The divide between these two cousins pretty much falls along stereotypical lines. Cesar, the younger one, likes newer cars, owns a Suzuki Swift GT and wants to turbocharge his 1.3 L motor to get more punch. Leo, the older one with an established restoration shop, owns a ’74 Pontiac Trans Am with 455 cubic inches of displacement that sends 300 odd horsepower to the rear wheels. It’s the classic young import tuner vs. the old American muscle.
And the differences don’t end there. Cesar has a Kawasaki sport bike, and Leo owns a Harley. Cesar only owns the Suzuki and the Kawasaki, while Leo owns an entire fleet of cars, including a turbocharged V6 Golf. Leo has been at this for many years, and even founded this shop 5 years ago because people kept asking him to fix their cars. Cesar on the other hand started out relatively recently.
Despite their differing interests in car culture, the two cousins are actually very close. Part of that reason is because they are sort of the black sheep in the family. You only have to take a glance at the family’s stable of cars to see why. Their grandfather owns a collection of classic cars – one of which is a pre-World War II Rolls Royce, and Cesar’s father daily drives a BMW 5 series. Considering how expensive it is to own and maintain a car in Brazil, the family’s collective garage speaks volumes about their wealth.
See the thing is that Cesar and Leo’s family is composed of upper level white collar workers. As Cesar talked about his family the words “doctor” and “lawyer” were frequently used. Even Cesar’s father, who is also a car nut, was a businessman who owned car dealerships.
So rather than being in opposition with each other, these two cousins in their blue collar occupation stand in contrast with their overwhelmingly white collar family. But here’s the great thing about all of it - their family seems totally fine with the path they have chosen. In fact, Cesar dropped out of Law school to follow his passion for cars, and there doesn’t seem to be much familial angst over the decision.
And this seems to fit in with something I have noticed in Brazil – the culture here isn’t very different from that in the United States. Yes, you have Brazilian Food, yes Brazilian national pride is expressed differently, and yes the Brazilians have a flair for the dramatic (as evidenced by their love of Telenovelas). But you still have a very strong emphasis on the individual, a Eurocentric guide to beauty, and a capital based economy. Walking through a local mall here is similar to Anymall located in the heart of Anytown USA, and people give surprisingly American dream-esque responses to questions about life and the future.
Maybe the similarities I’m highlighting are so high level that they are as meaningless as saying that “people live in both countries.”, but I think these similarities show the North American bubble extremely well. What I mean is that one of the things that is thought of as uniquely American is the emphasis on individual contribution and following your passion. Yet here in Brazil we have a great example of two people who have opted to follow their passion instead of more lucrative options such as law, medicine or business. And most importantly, this is seen as normal.
So maybe the truth is that once you get past the language and the slightly different preferences in entertainment, most people beyond the Hadrian’s wall that is the southern US border are far more similar to us than we expect.
You can find more pictures here.