On July 14, 2020, the Latvian Honorary Consul in Brazil, Daina Gutmane, left the office for health reasons. Daina was one of the main figures among the Latvians of Brazil in the last decades. She became consul in 2013 and has implemented major changes and new projects with the Latvian community in Brazil. Today’s article will explain her biography, her work, and the challenges of a Latvian Consul in Brazil.
Daina Gutmane was born on April 8, 1958, in São Paulo. Her parents fled Latvia as refugees from World War II and the Soviet occupation – and like many latvians, were scattered around the world. Daina’s generation was born as orphan of their country – news that came were of censorship and deportation – yet, Daina’s family proudly taught her the Latvian language and culture. Since a very young age she participated in Latvian cultural activities, dressed in tautastērpi in commemorative ceremonies and exhibitions.
After participating in a 2×2 Latvian Culture camp in the USA and in another one in Venezuela, she was enthusiastic about what she learned and together with other Latin-American Latvians decided to create in 1977 DLJA (South-American Latvian Youth Association) and BRALJA (Brazilian Latvian Youth Association. From these organizations came the great names of Latvians in Latin America, such as Anita Zalts (Argentina), Guntars Gedulis (Venezuela), and of course, Daina Gutmane.
In 1979, inspired by her 2×2 experience, she helped organize the first Latvian culture camp in Brazil, called “Saulaine”, held in Nova Odessa. Among the volunteers was Ms. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, as a teacher, who one day would become the President of Latvia (1999 – 2007). Daina also helped organize the Latvian Sunday school on at the Latvian Lutheran Church in São Paulo. She also joined the Imeria Student Corporation.
DLA (South American Latvian Association) Congress: Ilgvars Zalts, Roberts Pontuška (with the flag), Rūdolfs Ķīvīts, Daina Gūtmane
As a Volunteer
In her professional life, Daina graduated as an Agronomist in 1981 at the University of São Paulo. She obtained her Master’s degree in 1990 and a PhD in 2004. Her doctoral thesis on carbon sequestration earned her the Best Academic Work Award from the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development. She was a Scientific Researcher at the Animal Science Institute from 1989 to 2013, performing various functions, in addition to participating in several national and international scientific events.
To complement the already brilliant curriculum, Daina decided to pursue a Specialization in International Law and Relations, concluding in 2006 at UNIMEP. The first steps in your career as a consul.
Daina is a volunteer at heart. She held several positions in the Latvian Lutheran Community and, from 2003 to 2010, she was the secretary of the Brazilian Association of Latvian Culture. From 1997 to 2015, he was also president of DAKLA, the Latvian Association of South America and the Caribbean (successor to DLA and DLJA) and participated annually in PBLA meetings.
PBLA meeting in 2017. Daina is in the middle of the second row.
Daina organized the visit of Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga to Nova Odessa in 2007, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis in 2011 and Minister of Defense Raimonds Bergmanis in 2016. He held the photo exhibition “Latvian Immigrants” in 2008 at the Immigrant Memorial, in São Paulo, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia. In 2008, he received a Diploma and Tribute from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his significant work on behalf of the Republic of Latvia. In 2009 she received the title of “Novaodessensean Citizen ” from the City Council of Nova Odessa.
Daina – The Consul
Before talking about her job as consul, it is necessary to explain what the position of Honorary Consul is. Without too much legal detail, an Honorary Consul is a 100% voluntary position held by citizens of the target country to represent another country. Honorary consuls do not hold legal / international power, and usually the “diplomatic” role they play is only an aid is in economic matters for companies wishing to do business with the country they represent.
The office of Honorary Consul of Latvia in Brazil, however, is a position that has come to embody a much greater social and symbolic importance – this Consul not only represents but helps the entire Latvian community in Brazil. After retiring from public service in 2013, Daina was named Consul, being the second to occupy the post after the 1991 Latvian restoration of independence, succeeding Dr. João Grimberg.
