8 things South Africa has in common with Brazil

During my recent trip to São Paulo, Brazil, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between South Africa and Brazil. It’s always a little annoying when South Africans travel abroad only to come back with news of how amazing other countries are compared to ours. These critiques are hardly ever constructive or give insight as to how different countries can learn from each other.

With that in mind, I decided to compile a list of common characteristics that make South Africa and Brazil unique melting pots of the developing world.

1. A history of colonisation

Cityscapes downtown. #saopaulo #cityscape #city #brazil #southamerica

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While Brazil was colonised by mainly Portugal, South Africa was colonised the Dutch, the French and later the English.  Both countries used slavery in the early years and after it was abolished, they made use of indentured labourerers from India on the sugar plantations. On the mines in South African mines, they made use of indentured Chinese labourers and black migrant workers. Most of the work force of Brazil consisted of African slaves and later indentured Indian workers. Both countries also thrived on gold and diamond mining and this enabled them to build opulent cities.

2. City landscapes

One of the first things you notice in a city like São Paulo is the colonial history embedded in the city landscapes and buildings. It reminds me of cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town with a mix between the old and the new. São Paulo is known as the graffiti capital and in some place it resembles Johannesburg with its unique street art. Gentrification plays a huge role in modernising cities that have a history of segregation and colonisation. In cities like Johannesburg the controversial red ants stick out from the crowd when they are conducting forced removals from buildings the city is trying to reclaim and rebuild. The two countries have also undergone massive infrastructural and transport changes to accommodate the rising population of people moving to decaying urban cities. Brazil has the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), which demands that the state play an active part in reducing the nation’s stark social inequality through the institution of an inclusive model of development. MST has also begun making inroads into including the homeless LGBTIAQ community, which is a drive South Africa can learn from.

3. Cultural and ethnic diversity

Brazil is a multi-cultural society because of its colonial history and it shows in the diversity and beauty of its people.  Brazil has several ethnic groups including Portuguese, German, Italian, Arab, Japanese, African, Pardo (cafuzo, mulato and caboclo) and Indigenous (Amerindian). SA’s diverse population of ethnic groups includes Khoi San, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Swazi, Pedi, Afrikaner, Southern Ndebele, Venda, Cape Malay, Cape Coloured, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, British, Greek, German, Irish and Italian.

4. LGBTIAQ rights and gender equality

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, asexual and queer (LGBTIAQ) people in South Africa and Brazil enjoy the same protection under the law as non-LGBTIAQ people. In both countries, LGBTIAQ people are allowed to get legally married. In my time in Brazil, I got to meet a lot of groups and organisations that are dedicated to making sure that these rights are protected. Trans murders have increased over the past year in Brazil and there are several drives for change and public visibility. South Africa has had many cases of homophobia and corrective rape which also shows that the LGBTIAQ isn’t always protected from violence.

5. Gender equality

Brazil became the global leader in gender equality in science and academia since March 2017. They are ranked above countries like the United States in bridging the gender equality gap over the past 20 years. Their 36th president Dilma Rousseff, who was later impeached was female. Since 1994 South Africa’s promotion of a non-sexist society in its constitution has led to progress in the gender equality spectrum. SA sits at number 15 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 annual gender equality list. There is a huge push currently in SA to have a female president.

6. Poverty

According to Oxfam, a growing population meant there were 50 million more people living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 than in 1990. This number is set to grow five times in the next 15 years. Brazil has long been known as one of the most unequal countries in the world. However, between 2003 and 2009, 21 million people have reportedly rose out of poverty.

7. Food

Feijoada meal. Picture from Facebook.

South Africa and Brazil are known for their diverse and world class restaurants and strong street food culture. While I was in Brazil, I tasted its famous Feijoada (black bean and pork Stew), Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and the Caipirinha drink. The restaurants all have a unique Brazilian spin on many different dishes from around the world. All of these rich foods made me miss South Africa’s traditional vetkoek/amagwinya, biltong, shisa nyama (braai vleis), bunny chow as well as the alcoholic milkshake, Dom Pedro.

8. Tourism and passionate culture

Both South Africa and Brazil have hosted the Soccer World Cup receiving stellar reviews for their hospitality, beautiful landscapes and the warm reception from the locals. The two countries have an undeniable love for soccer and a cultural diversity in music and the arts. Cities like São Paulo and Johannesburg are known for their street art and vast musical hybrids. While Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are known for their breathtaking landscapes and vibrant beach culture, both cities also known for their flashy flamboyant carnivals.

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