Last updated: 24 december, 2010 - 13:06 GMT

Gauging President Lula’s legacy

Producer Simon Watts (left) and presenter Paulo Cabral (centre)

Producer Simon Watts (left) and presenter Paulo Cabral (centre)

BBC Sao Paulo correspondent Paulo Cabral describes returning to his hometown to discover how local people felt their lives had changed under Brazil’s most popular president.

It’s not too hard to get the Brazilian public to talk.

It’s a great place for reporting if you want to hit the streets and listen to the stories people have to tell and the opinions they want to share over a cup of coffee.

And, best of all, you often get surprising comments – which rarely happens with politicians, analysts, big businesspeople and other media-trained interviewees.

And so producer Simon Watts and I set out to hear the views of the public on their departing President Lula.

We wanted to report what had changed in Brazil during the eight years of Lula’s government and what made him the most popular president in Brazilian history. And we found some great stories and amazing people along the way.

Personal impressions

Meeting Anderson was one of those rare occasions when real life and academia meet to give us a better understanding of the world

BBC Sao Paulo correspondent Paulo Cabral

On our 10-day trip across Brazil, we travelled from the countryside town of Garanhuns – where Luis Inacio da Silva was born into an extremely poor family – to Sao Bernardo do Campo in the industrial suburbs of Sao Paulo, the city that created the political leader Lula, the most popular president in Brazilian history.

I was born in Sao Bernardo do Campo myself and was a classmate of one of Lula da Silva’s children.

In my 15 years working as a journalist I’ve had the opportunity to travel around my country many times. This trip was to develop my personal impressions, as a local, as to what was happening to my country.

Gaps to fill

Producer Simon Watts in transit

Producer Simon Watts in transit

Anderson Xavier, a 27-year-old student and teacher, was among them. He lives in Austin, a district of Nova Iguacu, in the Baixada Fluminense – one of the poorest and most violent areas of Greater Rio de Janeiro.

“Well, I believe I am the only person from Austin taking a PhD,” said Anderson.

“I share a desk with ten PhD students who are extremely well read, well travelled and who’ve had very full lives.

“When I’m there, I am their equal. But when I take to the highway, back to Austin, I realise how different I am, how many gaps I have to fill.”

Confident nation

Meeting members of the local community

Meeting members of the local community

Talking to him made me realise the gaps I also have to fill.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to talk to people in poor communities, to hear what their lives were like, and to intellectuals from academia – mostly from the upper classes – about their thoughts on poverty.

Meeting Anderson was one of those rare occasions when real life and academia meet to give us a better understanding of the world.

Like most people we met, Anderson told us that his life has been improving – all the more impressive when we discover that his father is illiterate.

Brazil is experiencing a moment of high self-esteem and confidence in the future that has not been seen in decades.

Listen to The Monday Documentary: Brazil - Lula's Legacy by clicking click here

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