Some of those reading the English version may not be familiar with the Portuguese term Tupiniquim, an endearing phrase that Brazilians used to refer to themselves in a somewhat self-deprecating matter. Technically, a Tupiniquim refers to a member of the indigenous Tupi Indian tribe, but in everyday speech, Brazilians use the term to refer to themselves in general, regardless if they have native indigenous roots. I feel like I too am somewhat Tupiniquim – an American for sure, but still very Brazilian in my way of thinking, acting and being as well.
My first contact with Brazil came in my early 20s when I stepped onto the hot tarmac at the Guararapes airport in Recife ready to start an internship at the World Bank. Since then, I have been back to the country nearly every year over the past 25-odd years. Sometime for fun, other times setting down roots. I got master’s degree in economics at the São Paulo State University in Campinas, or UNICAMP, as it is known. I later moved back to Brazil ABN AMRO Bank to help with the acquisition of the famed Banco Real. It was during this time in São Paulo that I met my first wife, and because of her, I’m the proud father of Isabella, a beautiful 15-year-old Brazilian-American who lives here in the US.
In 2009, after spending nearly a decade in New York, I moved my family back to Brazil – this time to Rio de Janeiro – so that I could be closer to them while I began a new chapter in my life across the Atlantic in Luanda. All said, I lived almost 8 years in Brazil.
I can’t even begin to count the number of flights I’ve taken in and out of Brazil. Harder yet is remembering how many times I have spent Sunday afternoon lunches sitting with friends at a Churrascaria, downing caipirinhas and asking the waiters for another round of picanha com alho bem crocante. But even harder to add up is the number of friends and relationships that I have collected over the years – so many who I won’t even attempt to call all of them out for fear of failing to mention just one of them would lead to serious recriminations.
I love a good, risqué Brazilian joke, told using the colorful expressions of a Mineiro. I dream of the salty air of Ipanema and a bowl of real açaí with granola – not the wannabe kind they sell at health clubs now in the US. I oftentimes long for the simplicity of Brazilian life, where most people have a jeito de viver that trumps the fanatical work-first life that Americans convince themselves they need for self-validation. When I am in Brazil, I almost become a Brazilian; my accent in Portuguese is nearly imperceptible I am told. I am proud to be an American Tupiniquim. And it is from this this vantage point that I will be writing my future columns. I hope you enjoy them.
Editor’s note: Arick Wierson has been a friend of The Brasilians newspaper and its owner and founder, João de Matos, dating back to the early 2000s when Arick played a key role in promoting Brazil Day and its partnership with the City of New York. At the time, Arick was a key senior advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and was oftentimes tapped to be his ambassador to the Brazilian community given his deep familiarity with the culture and the country. He speaks fluent Portuguese and has spent many years studying and working in Brazil. In the intervening years, Arick’s travels have taken him all over the globe working in media, politics and technology. Today he writes a regular column for CNN as well as The Observer, Vice and Worth Magazine. Arick’s monthly column for The Brasilians will reflect this wealth of experience as he reflects on issues of particular importance that sit at the crossroads of all things US and Brazil. You can follow him on Twitter at @ArickWierson.