All Brazil You Can Eat in London

    All Brazil 
You Can Eat in London

    Here it is:
    the Guy Burton Guide to Brazil in London. I will
    be the first to admit that it’s far from comprehensive and

    bound to miss things out. This is a first step into finding out

    more about Brazil in London. These are the resources I use
    to gather information about Brazilian life in London and the UK.
    by: Guy
    Burton

    Last weekend I became a free man again. Since Easter I have
    been kept busy with the small matter of the London elections
    where I was a candidate. Every other evening and on Saturdays
    and Sundays I would be out with a small team of helpers, delivering
    leaflets, knocking on peoples’ doors, surveying residents
    and talking to voters in the market.

    Then it
    all stopped. Polling day came and went, followed by the count
    the day after. After the results came out it became clear I
    wouldn’t be easing my legs under a new desk at City
    Hall and so I went home, for a long lie-in.

    But then
    I made the mistake of switching my computer on and checking
    my emails. As well as the usual spam offers of ‘official’ degrees,
    Viagra and promises to extend certain parts of my anatomy, there
    were a number of messages from people who had read my articles.

    It might
    have been easier to avoid answering and delete them, but that
    wouldn’t have been fair. Having made the effort to work their
    way through my sometimes impenetrable prose, and then write
    to me about it, they at least deserved a response (and I’m a
    sucker for compliments!). And so yesterday I sat down to work
    my way through the various comments sent to me by people I have
    never met—and perhaps never will.

    Despite
    having posted it months ago, the story on Brazilian music and
    nightlife was still doing the rounds and generating interest,
    while other readers had points to make about the American Confederados
    who migrated to Brazil in the aftermath of the Civil War.

    But amongst
    these various messages of support and criticism one theme seemed
    to have motivated my readers to write: where could they find
    further information about the subject matter in my articles?
    Could I direct them to a particular band or book? The tone of
    these messages suggested I was a guide of sorts, someone who
    could help navigate my readers through the Brazilian community
    here in London.

    This idea
    tickled me, not least because I never thought of myself as anything
    of the kind. Although I’m a (bad) speaker of Portuguese
    and know some of the local Brazilian hangouts in London, I don’t
    pretend to know it all. Indeed, I am probably more of an outsider
    than most. I may have been born in Brazil and lived there as
    a child, but if truth be told, I’m more English than Brazilian.

    But then
    I realised that is probably the best position to be: neither
    completely on the inside, or indeed on the outside. It’s
    a good vantage point from which to observe the comings and goings
    of London-based Brazil.

    So I wrote
    back to my readers, trying to help them with their requests.
    I gave them the fruits of my knowledge, which really wasn’t
    very much at all.

    While I
    was doing this, I suddenly realised what I should write about
    next, now that the elections were over. Instead of writing to
    each reader individually, giving them the same advice, I would
    put together an article about it. I would write about the resources
    I use to gather information about Brazilian life in London and
    the UK.

    Brazilian
    London

    And so here
    it is: the Guy Burton Guide to Brazil in London. I will be the
    first to admit that it’s far from comprehensive and bound
    to miss things out. But as a first step into finding out more
    about Brazil in London for my readers, I hope that it’s
    a start.

    So where
    to begin? Perhaps with the most obvious: the Brazilian Embassy
    www.brazil.org.uk.
    Their website has improved dramatically over the last year.
    I would like to think it has something to do with the new ambassador,
    who took up the reigns in March last year.

    Not only
    does it have information about the country, which can be used
    in the classroom (teachers take note), its front page lists
    all Brazilian-themed events and happenings which are taking
    place in the UK.

    Recently
    the embassy has been involved in work to raise the profile of
    Brazilian style and culture, which culminated in a month-long
    marketing spree during May, the most obvious example being the
    ‘Brazilianisation’ of Selfridges on Oxford Street.

    As well
    as a Christ the Redeemer mock-up on its façade, the windows
    were taken over by Brazilian fashion designers and their work,
    while inside the store, a range of promotions were on offer.
    In the basement a bar had been set up, from which fruit juices
    and açaí were on offer. Compared to the
    rest of the store, it was down here that the local Brazilians
    had congregated for the best part of a month.

    But the
    embassy doesn’t only involve itself with publicity like
    that in Selfridges. It was also one of prime movers of a meeting
    last August which brought together representatives of the Brazilian
    community, including preachers, academics, civic groups, and
    those British individuals, who have a connection with Brazil.
    The idea was to put together a consultative and advisory group
    which the diplomats at the embassy and consulate could tap into.

    Called Diálogo
    Brasil, it established a presence on the embassy’s website
    and has broken itself into particular groups, which address
    particular subjects from immigration to advice on navigating
    other aspects of British bureaucracy to publicising upcoming
    events.

    At its last
    meeting in February, it identified a range of groups and organisations
    which could be contacted on particular issues, from the Brazilian
    Society at the London School of Economics which puts on seminars
    about Brazil to Radio Vida Brasil (AM 558), which provides information
    to the community on a daily basis.

