Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Ricardo Stuckert / Agência Brasil

Rather than use an actual photo of Brazil’s president, I thought I’d use a photo of my goofy uncle Gary, from back when he used to wear this sash around. I have no idea where he got it, but he literally wore it everywhere: the grocery store, the mall, the post office, etc. Invariably, strangers would giggle and ask why he was wearing a sash. It was humiliating.

Just kidding! This is not my goofy uncle. It’s actually Brazil’s goofy uncle, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who goes by “Lula” because tougher nicknames like “Beboo” or “Gigi” would apparently have scared off the Brazilian electorate. Looking at Lula’s dimples, jug ears and fuzzy beard, it is hard to believe that when he was elected, Washington thought that he was the next Hugo Chavez. The only way Lula could seem less threatening would be if his country’s slogan were something milquetoast like “Order and Progress.”

Other interesting facts about Lula include the following:

• He is missing one finger, his left pinky, which he claims was severed in a factory accident when he was 19. Although we should probably consider the possibility that this is actually goofy uncle-style sleight of hand, in the vein of “look, the end of my thumb comes off!” or “got your nose!”

• Lula’s father left his mother for her cousin, and Lula’s mother followed him and moved in with the two of them, and the three of them  – husband, wife, and wife’s cousin/husband’s mistress – lived together in the same house for four years. Later, their story was made into a porn.

Interesting Brazil facts:

• The Brazil “Nut” isn’t actually a nut: it’s a fruit!

• Brazil is larger than North America and Australia combined.

• Portuguese is the same language as Spanish, but spelled differently.

• Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, has a street layout based on an airplane because the first president of Brazil was an airplane.