicho, la quiero demasiado para trizar esta superficie de felicidad por la que ya se han deslizado tantos días, tantos años. A mi manera me obstino en comprender, en descubrir; la observo pero sin espiarla; la sigo pero sin desconfiar; amo una maravillosa estatua mutilada; un texto no terminado, un fragmento de cielo inscrito en la ventana de la vida.

Hubo un tiempo en que la música me pareció el camino que..."

Julio Cortázar

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Letras de Luz

Tudo o que eu queria hoje era andar sobre nuvens, acordar numa atmosfera urdida por bichos da seda, nadar num mar de gatos, um milhão de ronronos de veludo, sair voando pela janela.
Tudo o que eu queria era saber manejar todos os pesos do mundo como o carrinheiro que salta do topo da montanha de 400 kg elevando o carrinho antes de aterrar no chão.
Tudo o que eu queria era ser leve.
E ser levado por um balão ou zepelin, dos muitos que se erguem do chão a toda a hora. Sempre que tento agarrar um, transformo-me em lastro e ficamos os dois ardendo no chão. A menos que eu largue a corda e o deixe ir para longe.
Sonhos escritos são diferentes de sonhos contados. Como palavras embrulhadas num envelope são diferentes de palavras acesas num monitor.
Tudo o que eu queria era um governo só de gente boa, presidido por uma senhora deslumbrante que cantasse tão bem ao perto como do alto do palácio do planalto.
Tudo o que eu queria era uma casa com muito chão. E ter por vizinhança gente sábia, versada nos nomes de todas as coisas que habitam a mata em nosso redor. Sentados à sombra da única árvore sem palavra certa, teríamos intermináveis discussões sobre sinónimos qualificativos e descritivos de cheiros vários, ouviríamos atentos as diferenças entre sons nomeados por palavras homófonas.
Então passariam duas aranhas armadeiras escoltando uma caranguejeira com uma sacola fechada debaixo do braço. É aquela hora do dia, comentaria uma anciã. E regressaríamos todos às barrigas das respectivas primatas. A caminho do mar.

Monday, 3 May 2010


Fiquei muito entusiasmado com o facto de o Professor Carlos Walter Porto-Gonçalves ter respondido de forma generosa a um email que lhe enviei após a sua palestra. E ainda teve a disponibilidade para ler o meu texto neste blog e enviar-me as informações que eu não tinha anotado. Aqui vão:
"...Quanto á comunidade a que fiz referência em minha conferência em Curitiba, Francisco, trata-se de uma comunidade maya de fala tojolabal que habita a região de Chiapas, no México. O filósofo a que a comunidade faz referência e que queria aprender com ela é Carlos Lekensdorf autor de Filosofar en clave Tojolabal, publicado em 2008 pela UNAM. Vale a pena ler."
Vou procurar.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Guerra em Curitibabylon

"Meu caro amigo eu não pretendo provocar
Nem atiçar suas saudades
Mas acontece que não posso me furtar
A lhe contar as novidades

Aqui na terra tão jogando futebol
Tem muito samba, muito choro e rock'n'roll
Uns dias chove, noutros dias bate sol

Mas o que eu quero é lhe dizer que a coisa aqui tá preta":

Com muita música do Chico senão também
ninguém segura esse rojão:

"Curitiba é três vezes mais violenta que São Paulo. E empata com o Rio"
Hoje na Gazeta do Povo

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