The question of the relationship between Brazil and its identity as a Latin American country does not have a definitive answer. A significant part of the population sees the Latinx culture with contempt and this, alongside the cultural complexity of the people, prevents total unity under a common identity. Defining Brazil as belonging to Latin America based on its geographical location is a shallow categorization, as Latin American identity is built from broad social and cultural aspects, aspects that not all Brazilians share.
Before coming to Andover, which wasn’t long ago, I had never reflected upon my identity as Latin American. I barely knew who I was as a Brazilian—in truth I’m still figuring that out—and what my nationality meant to me. It was only when I entered a sphere of diversity and was perceived as a representative of my country that I began to understand my identity and started to see myself in the bigger picture of Latin America, a concept that’s weirdly ambivalent in my life. Even though geographically and historically, Brazil is considered a part of Latin America due to its location and its colonization by the Portuguese, the definition of Latin America is shallow and controversial among scholars. This debate is the consequence of a clash between a colonial view that has an overly simplistic reading of the geographic region and a regionalist view that values social, economical and cultural aspects of the countries. Inside Brazil there is a unique diversity that divides the nation in different identities, and when I thought about myself being Latin American or not, I quickly realized that I couldn’t label every Brazillian in the same way.
I’ve realized that my own identity as a Latin American has meant having a mixed heritage that mirrors the deep historical oppression still reflected in inequalities of my country, but also having a heritage that symbolizes an undeniably beautiful cultural fusion and resistance. This cultural fusion includes the presence of Indigenous and Black influences unwanted by colonizers, which still completely shifted our music, food, language, dances, and medicine in the largest possible act of defiance. That resistance became intrinsic to the people of Latin America, and it carried through many decades and oppressive regimes amidst our messy politics. Being Latin American is not simply about having Spanish or Portuguese as a main language, as Oxford Dictionary or Wikipedia would tell you.
Taking into consideration that being Latinx is about culture and not merely about the geographical location or language, not all Brazilians fit into that category. Brazil has a very peculiar multiplicity that started with multiracial mixing from the sexual abuse of Indigenous and Black women by the Portuguese colonizers. At the end of the nineteenth century, the wave of immigration helped consolidate diversity and generated communities with various ethnic backgrounds. As someone who doesn’t belong to any community with a particular ethnic background, it becomes clear for me why certain members of these communities, such as the German immigrant communities, don’t see a reason in being labeled as Latin American—they don’t consider it a part of their identity.
There’s only a certain part of the population that can relate to the shared history and culture between Brazil and our Latin American neighbors. These similarities range from the food, to novelas, and the warm weather to facing military dictatorships and machismo, and even then, some people refuse to see those affinities due to a false sense of superiority over other Latin American countries. According to BBC Brasil, in 2015 only four percent of Brazilians identified as Latin American and yet, 66 percent of the people said that if the UN Security Council were to open a permanent spot to a Latin American country, Brazil should be the one. Furthermore in the survey, most Brazilians disagree with the free movement of people without border control in Latin America and oppose the presence of Latin American workers in Brazil without a Visa. This data shows a clear contradiction and a sense of separation from Latin American people, which can also be seen through the actions of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. He removed Brazil from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) and praised Donald Trump’s treatment of Latinx people, questioning “Why is Trump so criticized by the U.S. press? The guy reduced unemployment, improved the economy, aided the Latinxs who are there.”
The sense of separation away from other Latinx countries that permeates Brazilian society does not allow a part of the population to acknowledge their proximity to the Latinidade. This phenomenon becomes clear to most Brazilians, including me, when there is some contact with the U.S., and we are suddenly labeled as Latinx; I was never presented with the idea of being Latina, a concept that seems to be forgotten by the institutions and absent in both the educational space and the home. When faced with the comparison with the unwanted view of Latin America built from the anti-immigration movement in the U.S. and the demeaning label of Third World given to Latinx countries during the Cold War, many people distance themselves and prefer to label themselves by nationality.
In this way, Brazil can’t be labeled as a Latinx country in its entirety. Being Latin American is related to social and cultural aspects that only cover part of the Brazilian population, a population that is extremely diverse and generally tries to distance itself from Latinx identity. Brasil, mostra tua cara and your multitude.