Social Media Brings Brazilian Protests to Salt Lake City

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On June 18 over 200 Brazilian supporters took to the streets of Salt Lake City in protest.

They weren’t protesting anything related to Utah or the United States but felt the need to express their support. Students, parents, children and senior citizens alike were able to connect through social media and support protestors in Brazil.

For the last couple weeks Brazil has been in a constant state of political protest. On June 20 over one million people across Brazil rallied in the streets. Stella Paiva, a retired Brazilian living in Rio de Janeiro, said “the people have lost patience with the government in general because of lies, corruption, stealing, public transportation issues, terrible hospitals, and a lack of ethics.”

After public transportation prices rose nine cents, a single protest was organized using Facebook. Paiva explained it as “the drop of water that caused the cup to overflow.” Since then many protest have been organized covering a wide range of problems with the government and social issues. “All we see is the government throwing money away on distant projects that will not benefit the people,” Paiva said.

Facebook soon became a tool in the hands of Brazilian protestors. Renata Tymoschenko, a Brazilian pursuing a Masters in Portuguese, said “Facebook has played a big role. I saw my Brazilian friends posting about it and I got interested. I decided to form my own opinions because it’s my country and I should be involved.” Even though Tymoschenko is living in Utah while attending BYU, Facebook has allowed her to connect with the protestors in Brazil and support a cause that is important to her.

BYU Professor of Portuguese Vanessa Fitzgibbon teaches Brazilian Civilization and grew up in Brazil. After closely following the political developments in Brazil Fitzgibbon said, “In 1964 many people went to the streets of Brazil against communism and even though the attendance might have been higher then, today protestors are spread all over Brazil and all over the world because of the social media.”

The convenience of mass communication social media offers has allowed Brazilians to unify in a way that wasn’t possible years ago. “All of my friends, all of my family, everyone that I know is supporting the protest all over Brazil,” Fitzgibbon said. That support is evident by some of the signs the Salt Lake City protestors held which read “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are building a new Brazil” and “A quiet country doesn’t change”.

Many protestors feel that TV and print media providers in Brazil are afraid to clearly cover the political turmoil. “There are a lot of social problems and they have not been addressed by the government. The media doesn’t put it in the paper or on TV and that’s why social media is so good,” Fitzgibbon said.

“What I think is really cool is that it’s a political awakening. More Brazilians are caring less about soccer games and the World Cup, which is rare for Brazilians. It shows that people are really caring about their country,” Tymoschenko said. The phrase “The Giant has Awoke” is being used throughout Facebook to represent not only the economic potential of Brazil but also the power Brazilians have to create change.

Brazilians attending BYU may not be able to physically attend protests in Brazil, but they can make their presence felt through social media.

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