AT FIRST glance, it might appear that Brazilians could know little about Slovakia and could confuse it with Slovenia. But if you look closer there are more signs of Slovakia’s presence in this South-American country than you might think.
When you sayBratislava, those who know the name would normally think of the Slovak capital, with its castle, its bridges across the Danube, the labyrinth of streets in its old town crowded with foreign tourists, or the statue of Čumil peeking from a manhole. But a much smaller number of people would think of a small town located in the south of Brazil.
Brazil’s Bratislava was established by Slovak immigrants who settled there some decades ago. Though you will not find any ‘pure’ Slovaks there nowadays, you can see that there is still some central European blood running through the veins of the town’s inhabitants.
“They are all blue-eyed,” Luiz Francisco Pandia Braconnot, the minister-counsellor at the Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil in Bratislava, told The Slovak Spectator.
He added that there is even a football team whose kit bears the colours of Slovakia and the national flag.
Edna Ferreira de Souza from the cultural section of the embassy told The Slovak Spectator that they would like to show Slovaks the twin of their capital through an exhibition called ‘Brazilian Bratislava in Bratislava’. At the moment, they are trying to collect enough material, including a documentary made by Zlatica de Farias, a Slovak native who has been living in Brazil for about 25 years.
Another Brazilian town which can boast a relationship with Slovakia is Passa Quatro. The town was visited in 1912 by a young Milan Rastislav Štefánik, who later became one of the founders of the first Czechoslovak Republic. He came to observe a total eclipse of the sun.
“He [Štefánik] impressed the Brazilians so much that they built a monument to him,” Braconnot told The Slovak Spectator.
There are several other curious facts connecting Brazil and Slovakia. Brazil even has a folklore group called Život (‘Life’, in Slovak) which wears Slovak traditional folk costumes and sings traditional folk songs even though its members do not know what they are singing about. De Souza explained that the ensemble is led by a Slovak immigrant who brought them CDs and DVDs to watch the choreographies and hear the language.
And few people know that the plan to build Brazil’s modern capital, Brasília, was hatched by a man with Slovak origins: the mother of Juscelino Kubitschek, president of Brazil between 1956 and 1961, was half-Czech and half-Slovak.