Inflated black balloons drift inside shopping venues! Black signs hang in department store windows! Marketing firms and modeling agencies post Gisele Bündchen hopefuls at traffic lights. They’ll smile while handing out black fliers announcing grandiose discounts and sales. The catchphrase is repeated on national TV, in public squares, shopping malls. Expectations have been nurtured to go through the roof. Welcome to Black Friday in Brazil!
The scourge of American-branded commercialism reverberates well into the tropics. Over the past decade it has turned Brazil into Black Friday spectacle. It started with images from the heartland of unabated consumerism—shoppers of all stripes pitching tents in front of chain stores, staying awake throughout the night, not as a vigil to bring awareness to any social malfeasance, but to stampede into those stores at dawn, pushing, shoving, and brawling their way to discounted merchandise. It’s as if securing a half-priced cellphone, laced with tungsten, tantalum, and other minerals extracted from the Democratic Republic of Congo will halt a seventeen-year-long conflict that has taken the lives of over five million people. Maybe purchasing a clothing item on sale will magically force U.S. owned companies to improve working conditions in their outsourced sweatshops in India, Indoenisa, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. That such zeal and vigor is expended on a day of frivolous, erratic shopping is yet another indicator of the bankrupt moral coffers of a society reared to value material possessions more than anything else.
No matter the ironies of a day like Black Friday, the frantic images of a chance to scoop a hot deal proved irresistible in Brazil. A meaningless hodgepodge of consumerist fervor now drapes over a nation that, in 2013, had to implement Mais Médicos (More Medics), a health care program that imported 4,000 Cuban doctors to work in impoverished and remote areas.
It’s been disappointing, to say the least, to witness the ease with which Black Friday has taken hold in Brazil. America’s mass consumerist ideals and its media influence abroad are no joke.
Jun Cola is a translator based in Brazil, who has translated everything from Marvel Comics to academic papers, travel & tourism magazines to fiction, real estate contracts to poetry, and then some. Jun is working on bringing Brazilian voices to the world stage.