Brazil’s quilombos, founded by escaped slaves, offer a window to the past

September 22, 2014

Donna Bowater – Al Jazeera America, 9/20/2014

To listen to Conceição Maria Viana, a descendant of escaped slaves, is to hear the voice of Brazil’s once silenced past, buried deep in the forest amid the babassu palm trees.

Viana’s grandfather, Benedito Zacarias Serra, was a runaway slave who founded one of thousands of clandestine settlements known as quilombos before slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.

Today, 126 years after slavery ended, Serra’s quilombo lives on as a testament to the resilience of Afro-Brazilian culture, with about 100 families celebrating many of the same traditions — and facing many of the same challenges — from when Santo Antônio dos Pretos was founded.

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Brazil: Schoolboys wear skirts in protest after trans girl fined for wearing female uniform

September 22, 2014

Nick Duffy – Pink News, 9/21/2014

A group of boys at a Brazil school have donned skirts, after a transgender girl was fined by teachers for wearing the “incorrect” uniform.

17-year-old Maria Muniz, who recently came out as trans at São Cristóvão do Colégio Pedro II, was disciplined by teachers and handed a fine after she wore a skirt to school, instead of the regulation boys’ trousers.

The school claimed that their Code of Ethics did not permit “male” students to wear female uniforms – but was forced to backtrack on the decision when the girl’s classmates decided to protest by all wearing skirts to school too.

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Indians in Brazil say gov’t deceived them about dam project

September 17, 2014

EFE – Fox News Latino, 09/16/2014

Brazil’s Munduruku Indians charged Tuesday that the government deceived them and defied a requirement to consult with the tribe before approving the construction of a new hydroelectric dam in the Amazon jungle.

A statement distributed by the Missionary Indian Council, a group linked to the Catholic Church, said the indigenous people “are outraged” after the government of President Dilma Rousseff set Dec. 15 as the date to receive bids to build the São Luiz do Tapajos power plant in the northern state of Para.

Government officials met with Munduruku representatives two weeks ago to discuss the Indians’ rights to be consulted about developments in their lands, as mandated by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.

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Marina’s “Post-Racial” Brazil

September 10, 2014

Julia E. Sweig – The World Post, 9/10/2014

Stating the obvious can have its merits, so I’ll risk the inevitable criticism for stating the obvious: two women, one white, one black, are the top contenders for the presidency of one of the world’s largest democracies.

Maybe the NSA is blocking my access, but I spent the afternoon hunting around the Brazilian media for a discussion of gender and race in this election and found but a handful of articles. Perhaps the gender angle is easier to explain–Brazilian women have been running for president off and on for the last twenty years. The 2010 election may have been more of a breakthrough than 2014. But the muted, if absent reference to race surely owes more to the reluctance to talk about Brazil’s racial divide and the persistence of the myth of a race-blind society.

Why talk about race and gender when there is so much more that has put Brazilians in a sour mood of late? Recession, crime, household debt, inflation, poverty, international atrophy. Now, and like the protests last year, the Marina surge as the anti-Dilma, as the markets’ unlikely favorite, has energized the public debate about Brazil’s future. A certain irrational exuberance around Marina has morphed the sour to sweet.

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A Voice for Ukraine, In Southern Brazil

September 10, 2014

Marcio Pimenta – Roads & Kingdoms, 9/9/2014

The first signs of Prudentópolis, after miles of pine and Araucaria forests and wheat fields under the blue and cloudless sky, are the Byzantine domes of its churches. Then, after crossing into the city proper, the names on the storefronts—Klosowksi, Zubreski, Bohaczuk, Techy—offer final confirmation: you have reached the heart of Ukrainian Brazil.

As the notion of what it means to be Ukrainian is tested on the battlefields of Eastern Ukraine, there is little doubt in Prudentópolis. These are Ukrainian patriots: originally from the province of Galicia in what is now western Ukraine, they believe, as western Ukrainians still do, in the sovereignty and unity of that country. To that end they have raised money—$1000 recently for hospitals and refugees, more coming soon—and tried to raise awareness of the Ukrainian cause. Although, in Prudentópolis, few need reminding. Even for Brazil, a country of immigration clusters, Prudentópolis is remarkably concentrated. Around seventy percent of the population of 50,000 inhabitants are the descendants of Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in the nineteenth century.

Located in south-central state of Paraná, about 200 km from Curitiba, the city does not lack for nicknames. “The Vatican” for its vast number of chapels and churches. “Honey Capital” because, well, they make a lot of honey (same explanation goes for “Black Bean Capital”). They have recently pinned their economic hopes on a different nickname—“City of Giant Waterfalls”—because there are more than 100 waterfalls in the area, some as high as 200 feet, and they want to draw tourists in to see them. “The numbers are still modest, but the adventure tourism is developing fast in the region”, says Johan Schipper, manager of the Department of Tourism. There are in fact backpackers and pickup trucks and 4×4 jeeps roaming the streets, but one can’t help but feel that the off-road set is somehow in direct opposition to the real challenge facing this place: how to preserve the unique agricultural heritage and identity of its Ukrainian community.

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Brazil’s Independence Day Protests: Daily

September 8, 2014

Chesney Hearst – The Rio Times, 9/8/2014

Widespread protests marked Brazil’s Independence Day celebrations yesterday. The national holiday, typically celebrated with military parades in the streets of state capitals and numerous cities throughout the country, instead saw a wave of demonstrations, some of which turned violent.

Protests against various issues, including corruption and poor quality of public services, sprung up in 150 cities but the turnout was significantly smaller than the numbers seen during the massive protests that took place in June.

Security had been heightened in anticipation of the protests, notably in the country’s capital of Brasília. There, President Dilma Rousseff participated in the traditional Independence Day military parade without incident.

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