Public Diplomacy in Rio de Janeiro State


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A typical visit to a neighboring, albeit distant, city. Part of the "Route 66" Program initiated by the Embassy in Brasilia. As Vice Consul to the Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, my visit was in September, 2012. This article is a rough draft which is the basis for an on-line version in Portuguese:

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Public Diplomacy in Rio de Janeiro State

  1. 1. A City of SuperlativesOil, Education and the Sound of Music in Campos dos GoytacazesBy John Elliott, Vice-Consul, Rio de Janeiro Consulate GeneralAfter driving north from Rio de Janeiro for five hours, I enter Campos andcompletely overshoot the meeting place one of my contacts established, “Theentrance to the city”. I assume I am looking for some sort of archway, but Isoon discover that the entrance is highlighted by striped oil derrick set up inthe middle of a roundabout. A derrick being the icon for the petroleum resourcewhich enriches this city of half a million souls.My new friend is Paulo Cezar Fontoura, of the music education organizationOrquestrando A Vida (OAV). When I pull over to call him and set up a revisedmeeting place, he quickly arrives to me and we both greet by the road, a friend-ly half embrace with hand shake. I had met him and three of his associateswhen I attended a presentation they made to the Public Affairs section at the Rio de Janeiro Consulate Generalthe previous month. Paulo drives ahead and leads me to my hotel. He asks me if I want to rest in my room priorto the musical event we will attend. I reply that I only have a very short time to visit the area. “I’m ready to seeCampos!” I exclaim, and he agrees to return in an hour.The city’s full name is Campos dos Goytacazes, after the indigenous peoples who encountered the Portuguesecolonizers and who thereupon put up some ferocious but futile resistance to the incursions. And the “campos” part is easy to understand, as the area is relatively flat, about fifty miles between the foothills and the ocean. Campos is growing! The discovery of nearby petroleum deposits in the mid ‘70s began a slow but steady pace of economic activity, which has only quickened since the more recent worldwide attention to the off shore, “pre-sal” resources. The cen- tral part of the city in which I was lodging was typical of large cities throughout the state, with bustling businesses, condominium and office buildings of up to 22 stories, well paved streets, historical sites, and some older sections which were being attended to. I am told that the name was simply “Campos” until a couple of decades earlier, when a historically-minded city government wished to honor the native heritage of the Goytacazo Indians and found city funding to erect a two story tall, fiberglass sculpture of a warrior at the town entrance. In 2006, the statue was taken down and not replaced, and the photos I find on line make me sad for its untimely demise. Itlies in pieces near a storage building. But the full name of the town is still a source of pride for the people here.For me, the “dos Goytacazes” part is a challenge for me to remember–and pronounce, without jumbling the syl-lables.At sunset I ride with Paulo and tell him more about the “Rota 66”program I’m participating in, representing my Consulate General. Theprogram provides outreach opportunities for the Brazil Mission’s con-sular officers to visit a city to which we are assigned, to get to know thecitizens and leaders of some of the 66 major cities in our host country,and to share some of the resources for information on life, study andbusiness in the USA.We are en route through the busy Campos roads, past the city’s historical center, which features many classicaland colonial structures, such as the municipal hall and cathedral. We are to attend a concert of Orquestrando AVida’s most elite musicians. The non-governmental music organization is based upon a Venezuelan social im-provement model formed in the mid ‘80s, which employs classical and technically challenging music as a corefor community and camaraderie. One of El Sistema’s tenants is that the older and more experienced students be-come teachers and role models for the younger ones, and I later see this in action in the OAV classrooms. At ElSistema’s schools, virtually all of the students are from the disadvantaged neighborhoods–which in Brazil meansfavelas and comunidades. We arrive at the modern Teatro Trianon, built in 1998 and the larg- est theater in the state’s interior. I realize I am a sort of guest of honor when I am escorted to a VIP room with a sign on the door, “Welcome Vice