Below is the copy of my observations from Sao Paulo:
São Paulo is unlike any city in the United States. While places like New York or Chicago carry significant business interests for the domestic markets, São Paulo’s clout when it comes to Brazil’s economy is unprecedented for most countries around the world. Not only does it carry international headquarters for companies like Boeing, but it also is home to most of the national and international media. While Brasilia may remain the country’s legislative capital, there is no question in my mind that São Paulo remains one of Brazil’s most important assets.
The first thing I noticed about São Paulo is its sheer size. I knew that it was big but I didn’t even come close to comprehending what “big” meant in São Paulo terms, when you look at the city, skyscrapers extend in every direction as far as you can see, and the amount of people is unprecedented for me. I’ve been to Chicago, where there is no shortage of people walking the streets but São Paulo trumps it easily. On the subway system the sheer number of people amazed, and intimidated me. That being said, I think this city is grossly overpopulated. Cities in the United States have traffic yes, but from the moment you pull onto the streets your stuck in log jam, and the public transportation system is overcrowded to the point where we stood at a standstill on the platform waiting for more trains to arrive. But, as I’ve come to realize, once a city of this size reaches its capacity, its nearly impossible to build out the infrastructure at the pace of the city’s growth. So, as São Paulo continues to grow, so will its problem with crowded subways and city streets, until like Mexico City it is nearly impossible to efficiently get in the city.
There were also a couple other things that struck me as odd in regards to the city, especially the amount of people that understood and could speak English. Unlike Rio de Janeiro, which is largely considered an international tourist spot already, São Paulo, which offers little tourism appeal, carries a significantly higher amount of people who spoke English. This may be due to the fact that a number of the businesses here also carry business outside the country, or the number of international companies located in São Paulo, but it definitely has a greater international presence compared to Rio de Janeiro.
Bloomberg’s Brazil presence shows the significance of the growing economy in Brazil. Despite the continent size country’s slowing GDP, the financial and business world realizes that the future of the global economy will have Brazil in it. At Bloomberg, I think the class came to the realization of the true might of Brazil’s economy, discussing multi-billionaires and the 40 reporters that Bloomberg has specifically dedicated to coverage of Brazilian finance and business. While the Wall Street Journal is taking a different approach, and not hiring more reporters for its Brazil bureau, John Lyons noted that this is also because local journalism is improving, as well as free lancers, making the job easier for foreign media outlets because they are able to outsource more of their work. However, all three outlets, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, and Reuters noted that they are all willing to at least consider, on some level, hiring English speaking and writing journalists who speak and understand Portuguese. The need to cover Brazilian business, from an American viewpoint is expanding greatly, and as the oil industry continues to grow, as does the tourism industry, so will the number of American reporters in Brazil.
By far my favorite moment in Brazil thus far was the interactions we had with the Brazilian students working at the newspaper, Estado de São Paulo. While it may not directly relate to Brazilian economics or journalism directly, it was the most rewarding experience by far because it gave me the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of Brazilians my age, who are going to be writing the stories and facing the issues of the growing economy. When visiting a country like Brazil, which is largely off the radar of American students, sometimes stereotypes, generalizations and theories arise that are not always accurate, and by meeting with the students, it quelled a lot of the false claims I previously had with Brazil. I realized that while the American journalism industry is facing its problems, so is Brazil’s. The entire journalism industry, worldwide, is trying to figure out how to deal with shrinking markets and growing sources of information and trying to make sure we’re still getting paid in the process.
Overall, São Paulo has been the most rewarding destination on this trip. While Rio de Janeiro was spectacular in its sightseeing and business visits, and Angra dos Reis’ beauty, it was São Paulo that offered, to me, the best picture of international and business journalism, as well as the future of the growing country.
Every city I stop in, the class requires me to write a reflection paper of my experiences, below is the transcript of my reflections about the city of Rio.
The city of Rio De Janeiro revolves around its Brazilian nationalism. Whether they admit it or not, they are proud and almost arrogant, as we are Americans. They feel as they do not need to change their language, culture or lifestyle, and why should they? As an American, I can understand their want to remain an original country, even though their originality is based on the upon a variety of different cultures. When I was told that the country was hesitant to learn different languages, I was confused, but as I walk the streets of Rio, I understand completely. Very little store shops, restaurants or barkeeps speak anything other than Portuguese and hand signs are the primary form of communication. From a first hand basis, I had to motion how to use a toothbrush to buy one at a local pharmacy.
The Brazilian culture is founded upon the pride they hold as Brazilians. There are not many other countries, other than the United States, that can relate to this persona. If the United States is a melting pot, Brazil is a stew. Their culture is filled with contradictions in the sense that, although they consider themselves one people, there is a distinct classification of race and economic status. That being said, the mix of African, European and Latin culture provide a distinct mix that no other country truly has. As we walked around the city I noticed notes of a small Mexican town, but then we would turn a corner and I would feel like we were in the bustling streets of Madrid or London. Their culture is a mix of different ethnicities and regions, and that makes Rio de Janeiro what it is.
The biggest events in the country’s history, the World Cup and the Olympics, are also causing a controversy within the city of Rio de Janeiro. While it is poised to explode in a golden age of culture and financial stability, it also has the potential to fail as well. The plans to develop the port region of Rio, as well as completely transform the rest of the city hold the capability of transforming the country into one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world. That being said, it could potentially collapse upon itself and face an economic and global disaster if the goals are not met. The undertaking to develop the port area itself is enormous, and in the time period, seemed nearly impossible. However, if they can get it done, Rio de Janeiro will be on my short list for cities to visit going forward. As I looked at the plans on Wednesday at the port exhibit, I was cautiously optimistic that it can be completed in time for the world’s biggest sporting event. That being said, I feel as the city, and country, bit off more than they can chew. The infrastructure of their garbage disposal as well as their transportation and the living and tourist destinations for the region is a massive undertaking and I am hesitant to believe that it can be accomplished in two and a half years.
The other major challenge that Brazil and Rio de Janeiro faces if they want to become a city of international charm, is their lack of internationality. The city and country are hesitant to learn English, and although they have said they are creating an English program throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro, it seems like a daunting challenge to make the entire city capable of at least understanding English on a basic level. While I have walked around in Rio I’ve noticed that nearly no one speaks English, or Spanish for that matter. To be a truly efficient and successful country, regardless of what the national language is, there needs to be a tolerance to foreign visitors. If an English speaking, or any other language, comes to Rio today, they will have a serious issue traveling the city or going to restaurants. To be a World Cup or Olympic city there not only needs to be a tolerance but also an acceptance of other cultures. I will say that there is incredible patience by the Rio employees to non-Portuguese speaking people, however if they want to thrive as an international city there needs to be multiple languages for menus, street signs and taxi cabs. It seems arrogant to say, coming from a country that is hesitant to learn other languages throughout its country, however, English is widely known as the language of the world and therefore America is in a stable place to host national events.
Overall, the city of Rio de Janeiro is beautiful. I learn something and see something new everyday. But as I look at it from the perspective of its future, and remember Mac Margolis saying, “Brazil doesn’t know what identity it wants to take” I see a country that is either positioned for massive success or massive failure. For it to succeed it must learn to adept and change its isolated nationalistic culture and become a city of international desire, it needs to reform. If it fails to do so within the next two years, it faces massive repercussions that could be detrimental to its future.