“There is an enormous potential to explore between our two countries.”
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
Her Excellency Mrs Ana Lucy Gentil Cabral Petersen took her post as Brazilian Ambassador to Thailand in February of last year.
WHEN we met at her bright, sunsplashed office on the 34th floor of Lumpini Tower on Rama 4 Road, she displayed a charming humility that was refreshing in someone with such impressive credentials and title.
“I am not a good talker, so maybe you won’t have much to write,’’ said the Ambassador with a winning smile. As it turned out, the conversation took its own natural course and there was little need for prepared questions.
“I was born in the northern coastal city of Fortaleza in the state of Ceará, but my family lived in Rio de Janeiro most of the time. My parents had seven children; there are only four of us now,” said the Ambassador. She always wanted to be a diplomat, but actually first tried her hand at journalism. “After a time I realized that wasn’t for me, and I decided to try to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). This is a fierce competition, not an easy thing in Brazil, but I took the exams and did well.
“In 1978 I entered the Brazilian Diplomatic Academy at the Rio Branco Institute in Brasilia, which is also the location of the MFA and all government offices in Brasilia. At the time I had a married sister living there and a brother working for the Senate.”
Two years later she was Third Secretary at the MFA. Her assignments abroad include Washington DC; Budapest, Hungary; Kingston, Jamaica; Geneva, Switzerland; Asuncion, Paraguay; Montevideo, Uruguay and Luanda, Angola, where she took her first ambassadorial post. Her last position before coming directly to Thailand was at Brazilian Consulate-General in New York.
Asked which assignment had been most challenging, she said probably Paraguay or Uruguay. “Both of these countries presented quite a challenge, I can’t say one more than the other. Both share a border with Brazil, and there are very strong interregional links through MERCOSUR Mercado Común del Sur, also known as the Southern Common Market.”
“One difference is that with Paraguay we also share the huge Itaipu Dam one the biggest hydro-electric dams in the world, located on the Paraná River.
“Angola also presented a challenge. Like Brazil, Angola is a former Portuguese colony, so besides other tribal dialects, Portuguese is the official language. Many slaves were sent from Angola to Brazil, and that’s a big reason why Brazil is so ethnically and culturally diverse, much more so than Thailand. You see people of every color in Brazil. We also received many migrants from Europe and from Arab countries.
“Many people may not know that Brazil also has the largest population of people of Japanese descent outside Japan in the Americas – about 2.5 million people. The Japanese migration to Brazil started around the beginning of 20th century. Those who arrived often married with Brazilians. People of Japanese descent, nisseis as we say, are concentrated in the southeast of the country, in Sãn Paulo, our richest state.
“You ask me about politics. We had general election in Brazil in October last year. Our new President, Jair Bolsonaro, began his term on January 1, and so did the vice-president, senators, governors, house representatives and so on. Now the new government has different political ideas from the previous administration that was in power. That’s democracy! The population of Brazil is about 210 million.”