Young, Black, Alive – Breaking the silence on Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate

November 26, 2014

Atila Roque – Live Wire, 11/26/2014

Earlier this week, many people around the world waited with bated breath for a grand jury’s decision in a case where a police officer shot dead an unarmed young black man on the street. While the 9 August shooting of Michael Brown took place in the US suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the case has a deep resonance here in Brazil. The tragic course of events leading up to the teenager’s death could just as easily have played out on the streets of our cities orfavelas.

Of the 56,000 homicides in Brazil every year, 30,000 are young people aged 15 to 29. That means that, at this very moment, a young person is most likely being killed in Brazil. By the time you go to bed, 82 will have died today. It’s like a small airplane full of young people crashing every two days, with no survivors. This would be shocking enough by itself, but it’s even more scandalous that 77 per cent of these young people are black.

Since 1980, more than 1 million people have been murdered in Brazil. According to Global Burden of Armed Violence 2008, in the period from 2004 to 2007, more people were killed here than in the 12 main wars worldwide. However the violence doesn’t impact Brazilian society equally. Murders are rampant in poor and marginalized communities. Prejudice and negative stereotypes associated with the favelas and city outskirts have a key role in perpetrating this violence.

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Brazil’s favela fairy tale: When Prince Charming packs heat

November 25, 2014

Flora Charner – Aljazeera America, 11/24/2014

As Marcelle Rosa, 15, walked onto the dance floor, she looked like a modern-day princess. She was wearing a pink and black ball gown with a tightly laced corset and a tiara on top of her coiffed curls. Suddenly, a man in a pressed uniform took her by the hand and led her in a waltz. She could not stop smiling.

Rosa and a group of her closest friends were living any girl’s fairy tale, far, far away from the favela they call home. While the night was everything she would have dreamed, she never imagined her Prince Charming would be an officer from Rio de Janeiro’s military police.

The music switched from Tchaikovsky to Brazilian funk, and the teenagers let go of their partners. With each beat, the girls bounced and gyrated, swishing their long dresses on the floor. A group of female police officers joined the dance circle and shimmied with the girls. This was the Cerro-Corá favela’s debutante ball, organized by the fairy godmothers of the local Police Pacification Unit, or UPP.

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Rio’s Slums to Jacob’s Pillow

August 11, 2014

Marina Harss – The New York Times, 8/9/2014

As the protests surrounding the World Cup this summer underscored, Brazil is a complex country, blessed with gorgeous beaches and breathtaking landscapes, bursting with music, but also plagued by poverty and violence. Extremes of beauty and ugliness rub shoulders; they are intertwined in the national character. This tension is precisely what the choreographer Sonia Destri Lie, founder of the contemporary hip-hop troupe Companhia Urbana de Dança, strives to capture in her work. The company will appear at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., from Wednesday to Saturday.

Back in the 1970s, when Ms. Destri was growing up in the comfortable Rio suburb of Bangu, she did not yet know this would be her life’s work. She studied ballet and contemporary dance and went on to perform with the Brazilian dance-theater choreographer Suzana Braga and to choreograph for television, movies and fashion. In the ’90s, when the jobs in Rio dried up, she decamped to Düsseldorf to teach.

Just as she found herself in a creative slump, she was introduced to hip-hop by the American b-boy Marvin A. Smith, also based in Germany. In hip-hop, she recognized a language that offered the freedom she had been seeking. After a fire gutted her apartment, she returned to Rio in 1997 and began producing hip-hop events. She was invited to choreograph Rio’s fashion week and the film “Maré, Nossa História de Amor,” a love story set in Rio’s streets.

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Previously Banned, Brazilian Funk Music Takes Center Stage

July 31, 2014

Emmanuelle Saliba – NBC News, 7/29/2014

American audiences recently got their first taste of a new – and contagious – Brazilian street dancing style that has evolved from music born in the slums of Rio de Janeiro decades ago.

For the creators of Passinho, dancing at New York’s famed Lincoln Center on July 24th went beyond performing on a world-renowned stage. It was a vindication that a dance style associated in Brazil with criminals and gang activity is now seen as an art form that just happened to start in the favelas, or slums.

“Eleven passinho dancers came here to do something that when we started was discriminated against,” said Iguinho Imperador, a 21-year-old dancer hailing from Favela de Manguinhos. In Brazil, he explained, the dance is still often considered an activity for vagabonds, robbers or drug addicts.

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Economy In Gutter, Brazil More Expensive Than Europe

July 28, 2014

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 7/27/2014

Brazil’s economy might be growing near zero, and it’s currency isn’t as strong as it was in the heyday of the U.S. housing bubble of 2008, but that hasn’t stopped the country from becoming more expensive than the entire euro zone. In fact, according to The Economist magazine’s latest edition of the Big Mac index, Brazil’s currency is overvalued, and is third behind mega rich nations like Norway and Switzerland.

Brazil is the most expensive emerging market nation, and the locals are feeling it.

According to the magazine’s Big Mac index, the Brazilian real is overvalued by 5.86% as of July 23, more so than it was in 2009.  The Brazilian real is worth R$2.23. But it used to be a lot stronger. In July of 2008, it hit a strong R$1.55.  Despite a weaker currency, Brazil’s cost of living is on the rise.  For those living there, it’s a cause of frustration.  This is still very much a country where roads flood in the rain in major cities like São Paulo, and World Cup and Olympic quality cities like Rio de Janeiro have a whopping 500,000+ living in squalor in hillside slums.  The views are nice, but the poverty, the crime, the violence and the lackluster government services to those stuck there remain a national embarrassment.

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Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

July 22, 2014

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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