Saturday, November 29, 2008




November 28 2008

Writing from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 28, the Daily Nation’s Elias Makori reported that President Kibaki was due to visit the country and Venezuela to strengthen trade ties between Kenya and Latin America.

If and when our President visits him, President Luiz Inacio da Silva of Brazil is expected to talk about his country’s prowess in such things as agribusiness, generic drugs, sugar plantations and biofuels, to say nothing of coffee and football.

This will not be mere big talk. Brazil is the leading economic power in South America, and the fifth largest country in the world. It is more than three times the size of Sudan, Africa’s largest country, and nearly 15 times the size of Kenya. It has more blacks than any other country in the world, except Nigeria.

Brazil is a worthy trading and political partner for Kenya, and President Kibaki’s visit will be a smart move.

During their table talk, da Silva is likely to tell President Kibaki that it is Brazil, not the US, that was the first white-dominated country to have a black president in 1909. His name was Nilo Pecanha.

But he will not concern himself with the details of that historic first, such as the fact that Pecanha obtained the post by accident when he was the vice-president. He took over when President Affonso Penna died in June 1909 after ruling for only about a year.

In the tête-à-tête, da Silva will probably give the old line about racial democracy and harmony in his country. Brazilians have successfully used the line for years.

In the 1950s, the United Nations commissioned a series of studies on Brazil in an attempt to learn how the country achieved its “racial democracy” when other societies such as the US were experiencing strife in race relations.

But statistics show that the racial democracy in Brazil is a myth.

Skin pigmentation is still used to delineate social hierarchy. Black Brazilians — they are the majority — are discriminated against at every sphere of life. They suffer, among other ills, little access to education, landlessness, high infant mortality, discrimination in employment and police brutality.

As a result, many Brazilians of obvious African descent who want to better their socio-economic lives have to “whiten” themselves. The much-vaunted racial democracy only operates to exclude non-Whites.

Da Silva is also unlikely to tell President Kibaki that his country was built on African slave labour, and that Brazil should pay reparations for nearly 400 years of unpaid African labour.
Not surprisingly, Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1888.
In the more than three centuries of Portuguese colonisation, Brazil imported 4 million slaves to work for about 700,000 Portuguese settlers. Brazil was arguably the largest slave economy in human history.

Without the cheap African labour, the country would have stagnated economically. As early as April 1843, politician Bernado Pereira de Vasconcelos told the Brazilian senate: “Africa is civilising America”.

Another Brazilian politician, Cunha Matos, believed that the country would still be populated by Indians living under barbarous conditions if Africans did not come to bolster the Portuguese settlers. Brazil was just a claw-hold until the importation of large numbers of Africans.

But da Silva will not tell his Kenyan guest that the very continued existence of the Portuguese settlers in Brazil depended on the African slaves.

There are many other home truths, mostly rooted in Brazilian history, folklore and culture, that da Silva is unlikely to talk about.

For example, he is unlikely to talk about the Afro-Brazilian women, who have been a part of Brazilian popular culture for centuries.
During the slave era, the sexy mulata (a person of mixed African and European descent) was the female with whom white Brazilian boys were expected to have their first sexual experience, according to famed Brazilian writer-cum-anthropologist Gilberto Freyre.

And as another writer puts it, one of the results of the use of the black female for satisfaction was that Brazil exploded in a spree of miscegenation and racial mixture the extent of which is probably unknown in history.

Certainly, President da Silva will avoid using the old Brazilian expression, e um Africa (It’s an Africa).

Brazilians use the expression to describe anything that is difficult to overcome — a feat. The expression conjures up old images of the “Dark Continent”.

Da Silva may fear that the expression will offend his African guest. In Brazil, old stereotypes about Africa are very much alive.

This is why African-Brazilians will have to wait for a very long time before they have their own Obama.

Submitted by majojoes
Posted November 29, 2008 05:16 AM

What makes Obama totaly different from Nilo Peçanha is that Obama is a son of a Black father whom he has actualy trassed to kogelo and proud of it, while Nilo was even ashamed of being a mullato and could not identify which part of africa he decended. He,the 7th president of Brazil was more of a whiteman than black. I hope when our president visits President Lula he will pass our condolences for the landslide that led to death of about 86 people in Santa Catarina this week.