Places of Aspiration

Brazil is a big and diverse country that has changed remarkably in recent years. That fact is so obvious that it can be overlooked; it can hide in plain sight.  History and tradition conspires against seeing the big picture.  Rio is so attractive and São Paulo so dynamic that it is easy to think that Brazil revolves around this axis.  Add Brasilia, and you could spend a lifetime in this Brazil w/o paying much attention to the rest. It is not only Brazil.  I know another big and diverse country where some people don’t really notice much beyond the East Coast (i.e. New York and maybe DC) and the West Coast (i.e. LA and maybe a little around SF). But in both countries, much of the energy is outside these formerly central places. 

My admittedly still limited experience with Brazil leads me to believe there is a strong parallel with the U.S. in what we can expect in future development. Demographer Joel Kotkin identifies such “cities of aspiration” in the American heartland as engines of growth and cultural expression in the next decades. I think the same thing goes for Brazil. Cities like Manaus, Cuiabá, Campo Grande or Tres Lagoas are Brazilian cities of aspiration, places where people go to get their piece of the country’s success. It is musica sertaneja replacing samba. It is new infrastructure opening up new places and new people enjoying social mobility. We cannot forget the old places, which are and will remain important, but we should also be in the new places. 

I can think of lots of reasons to stay in the office. Office work creates its own gravity. It is hard to get out and if you are out of the office a lot some people think you are not working, but we are not really doing our jobs if we DON’T get out … a lot. If we didn’t need to get out among Brazilians we could just stay in the U.S.  Most Brazilians are far away from us, since it is such a big country, it takes time to get to them but we can get to them. Some are close enough to drive, although that takes time too. Some of the areas and satellite cities around Brasilia are places of aspiration, so are some places in Rio and Sao Paulo.  They are not all away from everything. They are not all far off in the countryside. My car will come soon, I hope. I can drive from Brasilia to Goiania in about three hours and from Goiania I can get to Uberlandia etc. 

Anyway, I think that most of us agree about the need to get out. We can all identify the problem. We just have to do it, and not just me.  It is an exciting time to be in Brazil, as I have said on many occasions. There is enough Brazil for everybody.

The picture is a landscape in Goias.  There is lots of room.