These days the windows rattle to throbbing beats until 10pm nightly. Dust drifts down from the rafters. The family dog has lost a kilo (or two) from sprinting to the garden wall–always the same garden wall–every two minutes to defend us from invisible intruders firing rockets. What’s happening? It’s politics, Brazilian style.
Candidates do come and knock on your door in Brazil. They sit and have coffee and chat, although in true latin-American style they rarely travel alone and also lean heavily on family connections to finagle visits and endorsements (“Your dad told us to come by here and to tell you to open the gate so that we can come talk politics, so your brother showed us the way here. Can we count on your vote?”).
They also rally the public with “jingles”–yes, they borrowed the English term–blasted out of massive speakers in the trunks of wildly decorated cars that drive around and around and around town. These tunes are the dangerous type that invade your waking thoughts and rattle around in your brain when you’d prefer to be sleeping. They have political rallies that fill the town square and have rented trucks that blast the danceable jingles for the public. They call these events “meetings” and they look nothing like any political campaign meeting I have ever attended. If you support a campaign, in Portuguese you say that you “pula” for them, you “jump” for them. Once you’ve been to a campaign meeting, the euphemism makes a lot of sense.
The campaigners also get wound up, especially on their days off on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and fire bottle-rockets to show their enthusiasm. Sometimes with all the campaigning around BOOM BOOM JINGLE here it’s hard BOOM to get a word in edgewise.
Who are the contenders? The best I can gather, and admittedly I’m a newbie to the crazy madness that is Brazilian politics, there’s the Red Team and the Blue Team. Brazil has a multi-party system with over 40 political parties. Each night another one gets its publicly-allocated chance to sell its brand on national TV. Of course no one can keep them all straight and in a small town like ours not all are represented. When there’s a race such as we have this year for mayor the parties band together, and a multitude of candidates for city council under various political parties sign up to support one candidate for mayor or another. There’s really not any rhyme or reason (or political ideology) to the groupings; next year they may organize themselves differently. So, this year it’s Red Team (under the umbrella of party 13) v. Blue Team (party 25).
The Red Team is most of the incumbant city council members and the friends of the previous mayor. This previous mayor left debts outstanding to the federal government so he can’t run for another term in office, his wife is running in his place. Brazil has a nepotism law that family members cannot run for a seat previously held by their relatives. Apparently, your spouse isn’t your relative, go figure. They argue that they have done lots for the city, and that the current mayor has accomplished nothing in his time in office and that their party needs to take command once again.
The Blue team is the team of the current mayor. He’s not running for re-election; frankly, he says he’s worn out. He argues that the current city council members blocked him at every turn and that when he came into office there was an unexplainable R$1,000,0000 (approximately USD$500,000) debt to be dealt with. He is leaving with the budget in order. The Blue team argues that the Reds made a mess of things and they are just getting things cleared up, that they stand on the side of progress.
I’m not making this up, you guys. We really do have the Reds vs. the Blues and the Reds left us with a huge outstanding debt and out of partisan sentiment blocked many attempts to rectify the financial mess and the Blues are getting accused of not getting it cleaned up quickly enough. My fellow Americans, this sound familiar?
Just goes to show: people are people, wherever you go.