Brazil

O Lago

the land-drunk poet and the

Rastafarian waitress 
had gone down to the lake's end, to see what it told them 
they had left all their wafers and all their shoelaces 
all of their tennis shoes and all of their hairpins 
the imaginable excess of two people bored out of their minds, and the 
diamond-blunt gleam of their glee 
They jumped into the lake and he yelled, "It's done." 
"What is?" she asked.
He honestly didn't know. Embarrassed, he tread in the lake water, and noticed his feet were wafting in duck shit.

Ibirapuera ForevaH

And the longing to find whatever they were running from.

Tudo Bem (It's All Good, Gwenyth)

I (gulp) had to go gluten-free recently. Although I pleaded with my doctor (No, it's so inconvenient! And it's expensive! And it's bougie! And it means no grilled cheese!!) she gave me a stern but serious glare of, "I'm not kidding." Gluten intolerance was causing auto-immune, lymph, glycemic, and other problems, that, given my family's cancer history, simply needed fixing.

Gwenyth Paltrow recently took a bunch of ish for writing about this very diet/lifestyle, which inspired her new cookbook, It's All Good. Critics have railed how expensive her recipes are. After all, it's costly to eat outside of the American agro-industrial complex, as the market is priced to keep us buying the very foods that make us sick.

But going gluten-free has been easier in Brazil! It's been much easier and cheaper than it would be in the States, because most grains and carbohydrates are indigenous, and not wheat based. (For a good read about eating indigenous for optimum health, check out my homegirl Sofia's blog here.) Lunch always includes rice and beans, and you can vary your breakfast and dinner with other yummy grains.

So for those who can't afford to get their goop at Whole Foods, here are some tasty examples of gluten-free comida

Acai com Banana (acai fruit with banana) 




Arroz e Feijao (rice and beans) 



Pamonha (tamale-like corn cake) 



Mandioca (yucca) 



Bolo de Fuba (corn cake made with rice flour) 


So if you want to gluten-free in the States, eat Latino style! You can buy all of these foods at places like Food for Less. (Trust me, I used to work there.)

So here's to everyone's health. Saude. 

E tudo de bom. 

Red Hot Chili (Home)

When the clock struck 2 am at a Brazilian wedding I went to this weekend, I had never felt more gringa. Fighting off sleep and a general sense of shock that people were dining at the hour most Americans are snoring,  I realized that we are, if anything, a modest people. 

But a little after the bride threw her bouquet back behind her, I suddenly heard and felt a flash of home: the (awesome) DJ played the Red Hot Chili Peppers song Give It Away.
It was all somehow fitting: the bride was marrying to go form a new home, and all of her around-30 friends were dancing to the jams that we used to - in Brazil, Cali, or elsewhere - back when we gave away our ambition and attention with more abandon. Now, we give away our time and commitment to just one person, but certain songs still sound like home, even at two in the morning. 

Flying the Coop

This Lent is an odd one. In no less than 600 years, the Catholic church is Pope-less. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation has raised radical questions about the nature of the papacy, transparency in the Church, the nature of divinity, and the institutionalization of forgiveness.

But it has also left the Church like a chicken with its head cut off, walking in strange but wonderful stumbles.  The body of the chicken - the millions of the faithful - is swaggering just fine, as the swirling significance of prayers and pedidos are the real corporal offering of Lent, not the chains, rings, smoke and mumblings of the papal hierarchy. 

As Lent continues on, this chicken-Church is walking away from the dogmatic theology of the clergy. In church, when priests bring up whatever papacy PR points they were given that week, you can hear the parish belt a mental sigh of, "Oh no you didn't." It strikes the wrong nerve of an electric wire relationship with power within the almost 70% of Catholics worldwide that are from post-colonial and developing countries. There, religion was a tool of social repression but was then syncretically transformed into a tool for personal relief. That strain has become the dominant one; Catholicism has become a deeply personal religion, and a dogmatic Rome that doesn't understand the Church itself. Whether or not the smoke is white or black matters little if the clergy fundamentally misunderstands the material needs and aspirations of its followers. For starters, birth control is an economic, and not just a theological, issue for most folks. And etc. Etc. etc.

Anachronism is a hipster exercise; it doesn't suffice as a philosophical justification for one of the world's largest religions. 

The Church should walk in the direction of its parishoners. The Portuguese slogan of this Lent is "Eis-me aqui" (Have me here, Lord), and it seems fittingly appropriate. Religious folks worldwide are waiting for Easter, but they're also waiting for change.

The Sound of Silence

Tonight,  the soccer team Corinthians (the Sao Paulo equivalent of the Raiders) is playing to an audience of - silence.

