“The Brazilian visa process is ridiculous. One more snag and I’m canceling the convention at FIQ.” was my Tweet.
A few hours later, the “story” was picked up by a large Brazilian newspaper, seen here: www1.folha.uol.com.br/ilustrad…
Which started a 48 hour session of my Brazilian readers fighting off the hundreds of offended Brazilians (most of whom have no idea who I am) attacking my Tweet. After retweeting the more ridiculous tweets, I finally signed off of Twitter for a few days. I also asked my Twitter followers to halt the conversation because it was just getting worse. Even this morning, I deleted a few threats in my email account. And I’ve just been notified that the Brazilian embassy is upset.
No, none of this is made up.
Last year I did a comic about a clone of Jesus becoming an atheist, and Brazil remained mostly quiet (you know, the country that built a giant Jesus statue performing a spread eagle over Rio de Janeiro). Who would have thought that of all thing, my stupid Tweet would have started such a storm.
I’ve been dying to go to FIQ, a huge (and free) comic convention in Brazil for about two years now. The handler is great, his assistants are great, and they’ve agreed to pay for everything. I have a lot of wonderful Brazilian readers, so I was anxious to go down and say hello. I understood that the visa process wouldn’t be easy, but didn’t mind. I even took a day from work to create a “The Shadow” piece for a gallery the show was having.
But after spending an accumulative three days trying to get the visa, I was ready to quit. The website for the Brazilian consulate in NYC kept crashing, it has the wrong address listed (that was a fun morning going to the old consulate, which had been moved months ago), and the process to file payment wasn’t clear. I got a post office money order twice (they accept no other payment) because the amount was wrong (is it $160 or $180?), and at the end I was told that I had to start over because I needed a visitor visa, not a business visa (as I was previously told).
I was furious, so I did what we all do: I sent out a tweet.
As far as I knew, every person on the planet knows that government bureaucracy is frustrating (in any country), and going through the hoops of international travel can be stressful. The lines are long, the people are mean, and the rules are vague. In the US, criticizing the government is a part of life. And when I criticized the Brazilian visa process, I assumed it would be harmless. After all, I wasn’t blaming the entire country of Brazil, just a the politicians who make US/Brazilian travel difficult.
Again, I blame US politicians as well.
Brazil has what’s called Reciprocity Laws in place for people looking to enter the country. I’m not an expert, but from what I understand it vaguely means this: whatever hoops the other country puts Brazilian travelers through, Brazil matches with the same hoops. Which makes perfect sense to me, which is why I was willing to go happily through them.
When I angrily left the consulate for the second time that day, I wasn’t just annoyed for myself–I was annoyed that Brazilians go through the same confusing process (sometimes it’s even worse for them). As far as I know, Brazil and the US are on friendly terms. We’ve both survived the economic crisis (for now) with Brazil being the 6th largest economy in the world. My hope is that as Brazil continues to rise (and as more business in Brazil continue to boom), politicians on both sides will make it easier for us both to visit one another.
And I know the US makes it hard for most people trying to visit, and for whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry it’s like that. If I was a politician, I’d look into it. But I’m just a lowly comic artist with a schedule to keep, and it’s not my arena.
I have no idea what that article written in Portuguese says about me, but I’m told I was taken out of context. I’m not trying to stoke the flames again, but I do have a right to defend myself.
As far as the show, I’m still not sure if I’m attending. FIQ has generously stepped in to try and help with the process. And with the threats coming in, there’s talk of getting me a bodyguard–maybe even some Stormtroopers–which would be awesome. But I’m not sure if it’s worth the risk. Stay tuned.
Thanks to those Brazilians who stood up for me! And thanks again to FIQ for your amazing support. Hopefully see you all soon. If not this year, then in the future.