As an expat, is it my place to join another country’s political protest?

Some additional thoughts and views on the protests happening here in Brazil from another foreigner with a strong connection to the country.

The Displaced Nation

BrazilianProtest_ahpmJust after the street protests broke out in Brazil last month, Megan Farrell, an American who lives in São Paulo with her Brazilian spouse, contributed a guest post to the Displaced Nation.

Megan was very honest in admitting that she had previously taken little notice of politics or social issues in Brazil:

Being displaced … makes it easy to be in a bit of denial.

I, too, am an expat in São Paulo with a Brazilian spouse, albeit from the UK. Like Megan, I didn’t initially involve myself in Brazil’s latest political movement—but my reasoning was a little different from hers.

I’m someone who self-identifies as politically engaged and active. Back in the UK I was a union rep at my workplace and I’ve been involved in protest movements since my student days, the most prominent being those against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Additionally, as a social…

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15 Responses to As an expat, is it my place to join another country’s political protest?

  1. Fred Wilds says:

    If you honestly feel that strong about it and feel that it is a cause you strongly believe in then by all means join. The question though is are you willing to join all the way by taking to the streets to protest and March knowing that laws in other countries are different than America when it comes to handling protest situations or are you talking sitting at home and writing about? How far are you planning on going? During the Civil Rights March era there were many White folks who joined us on the line and in some instances were beat also. I have tried to post info now and then on my blog about it just to make sure everyone understands the real meaning behind what they are fighting for.

    • This is a very good question. If I weren’t the mother of a five-year-old, I might take to the streets and get more involved in the risky aspects of this fight. But she keeps me at my desk writing about it instead of in the crowds. I might be naive, but I feel like at least those of us writing about the protests and sharing some of the details are helping to bring awareness of the real issues to those outside of Brazil.

    • andyhpmartin says:

      That’s a good point. I kind of feel a little disheartened when I see people thinking that ‘liking’ a cause on Facebook is making some sort of considerable change, when in reality it’s just the ‘cool’ thing to do – and an easy way to make you feel better about yourself by feeling as though you are contributing in some way.

      However, from having lived in Brazil for 18 months (I’m the author of this post BTW), and living in a working class neighbourhood in SP I feel and see the issues the majority of Brazilians have to deal with on a daily basis. For me, it was definitely about contributing directly with feet on the ground.

  2. Like yourself I couldn’t actually get out and protest because of my two year old son. I was babysitting while my Brazilian wife was out trying to improve the country. If I had had the chance, though, I would have been out onthe streets with my friends and family. I live here, pay taxes here and am directly afected by the way the system works. I don’t have a vote, but I have a voice.

  3. Victoria says:

    I agree with that 100%. When you have a voice – use it! Took me nearly 20 years in France to find mine but these days I find myself speaking out more and more about both U.S. (home country) and EU politics (host country-France). I may not yet be a citizen but I’m a permanent resident here with an EU citizen spouse and two dual citizen daughters. I love where I’m from but I’ve bloomed where I was planted. 🙂

  4. Ray says:

    Absolutely, I say it is your place to protest if you are living here (and paying taxes here), you are directly affected by how the government works or doesn’t! And when I say protest, I consider any form of contribution, be that on the streets or from you desk sitting at home and helping spread the word and form opinions.


  5. Jpashley says:

    As a foreigner in Brazil, however, you’re not legally permitted to participate in protests or other forms of political activism. I imagine many countries have similar prohibitions. While expats should definitely get involved in some way, we shouldn’t forget that we’re visitors and guests (even if married to locals) and unless we’re willing to go through the process of citizenship, our involvement will always be limited.

    • Wow! I did not know that! Thanks! What if you are a permanent resident?

    • Victoria says:

      Depends very much on the country. I know that here in France the Portuguese, Armenians and folks from North African countries are very active both in internal French politics and home country politics.

      When does one cease being a visitor and become fully integrated into host country to the point of wanting to be active in the political world and perhaps to seek citizenship? Surely it’s different for everyone. I know for me it was a struggle but Amin Maalouf’s book made all the difference. I wrote a post about it called the Narcissism of Difference which expresses my feelings about being an Exotic Beast (something I was rather attached to) and then my decision to seek citizenship in the Hexagon:

    • andyhpmartin says:

      As far as I’m aware it is legal and this is something I’ve heard many foreigners say. It was expunged by the new constitution in 1988.

  6. Jpashley says:

    It’s part of the “Foreigner’s Law” and while parts have been amended (clarity, mostly), I can’t find any indication that it’s been taken off the books. You can read it at: Go down to article 107. While there *might* be some leeway here in whether going TO a protest is the same thing, “O estrangeiro admitido no território nacional não pode exercer atividade de natureza política, nem se imiscuir, direta ou indiretamente, nos negócios públicos do Brasil” seems pretty cut and dried to me. Of course, there are plenty of other things in that law that I’m sure we or people we know violate all the time, unwittingly. (Can’t have Republicans/Democrats Abroad, apparently!) It’s quite interesting reading if you’re a nerd like me. 🙂

    • I wouldn’t put it past the Brazilian government to keep a law that states foreigners can’t protest, but also to make it so undecipherable that anyone with enough cash could get out of it. Hmmm… why are we protesting? 😉

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