Childhood Around the World: Part One

Childhood Around the World is a new three part series compiled by Edgar Debel as part of a recent internship. We will be posting the three parts of this series here in the coming weeks. In this instalment, Edgar speaks with his roommate from Brazil, about his experiences growing up in the city of Cascavel.

“We all perceive childhood in a different way, as every person has his or her own experiences that no other person witnessed, which inform their way of thinking, their values and the way the socialise. Because of this, while there are of course similarities in childhoods, every childhood still is completely unique to one particular person. I wanted to know more about the different childhoods, not only from my own country Germany, but also from other places in the world, which is why I interviewed three people about their experiences growing up in Brazil, Portugal as well as another person from Germany, to see their kind of childhoods and the different experiences of people from other places in the world and even from my own country had, when they were growing up in the 90s and early 2000s. This first article is about a person I am currently living with in my shared apartment in Dublin. For the sake of privacy his name was changed in the following article.

Flavio was born in 1991 in the city of Cascavel in the south of Brazil. Right while telling me about his city he mentioned that this city was nominated as the best city to live in and grow up in Brazil at the time, because it is a very prosperous and safe city, so he is glad that he could grow up in such a place. Cascavel has 332,333 citizens and has grown nearly double in size to when Flavio was born – he said the city only had about 190,000 inhabitants back when he was a child in the early nineties.

Like in my own article, I first started talking about childhood experiences with the consumed media and the memories linked to this. Even though Flavio lived in a place very far away it was interesting seeing that the shows he watched also overlapped with the ones I watched, as he also watched a lot of anime as a child. The most well known shows for children back then, as he told me, were also anime, just like it had been in Germany at the same time. The Anime’s he watched were Beyblade, Digimon, Yugioh, Pokemon and of course Dragon Ball, which he told me was very big back then and is still one of the most popular Anime shows in Latin America as a whole. Digimon was also very popular he told me, the reason besides the monster fights in the show being the very good soundtrack the show had, which made it very memorable. This show also had a connection to him and his family, as Dragon Ball would only air one episode a day, which would be televised right before lunch, which made his parents not happy as they did not want to watch shows all the time while eating lunch.

The airing time of Dragon Ball also coincided with the airing time of a show his father wanted to watch, so there were often arguments around which show would be watched at that time, but Flavio came out on top most of the time, enabling him able to watch the show, and make memorable connections and experiences to the show, which otherwise might not have been remembered to this degree or fondness, if it had not been connected to this memories of watching it together with his family.

Other than this occasion Flavio often watched these shows together with his sister and friends, making them even more personal, by not only being connected to his family but also his circle of friends. These sort of rituals are very important for children, as they offer a safe environment and routine and also are great for family/ friend bonding times.

Besides anime most of the shows he would watch were novellas on TV, which would be shown on the biggest broadcast station of the country, called TV Globo, which is the biggest television network in Brazil he told me, as well as in Latin America itself. (TV Globo, Wikipedia). Most of the programs were in Portuguese, as subbing a show is rarely practiced in Brazil, most of the time the shows would be translated into Portuguese, Flavio told me. Most of the original shows are owned by this company and it also has a big political influence, due to its size and power. Flavio told me  that he also remembers that new politicians, wanting to get votes or become more well known, often going into entertainment shows in this network, to tell the people about themselves and their plans for politics, which further enforces the political bargaining power this network seems to have.

Similar to TV shows, Flavio also told me that English Music was not very widespread in Brazil when he was a child, most of the music playing on the TV or in the radio would be Portuguese, showing that similar to Ireland, Brazil is also very connected to it’s own culture, which language of course is a very big part of. One of his favourite musicians back than was the Brazilian Country Singer Zezé Di Camargo, to which concert he would go every year with his sister and mother, thus also making this event more special and more connected to his family, showing that similar hobbies and similar interests can really help children to have a good relationship with their family and relatives, as sharing fun activities is of course always better than doing them on your own. Another famous band from Brazil in the 90’s was the Band Mamonas Assassinas, a Rock Band, which Flavio also liked listening to very much. Their success however, was cut very short, as in 1996 the whole band died in a plane accident, which made them even more famous in the long run in Brazil.

As every child, Flavio also came in contact with other forms of entertainment mediums, many of which are nowadays no longer available for purchase, thus making them special to his Childhood in the 90’s, one of these being the video game consoles of the 90’s. Of these consoles of the 90’s and early 2000’s he owned the super Nintendo and the Play Station 1 and 2, which he liked to play a lot on. Afterwards he did not get any new consoles, but he did not get any new one after that, as video game consoles are very expensive in Brazil, so it is very hard for children to get the newest ones, unless their parents have a lot of money. Flavio remembers that often they would get consoles by importing them from Paraguay, which was very near to him, as like mentioned before, he lived in the south of Brazil, which he said is very close to the boarder to Paraguay. Of course the money border is problem everywhere to an extent with these systems, but these memories of a childhood show that it is even worse in other places of the world, thus hindering children from making fun experiences with new forms of entertainment and media, which always is a detriment to a certain extent.

This also of course shows problems that occur in childhood in other places of the world we might not be as familiar with. Similar how it was in Germany as I remember it myself, Flavio told me that computers where basically non existent at home in the 90´s, he said they only came up at homes in the mid 2000’s, around 2005. Before, when he wanted to go on to the internet, he would go into an internet cafe, were he would go to play games on pc, like counter strike, a very popular first person shooter game, which you can play in teams with friends, thus making these visits a possibility for young people in the early 2000’s to bond over and have fun with new digital media, in a way that is more accessible than having to buy a PC on your own.

A Nintendo console that was popular in the 90s.