Instead of being known for weed and lowriders, Corinthians fans are known for their wildly loyal fan base. A fan base that whose loyalty and enthusiasm has at times reached violent heights.  Average Corinthians games are staffed by a full police squad with German shepherds and batons, but last week, a Corintians fan's wild antics accidentally killed a 14 year old boy at a game in Bolivia.

Although the legal case is still in limbo, the South American FIFA authorities have metaphorically slapped Corinthians on the wrists by denying them the possibility of having an audience. The Corinthians audience is elephant weight of their brand. Without them, they lose the adoration that transforms them into demi gods, and they become just simple soccer players.

Watching them play on TV, I realize - this is an effective punishment for them. It's a gaping visual absence, those empty seats. And for a team defined by cheering, silence is somehow humiliating for them. When Corinthias score goals, they hear the crushing roar of..no one.

The Kids of St. Paul

"'Pera!!"
Fernanda stopped to tie her shoe
while Miguel sauntered over to a Leaf Near You
Tomas turned around, on solid ground,
while Julieta went to go ride the pike

The kids of St. Paul are
short, thin, fat, and tall
black, brown, white, and small

Giggly-face peeps
screaming relief

that the parks
spray
spray-mist in the summertime

The kids of St. Paul aren't greedy at all
they are polite, without respite, and
really are a delight

The kids of St. Paul: God loves them, one and all

Security

Security: it's the topic of political speeches in both South and North America, and also the name of a great Otis Redding song.

I'm spending this week in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and so far have seen and heard three curious instances of folks seeking security:

1) The Cop-Killing Police Brutality protestors 

The big news story last night was a police brutality scandal. The news channel had obtained raw video footage of five policemen rounding up a man in his suburban home (in Sao Paolo, the outer, poorer areas are referred to as the suburbs), prentending to put him in a police car, and then shooting him at point blank range. 

The police then drove to the hospital, and dropped the dead man off. 

This is a weird story of security: the footage wasn't taken by a journalist, it was taken by a witness and leaked to the press. This video shows a new chapter of the war between the police and the PCC, a criminal organization that calls themselves Primeiro Comando da Capital (the Capital's First Command).  They've declared war against the Sao Paulo's police from inside Brazil's prisons. This year alone, they have killed almost a hundred police officers, many of them being executed on their free time, mostly at dawn. 

Ironically enough, the release of this video on one of Brazil's most important TV channels has sparked national outrage about police brutality against the citizenry and shows how the police have been executing their own trial on the streets.

2) The (Businesswoman) Housewife
I talked with a woman who worked cleaning houses who, ostensibly, is part of what is often hailed as the slow but sure rise of women and the (lower) middle class in Latin America. She had been a housewife while raising her three children, but now that they are grown, she has the time to work. 

Her name is Elena, and she is evangelical, soft-spoken, and very sweet. She explains that she likes to work, and earn her own money. She says that people ask her what exactly she needs money for, if her basic needs like food and shelter are accounted for. 

"I just want it for me," she explains. 

She also wants to add on two new rooms to her and her husband's house, but she doesn't tell him that how much she earns. She says that if she told him she had it, he'd ask to borrow it. So she keeps it hidden, she explains with a light chuckle. 

This doesn't phase her: she goes on about how great her husband is, and how blessed she is to have someone to share a household with. He had a debilitating work injury four years ago which makes it impossible for him to work, but he makes up for it by cooking and cleaning at home so she never has to.  


She shrugs her shoulders, but smiles. "He can't work, but I can. We have a nice life, one where things are taken care of." 

"I mean, accidents happen, but that's life, right?" 

"Gotta button up the loose ends." 

3) The Illegal (American) Immigrant

While in the hour and a half long Customs line at the airport, I struck up a conversation with the person behind me, who, like me, also happened to be Californian. He explained that since he couldn't find architectural work in San Diego, and was in a relationship with a Brazilian woman, he decided to try his luck in Brazil.

By (illegally) overstaying his tourist visa.

He had packed up his entire life, and had had all of his worldly goods with him in the Customs line. He had a (relative) plan - he would get a Google voice number so his friends could call him, get international health insurance, and hope for the best.

I wished him the best, given that Brazil'st protectionist economy makes it difficult to immigrate into. Their benefits - insurance, work visas, bank accounts, even apartments - are by and for Brazilians.

What a 21st century security story - the American from the U.S. side of the US/Mexico border was reverse migrating into Latin America, led by the promise of greater opportunity.

Eventually, the customers officer called his number. As he scrambled to pull his bags along with him, he signaled to his Brazilian girlfriend (who had finished the Brazilian customs line an hour prior) to come accompany him. He yelled to compete with the loudspeaker, "Hey, can you come translate for me?!?"