A Giant Leap of Faith in Brasília

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 13

The Journey: Brasília - July 18 - July 22, 1980

Curious that I should move from the start of my book to the end - from the shores where the Portuguese landed to the Brazil of tomorrow.
The impact is a sensual shock - from vibrant, dynamic, historical Salvador to this futuristic fantasia. Impressions rush at you. This is not Brazil? An attempt to outdo the U.S.A.? It doesn't represent natural outgrowth or mobility of traditional Brazilian society? Orwell's 1984? Kubrick's 2001? A giant leap of faith? Indication of a future Brazil, its spirit homogenized, sanitized?
Brasília Pilot Plan
First “experience” was seeking house of Ambassador Vladimir Murtinho. City is divided/sub-divided/sub-sub divided into quadrants, nothing so messy as telling, colorful street names. You live in Quad X, Block Y, House Z. Planned, no doubt, for easy reference. To my amusement,we are unable to find the house. It's in the Ambassador's Quadrant, No 6. House numbers go 9, 12, 6 ???   
Marie Eugenie who is driving me around tells of serious social problems of Brasília. High suicide rate, high divorce rate. She has been here three years (from London; husband a banker) and finds the city with the widest open spaces of any to be claustrophobic. Living in this isolated spot in mid-South America with thousands of “functionarios,” government officials. “Two and a half hours' driving to the nearest proper town,” she says!
A modern-day colonization scheme with first-generation immigrants from other parts of Brazil setting up here and having all problems of first generation in a foreign country. Though these arrivals from Rio etc. find it difficult, Marie Eugenie says their children love Brasília. In a generation or two it will have people knowing no other place, no other life style and they will give it spirit.
Yesterday, first work day in Brasília once again showed tremendous response to ELU and Brazil. Dr. Aloisio Magalhães (Secretary of Culture) provided a great reception via members of the Madeira-Mamoré project. After morning with them, Marie Eugenie (Magalhães's secretary) took me over to Ambassador Vladimir Murtinho at the foreign office.
Lunch with Ambassador Murtinho. — My “da Silva” family at their finest! - Magnificent home on shore of Brasília's artificial lake built to change excessively dry climate.
Murtinho has been involved with Brasília since its foundation. He is an ardent supporter of the concept and believes that it represented a turning point in Brazilian history. Provided nation with move/incentive/drive toward modernization of the country - from this massive symbolic act everything else has flowed. (Good point, but need to have his opinion on millions left behind by modernization.)
At a pool party two days later with two visiting artists and Vladimir's brother, Brazilian ambassador to Ecuador.
“Yes the people are poor, but it's because they're lazy. They don't care about improving themselves,” a guest comments.
Think I've mastered the way of working here: a 24-36 hour “introductory” process before acceptance “in.” My burgeoning list of contacts who genuinely want to help is such that I'll soon have too many to handle. They're amazed that anyone could attempt so vast a project. “No Brazilian would dare.” - They probably think I'm either a genius or a madman. A little of both? As has been case since arriving, my optimism continues to grow.


Rasheed Aboualsamh said...

I was living in Brasilia in 1980 when you visited. I was 16 years old then. I moved away at 18 and returned five years ago. Now I'm nearly 50! How time flies.

Errol Lincoln Uys said...

Rasheed, indeed, how time flies!

I remember vividly my days on the road in Brasil, not without some wonder at the notion of the endless miles traveled.

At Brasília, the pioneer spirit was palpable - and the prospect of "abertura," as the dictatorship waned.

How folks must've wondered about this lone gringo on the "omnibuses." I never forget, too, how friendly the Brazilians were, bemused as they may have been!