Interview with Erwin Flores

During all this trimester, I focused on the region of South America and the Caribbean; so I decided to interview a man that was born in Brazil and that is currently living in Madrid.

Erwin Flores is the chief of the strategic planning of a multinational advertising agency, Lowe and Partners, known in Spain as Lola.

He was born in Rio de Janeiro, and passed all his childhood there. His family has Italian origins, even if his father is from Chile. Culturally and linguistically speaking is very mixed, and Erwin always had a big influence from European culture. That’s why, after all these years spent abroad, he finds Europe more interesting than Brazil. Because of the origins of the family, he’s been influenced by European culture.

He studied Communication Science at the Universidade Gama Filho, in Rio. When he finished, he moved to Italy.

He lived in Milan, Turin, Rome, Moscow, Prague and now Madrid.

The first question, maybe the most obvious one, was about the differences between Europe and Brazil. The main one is about the culture: Brazil is a new country that is recently emerging in the international system, while Europe has a long history behind (Italy is the best example of this). Brazil has a sense of history, past and traditions, that is less marked, and it lives in relation to its present. It invested, and it’s still investing, a lot in its present and strongly believes in its future and in what it will become.

He told me how was – and still is – living in Brazil. This is a huge country with lots of spaces, and so with very strong contrasts.

Moving is very limited because of the problem of security that is strongly felt in all the country.

Travelling inside Brazil is also expensive for the population. The contrast between who has and who hasn’t got money is very evident, and this takes also to other differences, besides the economic one.  There is a problem of education, not all the population can get access to public instruction. Just middle-high class got school education, and the other large part of the population didn’t: this created a “cultural abyss”, that still is a very discussed problem nowadays.

In Brazil there is also a difference between who has African origins or is mulatto and who has European origins: the first ones are sidelined in the society. This problem of racism has its origins in the Spanish and Portuguese Colonialism, which created poverty and exploitation. The conquistadores had no intention to make of South America a developed region, and this has persisted during the centuries. It looks like the Colonialism Era is not over, and white people still feel like the conquerors of the country.

Other big issues that come from inequality are the problems of the favelas and of the kid prostitution. These issues are actually problems in many other countries, but Brazil is “famous” because of these. Why do we talk about this especially in Brazil? Because it’s the biggest country in South America and one of the biggest of the world, and there are many metropolis and big cities – lot bigger than the Argentinian, Colombian or Chilean ones. This creates an affluence of people, looking for a job, from the countryside to these cities. They don’t always find one, so they start to live in the margin, creating what we now call favelas. In these places, these people live thanks to criminality, drugs and prostitution, even kid prostitution.

Even though the drug traffic is not a big problem as, for example, it is in Colombia, there are always more sorting centers for the exportation of drugs in other countries (especially US). The very urgent problem in Brazil is the progressive organization of criminality: street dealers are starting to organize themselves in paramilitary organization with real weapons, got from police officers or law enforcement corrupted.

Corruption in Brazil is very spread, and reaches even the political leaders and the regional administration.

It has its origins in the military dictatorship, last from 1964 to 1985. At the end of this period, there was the first opening of the foreign policy and of the market, giving start to treats between political men and industries, with the goal of ensuring the power to some of the interest groups, colluded to the policy.

The last 30 years of democracy tried to stem this previous situation, with no important results. Ten years ago got to power the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), a party of extreme left wing, with an ex syndicalist as president. The situation seemed to get better, and inequality was getting solved.

Even though, they didn’t succeed because they got corrupted, and now people have lost their hope.

Since the last decades, the international image of Brazil has improved and it’s part of the BRIC. It’s an emergent country, but it’s different from China or India: these two countries are advancing to a balance between all the economic sectors and are getting to the market equilibrium. In Brazil it’s not like this.

Brazil still depends on the exportations of commodities (iron, aluminum, wood, and agricultural products as soya and coffee). It’s getting richer by exploiting nature but it’s not improving the infrastructures. That’s because there isn’t a global vision, a ruling class with enough foresight to plane a growing strategy for the next 50, 60 years.

From this it comes the always less importance of Brazil in the international system, and it can’t get out of the condition of exporter of commodities.

The opinion of Brazil is generally negative, according to Erwin, because in general politic men and ruling classes are not looking for solutions to the problems in the society, that are still affecting strongly the population, the economy and the lifestyle.


Sara Lorenzini



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