Thursday, August 12, 2004

Upsetting people

Think of Brazil and what do you usually picture? Football? Beaches? Music? Definitely the latter. And there was something romantic at the beginning of last year when Lula appointed as his minister of culture the singer Gilberto Gil.

Gil was one of the influential Bahian artists of the 1960s who steered the tropicalismo movement. But the military didn't like it or him too much and he ended up in exile in London for awhile. Taking up his ministerial post seemed to encapsulate something about the 'new' Brazil under Lula: the formerly persecuted had taken over the shop. And adding a famous artist to the mix of dour trade unionists sweetened the imagination somewhat.

Fast forward a year and the honeymoon seems well and truly over with Gil as a politician. Even allowing for the radical views of those in the IndyMedia, Gil has deeply upset a number of potential former supporters with his comments in Galicia, Spain at the end of last month. He addressed the audience in Castillian Spanish and stressed the importance of being more international and less nationalistic. Given that the Galicians were denied from speaking their own language in favour of Castillian by the dictator Franco for decades, those over at IndyMedia feel Gil's remarks were insensitive.

Around the same time that happened, I was talking to another Brazilian, from a different startum of society. A diplomat, that person was unhappy with the lack of direction coming out of the culture ministry. 'Sure having Gil at the centre is good for our profile. But he's got to decide whether he wants to be a minister or a musician. He can't do both.'

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