A Journey Called “Identities”
To start this post, I would like to provide a little bit of context. I participated in the online phase of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program with Class 32 in a country other than my own country of Brazil. I spent three months in Argentina and this experience strengthened my comprehension of my identity as a Latina. An identity being built since the very first moment I put a backpack on my back and decided that I wanted to know more about this region called Latin America; of which I am a part of it as a Brazilian. I remember the day I achieved a childhood dream – to see, in person, Machu Picchu, in Peru. I was 19 years old and the silence of the fog revealing the ancient mountains and the Inca city thoroughly sculpted and left a mark on my soul. I fell in love with my Latin America.
It is written on the poster: La desiguald – no va más (Spanish)/ Inequality – no more
This post is a mixture of my perceptions of contemporary Brazil as a Brazilian, my reflections about similarities and differences among Latin American countries while in Argentina, and my interest in researching the theme of identities.
Discrimination from a Latin American Point of View:
Growing up in Brazil and being raised by the women in my family, which have a lower class background and are from a rural area in the country, taught me how to live in a society full of prejudices. It also taught me how to look in the eyes of others, similar to and different from me, and see their beauty. For this reason, discriminatory behaviors or policies are intolerable for me.
Brazil faces a high rate of discrimination, especially against black and indigenous people, women, and LGBTQ+ people. This has been confirmed by a survey conducted in Brazil by DataFolha in 2019. Among people that self-identify as black or indigenous who were interviewed, 85% state that they have suffered prejudice. It is impossible to mention discrimination without mentioning the influence of colonialism and imperialism in our history. It is part of our contemporary challenges as Latin Americans to deal with the consequences of our colonial past and the rise of attacks on our young democracies.
Besides the internal discrimination faced in Brazil, from an external perspective, right now Brazil is also playing a discriminatory role against other countries in the region. Under a right-wing extremist government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, conservative Brazilians tend to look at our Latin American neighbors as “others”. And while this separation grows and is legitimated by authorities, some Brazilians as well as national leaders freely express racially frame discrimination against other Latin American people and social movements. When it comes to people, the most affected are the ones coming to Brazil due to the recent forced migration crisis, such as in Haiti and Venezuela. And, when it comes to social change, there are movements against regional government projects and policies, even if they are being successful, in the fields of gender equality, anti-racism practices, sexual diversity, and social justice.
Although Brazil is part of Latin America, 96% of Brazilians don’t see themselves from this perspective, according to The Americas, World: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy 2014 / 2015 Report, and elaborated by the Investigative Center of Teaching in Economy (Mexico). As a comparison, among other countries in the region this rate is at about 43%. We are the only Portuguese speaking country in the region and some historic facts also contribute to this disconnect.
Prophecies: An art series by Brazilian artist Randolpho Lamonier. As translated: IN 2050 WE DISCOVERED: BRAZIL IS ¡LATIN AMERICA! © Randolpho Lamonier
Even though it is not a new issue, this Brazilian aversion to a “Latin identity” grew in relevance during the current government as it revived ideas from the times of the Brazilian military dictatorship between 1964-1985, when Brazilian military authorities considered themselves best friends to the United States of America. Usually, Brazilians deny their Latin identity and, in my opinion, this is a way to deny the atrocities—invasions, slavery, dictatorship, coup d’états, etc.—done in the past and present across our territory. With all this on the table, I would say that Brazil has a problem with its identity and the time to heal is now.
Strengthening Identities in Latin America:
Brazil has had a better relationship with other Latin American countries, and in the past has also been in a better position of promote affirmative policies to repair the historic atrocities against minority groups. This is not the case right now, but with the 2022 elections, I hope we return to a path guided by respect for the beauty of diversity, and by the intention to mitigate discrimination in a practical way, through the improvement and execution of affirmative and social justice policies.
In addition to this, sooner or later, I believe Brazilians will discover they belong to Latin America. What I also believe is that Latin American politicians, activists, and citizens have a lot to learn from each other, exactly because we share the pain of the same wounds and the strength that emerges from our common diversity.
Michelle Bravos – Brazil
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32