Posted on August 25, 2015

Trump Hotel Goes Up, and His Latino Views Barely Raise Eyebrows

Simon Romero, New York Times, August 20, 2015

The Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa calls Donald J. Trump a “racist imbecile.” In Mexico, people are gleefully bashing Trump piñatas after his caustic remarks about Latino immigrants in the United States. In Guatemala, a liquor company is putting up posters of Mr. Trump using a term that, when translated charitably, describes him as a jackass.

Then there is Brazil, where Mr. Trump’s new 171-room stamp on the Rio de Janeiro skyline has generated so little uproar that his business partner feels perfectly comfortable trumpeting his contentious stance on immigration.

“I’m a Latin and I have to say, I didn’t get offended at all with his comments,” said Paulo Figueiredo Filho, 33, a Brazilian real estate mogul and self-described conservative libertarian who is building the lavish new Trump Hotel here.

“I spend a lot of time in the U.S.,” Mr. Figueiredo added, “and I have seen a lot of illegal immigrants that are causing problems, causing trouble in the country, and I actually agree with him.”

The relative paucity of tension around Mr. Trump’s lavish new hotel venture here–in contrast to reactions elsewhere in the Americas, where some media giants and other companies have cut ties to Mr. Trump–may reflect how Brazil is changing, and how it is not.


“It’s a privilege to have a Trump property in our city,” said Alfredo Lopes, the president of the city’s hotel association and the Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau, emphasizing that he had not paid much attention to the controversies surrounding Mr. Trump in the United States. “This project is a gift to Rio that will serve a very exclusive segment of the market.”

But there is a cultural dynamic at work as well. Scholars attribute some of the indifference here about Mr. Trump’s immigration remarks to an entrenched tradition in Portuguese-speaking Brazil of seeing the country as separate from its Spanish-speaking neighbors in Latin America, despite energetic diplomatic efforts in recent decades to forge stronger ties in the region.

Many “Brazilians are not offended by Trump’s remarks concerning Latinos because they don’t think his nasty remarks” refer to them, said Maxine Margolis, an anthropologist at the University of Florida who is a leading authority on Brazilian emigration to the United States. “He is talking about a population they see as ‘the other.’ ”

Estimates vary widely on the number of Brazilian immigrants in the United States because most of them are thought to be there illegally, but Dr. Margolis placed the number at around 900,000 to one million, close to the figures used by Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.