The Everyday Olympics of Rio de Janiero

This guest blog by Dave Loewenstein, the selected artist for ECA’s Community Engagement through the Arts Brazil program, first appeared hereFor the prequel to the story, read about his experience in Vitória.


In a picture postcard
How would the dream of Rio compare to actually being there, especially at this moment? My first impression matched if not exceeded my expectations – the awe inspiring beauty of how human settlement is tucked in between those lush green mountains that appear like teeth sprouting from the maw of a sun bathing dragon.

Looking down at Copacabana Beach from the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
Looking down at Copacabana Beach from the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

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The Brazilians Are Here!

Forgive the sterotype — but whenever I think of Brazil, I think of fantastic soccer, the beaches of Rio de Janiero, the rhythms of Samba, and the splendor of Carnival. Of course, all of those are authentically “Brazilian”, but there are other aspects of Brazil which are quickly overtaking the cultural and tourism themes traditionally associated with this South American giant. These include the exponential growth of its business sector, large scale industrial and infrastructural development, and significant advancements in science and technology. I discovered this “side” of Brazil in early October when the U.S. Embassy to Brazil partnered with the Fulbright Commission in Brazil to sponsor a program on “Higher Education Missions to the U.S.”. The program, which was implemented by Meridian International Center, brought three regional delegations comprising eighteen Brazilian deans and academic professionals to the United States. Each of the regional delegations, visited several institutions of higher learning in the U.S. which could potentially provide innovative exchanges to the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program.

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Volunteerism Redefined in Brazil

The meaning of volunteerism and citizen activism is being redefined in Brazil. Following broad protests in response to rising public transportation costs and immense spending in preparation for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics, a movement has gained momentum that crosses all social lines. Organized by social media and driven by the youth, some sense that it will be organized into a new political party. To fully appreciate this emerging cultural shift, I spoke with a group of young leaders who are part of an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) entitled Inspiring Youth Leadership, Volunteerism and Citizen Activism.

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