It's fair to say that 90% of the time I reveal I'm originally from Brazil I hear the same question, especially from Britons: "What are you even doing there?". Well, a country is much more than its weather and I don't know if this will come as a surprise to anyone but Brazil is no paradise. Way beyond the violence and corruption from City of God, the country finds itself in a very dangerous situation and dark times might be ahead. And I'm not even talking about economy.
When I left my home country about six years ago, things seemed to be progressing for a better situation, with a decrease in poverty and hunger and a growing economy. There was a lot to be done and I was aware that it would take a long time, but then things changed.
When talking about religious fundamentalism, the Middle East would probably be the first region to come to one's mind. But in the South American giant, corrupted politicians are using churches as political platforms and winning seats in Brazilian congress by using people's faith (mainly poor and uneducated people who already give a percentage of their monthly salary to the church). Until a few months ago, the president of the human rights commission was an evangelical priest named Marco Feliciano who can be seen in a YouTube video asking for the password of one of his follower's debit card because, in his words, "otherwise God won't make any miracles". He is also famous for his racist and homophobic tweets.
The feeling of being ashamed and scared of my home country keeps growing as elected congressmen keep shocking me: some of the evangelical leaders who were elected prayed a Lord's Prayer inside the congress to protest against the Gay Pride, which, for them, is responsible for destroying what they like to call the "traditional Brazilian family". Articulating political favours with different parties, part of the Congress gains influence enough to block the introduction of gay rights and to approve their conservative agenda.
And the problem is not only homophobia. As Brazil is extremely violent and no action is taken to contain the origin of the problem, a huge part of the population started to support extreme measures rather than investments in education and rehabilitation. The country discussed recently a controversial change in the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 years old, which is condemned by a big number of experts and the United Nations - all of which predict an even more chaotic situation if the law passes. In a first session, the change was rejected - but the president of Congress, evangelical businessman Eduardo Cunha (who was elect with the help of millions of reais in donations from top companies), who wasn't happy with the result, ignored the Constitution and opened a new session after convincing enough MPs to change their votes (a move that explains why he is constantly compared to Frank Underwood, the despicable character from House of Cards).
With the support of evangelical leaders, other conservative and narrow-minded men, thirsty for power and influence, gain popularity declaring things like 'a good criminal is a dead criminal' as if they were part of some Western 60s movie. And the worst part is the amount of superficial people who had barely studied history and who love to share their thoughts on Facebook, in an attempt to show how politicized and rebellious against the government they are. One of the biggest names in this group, who I personally consider the incarnation of evil, is military congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who thinks he can speak for a whole nation when he says that "Brazil doesn't like gays" and his children could never be homosexuals because "they had a loving father". Stephen Fry's interviewed him for his documentary about how homosexuality is perceived around the world, and labelled it as "one of the most sinister encounters" he's ever had. Unfortunately, the shocking conversation had little repercussion.
Ironically, while people here call Brazil a 'paradise', Brazilians think Europe and the United States are the real paradise - and the so-called 'underdog syndrome' means many Brazilians think that nothing there can be good or positive and the lack of structure is just as it is. Even in the protests against federal government, many people seem to have the wrong idea of what to protest against. Some would shout that the Labour party, which has the presidency since 2004, want to implement a 'communist dictatorship' in the country - only they forget to check the profit the main banks has in all these years - a clear indication of how far they are from anything but wild capitalism.
I find myself explaining over and over how I never hated Brazil, although I always lacked identification with it. And the truth being that I would really like to want to live there one day again. But I don't see this happening unless people one day realise that the way to turn this broken society is to stop whoever is spreading the hate.