Exploring Brazil Today: A Journey of Culture, Activism, and Art

Guest Post By: David Melgoza a Senior studying Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Law, Societies, and Justice, with minors in Music and Diversity. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and he studied abroad through a Foster Exploration Seminar in Brazil, during Early Fall Start 2023.

Studying abroad in Brazil through the JSIS Brazil: Brazil Today through Film, Music, Art, and Activism – Early Fall Program has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. This journey allowed me to immerse myself in the vibrant culture of Brazil while critically analyzing the societal systems and institutions that shape the country. From the bustling urban landscape of Sao Paulo to the ecologically diverse and indigenous backdrop of Campo Grande, this experience has provided me with a deep understanding of Brazil’s multifaceted culture, society, and environment. In this blog post, I will reflect on my journey and its profound impact on my perspective.

Questioning and Exploring:

Before embarking on this study abroad program, I was driven by a fundamental question: “How are present-day concerns about society and the environment being approached by modern Brazilian artists and filmmakers? Furthermore, what influence does this exert on the general populace’s consciousness and enthusiasm for advocacy?” Brazil, renowned for its rich and diverse artistic freedom, is a breeding ground for creative individuals who use their art to confront pressing socio-environmental concerns. My fascination lay in delving deeper into their methods, examining how they engage with these subjects, and understanding how their efforts foster communal consciousness and activism.

Meeting Vinícius Silva:

One of the highlights of our stay in Sao Paulo was the opportunity to meet Vinícius Silva, a student filmmaker from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul. Through his films, Silva seeks to shed light on the black identity and its complex relationship within the broader context of Brazilian society. He achieved this by documenting the daily lives of three young black students in São Paulo, symbolizing the first generation of black students who, thanks to new education policies, could attend the best public universities in the country – institutions traditionally reserved for the white elite.

We had the privilege of witnessing a screening of his work titled “Quantos Eram Pra Tá?” (“How Many Were Supposed to Be?”), followed by a thoughtful discussion with the filmmaker himself. The experience was truly enlightening. “Quantos Eram Pra Tá?” not only provided a window into the experiences of black individuals in Brazil but also showcased how filmmakers can effortlessly translate their struggles into art. This film served as a powerful medium for spotlighting pertinent contemporary issues.

Personal Resonance:

The themes depicted by the director resonated in parallel with the conversations and experiences I have encountered as a Latino at the University of Washington. The struggles faced by marginalized communities in both countries share common threads, and seeing these issues portrayed on screen was a reminder of the universality of the fight against discrimination and inequality.

My experience in the JSIS Brazil program has been transformative. It allowed me to explore the intricate connection between Brazil’s urban and rural characteristics, each with its unique attributes, and to witness firsthand how modern Brazilian artists and filmmakers use their talents to address societal and environmental concerns. Meeting Vinícius Silva and experiencing his work was a profound moment that reinforced the power of art in fostering communal consciousness and activism.

As I return home, I carry with me a deeper appreciation for Brazil’s culture and a commitment to continue exploring the intersections of art, activism, and society. This journey has expanded my horizons, broadened my perspective, and instilled a sense of purpose to advocate for positive change at home and abroad. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this transformative experience.