Photo Essay: CET Brazil

Photos by Ricky Tibbetts, (Syracuse University) Student Correspondent CET Brazil, Spring 2019

One of the classes I took in Brazil was a photography course at PUC-SP. The final project called on all students to pick an interesting concept and capture photos of it out in the world. I chose to document homeless people (moradores da rua) and their dogs. In Brazil, it is very common for homeless people to adopt stray dogs. In doing so, they gain a best friend who will stick by their side through thick and thin, who will never judge them for the way they live. The two companions don’t have a physical home, so they find home in each other. Out of the many touching photos I took, this one is my favorite. The love between this man and his dog is palpable. I can’t help but smile every time I see this.


Toward the end of the program, CET took me and the other Americans to a native American village (aldeia), where I got to live amongst the Guaraní people for a weekend. During my time there, I ate delicious food, hiked a mountain overlooking São Paulo, played soccer (I wasn’t very good), pet countless village dogs, observed the Guaraní way of life and learned about the ongoing fight for native rights and recognition. But the part of the trip that moved me the most was meeting these incredible kids. The name of the boy under my arm is Alison. He is a highly industrious, super creative and refreshingly upbeat young man. He, like the rest of the Guaraní children, don’t have much in terms of material things, but he makes the most of what he does have by creating his own beautiful world of imagination. Shortly after I arrived in the village, Alison picked me to stay with him and his family for the duration of the visit. He knew very little about me, and I knew nothing about him, but by the end of weekend, we had formed a special friendship through our shared energy, playfulness, sense of humor and love of the Disney film Moana. I’ll never forget our intense Beyblade tournaments, one-on-ones in Guitar Hero, or soccer matches. Nor will I forget walking up a lengthy mountain trail with Alison in toe, singing Maui’s famous song, “You’re Welcome,” over and over again in both English and Portuguese. Souls as bright as Alison’s deserve recognition, and I’m proud I can share a little bit about him on CET’s national website.


When you type in “famous Brazilian paintings” into Google, this is the first thing that comes up, and for good reason. I saw this portrait, called ‘Operarios’ or ‘Workers’, on display at the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP). In 1933, the painter Tarsila do Amaral created this work to illustrate the shades of diversity that make up Brazil. Amaral sought to lay bare the racial and ethnic reality of Brazil through facial caricatures. Each face represents a different skin tone, different hair, different facial construction, and most importantly, a different story. The style of Operarios is reminiscent of soviet-era paintings. However, rather than serving as a depiction of a communist collective, this painting uses equally proportioned faces to show how each person, regardless of their race or ethnicity, is no more significant than another. At least that’s how I see it.


The unfortunate truth is that women all around the world are not afforded the same respect, dignity, consideration, rights or opportunities as men. In Brazil, machismo and sexism are common phenomena that the nation struggles to deal with. A byproduct of these regressive social dynamics can be seen in Brazil’s disturbingly high femicide rate. The home of Carnaval is also the home of the most femicides in the world. In addition, domestic violence is a serious problem, especially in rural/poor communities. Women from all parts of Brazil regularly condemn these horrific crimes and fight to end the country’s deep-seeded gender discrimination. Sadly, far-right politicians, religious fundamentalists, and toxic masculinity routinely obstruct progress in this area.


I never thought I would get this close to real monkeys or see people feed them with bananas. While hiking through a forest in Paraty, I and the rest of the Americans came across these incredibly cute Capuchin monkeys, jumping and running along the trees. I couldn’t help but appreciate how similar they are to us. These miniature, furry human beings were a delight to see in the wild. I wish I could keep one as a pet.


I used much of my free time to learn how to cook in Brazil. On my last night in Brazil, I decided to cook dinner for everyone in my apartment. It was a way of saying thank you to my roommates and also a chance to show them some of what I had learned in the kitchen.


Pictured above is one of the many times where I sat alone, contemplating the beauty of Brazil and how lucky I was to be there. When I was a little kid, I used to dream about moments like this; about sitting under palm trees, covering my feet in soft sand, swimming in warm ocean water, drinking out of coconuts, visiting tropical waterfalls, and relaxing on tropical beaches. Brazil introduced me to all of this and more. Prior to studying abroad, I only knew of the cool, snowy climate of America’s northeast.


I was always curious to know what college is like in other countries. I knew that it would be different from American universities, but I was unsure of how. Attending PUC-SP satisfied my curiosity. Firstly, PUC-SP puts religion at the center of their mission and in the center of their courtyard, pictured above. It is a Catholic university with many beautiful tributes to God, Jesus, and Catholic saints. Secondly, the university has a history of violent confrontations with Brazil’s past military dictatorship. This established an enduring anti-government sentiment on campus, which can be easily deduced by looking at the political graffiti adorning most of PUC-SP’s walls. Thirdly, the grading system at PUC-SP is 0 – 10, not 0 – 100 like in the United States. Fourth, students in Brazil can only choose one major when they go to college. No minors are offered, and you cannot pursue a dual degree. Fifth, PUC-SP is structured in such a way that provides abundant open spaces, free flowing air from the outside, and unrestricted sunshine. The construction is minimalist, but students there wouldn’t have it any other way. Lastly, I thought it was so cool that I was attending a university with palm trees and tropical foliage scattered around campus. You don’t get that kind of thing in snowy Syracuse, New York.


Every Sunday, Avenida Paulista is flooded with people from around the city. The entire avenue is shut down from the morning until 6 p.m., which gives everyone ample time to relax, enjoy the music, eat the food, drink beer, and watch an assortment of street performances. This weekly event is where the best of the city’s culture shines, and I’m so glad I got to experience it before I left.


Cover photo caption: This is just one of the countless breathtaking views in the seaside town of Paraty. Palm trees, tall mountains, glistening water, and cobblestone streets abound in this tropical paradise. I was constantly struck by how picturesque and dream-like Paraty is from every angle. The town’s ability to maintain its colonial image and rich history despite being a heavily touristed area is something I deeply appreciated. This image of Paraty is so beautiful and stunning that not including it in this blog would be a grave disservice to CET and the internet at large.