Elections in Brazil

Amanda Hawks - Brazil


March 28, 2017

These past six months have been a crazy roller coaster of incredibly experiences and also some pretty bad things as well. The bad things have been on my mind more frequently, as I constantly think about the DAPL, police brutality, and of course the results of the 2016 presidential elections. Trump, to me, was the worst presidential candidate that I had ever seen or even learned about, and when the results came in, I found myself asking how I was going to move forward, to help people, and how I could possibly stay positive. I still do not know the answers to these questions, but I found some inspiration when I thought back on my experience here in Brazil.

On October 30, Brazil was bustling with excitement over the results of their elections. Brazil was having a historical year in terms of politics, and it showed. For the days leading up to the elections, their candidates, and the corruption was all I heard about, except for, when every once in awhile someone would turn to me and ask, “Trump or Hillary” and then laugh in relief when I said Hillary. On October 31, however, the elections were over, and I didn’t expect to be experiencing much more of that excitement. Of course I was proven wrong when I walked into my apprenticeship and saw that they were holding their own elections.

My apprenticeship is a national Brazilian organization called APAE, which is a school and rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. The employees had all worked together to give their students a chance to share and campaign for issues that were important to them. These people, who are often looked past and ignore, were able to put their voice to something that was important to them, and it was amazing to see.

What was even more amazing was that they were advocating for incredibly important things. One girl asked for a recreational room, that involved dancing, games and more. Another person asked for more space in the (incredibly crowded) classrooms. Someone asked for better transportation, and my favorite was when someone asked for an app that could potentially give a voice to all the people at APAE who were not able to vote.

In the past 4 months, I have found myself incredibly privileged to wake up everyday and walk into an apprenticeship like this. I’m hearing stories from a group of people that I would have otherwise ignored and forgotten, and because of this my eyes are being opened to a brand new world, and for me, this is beautiful.

I believe think that storytelling is one of the most important parts of being human, and  was one of the most important issues in the election. Groups of people who have been fighting for so long to have a voice are starting to feel like maybe they don’t have a voice after all, or that if they do, it doesn’t matter. This is what I think about every time I think about the election. What Trump is going to do with our country is scary, but what he’s already done is terrifying. He’s normalized hatred, and overpowered the voices of millions of people. Even so, I draw inspiration from this story because the people that I work with were able to share their voice on such important issues, even if it was just for an hour and it was beautiful. It demonstrated how just listening for a minute is a way to fight for the rights of other people to tell their stories. It’s a powerful tool, and one that I really want to integrate into my life more thoroughly.

Amanda Hawks