Brazilian pride on display
Soccer victories bring national celebrations and a sense of unease to some in Framingham
FRAMINGHAM -- There were hundreds of joyous Brazilians. There were a dozen police officers. And, on the periphery, there were two brothers, holding a videocamera, watching for trouble.
Within 30 minutes of Brazil's 3-0 victory over Ghana yesterday, Brazilian football fans spilled out of Adriana Friend's Salon and the Terra Brasilis restaurant to celebrate. They danced and waved Brazilian flags as cars cruised by, honking, thumping samba, trailing flapping flags of their own.
The picture in downtown Framingham yesterday was not just one of celebration. It also captured ripples of tension, a community undergoing transformation, and an immigrant group careful not to offend, even in the midst of exhilarating victory.
``Everybody gets happy when your country is winning something," said Pedro Resende, 21, a loan officer and radio host who lives in town. ``We're not taking over. We're just happy."
Thousands of Brazilian immigrants have made Framingham their home over the last decade, and Brazil continues to send more immigrants to Massachusetts than does any other country.
``All the stores here are Brazilian," said Pedro Carvalho, a Framingham resident. ``It pumps up the economy. Brazilians are hard-working people. We're honest, and we're here to work and help the place grow."
But while many in Framingham welcomed yesterday's display of cultural pride, some saw it as the epitome of what has gone wrong in this town.
``You see this?" asked Jim Rizoli. ``Here we have Brazilians celebrating in the street yet again. When all is said and done, it will cost us thousands. And they don't pay one cent. If I wanted to have a celebration for the Red Sox, I would have to [pay for it]. They're lawless."
Yesterday's police detail was a waste of taxpayers' money, said Rizoli, who, with his brother Jeff, heads CCFILE, a local organization that seeks stricter immigration controls. Most of the people celebrating were from out of town, he said.
``You live in Framingham?" he asked the young Brazilian man closest to him.
``Yeah," the man said.
According to census figures, one in five Framingham residents is foreign-born. And of those immigrants, about 30 percent, or 4,400, are Brazilian. Analysts put the number much higher, arguing that many of the undocumented are not counted. Their impact on Framingham has been extremely visible, particularly downtown, where many stores have signs in Portuguese.
They are among the groups at the center of debates over immigration, and attempts by Governor Mitt Romney and legislators to crack down on undocumented immigrants. The issue has made some Brazilians nervous about celebrating World Cup victories or even wearing their team jerseys.
But several hundred ventured out yesterday.
The Rizoli brothers said they were attacked at another World Cup celebration last week in Framingham, releasing a video that they said showed they had been shoved. Brazilians scoffed at that charge. Jewelry store owner Vera Dias-Freitas said fans merely surrounded the brothers and sang songs of Brazilian pride.
``They're too happy to attack anybody," she said. ``We are residents of Framingham, and we are of Brazilian origin. This is our culture, and there should be space for us to celebrate our culture. It's only every four years."
There were no incidents reported during yesterday's hour-long celebration.
The Rizoli brothers clashed with no fans, but they were involved in one testy encounter. As Jim Rizoli was talking to a police officer about his concerns about the Brazilian crowd, he patted the officer a few times on the shoulder.
``If you touch me again, I will lock you up," said Deputy Chief Steven Trask, who declined to comment further.
The brothers were incensed.
``When we were attacked over there last week, where were you?" asked Jim Rizoli. ``You guys are working for the Brazilians!"