Brazil With Michael Palin…Road to Rio

11 Nov

The most enduring stereotypes survive because they are built on a minor truth, a truth that is expanded, generalised and comes to totally define the object that is being stereotyped.

At the beginning of this series we were introduced to a Brazil free of the stereotypes Brazil is known for, but that is not say Brazilians do not love football, that there are no great beaches in Brazil with toned guys and girls in bikinis you could floss your teeth with, or even that the notorious Favelas do not exist.  In this episode, the penultimate, we taken to see these not as a definition of Brazil, but as just a part of the greater Brazilian story.

The episode starts in mining state of Minas Gerias which provides the huge mineral wealth that has helped propel Brazil’s economy to the world’s fifth largest.  We tour the mines with our guide who it seems doubles as a Brazilian Les Dawson and amuses Palin with a Mother-In-Law joke in the depths of a Brazilian gold mine.

We meet a New Zealander fighting to save the Minas Gerias heritage against the onslaught of the changes the mining industry brings. We meet a local coffee grower who survives on 1 1/2 litres of coffee and 5 espressos a day (he seemed  a bit hyper, but I can’t think why) and then we meet Rio de Janierio.

For most non-Brazilians this is the city that defines Brazil and in Rio lies the seeds of most of what we assume Brazil to be about.

We are taken on a somewhat narrow, rickety and acrophobia inducing train ride to the base of the magnificent ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue that over looks Rio.  We dip into some football history with a  visit to the grounds of the Fulminenese. We watch as Palin unwisely decides to take part in what I can only describe as “Commentary-off” with a famous Brazilian football commentator to see who can exclaim ‘gooooooaaaaallll’ for the longest. If you’ve ever seen Brazilian football commentary you would know it was a ‘no contest’.

We journey into the Favelas and along the way meet the special forces, BOPE, who police the Favelas and learn about their ominously Judge Dredd sounding ‘pacification programme’.

We see the beaches Copacobana and Ipanema, magnificent stretches of inviting brown sand dazzling in the sun shine,  and learn how different social groups have colonised different parts of the beach.

We round off with the visit to a ‘ Love Hotel’, it is exactly what it sounds like, and spend the rest of the episode with Rio’s vibrant Transexual and Transvestite community.

Stereotypes done. Next week we should be back to learn about the Brazil we don’t know.

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