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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Anything but ordinary: Wildcat Tyler Ralston

    He’s dwelled in Mexico, resided in Rio, and spent every summer he can remember in Canada. His childhood was spent in an Indian hut in Florida, and at one time a hippie commune – but Tyler Ralston still calls Maryland home.

    Ralston, a UA graduate student and this year’s Fulbright-Hays scholarship winner, will take the $31,000 dollars given to him by the scholarship and travel back to Brazil to continue his research in Latin American politics.

    Much like Ralston himself, the path to his 2008 award has been anything but ordinary.

    “”Once you get moving around, it’s hard to stop,”” Ralston said of his past adventures. “”All of my traveling ultimately led me to Brazil.””

    An avid traveler, Ralston settled himself in Mexico for several years after graduating with a master’s degree in Latin American history. Through teaching Spanish for a few years, Ralston collected enough money to spend a year in Rio de Janeiro.

    “”There was no looking back at that point,”” he said.

    Ralston, explaining how he had taken the Bohemian lifestyle to the edge of its frontier, decided it was time to return to school.

    Having initially decided to study Mexico, Ralston realized that his zeal still existed within Rio de Janeiro.

    “”I had already been bitten by the Brazil bug, so I switched my emphasis after a year in the program,”” he said. “”My adviser, Bert Barickman, is one of the top scholars on Brazil, and under his tutelage, I have really been able to bring my project up to a new level.””

    His particular focus relies on the various social, political and cultural changes of Brazil in the 20th century.

    “”I’ll be specifically examining an area of metropolitan Rio de Janeiro known as the Baixada Fluminense,”” he said. “”It’s reputed to be the roughest, most violent part of the city, and that’s saying a lot.””

    Ralston will be examining the heavy population growth of the city, which was once nothing but nearly uninhabited farm land, and he’ll also be studying a peculiar politician by the name of Tenorio Cavalcante.

    “”Tenorio Cavalcante was, to say the least, flamboyant,”” he explained. “”He wore a black cape and carried a machine gun named Lourdinha wherever he went. He was not the least bit shy about using it, either. At one point, he pulled it on a rival politician on the floor of Congress.””

    While Cavalcante is an attention-grabbing character in the history of Brazil, Ralston is less interested in examining the politician’s personal accomplishments and is busier using him as a way to investigate and analyze the region he is studying.

    “”I hope my conclusions will provide an understanding of how populist politics applied on the local level in not only Brazil, but in Latin America as a whole,”” he said.

    Although some might suspect that the winner of an exceedingly prestigious award has had a cookie-cutter life mapped and blueprinted from infancy, Ralston describes having a life slightly less conventional and slightly more artistic. Ralston’s mother is a painter, and his father is a playwright and poet.

    Following suit, Ralston enjoys some artistic endeavors of his own.

    “”I play a lot of guitar. Guitar study breaks often intended for five minutes can go on for hours,”” he said.

    Marathon bicycling and kayaking take up much of Ralston’s newfound free time, as well.

    “”Right now, I am heavily into doing things outdoors – the things I didn’t have time for when I was doing my comps,”” he said. “”I’m out on the water for three or four hours some days.””

    He said he also enjoys reading books unrelated to the topic he’s studying.

    Like his past, his future looks equally colorful. Ralston, who will leave for Brazil in the first weeks of September, may ultimately turn his passion for learning into a passion for teaching.

    “”That’s totally up in the air,”” he said. “”Theoretically, I’ll seek gainful employment at a university teaching Latin American history.””

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