Favorites: Brazillionaires


This week, I finished reading Alex Cuadros’ Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country. It is an elegantly written and thoroughly researched narrative that helps readers understand why business and politics are so difficult to bifurcate in that country.


The book is digestible, compelling, and respectful of readers’ intellects. While the stories of nouveau riche absurdities are interesting, Cuadros challenges readers  by expanding on the political and economic dynamics that sustain the billionaires he covers. I found myself noting the titles of texts he mentions for further reading.


Some of the chapters seem to end a bit abruptly, but the author does an excellent job of tying up loose ends in the epilogue. There he shares perceptive observations, reflections on policy, and comparisons with the United States. For this reason, the book may resonate slightly more with readers from that country.


In the title, Cuadros calls Brazil an “American Country.” It brought to mind a moment for me when a journalist in Los Angeles asked the renowned Venezuelan music conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, about music on his iPod. He mentioned some Latin dance music, and the reporter asked if he had any “American” music. Without missing a beat, Dudamel let him know the Latin dance was American, reminding the reporter of the rest of the hemisphere.


Long-time observers may not see anything extraordinary in the commodity crash narrative, but the nuances of the ripple effects and the influence they will have on policy and future business leaders are less predictable. Cuadros excels in elucidating these, so I happily recommend the book to any person interested in political economy or in the largest Latin American country.

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