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Why I moved to Brazil
By John Clites

Almost invariably, one of the first questions a new Brazilian acquaintance will ask me is “Why did you move to Brazil?” And often I detect a touch of disbelief behind the question: Why would I, a US citizen, want to live in Brazil?

For me this barely-concealed incredulity is intriguing, because while an American* might certainly ask a Brazilian, “What brought you to the US?” out of curiosity, he would never question the Brazilian’s decision.

And therein lies what I perceive as a major difference between Brazilians and Americans. Americans are immensely proud of their country, and not without reason – although the average American would certainly benefit from a touch of humility and a broader worldview.
Brazilians, by contrast, very often reveal ambivalence about their country, and can tend to focus on its negative aspects. While nationalism may be strong during the World Cup, at other times Brazilians may suffer from a vira lata complex.
So how do I answer that inevitable question? Just why did I move to Brazil?

American writer John Clites in Copacabana Beach

I always answer in the same way: Because of her natural beauty, and because of her people.
Virtually anyone who visits Brazil comments on the stunning natural beauty of this country. It’s difficult to name a terrain which isn’t represented in this expansive and diverse country: beaches of course, but also arid scrublands, tropical rainforest, coastal highlands, sprawling grasslands, and seasonal wetlands. And let’s not overlook the waterfalls. If you gaze once upon Iguaçu, you will carry the image forever.

As a photography aficionado, I was instantly smitten [= enamored] with Brazil. While other countries (my native US for one) may rival Brazil for beauty, I’ve never visited one that surpasses her.

And so it’s always been a bit confounding to me that Brazilians show a decided preference for travel abroad over travel within their own country. I know more parts of Brazil than many Brazilians. (Although I must admit that many of my Brazilian friends also know New York City far better than I!) However, it seems to me that more and more Brazilians are beginning to explore Brazil herself. I have no data to support that assertion, but it seems to me to be true. I certainly hope so. Brazilians should appreciate and value their country.

And what of Brazil’s people? What do I like about them? Brazilians often tell me that they consider their fellow Brazilians to be rude and uneducated.
Let’s be honest: Many Brazilians do lack culture and good manners. Can you point to a country where that’s not true?
And Brazilians as a people possess a number of positive traits. They are cheerful and upbeat, at least outwardly. They tend to be positive, always believing things will improve.

A characteristic of Brazilians which as a foreigner I especially appreciate is how welcoming Brazilians are. A foreigner in the US might be made to feel welcome, or he might not be; it really depends on where he’s from and whom he happens to meet. But Brazilians are almost without exception receptive – as witnessed by the many positive comments made by visitors during and after last year’s World Cup.

Brazilians have accepted me here and made me feel welcome even though they frequently disagree with US foreign policy. They are smart enough to distinguish a person from his country’s government. I wish that more Americans could make that distinction.

Brazilians also like to help others. Consider this: When I first moved to Rio, I had to ask for directions on a daily basis. I cannot recall a single time – not one – when the person I approached didn’t stop and help me. More than once the person I approached called over someone else to consult! Brazilians like to be helpful. (I suspect that sometimes they do so because it makes them feel good about themselves, but then, why shouldn’t they?)

Beyond her beauty and her people, Brazil has so much potential. Yes, it has yet to be fully realized, but I believe it will be. (Perhaps some of that Brazilian positivism is rubbing off on me!) Despite the current economic setbacks, the future looks good for Brazil, especially when you compare her situation with that of other countries. She has land, and abundant water – two resources which are in increasingly short supply around the world. Brazil has a generally warm and pleasant climate, and she is unassailed by earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes. She has huge reserves of minerals, and now oil and gas.
Brazil also possesses a rich and diverse heritage which has created a vibrant and unique culture. Brazil’s many musical genres are only a part of this culture. I respect how Brazil has managed to incorporate aspects of other cultures without forgetting who she is.

There is much more I’d like to write; however, space dictates that I stop here. But you’ll hear from me again.
Because I’m here to stay.

* I fully realize that Brazilians also Americans, as are Canadians and Chileans and Guatemalans. I use the word simply because it is the conventional term and because there is no good substitute.



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