Consul...and Mayor”. Here I meet for a second time since their visit to the Rio Consulate: the NGO’s president, Jony William, Pro- ducer Charles William Vianna, and one of the orchestra’s talented and youthful conductors, Marcos Rangel. Soon, we are in the 800-seat audi- torium, which quickly fills to capacity. Tonight’s performance featuresOAV’s most professional musicians, most of whom are younger than 17, which comprise the Mariuccia IacovinoSymphonic Orchestra. Under the practiced baton of Luis Mariceio Carniero, they are spotlighting seven visitingguest musicians and singers from the Transfonica Orchestra in Minas Gerais, a neighboring state.The next two hours are a thrilling and moving mu-sical ride, as the hall resonates with rich sounds.Seated in a place of honor, next to key officials, I amastounded by the caliber of output from the studentmusicians; it truly sounds as professional as that ofany world orchestra. The pieces are arrangementsfrom well known movies and television shows, andfull of emotion and energy. For some of the elevenpieces, the youngsters are joined by one of the na-tion’s premier musicians, pianist and violinist Mar-cus Viana. As the performance draws to a close, Iam really wishing someone recorded it on video, soI might later relive each piece. The audience reluctantly disperses after the encores, and I climb up onto the stage and meet some of the OAV musicians. I want to thank them not only for their performance but dedication to music studies. I know a bit about the discipline required to excel musically, as my own daughter is a recent gradu- ate of a school of music and much of the past 15 years of our lives have cen- tered around her music studies. The night ends late for me, as one handshake and photo leads to many more, and in the lobby are the lovely singers andvirtuoso instrumentalists everyone wants to feature in their Facebook. I return to my hotel with the tunes of theevening still humming in my head.Since I have just one day for scheduled meetings the following day, I have narrowed the focus of this initial“Route 66” trip to three areas: Education/Culture/Oil and Gas. I am driven to my first stop of the day, an importanttechnical university, by Thomas Kromann, an Oil and Gas consultant working with the Campos government. Iinitially meet Dr. Marcelo Neves Barreto, a petroleum engineer with the Ministry for Petroleum Development.We are seated around an expansive table at one of Campos’ leading universities, the Fluminense Federal Insti-tute (IFF): Mr. Kromann; Dr. Neves Barreto; and Paula Manhães Retameiro, the city’s operations manager. I amprovided a very helpful overview of the oil and gas industry in the area and told that Campos was the first regionin Brazil to produce ethanol from sugar cane. Really, Campos seems to have quite a few superlatives, includingbeing the first city in all of South America to be wired for electricity, in the 1830s. And, off the nearby coast, theCampos Basin is the largest petroleum province of Brazil, responsible for some 85% of national production.I am curious what some of the challenges for the industry are in Brazil. Dr. Barreto replies that one is an ampleworkforce of technically skilled workers. This is where IFF comes in, with its science and technology curricu-lum. As if on cue, we are then joined by the IFF representatives: Luiz Caldas Pereira, dean; Jefferson Manhãesde Azevedo, general director; Claudia Barroso Vanconcellos, technical education director; Pedro Castelo Branco,post-graduate dean; Leonardo C. Januta, director of higher learning; and Carlos Fernandes Henriques, technical-industrial dean.I discover that the Campos-Macãe region serves as an educational hub in sync with needs of the oil and gas indus-try, especially since the waking of the giant which is pre-sal petroleum deposits. Recent exploration has detectedthe existence of huge petroleum reserves in the portion of underground layers some kilometers below the seafloor. I won’t have the time to visit it on this visit, but at nearby Açu is a new superport being built by the Chinese,due to open next year. Yet another superlative for Campos, it will be the largest industrial port enterprise in LatinAmerica, moving 350 million tons per year. Promising to generate 50 thousand jobs, the port operation will powerthe transformation of the region and provide the needed infrastructure to grow the petroleum industry.On the walking tour of the main IFF campus, I’m able to see some of the class-rooms where the future generation of technological workers is taking shape. Imeet teachers and students who are involved in a variety of courses, from elec-tronics to computer programming to hydraulics–very impressive