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Beyond Soccer and Carnaval, 10 Reasons to Take Brazil Seriously

São Paulo, Brazil, Trianon ParkThough journalists, international affairs professionals, travel lovers, and international businessmen are already well aware that Brazil is the country to watch, there are still many gringos who aren’t tuned in to Brazil’s ascent or don’t quite understand the country’s importance. This list is for those gringos.

10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s cultural capital (but not the national capital – that’s Brasília) is an excellent urban case study when learning about the developing world. It shares certain characteristics with other developing cities that provides many important lessons and a useful perspective on urban conflicts, like inequality, violent crime, and drug trafficking, as well as positive changes like a growing middle class, increased purchasing power of the average consumer and social movements.

9. It’s a quickly growing tourism mecca with 5.2 million international visitors in 2008, and it’s hoping to attract travelers away from Mexico and the Caribbean to its world-class beaches, Carnaval, and nightlife.

8. It’s part of BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China), a term created by Goldman Sachs, expected to have the largest economies in the world by 2050. Brazil, which already weathered the global economic crisis faster than most of the world, already has the largest economy in South America and the sixth-largest economy in the world. It has some of the highest-earning companies in the world, and rapidly growing industries across the board, from technology services to agriculture.

7. It has a growing middle class, one of the largest in Latin America, that has not only expanded in numbers but in salary level and purchasing power, making Brazil a much sought-after consumer base, for everything from deli meats to movies to Macs. Hundreds, if not thousands of international businesses have opened stores and websites in Brazil to attract customers, from European sports car companies to fast food chains (if you so chose, you can have a Big Mac in Manaus, shop at Armani in Rio, or get yourself a Lamborghini in São Paulo).

6. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has become one of the world’s most popular politicians, and though he’s likely to run for a third term in 2014, 2010 is an election year with a variety of very different candidates who could change or continue Brazil’s trajectory. Brazil’s election will be the election to watch in Latin America next year.

5. Brazil discovered new offshore oil fields in 2007 which have been touted as a potential billion dollar industry. Though the country is already a major oil producer, and its state-run petroleum company, Petrobras, is one of the highest-grossing companies in the Americas and the world, the discovery could propel Brazil into OPEC and make it a major oil power. Since the oil is so deep under the ocean floor, it is still hard to tell how much oil will be accessible, so it’s important to stay tuned to find out. Meanwhile, Brazil is also the world’s second-largest ethanol producer and the world’s largest ethanol exporter, and is on the forefront of alternative fuels.

4. Though it’s common knowledge that Brazil will host the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has become host to a large number of international events, conferences, and meetings in recent years, from academic conferences to important diplomatic meetings to major business events. Chances are that if you work in a globally-connected industry, there’s a chance you may have to travel to Brazil within the next few years.

3. Brazil has the largest population in Latin America with nearly 199 million people, and Brazilian tourists are flocking to the U.S. more than ever because of rising salaries, a cheap dollar, and better prices on consumer goods. They are also coming in large numbers as students and businesspeople. That means that the chances of meeting a Brazilian in the U.S., no matter where you live, is higher than before. And it seems to me, at least, that there are a growing number of Brazilian-American couples.

2. Because of so much increased contact with the developed world, many transnational issues have become much more important and more will arise in the next few years, from drug smuggling to immigration, from terrible tragedies like the tragic murder of Jean Charles de Menezes and the kidnapping of Sean Goldman, to wonderful partnerships, non-profits, and cultural exchange.

1. There is much, much more to Brazil than the international media would have you believe, beyond the most commonly exported images of the country . There’s much more to it than Carnaval, soccer, narcos, and scantily-clad beachgoers. And you can discover all there really is to know about Brazil right there.

Rachel Glickhouse, born in 1984, spent two years living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after graduating from college in 2007. She now lives in New York with her Brazilian husband. She has also lived in Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina and has traveled through Latin America. You can find more about her in her blog: http://riogringa.typepad.com.

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