"President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has named Airto Moreira, Flora Purim and Joseph Wallach to the 'Order of Rio Branco', one of Brazil's highest honors. The Order of Rio Branco was created in 1963 to formally recognize Brazilian and foreign individuals who have significantly contributed to the promotion of Brazil's international relations. The order is named after Barão do Rio Branco, Brazil's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1902 to 1912, famous for his role in negotiating the national borders of Brazil and referred as the 'Father of Brazil's Diplomacy'. "
We recieved this announcement from the Brazilian Consulat.
Wow! you can imagine what a surprise this was for Flora and I when we heard about this. That the Brazilian government was giving both Flora and I a "Lifetime Achievement Award". I couldn't believe it! I had never gotten an award like this, Flora had but not me. I mean I'm a percussionist who does weird stuff, not a commercial guy. It makes me laugh a little because I can't think what made them think of me. Maybe because I am sixty years old?
Anyway Flora and I were happy about this and it was going to be a very formal awards ceremony held at The Academy of Arts and Sciences on September 6th 2002. You know where they hold the "Grammy Awards". I was supposed to wear a tuxedo, but I wore a nice black suit that I had bought when I performed for President Clinton, and instead of a tie I wore a beautiful silk scarf. There were about five hundred very elegant people there and all the Latin news cameras and the press. It was a very big thing.
When it came time, we received our awards and then were asked to speak. I don't know how to explain this in English, but in Brazil we have a saying that basically means "A saint doesn't make miracles in his own home" (something like that) and I felt on this evening that I had beaten that. This is the first time I have been recognized by my own country and I got a piece of paper signed by the President of Brazil. I told these people that I knew that for them this was a regular event. That it happened every year, but for me it was special and important and I was glad that it happened.
We then took lots of photographs and did interviews and I am now "Comendador Airto Moreira" which is sort of like "Sir" in England. WOW! Cool.