stuff! Withseven campuses devoted to technology and pedagogy, the university has alsocarved out a special mission, to reduce the national deficit of teachers in theareas of chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics. In the afternoon, I visit another important in- stitution, the North Fluminense State Univer- sity (UENF), focused primarily on academic research and vocational technology. Founded more than 100 years ago, the school holds the distinction of creating the first undergraduate course in petroleum exploration engineering in Brazil. At a meeting with Dean of Students, Silvério de Paiva Freitas; Assistant Dean Car- los Logullo, and Advanced Materials Professor Carlos Fontes Vieira, they mention that 60 per- cent of the employees of the national petroleum company, Petrobras, are UENF graduates. The school also has a thriving, multi- level English program; the language is a requirement for employment in many of the petroleum industry jobs. On a tour of the campus, I meet some of the dedicateddepartment deans like Dr. Ana Diegues Skury, who shows me a laboratory where industrial grade diamonds aremanufactured. When Professor Viera focuses the microscope, I’m amazed to see these tiny jewels up close andpersonal, and later see how they are coated onto the cutting edges of specialized saws.Next for me is a visit to a small settlement community, Baleeira, a historically disenfranchised favela which isseeing important improvements in recent years. It’simportant for me to see different economic sectors,and speak with the people everywhere in Campos.I’m escorted by Paulo on this day, When I exit thecar, three reporters want to interview me about theexciting news that OAV recently inaugurated a feederschool for young musicians, but I demur until I cansee and hear more in the community. I am introducedto Maria da Penha, the community coordinator, whowelcomes me with a huge smile and warm words.We enter the neighborhood association building andI am surprised to receive a rousing cheer from about 100 people of all ages inside. There is a small orchestra of some 40 students await- ing my arrival and after a few introductions, they immediately start playing some classical selections. I am surrounded by dozens of youngsters, all of whom want to talk to me or hold my hand. After the mini concert, I am asked to pose for photos with some of the audience and performers, then it’s time to answer a variety of questions from two television and three newspaper reporters. I focus on the Rota 66 program and the importance of music and education. On a tour of the community, I am escorted by Sra. da Pehna and residents Robson Damion and Carita Abreau. I learn about the successes of new projects, that there is a health clinic and some employment programs. We pause on a road by the town cemetery and discuss some of the challenges facing the community’s youth. I am touched by the friendly nature of everyone I meet along the way. I also chat with officers of the military police, to find out the pulse of the anti-crime efforts underway, similar to those of Rio de Janeiro. Upon our return, it’s time to present Sra. da Penha with maps and books from our Consulate library, and she is moved and grateful. I would love to stay longer, but I have some more appointments this afternoon and must move on, so we hug and I promise to return soon. Paulo drives me back to the city center, where I have scheduled a meeting at the Instituto Brasil/Estados Unidos (IBEU), with Director Douglas Jay Moraes. Our Consulate General has a long-standing relationship with IBEU schools in differ-ent cities, and we recently donated some multimedia equipment, a Kindleelectronic book system, to the Campos-Macaé schools, which I hope to seein action. Although a native Brazilian, Douglas speaks impeccable English,from his formative years spent living in the USA. I also meet his father, Feli-ciano de Moraes, who founded the school, which is strategically positionedby the Praça San Salvador and a stately cathedral. We tour the school and see the recently renovated library, and I commit to follow up on a request for a new charger for one of Kindle reader. The school is one of the leaders in fulfilling a growing need for technical and managerial works in the oil and gas sector. At dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant, Douglas tells me some stories of his happy times living in the USA, and I learn more about Campos and the region. Then he and I drive to another perfor-mance of Orquestrando A Vida, this time with student musicians who compose the Orquestra Sinfônica MariucciaIacovino. The venue is the main auditorium of Campos Social-Commerce Services (SESC) facility. We