The National identity of people change depending on the different hemisphere of the world they relocate to from their natural born areas. The national identity is an important part of human personality. The factors, which contribute to such alterations, include language, skin color, and behavior, for example, a majority of South American citizens tend to have a white skin while North American citizens have brown skin. Nevertheless, the text used in this post, Priscila Uppal’s Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother tries to explore the national identity or collective identity issue while focusing on the protagonist “Uppal” relationship with her mother who lives in Brazil. The Canadian poet and novelist were enthused to travel to Brazil in 2003 to meet her Brazilian mother, who deserted her and her little brother almost twenty years ago. Her premonition of Brazil is influenced by the fact that it is a country of her estranged mother. However, what make her national identity issue so intriguing in the book is the fact that she finds out that she shares various personal traits with her her and her Brazilian family and she finds herself feeling much more at home in Brazil than her native land.
The discussion on national identity in this book demonstrates the idea that this “quasi-fictional genre” automatically embodies a “colonial ethos.” Lisle explains in her book “The Global Politics of Contemporary Travel Writing, “that the genre has steadily been occupied in the Empire political logic. Authors of travelogues require other persons and places to visit and thus implicating that they must always involve themselves in the production of difference. The perception that the empire apprises all the travel writing appears a bit uncertain in the traveling between Canada and Brazil that are colonized countries ignored in pondering of the continent due to their situations in the hemisphere. Moreover, Uppal also bases her account about two women from the northern and southern side of the continent who share a strong bond of daughter and mother. She also talks about the inter-American racial topic where she is a northern woman of mixed race while her mother is a white one of the southern hemisphere. Uppal’s text also highlights how she has been affected by her parental abandonment thus Projection is more about of family dynamics and less of global politics.
The level whereby Uppal cannot separate her perception about Brazil from that of her protective mother is more illustrated in her 2006 poem “I’m Afraid of Brazilians.” In Ontological Necessities, Uppal’s poem “I’m Afraid of Brazilians” is well analyzed and shown that she had profound anxieties regarding her journey to the Southern Hemisphere:
Against all political correctness, I must say it, and I must admit: I am afraid of Brazilians. I do not like them. I do not like this country. I do not like this language. I do not even like this currency. . . . I am afraid of Brazilians. I am visiting my mother’s country, and I am afraid, actually afraid, of everything Brazilian I meet.
Uppal also wrote the poem some years later after having met her mother. She described it as a hyperbolic salvo about paranoid proportions, which counters prodigal returns myths. However, an Indian poet Doshi, regards “I’m Afraid of Brazilians” as her favorite amongst Uppal’s works. The poem demonstrates the state of being afraid of unfamiliarity, even if it is a person’s mother and her country. The high level of insecurity in São Paulo is also highlighted in a conversation between her mother and the taxi driver who frequently offers his services to him, Soares, which Uppal describes as “ironic tourism pamphlet.” The discussion is worth being reproduced in full because she hears it immediately after landing and it made her have a quick judgment that Brazil is not safe.
Around Ninety-one individuals perish due to violence in Brazil after every seven hours and about Ninety-one soldiers of American have perished in the whole Iraqi war so far. It is much safer for one to be a soldier in the American army than a Brazilian. Uppal was shown by the taxi driver a group of young children who seemed innocent; however, they were part of a gang. She was told that they would steal not only her purse but also her pants and socks. Sao Paulo is very dangerous, and everyone will think she is an American since no one knows how a Canadian resembles. The gang will believe that they are robbing an American.
The other outstanding aspects concerning Uppal’s memoir are a bit atypical since they dispute notions, which are accepted widely regarding the relation between national identity and race. An ample justification of why Canada as developed country has not created more affinities with Latin America is because it shares common cultural beliefs and political agenda with British Commonwealth nations and European states than with the South American continent countries. While Latin American countries are categorized under the southern, ‘brown’ countries, Canada purportedly falls under the northern, white countries. However, in Projection Uppal is mixed race woman with her Brazilian mother being white with the Portuguese, German, Dutch, and Italian descent. Uppal looked different from her Brazilian relatives due to her dark complexity. Thus, the reason she often gives for loathing especially the large painting. Of which her mother hangs in her apartment that contains a half naked woman with two children is that the woman with long hair looks like Uppal with brown skin, large brown eyes, curly dark hair, and long nose while her mother had white skin.
The relation between national identity and racialized bodies is highly noticed in the book not when it comes to Uppal but also her mother. In her first flight to visit her mother in Brazil, her Brazilian seatmate told that she looks like a Brazilian even before she told her that she was indeed. She later replied that no one thinks she is anything nut Brazilian when they see her until she says some few words and with her exotic mixed heritage and physical features she is not used to that and finds it hard to blend in. She confesses, physiognomically, that she closely resembles the Brazilian national image than the Canadian one, which is vital to her due to the South American and North American racial politics. Almost half of the continent is racially homogeneous. However, each nation continues to have a dominant national image, which majority of its people accepts.
For example, in Ann Patchett’s novel State of Wonder, the protagonist is a young lady, Marina Singh, who is a pharmacologist. She is the daughter of a white American mother and Indian father. Even though she was born and brought up in America, it is said that while she was traveling in the Amazon, Singh was able to go through Manaus in a way, which she was had never passed in Minnesota. The reason or her success in her travel to the Amazon was because she looked like a South American despite being a North American thus being the same case with Uppal.
Through Projection, the animosity between Uppal and her mother shows not only just a disagreement between them but also between Brazil and Canada. It is perceived that the people who come from America are all Americans or Americanos; however, a majority of them identifies themselves with their particular communities. Uppal even states in her memoir that her relationship with her mom is like two warring countries, which undergone colonization long time ago and no matter what their separate identities claims, they are still connected by history, shame, and blood. The two spent a significant amount of time trying to prove to one another whose country is great. Thus, Uppal pondered on what type of life she would have had, had her mother taken her and her brother to live in Brazil, she later compares the strengths between Brazil and Canada, thereby suggesting that Canada would win and being glad about it. She compiles a list that has ten things, which she like in Canada like she can everywhere she wants without being afraid, Canada’s Hockey Night, Political stability in the country, and a passport that does not visa to travel to Brazil.
Campos retaliates by claiming Canada does not have democracy and claims she is giving such reasons because Uppal does not want to relocate to Brazil. Though she appreciated how Brazil Mountains and beaches are glorious and her people being beautiful, she is well aware of the chance, she would have missed in Canada if they would have immigrated in Brazil. They would have not been better off from their mother and her family that had high social standings in the society. She later concludes that their relationship with her mother had nothing much to deal with the two countries since maybe Canada to her mother is a land far away which reminds her of a sad life and bad feelings. They failed to conclude which of their homelands offer a better opportunity than the other one.
Over the time, national identity has been a major issue affecting individual coming from different hemispheres in the continent. Canada is in a different region of Brazil thus prompting many scholars to carry out their research and writings in various territories. Physical features of people in this different hemisphere makes one be identified easily to where he or she born and raised. However, this tactic can be a disappointment to some people since a brown skin person can be born and brought up even in the Southern America where most people are whites like Uppal. I believe people’s national identity can be done easily through their language and pronunciation of words.