The Latino Identity Struggle
Being Brazilian has many implications, from geographical to cultural aspects. It means
that, by definition, you are South American. That is pre-establish and fixed, something that
cannot be changed. However, most Brazilians do not identify themselves as South Americans;
they will say that they are due to the geographical imposition and logic that supports it - and also because it facilitates identification- but they do not feel connect to the other cultures around them at all.
Meaning that, Brazilians will say that they are Latinos, but they do not feel like Latinos, or
even that they are remotely part of the group. Brazilians need a different classification, and
identity. Which usually comes through the stereotypes: soccer, favelas, happiness, beaches,
forests, beautiful women, Catholicism, and so on. Even though that is the Imaginary Collective
formed about Brazil (and in Brazil as well) it is more than obvious that Brazilians in general do
not feel represented by this feeling; where this actually imposes a conflict.
This conflict can be compared to any other cultural identity conflicts in any other country.
It’s pretty simple, we’re complex creatures that can’t be reduced to a simple explanation. One
size does not fit all. But Brazil has an external factor that is aggravating: the external conflict
with other South American countries. Due to many factors, and the most relevant one being the language where other countries in the continent predominantly speak Spanish, while Brazil is the only one that speaks Portuguese; and extending to geographical ones, since Brazil is big enough to be considered a Continental Country (where some states are bigger and more populated than Portugal) Brazil, subconsciously, fights for an identity of its own.
At the same time, Brazil is trying to find a bigger identity to be part of, fitting into a bigger box: Latinos. Those attempts are pretty obvious, especially if you take into consideration the efforts
that local South American governments made to approximate the cultures/countries. Creating
many committees and institutions to investigate and debate this problem, coming up with
solutions to make Brazilians part of the South American family. Something that extended to
politics, after the creation of the Mercosur, similar to the European Union in intention, but still
miles away in terms of results. The mission of unifying South America is still relevant, and some governments believe it to be imperative for a prosperous future in the region.
Recently Harvard and MIT hosted an event called Brazil Conference, which the main focus was discussing Brazil and its possibilities for the future, by getting people from the country’s elite together. One of the panelists was configured with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, and three other chiefs of state from Ecuador, Uruguay, and Colombia. The panel discussed how to better integrate Brazilians to the South American Identity, and tried to explain why the past attempts failed. The main focus was the barrier of language, since Brazil is one of the only non-Spanish speaking countries; they also mentioned the geographical factor, the Eurocentric vision in the world, and the cultural dominance exercised by the US.
What they failed to analyze was the internal struggle to develop an independent identity
in Brazil. Also, how the other countries in South America come together to oppose Brazil in
many occasions. Ignoring political affairs, this event is very common in sports, especially soccer.
Recently Brazil hosted the continental cup for South, Central and North America: Copa
America (of which they were champions, obviously). In that tournament it became very clear from the interviews that people from Peru would consider Colombians their brothers, and cheer for them in an eventual elimination. The same would not go on with Brazil. One may argue that this happens due to the fact that Brazil is the most successful national squad in the world, so others would be inclined to cheer for the underdogs. However, if you take into consideration the continental cup for teams, Libertadores, then it becomes very clear that Brazilians are not 'part of 'South America'. It’s very common to see Brazilian teams being harmed in the competition, inside and outside of the field, since the federation responsible for the tournament, Conmenbol, is constantly accused by the Brazilians of being biased, corrupt, and with many scandals emerging to surface every year or two. Those small occurrences serve as a reflection of a bigger picture, despite the fact that they seem like meaningless random occurrences.
Culture, and how people behave is the most accurate mirror of society where, sometimes, it reflects unconscious thoughts and desires. Especially soccer in South America, due to its relevance. In my opinion the only path towards solving this conflict is creating a Brazilian Identity, with some Latino aspects, yet something that is unique and separated from South America. Curiously, governments and representatives insist on going the opposite way– trying to force some cultural change/ integration, which not only takes a lot of time and effort, as it goes against the natural movement of society, but it is also conceptually wrong.