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Michael Palin - BrazilBrazil, I now know, is a lot more than sun, sea and samba. It's the home of the greatest rainforest in the world, as well as the greatest river system in the world and the biggest waterfalls, by volume. But more than the abundance of natural wonders, it was the extraordinary diversity and richness of its inhabitants that struck me most forcibly. There are the descendants of those who settled the country thousands of years ago. There are the descendants of those millions of slaves brought to Brazil from Africa, and of the Portuguese landowners who enslaved them. Then there are those who came to Brazil voluntarily, and in huge numbers, from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Italians, Poles, Lebanese, Germans, Japanese, Koreans and many more, all bringing their skills and their culture to what has become an impressively united nation. Brazil is not a loose federation, or a polyglot conglomerate; it is a remarkably effective collection of different people who are happy to see themselves first and foremost as Brazilians. The process of integration has fostered one of Brazil's most marked characteristics, tolerance. There are others, such as loud music and very cold beer, a soft and languid delivery which makes them sound as if they've just woken up, and a feeling among the majority of Brazilians that the work-life balance should definitely be weighted on the side of life.

There is a famous old Brazilian saying, 'Para ingles ver', 'for the English to see'. It's been wryly defined as 'the difference between legal requirement and actual behaviour', and for many Brazilians this relaxed attitude to the law is still a guiding principle. But, especially in the more Europeanized south of the country, where the economic boom is being managed, I detect that times, and national stereotypes, may be changing. With BRIC prosperity comes responsibility, a strong voice in the world economy, a seat on the UN Security Council perhaps. And this, some think, demands a new discipline, a new work ethic. The Brazil of beach and carnival is also a Brazil of banks and billionaires. Will it, I wonder, become more like the Western world, wealthy and worried? I hope not. Socrates, the footballer, not the philosopher, described his fellow Brazilians as 'a shrewd, vain, happy people'.

That certainly accords with my own observations. And I can't think of any other nation that it could apply to. Welcome to Brazil.

Michael Palin, London, June 2012

Notes on the text.
The Day Numbers refer only to those days on which we filmed. Travelling days spent on planes and days off are not recorded. For those who like fine detail or may be encouraged to see Brazil for themselves, our filming trips were as follows: Amazónia and Brasília in January 2012 - The North-East in June and July 2011 Minas Gerais and Rio in October 2011 - São Paulo and The South in April 2012
Choose another day from Brazil


  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Introduction
  • Country/sea: England
  • Place: London
  • Book page no: 6

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