Societiesin Brazil, US and South Africa
Brazilis the fifth largest country in the world and the largest in SouthAmerica with a relatively different cultural and social environmentthan her neighbors. The country is best known worldwide for hersoccer fanaticism, samba dance, coffee, and the carnival festival.One unique thing about this country is that much of her identity isbased on an infusion of African and Portuguese culture as opposed tothe predominant Spanish culture in the region. However, as a nationand given her history and people, she has developed into a uniquesociety with unique aspects.
Portugueseexplorer Pedro Alvares Cabrel was the first ever recorded foreignerin Brazil. He made the discovery of this country in 1500 by accidentas he was headed to India. He was impressed by the country’stropical climate and rainforests which would serve as suitableagricultural land. He therefore marked the arrival of otherPortuguese settlers who established huge coffee and sugarcaneplantations. The settlers utilized labor provided by the 2-6 millionnative Indians in the region. Some native tribes in the deep Amazonrainforests however were too isolated from the rest of Brazil. Someeven remain isolated up to today. When this labor was not enough, thesettlers ventured into slavery bringing in thousands of Africanslaves in the 16thand 17thcentury. The slave trade was not just unique to Brazil as othercountries in the region such as Argentina which was under Spanishcolonial rule also received a considerable number of African slavesto work in the farmlands. In Brazil, the arrival of slaves impactedon their people culturally such as the now famous samba music whichhas its roots in Africa. In later times, the country receivedimmigrants from all over the world such as Japan, Germany and China(Nuhnen 14).
Nepotismand corruption are widely acceptable in Brazil. As of 2010, it wasestimated that 2% of the country’s GDP goes to corruption. As acountry that recorded a GDP of $2.246 trillion in GDP in 2013, it isclear to see how huge corruption is in the country. It is a whole newindustry that transcends government and private sector. In therecently concluded general elections in the country, corruption andnepotism accusations came up very strongly. The incumbent presidentDilma Rouseff was accused by her challenged Aecio Neves of corruptionand nepotism involving the government-owned petroleum companyPetrobas. Neves charged that part of the company’s monies went infofunding Rouseff’s campaigns as one of the company’s formerdirectors had confessed. In repose, Rouseff countercharged Neves ofbeing part of the same scandal at Petrobas (Bevins, 2014). Corruptionalso dogged President Fernando Collor who came into power in 1989 butwas indicted on corruption charges in 1992.
Politically,Brazil has had turbulent times. The country gained independence in1822 without bloodshed from the Portuguese colonial government. In1887, slavery was abolished and some planters were very angry at theloss of free labor hence leading to unrests which resulted into amilitary coup in 1189. The strong agricultural industry stronglysupported the government which was progressive. The government sawthe expansion of the rubber industry up until 1912. During the 1stand 2ndworld wars, Brazil was quiet. However, after WWII, the countryexperienced a coup in 1964 amid a struggle with high inflation andunemployment. Between 1968 and 1973, the military government oversawimpressive economic growth. In 1985, a civilian government waselected and at the time, the economy ranked 10thglobally (Nuhnen 43).
Spanish/Italianexplorer Christopher Columbus is said to be the first man to discoverthe Americas in 1492. This claim has been refuted by some historianswho argue that several other foreigners had already made contact withthe new world before Columbus did. The man is solely credited withsetting the ground for European colonization of America. Hefacilitated the arrival of Spanish and English colonizers later on.These colonizers brought in their cultures and languages and later onslaves who today comprise the African American population in thecountry. The Native Americans who numbered 1-6 million people werepushed away from rich agricultural farmlands and hunting grounds intointerior lands (Johnson 8). Furthermore, the foreigners brought withthem new diseases which proved very dangerous to the native Indians.Thousands of them lost their lives and nearly wiped out the entirerace. American identity thus comprises of a mixture of NativeAmerican, Spanish, English and African heritage. However with influxof other immigrant populations from all over the world, the Americanheritage has become more complex.