Seeing as Flavio is two years older than me, I also asked him about the historical and political events he remembers from the 90’s, as due to his age, he is likely to remember more and of course I also wanted to know about political events in Brazil at the time. What he mostly remembers from Brazil itself in terms of politics, where the aforementioned politicians going an entertainment shows, thus trying to gain popularity and influence. Besides them, the biggest political events in Brazil he remembers where of course the presidential elections, which are similarly to how I remember from Germany held every four years.

Besides Brazilian News, most of the news he would receive back than and even now in Brazil, are new from the United States. Flavio told me about the biggest Brazilian news show, which runs for 2 hours, and in these two hours 45 Minutes are spent on mostly America and some other news from the rest of the world, which he told me, is the longest segment this show has. The biggest geopolitical events he told me he remembered from this time, were the failed terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in 1998 as well as the US attacks on Iraq in 1998 ordered by President Clinton (1998 bombing of Iraq, Wikipedia). This also enforces the memories of Silvio that talk about the big focus on US news in Brazil, as the biggest events he remembered from that time were both related to the US. Similar to me he also has vivid memories of 9/11 and it being a very big subject in all the news as it was happening, also being very present on Brazilian news on the same day.

Besides these bigger news, most of the other memories of historical events are more connected to Brazil and him as a person. As I already mentioned, Mamonas Assassinas was a very popular and famous band in Brazil and Flavio liked them a lot. So of course their death was a big historical event in Brazil and also in Flavio’s life, as he said that he really remembered when it happened and how to public emotionally reacted to such a big event (Mamonas Assassinas, Wikipedia). We afterwards talked about my own experiences with similar instances, and I could not think about anything similar happening to me in Childhood, the only thing comparable I remembered was Michael Jacksons Death in 2009, but by the time this happened I already was 15, so I of course does not count this as being part of earlier childhood. What also became very clear through Flavio’s memories, is how much of a part music was of his childhood, seeing in this event and the yearly concerts he would go to with his family, where I remember never having this strong emotions towards music, while of course enjoying it. This shows how big a difference it can be how you experience music as a child, as Flavio experienced it mostly live and with his family, which obviously as seen here had a bug influence on how he thinks about music, which once again shows how big an impact our childhood memories can have on us and our character.

The other most memorable historical event for him, is also connected to his own interests, as Flavio told me he was a big fan on Ayrton Senna, a famous formula 1 driver from Brazil, who was at the time one of the best drivers in the world. Flavio told me that many people in Brazil were proud because of his great success and looked up to him and saw him as an idol, as they felt proud that such a great athlete came out of their country. As he was a big fan of him and formula one in general, of course he was very sad, when Ayrton Senna tragically died in a race in the year 1994, which also was the public reaction, as his death was met with shock and seen as a tragedy, considering the status he had in Brazil (Ayrton Senna, Wikipedia). According to Flavio’s memories he told me, that after Senna’s death there were many people who tried to guess who would become the next big star in Formula 1 and they thought about who they should root for in Brazil now that this had happened. But as he told me, nobody really could fill the hole that was left after this tragic historical event. These events also show how we as children perceive events, be they historical, political or not, as we will always more strongly remember things we liked, had an emotional attachment to or disliked a lot. It seems that as children, strong emotions are even more pivotal to our ability to remember something or to perceive something as worth remembering, then they are when we are adults. When talking to children about events in the past, we should always remember this and not fault them for not remembering certain things, we think they ought to, as through this we invalidate the way children perceive their world, thus dis- encouraging them from sharing their emotions and thoughts with us. Instead we should acknowledge this different experience as an important and natural part of the human condition at this stage of our life.

Lastly I talked with Flavio about how he perceived socialisation when he was a child compared to how it is nowadays in Brazil. He told me that one of the main ways to socialise back when he was a child, was football, as it is the most popular sport in Brazil. The said that they would always play outside in the streets with every child in the neighbourhood. Whenever someone new would come to the neighbourhood the kids would go to that child’s door and knock at it and ask if he wanted to join them in their football games. Often people would directly come to Flavio’s house after school had ended and play there in the afternoon, as he lived very near to it and was known by most people at the school, as his father had a supermarket in the area. Flavio also told me that he remembers those days as one of the best times in his life and one of his favourite memories from back than, which shows the cultural significance football has in Brazil, as it was one of the base forms of socialisation for children in the 90’s. Comparing it to how children meet today, he says, this sort of socialisation is still very much present in Brazil, but it has become much less frequent, as nowadays children use digital mediums much more for socialisation, which of course back then did not exist in this shape or form. He says, that while he still sees children going from house to house asking to play football with one another today, it has become a once in a week occasion, compared to the every day event it was back than, the rest being filled by digital communication, or meeting one another indoors our using other forms of social interaction.

Soccer was a huge part of Flavio’s childhood in Brazil.

Of course social interaction between people always change, as times are different and we in the 90’s of course had other ways to socialize than people do now, as we had other kinds of media or did not have certain media that the generation after us has access to, just like it was with us and the generation of children before us. What always is important in this case, is to remember that our way of socializing was not superior or worse to how it is done now, just different,  even if we sometimes are lead to believe this by our own memories. Every generation will have it´s own specific way of getting to know new people and hindering this change would also mean hindering the growth of the children, as well as the growth of society, as children of course are the future of society. We should try to learn more about these new ways, as this is a great way to show children and young people that we are interested in their lives and can also help us the better the intergenerational communication.

To come to a close, I really enjoyed my talk with Flavio, as it gave me the opportunity to learn more about Brazil, a country which I did not knew much about before and it also helped to show me the cultural similarities we share and enjoy, like the shows we watched, but also the differences that make us so unique from one another, while also learning about the way the country has changed, which to me as an historian is also very interesting to see, especially from a perspective you do not  see to often in history but should be shown much more often due to it’s significance: from the eyes of a child and young teen.”

by Edgar Debel

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