Increasingly, Brazilians are blasé about two things most everyone used to be excited about – the FIFA World Cup and a wave of protests. We’ll see which way the pendulum swings again come June. Above, last year’s protests become the theme of a small ‘bloco’ at this year’s Carnaval.
By Mauricio Savarese
Attitudes went from “This is going to massive,” “Everyone will be fired up” and “It will change Brazil forever” to “Not again…,” “I can’t wait for this to be over” and “There is just too much hype.”
Radicals aside, there are now few Brazilians overly enthusiastic about either of the two mutually antagonistic events taking place in the country this year: the FIFA World Cup and the protests that have rocked the streets since June. Interest faded very slowly; people got sick of infrastructure issues around the World Cup and violence from agitators and police during protests.
Carnaval, long concentrated in traditional party centers like Rio, Salvador, and Recife, is taking roots in new cities all over the country. James Young reports from landlocked BH, Brazil’s unglamorous third-largest city, which is learning to put on its own celebrations.
By James Young
Brazil’s carnaval capitals are well established. There’s frevo music on the steep cobbled streets of Olinda, and the giant Galo da Madrugada bloco (street party) in next door Recife, until recently considered by the Guinness Book of Records to be the biggest carnavalesque gathering in the world.
If trotting behind giant sound trucks listening to axé superstars such as Ivete Sangalo or Claudia Leite is your thing, then Salvador, Bahia is the place. And the most flamboyant carnaval of them all, whether you fancy watching the samba schools parade in the sambodromo or getting hot and sweaty among 2.5 million revellers at the Cordão da Bola Preta bloco, is in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s safe to say that the comparatively reserved, landlocked city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third biggest, is not high on the list of traditional carnaval destinations.
By Dom Phillips
Last month, Brazilian television network Globo showed something shocking it had never shown on a prime time soap opera before: a kiss between two men. The kiss, between Félix (Mateus Solano) and Niko (Thiago Fragoso), had been anticipated and was shown in the final episode of the novela Amor à Vida (Love the Life). Here it is.
Sensitively handled, romantically filmed, it caught Brazil’s imagination and set social networks ablaze. The next morning, the kiss was headline news and Globo’s news site G1 was one of many to run celebratory stories.
Its primetime Sunday night magazine show Fantástico interviewed both actors and called it “the kiss that moved Brazil.”
You might think: they took their time. Isn’t it 2014 already? The first gay kiss on a British soap opera on long-running East London drama Eastenders happened way back in 1987. Was Brazil ready for the shock? The answer is yes, not, and not sure. Sometimes this confusion seemed to take hold of the same person. Many Brazilians literally did not know what to think.
Alex Ellis took over as the British Ambassador here last July, having previously served as Ambassador to Portugal. Claire Rigby spoke with him last week following the opening of a major David Bowie exhibition at São Paulo’s MIS museum, which arrived in Brazil following showings in London and Toronto.
By Claire Rigby
Are you really a lifelong David Bowie fan?
Yes. The first music video I ever remember seeing was ‘Ashes to Ashes’. It must have been in 1980, and I remember being amazed. What’s this? I couldn’t work it out. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I think that’s quite a common reaction to seeing David Bowie for the first time, and you get that feeling again with some of the material in this exhibition.
How old were you then, and how old are you now?
I was 12 then, and I’m 46 now. Something that makes me respect Bowie even more after seeing this exhibition is that you realise the real depth to his work – it’s not an image: this is who he is. The clothes, the videos, the sheer creativity. These were some of the first people to make videos, some of the first people to use the internet.
“Apartheid” is too strong a word to describe Brazil’s serious class and race problems, says Mauricio Savarese. But it comes closer to describing the truth than the often-repeated claim that Brazil is a country without racism. Here, it’s not the state which is prejudiced. Above, youth at a planned ‘rolezinho’ in Rio de Janeiro.
By Mauricio Savarese
A few years ago a professor tried to get a sense of the social background of the students in my class. First question to his 45 pupils: “How many of you have been out of São Paulo?” Everyone raised their hands. “How many are working?” Fewer people raised their hands. That went on for ten minutes. In the end, two questions made one thing very clear: those seats weren’t for everyone. “How many of you went to one of our terrible public schools?” It was just me, and one other student. Everyone else in the room had studied at private schools.
A gruesome video recently released is only one example of a penitentiary system often dominated by medieval conditions and shocking violence, Dom Phillips reports, and quasi-feudal political arrangements in the state of Maranhão have done little to improve the system there.
By Dom Phillips
It cannot have been an easy decision for this newspaper to publish a gruesome cell-phone video in which Brazilian prisoners paraded the decapitated bodies of three gang rivals.
But the video put both the crisis at the Pedrinhas prison on the outskirts of São Luís, and the government of Maranhão state where the prison is situated, under the spotlight.
In São Paulo, taking to the streets involves far more than protests, riots and demonstrations. It’s also about taking back space from the concrete jungle for parties, festivals, public parks and shopping-mall meetups – ‘rolezinhos.’ The poster in the photo above by Claire Rigby reads “More love, please.”
By Claire Rigby
2013 may be remembered as the year Brazil took to the streets. Or depending on what’s around the corner, it may be remembered as a mere precursor to what came next. But whatever 2014 has up its sleeve, in São Paulo a tendency to take to the streets en masse, invading public spaces and investing them with life and colour, runs deeper and wider than last June’s headline-grabbing protests.
The push for a more humane city – more street life, more music and more space for human interaction – takes in creative types infiltrating music and art onto the streets of the centro, and campaigners for a new downtown park. It includes the bike shop renting private land to create a mini public square, and the working-class kids turning up in their hundreds at the mall, in Facebook-driven public actions known as ‘rolezinhos‘. And though less overtly politicized so far than the UK’s 1990s Reclaim the Streets movement, which evolved from staging euphoric anti-car parties in the streets to embrace anti-capitalism, the struggle to take possession of the city’s public spaces is becoming more interesting by the week.
In deference to what now seems a rule mandating publications to ‘wrap up’ the past year, this is a list of some of the articles, in English, that told the story of Brazil in 2013. For this we turned to Sergio Charlab, a Brazilian journalist who maintains a very active Twitter with updates on pieces written by foreign correspondents, bloggers, and other writers trying to explain Brazil. All text below by Sergio.
Corruption isn’t mostly about politicians. In its present form, it means that powerful companies dominate Brazil. Above, what corruption looks like.
In Brazil, one simple image of corruption is often dominant: some politician, usually an overweight middle-aged man, grabs money from the public coffers, stuffs it into a big sack, and takes off to spend it in Miami or some tacky São Paulo nightclub. The politician gets rich, and the taxpayer gets poorer.
But this is an overwhelmingly one-sided view of what corruption is, as an excellent column from Kenneth Maxwell points out, and neglects the larger role that hugely profitable companies play in the schemes in order to screw over the Brazilian people.
The world expected Brazil’s state oil industry to oversee a boom driven by offshore reserves. But Petrobras is stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the government has needed to use the company to combat the eternal threat of inflation, grinding relations with the investors the industry needs.
By Dom Phillips
Graça Foster, CEO of Brazil’s state controlled oil giant Petrobras, was in this newspaper yesterday, doing some fire fighting. The reason was the fallout from the price rises Brazil announced just over a week ago – 4% for gasoline and 8% for diesel. This might not seem like a such a big deal, apart from the cost to Brazilian motorists, but it was front page news in Brazil.
This was not just a price rise. It is part of a political and economic battle that goes to the heart of how Brazil is run. And the analysts and observers who make their livings telling their clients what this sort of thing means were not very impressed.