It should also be noted that all expenses for the position of Honorary Consul are borne by them, since the country represented does not provide any subsidy or remuneration. And there is always a need for travel, freight costs, and a plethora of actions that require attention and, consequently, costs. During her tenure she was able to assist and assist both Brazilians and foreigners in regularizing documents and spreading Latvia to Brazilians, as well as Brazil to Latvia.
In addition to diplomatic representation, Daina continued to participate and support the activities of PBLA, DAKLA and the Brazilian Association of Latvian Culture, in order to preserve Latvian culture in Brazil. Daina participates in the Brazilian Latvian Choir and during her tenure, both this Choir and the Ijuí Dance Group participated in the Latvian Song and Dance Festival that took place in July 2018.
Daina was also one of the main figures behind the 1st Festival of Latvian Culture in Brazil, held in November 2018 in Nova Odessa and Americana. In 2016 he received a tribute from CONSCRE – State Parliamentary Council of Communities of Foreign Cultures at the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo for her relevant services in the Latvian Community.
Finally, on April 8, 2019, by decision of the Presidential Commission of the highest national decorations, Daina Gutmane was awarded the Cross of Recognition (Atzinibas Krusts), III category, for her relevant work. of the Order of the Cross of Recognition. The award ceremony by the President of Latvia took place on May 3, 2019.
Daina speaks at the National Museum of Latvia, 2019. Right behind is Latvian President Raimond Vejonis and the representative of the Ministry of Culture Jolanta Borīte.
Far Beyond Medals (or The Work of a Consul)
A personal testimony by Andreis Purim
The Honorary Consul’s job is a bit ungrateful – or as a friend once said: “you give your sweat and they ask for your blood” – in addition to being an unpaid position, trying to represent almost 25,000 Latvians in Brazil, (spread across several states) is a titanic job. Unfortunately, most people only see the consul when he receives medals, and few are around when he is working. This article, in addition to being informative, is a dedication to Ms. Daina Gutmane.
Daina was one of my first friends when I arrived in Nova Odessa to participate in the Līgo, in 2016. She picked me up at Viracopos airport and gave me a ride to the place where the event would be held. It would be just the first of many rides I received. Whenever an Association event ended, she – along with a few volunteers – stayed until the very end of the organization and helped to pack everything. At the end of the Latvian Festival, 2 am, there were only 4 people in the theater stacking the nearly 200 plastic chairs that we rented for the Choir. Daina was one of them.
Not only did Daina dedicate her sweat and work, she also transformed her home into a consulate. In addition to holding various events and meetings, Daina’s house served as an electoral booth for Latvia’s parliamentary elections in 2018 (we work from 5 am to 8 pm). If that wasn’t enough, even her sofa served as a bed for some volunteers from São José dos Campos who realized that it was too late to drive down the road after a Līgo.
But certainly, the most difficult part of the job is taking care of the 33 Latvians who were arrested in Brazil. Most of these prisoners are ethnic Russians with Latvian passports (some do not even speak Latvian), and became involved in organized crime and drug trafficking after the fall of the Soviet Union. These prisoners are in prisons in three different states. Without the voluntary work of Daina – who drives for hours and hours every month to help them have diplomatic representation – these prisoners could end up being recruited by Brazilian criminal factions, as they have no legal protection. This type of work does not earn medals, just expenses and headaches, but she’s always there.
Since Daina opened a profile on Facebook, her inbox has never stopped receiving questions about citizenship, passports, documents and sometimes even travel advice. At the DAKLA meeting in 2018, I needed a real-time latvian translator for my presentation, and she volunteered without hesitation. Instead of luxurious dinners with the big shots, Daina preferred to have a snack on the subway with the volunteers of the Latvian Culture Festival.
After all this, it is easy to understand how demanding the physical and mental exercise of the Consulate is. Of course, I don’t want to belittle the work of other very dedicated volunteers from the Latvian community (each deserves an article in its own right), but Daina really is an example of someone who gave everything she could. It is a great shame that she is leaving the office – but between us – she also deserves a rest.