A Half Citizen Too

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Being the daughter of a Brazilian, I am automatically a Brazilian citizen. Except in Brazil, I’m really only a half citizen. I don’t have to go the Federal Police every few months to renew my visa, and can be here as long as I want, but I can’t work, or inherit land, or vote, or technically even go to the doctor (although I’ve made that work). And because of Brazilians’ obsession with documentation, I also cannot buy bus tickets. Or rent anything. Even when buying movie tickets, I am asked for my CPF (the Brazilian version of a Social Security Number).

Ironically, if I did not have a Brazilian passport, and were a complete foreigner, getting a CPF wouldn’t be hard at all. A bit of paperwork, but nothing impossible. However, what I have to do is basically recreate my documented self here in Brazil. It’s mind blowingly confusing and convaluted. In order to get one document, I need all of them. I have to start with getting a Brazilian version of my American birth certificate made, for which I am required to bring in a bunch of documents proving that I live where I live, proof that my mom is Brazilian, proof that my dog is white and not black, proof that I am right handed and not left, and that I went to kindergarten twice….. All “authenticated” at the local cartório.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit (they accepted “gray” for the dog question). But it’s super complicated. In order to demonstrate the antiquated, arbitrary labrynth that is the Brazilian bureaucratic system, I decided to draw you a map of what I had to do in order to START the process of getting my three Brazilian documents: the CPF (or Social Security Number), Identity Card, and Voting Card. This is just step one. I still have months and months to go in this process.

With all this going on, I was delighted to be watching tv the other day and see this commercial go by. I simply didn’t understand why Ivete Sangalo was singing to me to get my Certidão de Nascimento out of pride for being Brazilian. How did she know?! Well, actually, this commercial makes part of a new campaign by the Brazilian government to get mothers to register their children at birth. To understand more about the marginalization of the undocumented in Brazil, check out my recent post here.

After reading about this campaign, and writing this post, I am reminded how privileged I am. Privileged to have the time to do all this, to have the education to know how, and the family support to point me in the right direction. Some day, I know, I will be a half blooded, true Brazilian. Able to rent movies and everything.

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