Monday, September 25, 2006

Bureaucracy, Brazilian Style

Brazilians love bureaucracy. They won't admit it, of course--they're much more likely to curse than to praise locales, like the one pictured here, known as cartorios. The cartorio is the rough equivalent of the notary public. But when was the last time you had to wait for an hour to get something notarized? When was the last time you had to get something notarized, period? Most of us rarely have to do so, and when we do, like I had to do not that long ago with a request for an inquiry into my criminal history for my visa, it is a quick matter of popping into our bank or visiting that coworker who has a notary commission.

Not in Brazil. Here you have to visit the cartorio anytime you sign a contract, get married, even apply for a phone line. You have to get a stamp certifying your signature is like the one they have on file for you, or have your documents officially authenticated by comparing your photocopies to the originals. In order to register with the Federal Police, I was required to photocopy and authenticate every page of all four of our passports--even the blank pages! The woman who helped me at the desk sloughed off the authentication job to some pimply teenager. When he returned about twenty minutes later she seemed to think it was too quick: did he REALLY look it over closely, she asked? It's VERY serious, she told some other people waiting...a colleague got fired for playing it too fast and loose. Well, I'm impressed: it took me a whole morning just to go to the bank (a topic for another post) to pay our furner taxes, and to get our passport photocopies authenticated.

For the average Brazilian the cartorio is a hassle. So what do I mean when I say that they love bureaucracy? I think it has to do with a sense that "they" are making sure everything is done properly, that things really "count" in a way that is assured by the sweaty moments spent waiting in the cartorio, by the handsome stickers pasted on the documents and the authoritative whack! of the rubber stamp descending over it all.

Am I reading too much into it? Don't think so, but I'd have to think more closely about the meaning of the Japanese cartoons, visible on the TV in the background, that entertain those waiting for their encounter with officialdom. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's Official!

RIO BRANCO, ACRE, BRAZIL--September 10, 2006

In a ceremony at the Governor's palace in downtown Rio Branco last Wednesday, September 5th--the Day of Amazonia--the original Daimista center CICLU-Alto Santo and some of the historical buildings around it were officially declared part of the city's and the state's historical patrimony.

The action, which came as a result of an official request by Peregrina Gomes Serra, the widow of Santo Daime founder Raimundo Irineu Serra and the church's current leader, reaffirmed the commitment of the municipal and state governments to value the region's historical and cultural heritage. The valorization of popular movements and of the knowledge of the "forest peoples" has been a key feature of the Workers' Party administrations at both levels of government.

This partnership between the state and the region's leading religious phenomenon was symbolized in a story told by Antonio Alves, a local journalist, activist, and Alto Santo member, about aid rendered by Irineu Serra and a group of men from Alto Santo to WWII-era governor Jose Guiomard dos Santos. Guiomard dos Santos asked for help cleaning up the banks of the river Acre, clearing brush and removing trash, and Irineu Serra and his men worked a whole day to complete the task, then asked for nothing more than a ride up the hill to the mouth of the highway to Alto Santo. Once again, according to Alves, the state and the church were entering into a healthy relationship of mutual respect.

Signing the official documents and taking their turns at the microphone were Governor Jorge Viana and Rio Branco Mayor Raimundo Angelim. Viana spoke of his family's close ties to Irineu Serra, and of the need for diverse sectors to unite in protection of the Amazon (this is a major theme of the PT's platform this election season, which culminates October 1st in general elections at all levels of government).

Also present at the ceremony were Peregrina Gomes Serra, who had a special place in a chair up front along with several members of historically related churches in the same neighborhood as Alto Santo. These included Jair Facundes, a federal judge in Rio Branco; Cosmo Lima de Souza, a promotor of justice for the state of Acre; and Arthur Leite, municipal secretary of the environment for Rio Branco. In the audience were other important figures in the history of Santo Daime, including Joao Rodrigues Facundes, a contemporary of Irineu Serra and leader of the Centro da Rainha da Floresta; Ladislau, leader of CICLUJUR, also located near Alto Santo; and Francisco Hipolito Araujo, current head of the original Barquinha center in Rio Branco. Posted by Picasa

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