Manuela Hiromi Kondo
Vice: Which part of Brazil are you from?
Manuela: I was born to an Italian-Brazilian-Portuguese mother and a Japanese father in Piracicaba, a small city in the southeast countryside of Brazil. It’s very well known for its great sugarcane juices. We eventually moved to São José dos Campos, where I lived until I was 18.
What was your childhood in Brazil like?
Everything a kid needs to be happy forever! We used to live in an enormous chacara in Piracicaba and we had a big German shepherd. My mom would take us to the club to swim and let us play all day in the streets with the others. I had a Japanese dad who managed to control us without the strict Japanese rules.
So why did you leave?
I had always lived in really small cities, and each had its own little groups that went out every night to the same clubs and listened to the same bad music. I was bored. I wanted something completely different.
What do you miss most about Brazil?
My sister and friends! Also the places I used to drink after work—like Xereta, which is a tiny bar where all the prostitutes and drunks from São José used to go. I also miss the Ibirapuera, a massive park designed by Oscar Niemeyer.
Do Brazilians eat weird foodstuffs like we do in Japan?
There’s a very tasty dish called feijoada that’s made of black beans mixed with all a pig’s parts, including the tongue and ears. There’s even a few parts of the cow tossed in.
Sounds weird enough! How about having fun? Are the Brazilian party stereotypes true?
Back in Brazil, I used to attend rave trance parties organized in the middle of a farm. I’d dress like E.T. or wear some other scandalous outfit. My sister and I would always go to festivals rather than the balls where young people danced in little pairs.
And compared with Japan?
There’s no better party scene than in Brazil. It has the best afterparties with the most energetic people dancing nonstop. But it’s crazy expensive to get into some places, and the drinks inside are really pricey. But in Japan, there are cheap drinks, and at most parties you know the DJ or the organizers and your name is on the guest list.
That’s a bonus!
Plus it’s safe. When you go to the dance floor with your drink, you think everything is perfect. Tokyo nights always finish with a happy ending.
INTERVIEW BY TOMO KOSUGA
PHOTO BY GUI MARTINEZ
Vice: Why would you ever leave the warm people and climate of your homeland for this gloomy city full of dogshit and jerks?
Natalia: I moved from São Paulo about six years ago to study film at a school in San Francisco. Then I moved to New York about two years ago. The only real choices for working in film in San Francisco are the porn industry or making experimental art stuff. So it was either LA or New York. I’m more of an independent filmmaker and I don’t really like LA, so I decided to come here.
Are you working on any interesting projects right now?
I just directed a short called Dash. It’s about one night in a couple’s relationship and investigating those moments when you’ve been dating someone for so long that you just feel like leaving or killing them. Then you try to get over it. It will be screening in New York in May.
What were some of the first differences you noticed between Brazilians and Americans?
What stood out the most was the way people interact. In Brazil, people are much warmer. When you greet someone, you kiss them on the cheek even if you don’t know them. It’s considered very rude if you don’t do that. Here, you show up at a dinner party and no one even says hello. It took me a while to get used to that. I didn’t know if people were just being rude.
Tell us about your former life in São Paulo.
I lived there till I was 18 and left as soon as I finished high school. I miss it a lot, but I’ve always wanted to live here and I think there are so many amazing things about New York. I’m glad I grew up in Brazil because there is so much more freedom for young people than in America. You know, here you can’t drink until you’re 21 and there are more restrictions overall. I’m glad I had that experience there, because when I came here to go to college there were all these kids who were finally free from their parents’ houses who decided it was time to go crazy and get wasted.
Have you met any other Brazilians here who you didn’t know from home?
Not really. There are some people from my high school who live here, but we don’t really have much in common anymore. Still, we meet up sometimes. I’m not really connected to the Brazilian community out here even though it’s pretty big. People have this sort of misconception about Brazil and think that it’s just this one-sided Carnaval, with naked women samba-dancing everywhere. There is some of that, but there is so much more.
Who would you say parties harder, New Yorkers or Brazilians?
Definitely Brazilians. The party doesn’t start there until one in the morning, and you’re up all night. They used to serve breakfast at a bunch of clubs, and you’d just go there on whatever drug you were on. People there can go forever.
INTERVIEW BY ROCCO CASTORO
PHOTO BY LESLIE SATTERFIELD