enjoyourselves immensely (at one point both responding to the invitation of musicians to dance in the aisles) and, again,I am hugely impressed by the talent and tonal quality of the young musi-cians. They accompany three famous Brazilian musicians, Wagner Tisoon the cello, his daughter India Tiso singing and Marcio Malard on bass.It’s another free performance, and my OAV hosts respond to my inquiryon funding by telling me of how the city sponsors such performances on aregular basis. What a cultural bonus for all the citizens!The next day I should be driving back to Rio, but I wanted to learn moreabout Campos, the OAV school and programs, and spend the morning withthe three famous musicians from the night before as we are given a grandtour and introduced to the five different orchestras and the chorus. Each orchestra gives us a short performance,and we also see the many rooms in which they practice. There are so many students, they must also practice in thehallways; and there are not enough instruments, so only the highest level orchestramembers can take them home. Music turns out to be an excellent lever for structure,discipline and educational success, and everything I see at OAV underscores the ben-efits of this approach.After the stirring performance of the senior group, I offer to say some words to thestudents and staff. Speaking in Portuguese, I tell of my own musical experiences, andmention my daughter’s successes in music composition and conducting. I struggle to contain my emotions at one point, since music has been integral to my life since childhood. My parting comment is from the heart: “It doesn’t matter what are your class or clothes, but dedi- cation, hard work and spirit are what make for success in life”. The group’s director, Jony William later tells me, “Constantly we face finan- cial challenges, but our vision is that we have 5,000 students in this program.Our mission is simply that these youngsters be happy. Music is an instrument, a marvelous tool to this end. It’snot important that the kids be great musicians, but that they be happy.”Later that day, I also briefly meet with Joilza Rangel Abreau, the municipal secretary of education. We discusssome of the experiences I’ve had at the two universities and promise to get together again on my next visit. I thenstop at the offices of one of the newspapers which interviewed me, to follow up with a reporter with more detailsabout the Rota 66 Program. Then, at the Praça San Salvador, I spend an hour chatting with friendly and inquisitive young college students who are preparing a “flash mob” experience, a sort of street battle with toy weapons made of cardboard. Finally, on my way out of town, I attend a special celebratory ceremony by the oil derrick at the city entrance and meet Patricia Cordeiro, president of a cul- tural NGO, Fundação Cultural Jornalista Oswaldo Lima, which offers popular culture courses at various venues throughout the city. The drive home, through the flatlands offering spectacular vistas, offers me a good opportunity to reflect on all I ex-perienced during my brief visit in Campos. The friendliness of her citizens and the opportunities of employment,educational and cultural experiences are fertile ground for the sense of optimism and pride I sensed everywhere.I have no doubt that Campos dos Goytacazeswill be a source of superlatives for many yearsto come.MEDIA LINKS:1. Globo.TV28-SEPT-2012 (Television airings plus Webstory with video): Inaugura Núcleo de Música em Co-munidade de Campos, RJ2. Journal Ururau28-SEPT-2012 (Web Story, with 6 photos) do Consulado AmericanoVisita Comunidade da Baleeira3. Journal Terceira Via29-SEPT-2012 (Newspaper article; Web story,5 photos) do Vice-Cônsul dos EUA a CamposLeva Esperança a Moradores da Comuni-dade BaleeiraEle conheceu a ONG de perto e caminhou pela comunidade para conhecer a região4. IFF (University Web Site of Instituto Federal de Educação Ciéncia e Tecnologia)28-SEPT-2012 (Web Story) Realiza Atividades da Etapa Final5. Informativo da UENF01-OCT-2012 (Web Story)ônsul dos Estados Unidos Visita a UENF6. Journal Terceira Via29-SEPT-2012 (Web Story)ônsul dos Estados Unidos Visita Co-munidade da BaleeiraCom uma agenda variada, John Elliott partici-pa de programações culturais em Campos6. Globo.TV (RJ INTER TV 2ª EDIÇÃO)29-SEPT-2012 (Streaming video only): Inaugura Núcleo de Música em Co-munidade de Campos, RJ7. Journal Ururau28-SEPT-2012 (Web Story, with 6 photos) recycled on”Representante do Consulado Americano Visita Comunidade da Baleeira8. Folha Online29-SEPT-2012 (Web Story with photo) Lá9. O Diario27-OCT-2012 (Web Story with photo) Menina Agora Ensina(All photos by the author, except those which show him.)