America’slong colonial history and civil war have been unifying factors in thecountry. Its rich immigration history has built a nation to beadmired all over the world. However, immigration has also been atough political issue with the current regime eager to amend thecountry’s immigration policy which has received varied opinionamong politicians (Riffkin 2014). The country has also been at theforefront in the fight for democracy and human rights in major ways.This has been occasioned by a relatively dark history of slavery andlegalized racism through the Jim Crow laws. For instance, the US hasdemanded democratic reforms in a number of countries around the worldsuch as Syria and China (Johnson 65).
TodayAmerica is defined by democracy and freedom. It has often been calledthe land of the free. Freedom of worship and freedom of expressionhave highlighted this nation against some of the world’s culturedsociety such as China. It has often been argued that Americanizationas presented by Hollywood films and culture is too free where ‘vices’such as gayism are permitted. Nonetheless, the country’s heritagehas had a positive influence on other societies (Johnson 67).
SouthAfrica is one of the largest and most developed countries in Africa.Like the rest of Africa, the country has a rich history incolonization. In fact, the country underwent one of the most brutaland barbaric colonization eras through the apartheid regime led byDutch and British Colonizers. The country only gained independencein 1994 and saw Nelson Mandela elected as president. He played avital role in uniting the country both the whites who remained andthe natives.
TheSouth African society is very diverse. The native South Africansmainly consist of the Xhosa, Tswana and the Zulu. These groupsdominate the country’s politics and culture. In recent yearsfollowing economic development in the country, the country has playedhost to thousands of immigrants from all over Africa especiallyneighboring Zimbabwe which has been on an economic crisis followingtrade embargoes placed on the country. This has also been a cause ofsocial and economic friction with numerous cases of xenophobicattacks being reported. South Africans are worried about theimmigrant population that competes for jobs (Hartdegen 115).
Followingyears of apartheid which called for segregation of the white andblack races, the country is still yet to recover. For many SouthAfricans, the whites and former colonial rulers dominate most of theeconomic resources. Land is a sensitive issue as many communitiesfeel that they lost their community land to the settlers and have notyet recovered the lands. Such lands today are owned by privateranchers, farmers and some political elites (Hartdegen,118). As such,race relations in the country have not been the smoothest. Some ofrich mines owned by whites have experienced difficulties such asindustrial strikes. The foreign owned mines are accused of payingmeager wages given that they take away minerals from the countrywhich the locals do not enjoy. It must be mentioned here that SouthAfrica posses several gold and mineral mines.
SouthAfrica has struggled socially and politically. Following thesentencing of Nelson Mandela for 27 years by the apartheid regime forcalling for South African independence, the political scene in thecountry has not been very vibrant. Nelson Mandela identified as thefather of the nation has been a unifying factor socially andpolitically in his life and even after his death. However, thecountry enjoys just minimal political activity with only two mainpolitical parties (Hartdegen 119)
Thebrief look into these three societies reveals wide disparities andclose similarities. Interestingly, these three nations have beencolonies to other governments in different periods in their history.They have also experience political challenges but have emergedstronger politically. In the case of Brazil, it has created a uniqueidentity embedded in the samba dance and the soccer fanaticism. Thiswas at display during the 2014 world cup held in Brazil. South Africaalso hosted the 2010 world cup and showcased its culture and society.The death of the country’s icon Nelson Mandela also gave the worldan opportunity to explore the country’s history and its progressover time.
Bevins,Vincent. Petrobras corruption case overshadows Brazil presidentialcampaign. LATimes.
24thOct 2014. 6thDec 2014. Web.<http://www.latimes.com/world/brazil/la-fg-ff-brazil-campaign-finance-20141024-story.html>
Hartdegen,Paddy. ACentury of Building South Africa: Master Builders South Africa.
Johannesburg:Rensburg. 2007. Print.
Johnson,Paul. Ahistory of the American People.New York: Harper Collins. 2009. Print.
Riffkin,Rebecca. 2014. Government, Economy, Immigration Are Top U.S.Problems.
Gallup.com.2014. 26thNov 2014. Web.
Nuhnen,Vanessa. Braziland Portugal: Brothers, Friends or Competitors?New York: GRIN