Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, a professor of anthropology at the University of São Paulo, is known in the United States as the author of The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930 (English edition, 1999) and The Emperor’s Beard: Dom Pedro II and the Tropical Monarchy of Brazil (2004).
Today, the old cliché of laid-back, exotic Brazil is increasingly being supplanted by a less naive image, one dominated by violence, favelas, and drug-trafficking. But what is the meaning of this image, and how much grounding does it have in reality?
On October 31, a former bureaucrat named Dilma Rousseff became the first female president of Brazil after easily winning a runoff election with 56 percent of the vote. Yet this outcome had very little to do with Rousseff’s appeal among the Brazilian public or any distinct political platform of her own. Instead, it reflected the overwhelming popularity of outgoing president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva
Brazil is a country given to extremes. It’s a nation that combines rapid technological development with the continuity of popular traditions, urban growth and modernization with long-established rural culture. Such contrasts also come through in politics.