Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ongoing Protests in Belo Horizonte

Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
Hi there!  I've been meaning to post all week, but well...I just didn't get to it.  The protests have continued, and not only is the world starting to take notice, but also the Brazilian government.  Here's how I sum up what's gone on.

There was a protest about a bus fair increase in São Paulo on June 13th, and the military police got very violent, and over 100 people were injured.  A lot of Brazilians were shocked at just how violent it got, and images went viral.  People then started protesting violence, bus fares, and but then they grew to include protesting government spending and political corruption, and now the main point is the corruption.  The Brazilian government didn't take these protests seriously, and then protesters started making things uncomfortable around the FIFA Confederations Cup games that have been taking place around Brazil.  A few of the soccer teams were afraid, and rumors were spreading that FIFA might cancel the games, and it might affect the World Cup.  I think this was when the Brazilian government realized that there was a problem.  The biggest news from Congress was that PEC-37, a proposal for constitutional reform that would have limited the ability to investigate officials.  I think that Brazilians are feeling heartened that there is actually some positive reaction to the protests.  And I think that there is still a lot of work to be done, and I still wonder what is actually going to come together.  There is need for lots of leadership.  And strong leadership.

How has all of this affected us personally?  I was a little nervous last Saturday, when Facebook was buzzing with invitations to the protests, and there were rumors of 100s of thousands of people turning out and trying to stop the game.  The protest in Belo Horizonte was by far the largest of the protests across Brazil that day (40,000), but we were no where near any of the protests.  I was actually able to drive across town with no problem, and then ended up taking Beatrice to a movie.  However, the protests did again turn violent when people got too close to the Minierão (soccer stadium), and police used tear gas and pepper spray.  I watched some videos at home late on Saturday, and I wept.  How could this be happening in our city?!?  Starting on Monday, protesters decided to take to the highways, and traffic in and out of the city was blocked.  My co-workers who work in Lagoa dos Ingleses couldn't go to work on Tuesday because the road was entirely blocked.  On Tuesday the Mayor declared it a holiday in Belo Horizonte.  All banks were closed, and all schools cancelled classes for  Wednesday (the day that Brazil was playing the semi-final game in our city).  The National Guard was sent in, but the protests were pretty mild that day.  My Wednesday classes got "rescheduled" for today and next Saturday.  The kids have school today.  I was pretty peeved initially about having to work Saturdays, but it is a small thing in the bigger fight for justice.  For the most part, the Brazilians I've spoken to are very supportive of the protests.  It seems that things have calmed down a bit (at least on the streets) and now the battle is figuring out just how to deal with the extensive corruption.  If you'd like to do some more extensive reading, I'd suggest these articles:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


It is a very interesting time in Brazil right now.  Lots of protests, lots of helicopters, lots of warnings to not go to Centro.  Matt has nothing scheduled at the Palacio for 2 weeks (he's going on a state tour this weekend), so thankfully he is around here.  It is inspiring to see Brazilians joining together to say that they want things to change.  I agree with them!  I love Brazil, and I appreciate so many things about this wonderful country and about living here.  And I think that Brazilians are far too accustomed to putting up with a lot of crap:  corruption, high taxes, super inflated prices, environmental degradation, huge economic inequality.  I realize that I am making it all very simple, but I think it is good for Brazilians to do something, and to see that they can express their frustration.  I just hope that there is some leadership, and movement towards real change.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Superagro 2013

at the John Deere tent
As I mentioned last post, we stuck around for the Corpus Christi holiday.  My friend Maxine told me I had to take the kids to the SuperAgro 2013 that started this week at Expominas, so I did.  SuperAgro is a big agricultural exposition that happens annually in Belo Horizonte.  It's kind of like a Brazilian equivalent of the American country fair experience, minus the rides and fried food.  Minas Gerais has lots of farms, and even a "country-farm" kind of culture (even in the big city!), so I knew this kind of thing would be interesting.

We didn't want to get too close...

There were hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of cows.  Cows with humps (the popular Zebu cows, that provide the cupim cut of meat that Brazilians love), baby cows, cows with huge horns, pooping cows, cows getting milked, and mad cows that didn't want their pictures taken.  The kids didn't want to talk much to the owners, but I did get in a brief conversation with one guy who told me that his prize winner produced 42 liters of milk a day.  42 Liters!!  If you wanted to wait in line, you could milk a cow, but my children were too impatient, and Dora didn't like the smell (surprise, surprise).

There were also lots of stalls with horses, and an arena where you could ride a horse (not sure if it was free or, if you had to pay).

We saved the petting zoo for last.  The line looked huge, but it was pretty well organized, so we only really had to wait about 20 minutes for a 5 minute visit.  There were llamas, goats, pygmy goats, sheep, buffalo, calves and one foal.  The kids loved it!

It's free during the first week!  After today, it's R$20 for admission.  Parking was advertised as R$8, but it ended up being R$8 an hour (rip off!).  So in my opinion, it's worth it to go the first week.  But I wouldn't pay admission.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Memorial Minas Gerais Vale

It's the Corpus Christi holiday, so it means a four day weekend.  I was hoping to get out of the city for at least one day, but it wasn't to be. Dora informed me earlier in the week that she had a HUGE group project for school that she had to work on, and it had to be on Friday and Saturday, which just so happened to be the only days that I could really go.  Boo.  I really need to get out of town soon because   I'm starting to feel a little crazy with the noise and traffic and city-ness of it all.

But instead I went with a group from Minas International to the Memorial Minas Gerais Vale.  It's a museum funded by Vale (HUGE mining company in our state).  It's one of the many beautiful historic buildings that surround the Praça Liberdade.  I took an easy bus ride with the the 2 younger kids while Dora was at her study group.  We hung out in the Praça for a while, and then hit the Museum.  

My kids were honestly not too keen on visiting a museum on a Saturday afternoon, but by the end they didn't want to leave!  It's a great museum for kids:  very interactive, lots of videos presented in interesting ways, music to listen to and screens to touch.  There are three floors (stairs only, didn't see if it has an elevator), and 18 rooms in total.  Each room has a different theme, sharing some aspect of history, art, or culture of Minas Gerais (our state).  My favorite rooms where Vale do Jequitinhonha, that was full of folk art from the area known as Jequitinhonha and the Fazenda Mineira that had hundreds of items that are (or have been) traditionally used on farms in Minas Gerais, and they were all attached to the walls and ceilings.  Fun! The kids loved the Povo Mineiro, which was a video (projected on a huge hand statue, and 3 huge head statues!) about the diversity found in Minas Gerais

Everything is in Portuguese, so unless you have a really good English speaking guide it's not really worth it for non-Portuguese speakers. They do have guides, and ours spoke good English, but she didn't do a very good job at explaining things in an interesting way (in my opinion).  But the kids didn't want to leave after almost 2 hours, so that to me says that Memorial Minas Gerais Vale is worth a visit.