On April 15, 2010 I’d lived in Brasil for 7 years. At first, in those very hard, first 3 years I saw only the dark side of Brasil. And in order to accept, I had to focus my (mind’s) eye away from the close up - in my face views of what was around me. I had to learn to focus into the mid-distance. This is where - how I found the beauty that is Brasil. The plants and flowers, the mountains, the reflections of sun and clouds in the water, the smiles of its people and the subtleties of its culture that are so different from mine but, finally, I am able to smile about. And now for this week’s shoot-out the topic was to see – to show the dark side of either Rio or Nova Friburgo. I took photos in both cities, and then just now, in the last few minutes decided on Nova Friburgo.
I took my camera where ever I went. I snapped photos of a trash heap along side the street. Then found myself asking is this the dark side? Is construction debris left there on the sidewalk the dark side or is it a cultural difference?
It is habit here to build your home as you have need and funds – a family may build the home over 15 or twenty years, it is theirs, not the bank’s is this a bad thing or is it good or is is just different?
I saw a tiny house along side the canal, tucked away, built with bits and pieces of cast off construction material. Open to the elements on the sides, the roof seemed to cover adequately if not with the aesthetics of the common red tile roofs. Is this the dark side? The poverty represented by this simple one room shack. Or is this little house (home?) a symbol of the spirit of survival of the Brasilian people.
Whether walking on the main street, standing in line at the supermarket or looking up at the crowded homes and wires, there are people. Dodging and darting, standing patiently in lines too long and too slow (for an American?), walking up and down the streets, without complaint or comment. Stoically accepting what, to me, doesn’t work quite right. But is this the dark side?
Brasil, and Brasilians are so proud of their economic growth, and rightly so. One symbol of this growth is the possibility for more people to own their own cars. They love their cars, have worked hard for them, keep them in top condition and when able to move upward, go in a better car and someone else on the move up from below, buys the old car…. no waste. But there has not been equal movement by the government to make and maintain roads, highways, parking…. in the past 5 years driving has become a snarling mess, now the Brasilians also dodge and dart, like they once did on the sidewalks, they now do in their cars. eeEEKK!
But is this a dark side?
This week I decided that all of these aspects of Brasil (yes Brasil, not just Nova Friburgo) are more cultural than dark. I am sure that this town of a quarter of a million people has prostitution, drug, muggings, theft, and abuse – but I've had no exposure to them. I can not see these things while walking on the streets during the day. These are what make the dark side of any town in any country, any place made up of people. What we think are the unpleasant – the dark things – as strangers to Brasil are often signs of their cultural habits, with reasons less obvious than what seems to be right before our eyes. When you see the incomplete homes built in improbable places think about an equivalent 5 gallon of exterior paint that costs close to a days wages – not an hourly rate but a full day is needed to buy the paint for the outside of your home.