A Collection of Cultures: an Interview with Jay // Guest Post (Part Two)

We’re not voiceless. Pass the mic.”

If you’ve missed part one, click here! Otherwise, we’re getting straight to it!

copy of copy of copy of copy of a collection of cultures meet tiara guest post

I recently watched an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act where he discussed Bolsonaro and his controversial approach (at least for me as an outsider). What are your thoughts on Bolsonaro? What are some current political issues you are passionate about?

I’ll be honest. I never wanted him as a President. He is, from my point of view as a woman who is Black, mentally ill and not straight, extremely problematic. And I do – or used to – align with the right in my country for several reasons. My biggest concerns about him are that he spent his entire life in the military, and is making these people the core of his government, and he’s also a Christian fundamentalist. This combination, aligned with the fact that we have endured 21 years of a military dictatorship in which people were tortured and killed (note: he doesn’t believe it was a dictatorship and claims ‘good people’ were never tortured) and the fact  that laws are being put forward to allow women who want to have abortions to be institutionalized makes me extremely scared of this administration. I can’t physically have children anymore since my surgery, but access to safe abortions is a cause I’m very passionate about because it is something people are trying to take away from women who need it – children, women who were raped – and it makes me furious because people will still have abortions. Wealthy women will have them safely, and poor women will risk their lives in order to have them.

I’m also very passionate about culture, and this administration is not supporting it – schools and museums are [at] risk of closing or being closed already because they can’t afford to keep the lights on due to lack of funding the government used to provide. Oof, I better stop for the sake of my blood pressure! To make a long story short (too late?), I’m very passionate about reproductive rights, a civilian government and separation of Church and State. It may not be what’s right for every country, but I feel that mine would benefit from it all, especially the last two items. 

What are some of your favourite books by Brazilian authors and what are these stories about? 

Monteiro Lobato was the first Brazilian author I ever read, so his work as a whole has to be mentioned. He had a long series of books, written for children, in which he talked about Brazilian folklore, math, science, mythology, grammar, and lots of other things. It was a whole collection, so it’s hard to talk about each of the books individually, but it was a series with two children, a boy and a girl, who spent their vacation with their grandmother on her farm and went through many adventures there. Some of his views are outdated and  – nowadays – problematic, such as his views on race, but it is still a very rich body of work.

I also like the works of Machado de Assis – like me, he was mixed race, which back in his day was very much a thing you couldn’t be and have a successful career, but he did it anyway. Dom Casmurro is definitely his most famous book and one of my favorite books overall. It’s a story told by a man who suspects his wife has cheated on him and presents lots of reasons for the reader to believe she did – but he is an unreliable narrator, and even today, so long after it was published (in 1899), people still discuss it and come to different conclusions. Note: if you can find a translation and read it, I highly recommend this book.

dom casmurro

What are some misconceptions that you commonly encounter regarding Brazil and Brazilian people? 

I would say the first one is our language. So many people think our language is Spanish. I don’t really blame them that much because we’re in Latin America, so it’s a possible misconception. I have also had to answer questions about whether or not we have paved streets (yes), and whether or not we see monkeys and alligators all the time when we go out (no, but that would be fun). I constantly get asked questions about religion as well – more specifically, if we’re all involved in the African based religions. While these are indeed popular here, no, we have a huge variety of religions, and the country as a whole is founded on a Catholic foundation – even though there have been attempts to get rid of it and make the country a secular state in deed as much as in name. There are some questions that are not safe for work or life that I’ll refrain from sharing, your readers don’t need to see those.

I remember discussing microaggressions a while back with you in the comments section of my blog. What are some forms of microaggressions and racism you’ve been subjected to? How do you respond to it? 

I haven’t dealt with too much racism in my everyday life here in Brazil. I have had a friend’s friend be surprised because she had a Black friend, but I was very young and while that did sting, the friend was also a child.

My hair was a point of contention for a long time as it was expected that I would straighten it out all the time. The expression used was “tidy it up”, but that’s what people meant. Sometimes people used the word “fix” about making my curly hair straight. And, from people in other countries, I sadly get the surprise that I’m educated and “sound white”. I didn’t respond to the comment from the girl when I was a child, though it’s obvious I still remember it to this day. About my hair, I’m a lot less patient. I’ll usually say I like it as it is, but if people push, I sometimes comment that my hair isn’t broken to be fixed, and that if they hate their own hair, I don’t hate mine. For foreign people, while it is annoying, I make it clear that I have been privileged, and not all of us have the chance to get an education and learn another language properly. (Well, sort of properly, I still make some mistakes I get really embarrassed about once I catch them.)

