Sleeping Giant


Happy 196th Birthday, Brazil.
Tired of Breaking Hearts Yet?

It’s Independency Day for Latin America’s biggest country. So let’s blow some candles and sing sad songs of disappointment. Just like an unruly teenager, so young and yet so troubled already. The so-called growing pains are here to stay, it seems, but little of growing up.
Few are feeling that independent lately. Or big for that matter. Brazil acts as if it’s all new, and keeps repeating itself over and over. Fatigue and heartbreak is how most Brazilians have been living for so long. We swim and swim and still risk drowning by the shore.
The heart of this country is a centrifuge; try to embrace it and hold on to it, and it’ll toss you like a soccer ball. And yet, we come back for more. Our memory burns to the ground in neglected museums and roach-ridden historical districts. And yet, we keep on rising.
Our idealized future rots in jail, our dreams are ineligible to be elected. We’re bound to pick the wrong thief to run us. But it’s September 7, and but for a special favor of a Portuguese prince, we’ve been given an autonomy that we still don’t know what to do with it.
From north to south, the National Anthem will be sung about us, people who never ‘run away from a fight,’ but live on a land ‘eternally lying on splendid cradle.’ A napping giant, that is. Where up is actually down, that is, the bottom rules the top.

Like most things Brazilian, contradiction is our middle name. We’re big but can’t speak the language of the majority that surrounds us. Our race is mixed, tainted, blackish, but no one identifies as such. White is ‘beautiful,’ rich; black is just poor.
Oh, Brazil, you treat us like orphans, children from a broken home, thrown into the world to fend for ourselves. Meanwhile, a cast of stealers rides the wild mount of our rare soul, without success or grace. They will too be tossed, crash and burn. And we will laugh.
Here’s to you, República Federativa do Brasil. Have some cake and get drunk. We’ll cry a little for that spoiled vision of a glorious future that never comes. Don’t worry, we’re not quitting you, but boy, haven’t you have better things to do than to bust our balls?

Papa Was a Soccer Star

Transgender Model
Breaks New Grounds

How do you tell your world famous father that you’re about to change genders? And that you’re famous too, as a high-fashion model? What if he, despite fame and fortune as a soccer player, remains private and very much in touch with his poor, deeply devout upbringing?
Meet Lea T, who had to go through all of that to become the world’s possible first transgender supermodel. While her father, Brazilian great Toninho Cerezo, reportedly wishes it all would just go away, that’s not an option. Not now that Lea is well on her way to a high-profile, full-fledged fashion career, on international runaways and magazine covers.
And absolutely Toninho Cerezo (Eugenio Savio) Now & Playing for Brazil's National Team (CBF)not now that she’s become a symbol for transsexuals the world over. To counter the pull of her family’s Catholic roots, it helped she grew up in Italy. But never doubt for a minute the hardships she may’ve had to endure before her sexual identity, and a body to go with, were finally in synch with her own sense of purpose in life.
It also helps that her face is worlds away from being merely pretty. Tall and thin and wearing the signature aloofness that seems to be required to be a supermodel, Lea‘s already attracting the attention of high-fashion publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. And the fat checks that come with it. Deservedly so, say transgender organizations, fashionistas of all stripes and her friends in Belo Horizonte, her city of birth.
So what if there’s a certain level of exploitation of her by the fashion industry, always on the lookout for shock value and maximum impact from its high-paid laborers? Critics are already rehashing Continue reading

Grace Under Rain


The World Cup starts in June in Brazil, the country that has won it five times, the most of any other. Three of such conquests are fully owned by Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, the game’s top scorer and, arguably, the greatest player who’s ever played it.
Back in the 1960s, as a wee fan I got a taste of his magic and seized that memory as one of my most precious. Four years ago, I’ve committed that virtually indescribable experience to words and now, I’m sharing it with you as a personal tribute to Pelé. Enjoy it.

As he walked off the field, head down, oblivious, the crowd jeers turned into cheers. He waited until they grew louder and finally acknowledged us like the king he already was. It took him a second and we were all his forever.

Pelé, football’s greatest player, had come to my hometown to play against my team. The rough first half had just ended, with no fancy plays or memorable greatness. Just another mid-week league game, in a cold and unforgiving winter. No other redeeming memory to speak of.
But no ordinary knight was among us that night. And he acted the part with style.
Sport fans are rude, raw, irrational the world over. Crude emotions always trace them, but civility is left out at the turnstiles. Just like at the Parthenon: Christians and pagans crowd the pit but to the beasts belongs the hour.
The land of the “jogo bonito” is no exception in this world of unbounded brutality. The exquisite touch of skills, the artistry with the ball have their own bizarro mirror reflected at the bleaches, all screams and cursing and obscene gestures to match.
Let’s not get into the urine-bag throwing at random, the foul smelling bathrooms, the fights that break at chance between rivaling factions. And the slurs throw at women, let’s just not go there.
In such a cold and raining Wednesday, as only a place too close to Antarctica can be, 30 thousand or so of us were braving elements and
Continue reading

Pelé at 70

Once a Soccer King,
Always World’s Royalty

– What some who saw him play have said about Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pelé, the world’s greatest soccer player:

“In the 1960s and 70s, no one did more for Brazil’s ‘happy’ image than Pelé.” Brazilian songwriter Gilberto Gil

“I told myself before the game, ‘he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else’. But I was wrong.” Tarcisio Burgnich, Italian defender who marked Pelé in the 1970 World Cup Final

“The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He was above that.” Hungarian player Ferenc Puskas

“In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on. I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful.” Brazilian player Clodoaldo

“After the fifth goal, even I wanted to cheer for him.” Swedish player Sigge Parling on the 5×2 loss to Continue reading