With Brazil preparing to host the Olympic Games in 2016 (not to mention the FIFA World Cup in 2014), it seemed about time that Global Atlanta visit the largest Latin American country, which is home to more than 190 million people.
But where to start?
Fortunately, Atlanta has a large Brazilian community and many aficionados.
Global Atlanta was especially fortunate to have its February visit coincide with those of the chamber’s executive director, Fabiana Di Pietro Xavier, and William Stolz, a trade commissioner at Canada’s consulate general here who lived more than 10 years in Brazil and is perfectly fluent in Portuguese.
With their help, meetings were arranged in Sao Paulo, the commercial capital; Salvador, unofficially known as the capital of happiness and the Afro-Brazilian center, and Rio de Janeiro, Atlanta’s sister city and the second largest in Brazil.
It’s amazing how traveling provides new perspectives. For instance, on the Delta Air Lines Inc.’s flight from Atlanta to Sao Paulo, there was a large contingent of Japanese, who were watching the in-flight programming in their language.
Subsequently, Global Atlanta learned that the 1.5 million or so Japanese Brazilians make up the largest Japanese population living outside of Japan, with immigrants arriving as early as 1908.
When the flight arrived at Sao Paulo/Guarulhos airport at 5 a.m., the city’s first challenge in preparation for the World Cup and the Olympics, which will attract tens of thousands of visitors, was readily apparent: We waited three and a half hours to have our passports checked.
The two-day visit in Sao Paulo, however, was memorable for more positive reasons.
Whatever was the reputation of Assis Chateaubriand, the media mogul who was known as “the Brazilian Citizen Kane,” during his lifetime, his legacy is alive and well in Sao Paulo’s art museum, which he founded and to which he donated some of the world’s most famous paintings.
A stroll through the Ibirapuera Park, encountering vendors of coco water and coconuts, is still memorable, as is the visit to the central market abounding with exotic fruits and spices.
Apart from the sightseeing there were surprises during the formal meetings and interviews, which were arranged by Ms. Xavier.
During the meeting at SEBRAE, Brazil’s main organization serving micro and small businesses, Global Atlanta met Rose Estacio, an official with the organization, who previously lived in Atlanta and was a co-founder of the Brazilian chamber here with Lucia Jennings, the current president.
Also, it was a surprise to meet at City Hall, Silvia Kang, who was working there as its international relations coordinator. Ms. Kang also knows Atlanta well, having worked in the consulate general here before returning to Brazil.
Since Mr. Stolz had lived many years in Salvador, he proved the perfect guide to the city’s rich cultural life. Five months later in July Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the governor of the state of Bahia, where Salvador is located, signed a three-year agreement to promote business and cultural ties between the regions.
The visit to Rio also turned up some intriguing Atlanta connections. During an interview with Jose Castanhar at the FGV think tank, Global Atlanta learned that the well-known economist had lectured at Emory University.
And Antonio Carlos, the director of Rio’s promotion agency, had been a speaker at a Brazilian investment conference held at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
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