while i lived in brazil i was in some rather metropolitan areas (by definition) but i still saw my share of favelas, poverty and dirt floors. contrasted against the landscape of despair are universities and research centers. unicamp is the second best university in latin america. wired magazine described campinas as one of the highest-growth high-tech areas in latin america. it has representation from major national and international industries: general motors, honda, mercedes-benz, petrobras, samsung, ibm, compaq, texas instruments (now that i think about it campinas just might be the “seattle” of brazil!). for about four months i lived right next to bosch’s campinas factory which is one of the largest regional subsidiaries of the bosch group. i also lived right by a very smelly beer factory for six months.
one company that has major dominance across brazil has to do with chocolate. nestle appeared on brazilian soil about the same time as mormon missionaries (coincidence?). it was in 1920 that nestle went latin, becoming nestlé opening it’s first factory in brazil. shortly thereafter the company introduced powdered milk, and later it would help with brazil’s coffee surplus by introducing nescafé. nestlé products expanded to include candy, baby food, cereal, dog food (?), energy drinks, ice cream, bars, recipes… you name it nestlé most likely offers it. so nestlé is to brazillians what mars, incorporated is to us. (suprisingly mars, inc also has a line of pet food… what’s that all about?!)
as easter/páscoa 2000 approached i became familiar with brazilian traditions… and interestingly enough they seemed to center on chocolate. try as i may i could not explain to the people what our easter eggs looked like. a package quickly arrived, facilitating an easter egg painting party & hunt for three families. they LOVED it, but, they had some reservations– where was the chocolate!? i described our chocolate bunnies. that got me no where. i attempted to explain our chocolate eggs/ovos de chocolate*. you know, the mini eggs wrapped in crinkly foil of purples, pinks, greens and blues. laughter. the key word here was mini. brazilians can’t comprehend mini chocolate eggs when their ovos are enorme!! these aren’t just any chocolate eggs. they are ovos that are several inches high,usually hollowed out with some kind of toy inside. kids compare how many ovos they get as a sign of coolness almost. we only had one. one ovo de chocolate. all of the kids felt very sorry for us.
i didn’t feel that sorry until one day when i noticed a big billboard in front of the carrefour.** it read, “páscoa é chocolate e chocolate é nestlé/easter is chocolate and chocolate is nestle.” i just stared. it struck me so powerfully. yes i love easter. i love the colors. i love the special egg candies that only come out at easter time. i love stuffed bunnies and baby chicks. i love making easter cookies. i love the easter hymns. i love the story of easter. the hope. the brightness. the love. but that is just it — despite mega marketing, to me, easter isn’t about chocolate. it is about a Man.
*to get a better understanding, go to nestlé‘s site. notice how it says “paixão pelo chocolate”? this means passion for chocolate… but it’s really a little play on words… you know, like the passion of christ?? okay, now click where it says “clique aqui para abrir o site” once you are in you want to click on “ovos nestlé” to see all the different characters.
**it’s a chain of “hipermercados” ha! HIPERmercado. i love that word. this is the mother of any walmart/disneyland.