The Economist, 1/25/2014
THE Shopping Metrô Itaquera, a gleaming mall amid the favelas (shantytowns) of eastern São Paulo, gained notoriety on January 11th, when the police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a rowdy crowd of 3,000 youths. The youngsters were participating in a rolezinho, a gathering of tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of youngsters which is convened via social networks.
Mall-owners and shopkeepers have reason to be wary of throngs of adolescents. A few rolezinhos have led to muggings and robberies. Two shopping centres in Rio de Janeiro remained closed on January 19th to forestall planned rolezinhos. The Western media has dubbed them “flash mobs”. But most do not end in Itaquera-like chaos: the word’s true meaning is closer to “little outing”. And theories that rolezeiros are class warriors or favela-dwellers tired of the country’s veiled racism are wide of the mark. “Their battle-cry is not ‘Less oppression!’” says Renato Barreiros, who has directed a documentary about them. “It’s ‘More Adidas!’”
The point of a rolezinho is “to hang out, chill, buy nice things, meet people,” explains Vinicius Andrade, a 17-year-old from Capão Redondo, a favela in western São Paulo. Vinicius counts 18 big rolezinhos in the city so far. He has taken part in all of them and helped organise a few, drawing some of his 89,000 Facebook followers. His 15-year-old girlfriend, Yasmin Oliveira, a rolezeiro sweetheart with 94,000 fans of her own on the social network, says that shopping centres make good meeting-places because they are safe—an important consideration in a crime-ridden city.