Meet My Brazilizn Friends: Roads I Have Traveled. . . Transition Journal

Sostenez Pimentel: 

By 1986, I was being recognized as a knowledgeable international economic player, and people began to contact me for my help and opinions. I had thoroughly enjoyed what I had been doing in helping people in an area that was comfortable to me. But in my quiet times I would keep asking why I was being taken on a trip to strange parts of the world where I was meeting and working with people of influence and high position. It wasn’t going to be very long, however, until I discovered the next installment of revelation on the quest. Then I would know just why I had been taken on such an adventure. 

When I arrived in Brazil, I was introduced to some very powerful people who had considerable influence in the capital, Brasilia. My credentials included letters of recommendation from US Senator John McCain and Senator Bill Armstrong. The Brazilian government had requested that I come to Brasilia, and our US Ambassador Shlackman, US Consul on Economic Affairs, Michael J. Delaney, and US Economic Minister to Brazil, John Bowen, would formally introduce me to Brazil’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

I endeavored to pick up some key phrases in the Portuguese language, but there was no way that I was going to become proficient in the language in time to adequately participate in high level talks. I was fortunate enough to make some friends in the British Embassy in Brasilia, and they were more than happy to help me. If they were not available to help me, there was a fine missionary gentleman in the Brasilia area who had volunteered to help me with the translating. 

Soon I met a young, ambitious man named Sostenez Pimentel. He also was an economist and had been employed by the Brazilian government. He was married to a lovely young schoolteacher, named Miriam. They wanted to get ahead financially, so they decided that Sostenez would quit his government job and become an entrepreneur. They both asked me if I would help them get involved in the import/export business. I agreed that I would help them, and in exchange they could help me with translating when I was away from Brasilia. 


The only problem with the deal was that Sostenez’s English was about as good as my Portuguese. We really had to work hard at communicating with each other. Portuguese was just enough different from Spanish to get things all mixed up, even though both languages were derived from the Latin root.  

One day we had time as we were traveling across Brazil by car for me to approach the language subject with tact. “Sostenez,” I said, “when I am in business or government meetings in Brasilia I can do very well. But when I need to travel to Rio or Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte or Goiania and I have meetings, I really need to have someone to help me who can speak better English. I mean absolutely no offence to you, but do you know of someone who might be able to help me?”  

To my delight he was not offended, and quickly went on to try to make me understand that there was a very sharp medical student who knew English very well. In fact, she was coming over to Sostenez and Miriam’s house every Saturday morning and teaching them English. Sostenez agreed to ask Lorena if she would help out a crazy American in distress. I assured Sostenez that I would continue helping him get into business, even though he would no longer need to translate for me.  

One of the saddest incidents that I personally encountered during all my work in Brazil was about a year later on a Sunday night when a group of young, drunk Brazilian thugs forced Sostenez off the road and tried to rob him. He resisted. They killed him and left his body crumpled by the rear wheel of his small car. I lost a dear friend and it was another wake-up call for me as to the dangers of working in developing countries where the rule of law is not well established. 

© Dr. James W. Jackson   

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