    Beyond the
    embassy there are a number of print and electronic media which
    I make use of. Leros – www.leros.co.uk
    – is perhaps the granddaddy of them all, a Portuguese language
    magazine which has been going for more years than I can remember.
    As well as its listings guide, it carries a number of interviews
    with visiting Brazilian artists and musicians, as well as snippets
    of news from Brazil.

    Much of
    the magazine is given over to advertising as well, which gives
    you an idea of the interests of Brazilians in London: evangelical
    churches vie for space with Brazilian restaurants and food shops
    and English language schools (which is one of the main reasons
    so many choose to come over).

    And because
    Leros is targeted at Brazilians living in the UK, it
    will come as no surprise that many of the advertisers are hair
    stylists and waxing specialists, as well as cosmetic surgeons.
    Leaving the land of the beautiful bodies, Brazilians will not
    make do with second best in London.

    Bilingual
    Fare

    Jungle
    Drums – www.jungledrums.org,
    which began operating last year. Compared to Leros
    it has a more youthful presence and appeal—and doesn’t
    seem overrun with advertisers. For those who don’t speak
    Portuguese, or who are learning, it’s a good magazine
    to read: its articles are presented in Portuguese on one side
    of the page and English on the other.

    Unlike Leros
    which tends to regurgitate stodgy news from Brazil, Jungle
    Drums offers stories about Brazilian culture in London.
    Recent stories have included the development of capoeira
    in London and the tropicalismo movement during the
    military dictatorship (when two of its main protagonists, Gilberto
    Gil and Caetano Veloso, lived in exile in London for awhile).

    Both magazines
    can be picked up at any of the Brazilian haunts in the city:
    usually the Brazilian restaurants like Terra Brasil near Euston
    and Paulo’s in Hammersmith. But I tend to go to the hidden
    café at the back of the Whistlestop newsagents on Oxford
    Street.

    Over a feijoada
    I get to read the latest edition of Leros or Jungle
    Drums as well as look at the message board offering accommodation,
    cash-in-hand work and details of the next Brazilian party or
    event. Flyers are stacked by the cash till, announcing a forró
    party here, a capoeira grading ceremony there: everything
    the London-based Brazilian needs to know.

    Oi!
    Londres – www.oilondres.co.uk
    – is another magazine which carries the usual details of Brazilian
    club nights and musicians. Through it I know that the Brazilian
    Summer Festival club nights will take place at the beginning
    of July, while later in the month Bebel Gilberto, Jorge Ben
    and Trio Mocotó will also be playing.

    But it’s
    different to Leros and Jungle Drums in that it appears to be
    a primarily web-based operation. And besides its listings, its
    main feature seems to be about bringing UK-based Brazilians
    together electronically.

    It has a
    blog where Brazilians’ observations about life in Britain
    are posted and news is publicised. A recent search brought up
    details of a new shop in Swindon which sold Brazilian food and
    the best place to buy women’s knickers like those you
    can get in Rio.

    Visitors
    are also encouraged to share their experiences, which tend to
    focus on the shock of being properly cold for the first time
    (I’ve seen Cariocas walking around in Rio in
    gloves and woolly hats when the temperature dips to 18C!) and
    the challenges of making their way through life with very little
    knowledge of English.

    For
    Researchers

    As for those
    who are less interested in the latest gig or where to buy goiabada,
    and who want to do research, there are a number of really useful
    locations. Both the Institute of Latin American Studies and
    the London School of Economics have good collections of books
    about Brazil in their libraries, ranging from politics to sociology,
    history to economics.

    Unfortunately,
    they’re not open to the public and readers need to get
    permission to use them, but I particularly find the LSE library
    a useful resource in my articles on Brazilian history.

    Like many
    an immigrant community, many of the London-based Brazilians
    stick together. This is especially the case when they have recently
    arrived, in an unfamiliar, cold country where the language is
    strange and the day gets dark early.

    They are
    therefore likely to be present in large numbers at any event
    or activity which has a Brazilian theme to it. But the trick
    is to find out where they will be. The easiest way of finding
    out is to have been at the previous event. But just as useful
    is to use the magazine listings or on the various websites as
    well.

    So
    for Londoners keen to find out more about Brazil in their city,
    it’s not that difficult to do. Pop into a Brazilian restaurant
    and pick up a copy of the various magazines. Check out the Brazilian
    Embassy and Oi! Londres websites. But better still: talk
    to the Brazilians at the events. They know more than I ever will.
    They’re not hard to spot and they won’t bite. And
    hopefully you’ll be able to discard my guide and find yourself
    immersed in London’s Brazilian scene.

    Guy Burton was born in Brazil and now lives in London.
    He has written widely on Brazil both for Brazzil and on his
    blog, Para Inglês Ver, which can be read at http://guyburton.blogspot.com.
    He recently stood as a candidate in the Greater London Assembly
    elections, where he came fourth in the City and East London
    constituency. He can be contacted at gjsburton@hotmail.com.

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