Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 12/18/2012
Marilucia Marques could be a poster child for the new Latin American middle class. Black, poor and raised by a single mother in a Rio favela, the young Brazilian lifted herself out of the slum thanks to hard study and a rare opportunity for higher education. She is now a teacher, earning six times more than her mother – who worked as a maid all her life – and is the first member of her family to be able to afford foreign travel, as well as concerts, theatre and the cinema.
From a global perspective, she is exactly what the world economy is looking for: a driver of growth, an example of millennium development goal success and an indication that Latin America may be shedding a reputation for social inequality and financial instability.
In one sense, her path out of poverty is emblematic. Marques is one of more than 300 million people in emerging economies who have moved out of destitution as the global balance of power and income has shifted since the turn of the millennium. But moves like hers are coming at very different speeds in different countries. Among the sharpest contrast is that between the first and last of the so-called Brics – Brazil and China – which have been hit in varying degrees by the global economic downturn and responded in very disparate ways.