Thoughts on Brasília

Brasília is a fever. A cauldron of activity that the Lauder Portuguese programhad the opportunity to experience first hand this July.

The city is a fever dream. It’s the execution in the Brazilian planalto of a plan to move the capital that existed for decades. It was the vision of Juscelino Kubitchek for the country to advance fifty years in five; Brasília was the manifestation of that vision. The main construction of Lúcio Costa pilot plan did happen in just four years, giving wings to the dream. Neymeier’s buildings were symbols of modernity and progress; they looked like the future and still do. The lines of the government palaces of the city’s monumental axis – sometimes sinuous, sometimes sharp – are a global reference point for modernist architecture, but remain eminently Brazilian. The Lauder students either loved it or hated it, but it was impossible to stay neutral.

It’s contagious. After spending the whole day in the national congress building, including a meeting with Senator Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede – AP), the Portuguese track group decided to return at 7PM to the eye of the storm for a chance to speak with a congressman, Alessandro Molon (Rede – RJ). He wasn’t immediately available, but we had the opportunity to watch part of the debate in the Constitution and Justice Committee about the fate of President Michel Temer. It was a rare opportunity to witness the legislature in action, discussing a critical issue for the country. Finally, past 9PM, the group sat down with Molon, and heard first-hand details about the present crisis a nd the country’s prospects. The energy in the building was palpable; one could almost forget that gravity of the problems being addressed there.

The city is sick. Brasília’s politics are also world-famous for its pervasive, industrial-scale corruption. In recent years, the instability brought about by successive corruption crises has dominated the headlines, sent dozens of politicians and businessmen to jail, helped fell one president, and gravely threatens another. For the budding brasilianist (or political scientist), there is no place like Brasília to learn about the country’s current political situation. It is a key to understanding Brazil – its struggles as well as its dreams.


-Júlio Erdos (Latin America – Portuguese Program, WG ’19)

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