EL PASO, Texas — Beyond colorful bikinis and carnivals, Brazil increasingly draws more attention to its emergence as a rising world superpower.
“Brazil must have done something right,” said Heitor Santos, specialist in Brazilian politics, in a discussion panel held recently during the second annual Brazilian Festival at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Besides publicizing Brazil’s international economic and social influence, its samba steps and Capoeira moves, the annual festival aims to create a greater understanding of the growth and cultural richness of this nation also known as the verde amarela.
As part of Brazil’s economic success, Santos pointed to the country’s production and sales of flex-fuel vehicles, which burn either ethanol, gasoline or a mixture of both, and the semi- public oil company Petrobras, which recently discovered a new oil reserve off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
“Brazil used to export to the U.S. 22 percent [of all exports] and they brought that down to 14 percent, becoming a good model to Mexico and other countries that are totally dependent on the U.S. economy,” said Cesar Rossatto, a UTEP professor of US-Latin American studies.
Brazil’s success in resisting the recent world economic crisis is testament to it s economic progress, Rossatto said. “Brazil was the first country to get out of the crisis,” he said. He also mentioned the success of an affirmative action program to rescue the poor slams, known as favelas, which has made them more livable.
Professor Aileen El-Kadi from UTEP’s Department of Languages and Linguistics and one of the event organizers, explained that in the last three years Brazil became the new super-nation in South America and as a consequence, numerous U.S. universities started programs in Brazilian studies.
“Most of the Brazilian studies programs are related to political science or language or literature, but not something that is multidisciplinary. So, here we created the first multidisciplinary program that is really inter- and multidisciplinary”, said El-Kadi about the Brazilian certificate offered at UTEP.
“This is going to be a plus for the majors and minors and is going to be a benefit for them when they go into the market,” she said.
The creation of this local festival, gave participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant and rhythmic samba, and the energetic martial arts and dancing combination of the afro-brazilian Capoeira, performed by the group Quinto Sol.
UTEP’s Brazilian organization has more than 130 members that contribute to activities such as the festival, which occur close to the actual dates of the legendary Rio de Janeiro Carnaval. According to El-Kadi, about 50 to 60 Brazilian natives live in El Paso. Some of them attend the university or work in the maquilas in Juarez.
“It is interesting to know about other cultures, to get together, learn and have a good time,” said student Juliana Sanchez.
The South American giant’s culture will soon be extensively showcased to the world when Brazil hosts the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic games two years later.
“I think that reflects really well with what’s going on. They are able to support massive events like these,” said El-Kadi.
Brazil’s future looks promising, but the continuity of prosperity faces a decisive moment when Brazilian voters will choose the successor to president Lula Da Silva.