 

Can you tell us a story that gives us an idea of Brazilian culture?

I think the most interesting one, and when I felt very much Brazilian was when my friend visited me with her British boyfriend. I had never met this friend in person, and they hadn’t planned on visiting. They had come from a festival through my city, but they were very tired and she called me out of the blue at almost eleven at night and asked if they could crash at my place. Of course I said yes, and taught them how to get to my place. By the time they got to my house, I had dinner on the table and a bedroom ready, and my friend and I hugged like we would if we were family. He was so impressed at our connection and how at home I made them feel. Next morning, I woke up and made breakfast, and he loved it. Long story short, they ended up staying with me for a whole week, and by the end of the week he was already making coffee for everyone in the mornings and feeling completely at home as though he was a family member too. He said he had been to many countries, but he had never felt this comfortable with a virtual stranger anywhere. It was a very happy moment, and a very Brazilian experience indeed in the way that we ‘do’ hospitality.

Who are some of your favourite Brazilian icons that inspire you?

One of them has been mentioned above – Machado de Assis. He was dark-skinned, poor, and didn’t have a formal education. Still, he went on to become the first president of Academia Brasileira de Letras (a literary institution that was created to cultivate the Portuguese language and Brazilian literature – one has to be a prominent writer to be invited to join it, and they are lifelong members once they are invited) and one of the most respected writers in this country. 

Another one is a woman. Maria Quitéria de Jesus fought in our Independence War. She dressed as a man, took on the name Soldado (Soldier) Medeiros and kept it until her father found out she had left home to enroll in the Army as a volunteer and told her superior officers she was a woman. An army Major defended her against any punishment and kept her in the Battalion she had become a member of due to how competent and brave she was. After her years on the service, she was given a condecoration and created a Knight by the Emperor himself and has become a revered figure, as patroness of one of the branches of the Brazilian Army, all in a time where women weren’t even allowed to be members of any of the armed forces. 

Basically, I have a deep respect and admiration for people who do what they’ve set out to do against all odds, and they inspire me. There are many others, but these two are the ones I can think of now.

How’s the weather like now in Brazil, does summer occur later?

Yes, winter here is during the middle of the year, not the end, so August is still at the end of it. It’s spring now, and summer begins in December. The weather is now warmer, but it’s still raining frequently.

Well, you’ve just given me an idea for a holiday, I definitely need to go to Brazil if it’s summer in December! Which places would you recommend for a newbie?

Oh, it would be amazing if you did decide to come by! December is the height of our summer and it’s a great time to run away from the cold! It is expensive, though, because a lot of people come from other countries, so it’s better planned with a lot of time in advance! I am from Rio, and New Year celebrations there are the best, but I live in another popular tourist destination now (Bahia State) and coming here is also great. They’re across the country from each other, but both are amazing options! If you do plan on coming to either state I’ll happily help you figure out your moves to the best of my ability!


Check out Jay’s Brainstorms blog and Twitter

Are you a diverse blogger who has a story to share? If so, my blog is now open for, not only for ‘A Collection of Cultures’ interview series, but for all other guest posts too. Going forward, topics will be expanding to anything of interest including mental health, life experiences, culture, community, employment, education, environmental issues, and much more. Please contact me if you would like to feature as a guest on my blog.

Sophia Ismaa

Connect with me:

-Let’s talk all things books on Goodreads
-Talk politics, books, TV shows, blogging and life with me on Twitter

3 Comments

  1. Yikes, I talk a lot, don’t I? I had completely forgotten there was a part two to this! Once again, thank you so much for providing me with this space! ❤

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    1. Thank you for talking as much as you can, I wouldn’t change it in the slightest. Another blogger commented about her meeting with a Brazilian person and she spoke about how open she was. It’s really interesting to see how different cultures have different values and how it impacts their interactions – as a Brit, I can tell you we definitely don’t do enough talking unless on Twitter! 😂 and anytime, thank you for being so fantastic to interview 💛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope this doesn’t scare you, lol But I’m actually not the most talkative Brazilian out there! 😀 And it is fun to see how people have different styles of interaction, it’s one of the perks of this online world! Thank you for interviewing me and may we see many collabs in the future!

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