This blog will take a little hiatus as I do something I haven’t done in a while: take a trip!
I’ll be going to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics. While I’m there, I’ll take the opportunity to explore a little of that corner of Brazil, the country’s heartland and economic powerhouse: Paraty, a colonial port on the coast near Rio; São Paulo, the booming, ungainly metropolis west of Rio and inland; and Ouro Preto, another colonial town, this time inland from Rio in the hills, where it mined for gold. Despite my occasional blog posts about Latin America, this will be my first visit to the region. While I can’t pretend that a 3-week trip to 1 region of Brazil will significantly improve my analysis of Latin America, hopefully it’ll give me additional insight or perspective.
Brazil is widely acknowledged as an up-and-coming power on the world stage, the colossus of the South and a leader of the developing world. But it’s also been derided as not a “serious country,” with few diplomatic disputes or serious issues in its foreign policy and a relaxed, even lazy attitude. Its swagger took a nose-dive when its economy sank into depression last year, battered by low commodity prices and political mismanagement. Politically, it’s been torn apart by a massive corruption scandal involving kickbacks to construction companies by the state-owned oil company, Petrobras. Its president, Dilma Rousseff, has been impeached, but no legitimate replacement exists, since the entire political class is tainted by scandal. To make matters worse, the Zika virus has broken out, crime is back up, governments are broke and the waters around Rio are as polluted as ever.
Brazil is no longer as confident as it was in 2009, when the games were awarded to it, but no other country knows how to throw a party like it. I’ll take the opportunity of the Olympics to get a feel for the national mood, the problems Brazil faces, and the local culture. I’ll also try to gauge how the Olympics affect their host cities and whether the games are the international celebration of sportsmanship and brotherhood their fans think they are or a corrupt, commercialized, bloated waste of money and resources. As Brazil bridges the gulf between the rich and poor worlds, it will be a good test of how effective less developed countries are at hosting the Olympics.
And I will dance. A LOT.