My experience in Brazil is certainly a bit different from my experience in Peru although getting there was a bit more complicated than I expected. Indeed, after taking a plane from Cusco to Lima, I was pulled over by four Peruvian police officers (and their German Shepherd) at the Lima airport and brought to a backroom in order to inspect my luggages.
In truth, I was the only person of color waiting to do my check-in with TAM Airlines and happened to be the only person to be pulled over for the alleged random routine check. After telling me that I was being inspected because I was traveling alone to Brazil and held a EU passport (and could be bringing cocaine into Brazil), the police proceeded with their inspection and removed every single item from my backpack. Despite my anger, I remained calm and patient during this ordeal, which unfortunately resulted in me missing my connection flight to São Paulo. After paying $100 to book another flight, and waiting 11 hours at the Lima airport, I finally was on my way for Brazil.
Bem-vindo ao Brasil
I arrived in Brasilia at 3:00pm and rushed to my first interview, which thankfully was rescheduled to 5:00pm since missing my flight also resulted in me missing my interview at 9:00am. I met with three representatives of the Movimiento de Mulheres Camponesas, which is commonly referred to as MMC Brasil. The interview truly was informative because speaking with these women who advocate for Brazilian women farmers helped me deepened my understanding of women’s rights to land (or lack thereof) in the country.
After the interview, the three ladies offered me to spend the night at their apartment because of its convenient location near Brasilia’s Esplanada dos Ministérios (Ministries Esplanade), where I had an appointment in the morning. After having dinner at a local restaurant where I ate some rice and beans, we headed back home where I finally was able to get some rest.
In the morning, we headed to the headquarters of the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (commonly referred to as INCRA) where learned about Brazil’s agrarian reform and how it has impacted the lives of millions of Brazilian women farmers. Besides, going to INCRA not only deepened my understanding of the contrast between family farming and corporate agribusiness, but also had a positive impact on my stay in Brazil. Indeed, at lunchtime, Tânia (from MMC Brasil) took me to INCRA’s cafeteria where I had the opportunity to eat some feijão com arroz (rice and black beans) accompanied with some meat for 6 reals (approximately $2.70)! The reason why eating having lunch at INCRA affected my stay is because eating out in Brasilia in extremely expensive! Thereafter, I started having lunch at INCRA in order to save money and eat well!
Brasília, A Planned City
In comparison to Peru, the winter weather in Brasilia was fairly warm and in general, Brazilians seemed “happier” than the vast majority of the Peruvians I met in Lima and Cusco. Nonetheless, being in Brazil during a much-disputed football World Cup certainly deepened my awareness of the country’s growing inequalities between the different social classes in the country. Thanks to the email alerts that I received from the International SOS Security Advisories, I was able to adapt my travels (and safety precautions) around the city as to avoid the sporadic protests that have been organized in Brasilia. Nonetheless, I felt fairly safe while I was in the city although I have to admit that I was often quite hesitant to pull out my camera and take pictures around the city. Here are a few shots a the city:
Meeting my Amazing Host Family
On a relatively bright note, I was blessed to have a wonderful host family in Brasilia. As a matter of fact, I was introduced to Gustavo, Ana Paula and their British Bulldog Boris by Alicia, a fellow Hoya who studied abroad in Rio last summer. Ana Paula and Gustavo not only offered me food and shelter during my time in Brasilia, but also were very patient during our countless conversations in which we all used “Portuñol” and English to get our messages across. Gustavo and Ana Paula not only made me feel home but also helped me explore Brazil’s tasty dishes and soothing Bossa Nova music.