It is an interesting time for Brazil: the world is watching our every step. I’ve never seen so many stories in the international press about my country but negative coverage is dominating over positive stories and that’s a problem for many of my fellow Brazilians.
We don’t react well when criticism comes from abroad, maybe because we are not used to being the centre of attention or perhaps because we expect everyone to only look at the brighter side of our country.
This could be seen as part of the Brazilian psyche – a worry about inferiority – or as we call it in Brazil when any criticism becomes a sensitive issue: the stray dog complex. The term was coined by Brazilian writer Nelson Rodrigues after Brazil’s home defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final.
I remember when The Simpsons did a special episode on Brazil a while ago. The show joked about monkeys in the streets, kidnappings in the country and a man wearing a flamingo costume. Even the Brazilian president at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, seemed affected. “The episode brought a distorted vision of Brazilian reality,” he said. I mean, of course it would have, it’s The Simpsons for god’s sake.
In 2004 an article from Larry Rohter, The New York Times’ Rio bureau chief, caused huge controversy when the journalist criticised president Lula’s drinking habits. Rohter ended up having his visa revoked but it was reinstated soon after.
It’s interesting that Brazilians love criticising their own country but if a foreigner says something negative about Brazil, beware, that’s one of the worst faux pas. Try saying that our women are not beautiful, that the country is violent or the food is not very exciting – it can end friendships.
I have to admit that I’m the same, I can’t stand any sort of criticism towards Brazil. It is a somewhat childish feeling although I do try to control myself and open a half-hearted smile if someone says anything bad. I have to remind myself they are talking about the country and not about me.
So my advice to my fellow Brazilians is to not panic if there is another documentary on TV about drug gangs in Rio or about how we are not prepared for the Olympics.
Breathe, count to 10 and be sensible, even though we know very well how hard can it be.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.