International Insights: Brazil’s past has gone up in flames

The night of Sept. 2 was a night of horror for Brazilians, especially those from Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil is known for being a warm country with exotic sights and happy people. Aside from its beauty, it is also a country of danger and corruption for Brazilians. Brazil has been dealing with an internal crisis for several decades, witnessing tragedies every single day.

But no one was prepared for the fire that swallowed our museum.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m., after visitors left. It consumed all three floors of the building. It took firefighters approximately six hours to contain the fire because the hydrants nearby had no water in them. They had to get water from the lakes. Nothing was planned. No one was ready for this.

In the past, renovations on the museum have been put on hold and it has struggled to stay open. Experts said a fire could happen any time. The building had no alarms or security. Its structure was falling apart. We knew it was going to happen.

We just didn’t know when.

The Brazilian National Museum was the oldest one we had, established by King John VI in 1818. It was the home of the royal family, our first emperor, Peter I, his wife and son. It was there that our country’s independence was signed. It was there that Peter II brought gifts and artifacts from all over the world.

This year, the National Museum turned 200 and the fire was its birthday present. It was a great loss for our country and the world, during a time when we should have been celebrating our Independence Day.

The museum was home to more than 20 million items. It had the skull of Luzia, one of the oldest human fossils ever found in America. It had a sarcophagus with the mummy of Egyptian emperor Sha-Amun-en-su. It had more than 70,000 fossils. It had a throne that belonged to kings from the African kingdom of Dahomey. It had rare Pacific Northwest artifacts. It had artifacts from Pompeii, that resisted the volcano 2,000 years ago. It had history, culture and memories.

All of that was destroyed because of the incompetence of the Brazilian government.

Back home, we like to say Brazil is a country that has no future. And now, it has no past either. Not anymore.

Bruna Porto is a third-year journalism student at St. Thomas University. She is from Recife, Brazil.

International Insights is a column space for international students to write about issues and events occurring in their home country.