Class Notes

Today in Modern Brazil, we began with a discussion on modern Brazilian music, talking about many of the countries top artists and their current popular songs. Dr. Holt even ended looked up their top 50 songs on Spotify, letting the class sit back and listen to some of the great music. As a class we noticed the wide range of music within Spotify’s top 50 playlist, recognizing that this was an excellent representation of Brazil’s widespread culture. Additionally, we tied this back to last weeks theme of Brazil’s Carnival Festival, and how the song at the top of the playlist had reached that spot due to its release just prior to Carnival.

We then moved on to William’s History & Culture presentation on Brazil’s corrupt Prison/Justice system. William focused on comparing Brazil’s, and America’s prison systems drawing many similarities and differences between the two. The main similarities he mentioned were the high abundances of black prisoners and the tendency for prisons to acts as a detainment center or “criminal college” instead of a place for rehabilitation. The main difference William focused on was the presence of gangs, such as the PPC, within prison systems, and how this has led to a more violent atmosphere within Brazil’s prison walls. A riot in 1992 was used as an example of this violent behavior, where 102 Brazilian prisoners lost their lives. After William had finished, Andrew presented his Book Presentation on Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil by Marc A. Hertzman. Andrew talked about the original foundation of Samba, which was from the Afro-Brazilian community. He continued on explaining how as Samba became more popular in Brazil it began to lose its roots due to the involvement of the white community. Samba only became a national symbol once the white community had molded it into something completely different than what it had started as was a key point within Andrew’s presentation due to how it connects to major themes of the class, such as race, and colorism. Additionally, an interesting question was brought forth on the possible connection between Samba and American Jazz music. However, a distinction was made between the two because of Samba’s inability to be nationally recognized without an influence of the white community in Brazil, and how this was not the case for Jazz. Accidentally, this made a great connection to the difference in racial issues between the two countries, because of the lack of true segregation in Brazil. Lastly, the presentation perfectly incorporated one of the assigned reading for the day, what was about an Afro-Brazilian musician named Geraldo Pereira who struggled to achieve national recognition due to the color of his skin.

After Andrew’s presentation and the conversation that followed it, the class shifted our focus to the day’s assigned readings and what historical questions they might answer. A large focus of the classes discussion involved the urban renewal of Rio De Janeiro throughout the 20th century. We compared the re-building of the city to France’s urban renewal, and how afterward the city looked as though it should be in Europe. Additionally, we spoke of the cultural changes within Rio, as its populations boomed due to the influx of rural Brazilians, and European and Japanese immigrants. I thought this was similar to the great migration of the black community from the south to northern cities in America in the middle of the 20th Century. Both events caused for the mixing of cultures, resulting in violence, and poor working conditions. Although, we also touched on the good things that came about from Rio’s urban renewal, such as financial opportunity and increase hygiene.   Because of this the reading on The Vaccine Riots From Brazil: Five Centuries of Change was a hot topic because of how it provided the class with just how hygiene became an issue within the city due to the citizen’s negative thoughts on vaccination, which resulted in a violent revolt. The text also provides great insight into just how much Rio’s population spiked. Additionally, the excerpt on Geraldo Pereira from Human Tradition in Modern Brazil gave the class a great perspective on the changes that occurred in Rio de Janeiro from the personal view of Pereira. It was also a great reminder of why biographies are fantastic sources due to their ability to provide the reader with a story, personal motivations, and historical context.

What Cultural changes did Rio de Janeiro experience in the 20th Century, and why?

What other Gang’s exist within Brazil, and what are the similarities and differences between them and the PCC?

What type of information would you receive from a biography of a Rio de Janeiro citizen that you might not get from another type of text about Rio?

Key Terms:

  • Samba: A Brazilian Dance of Afro-Brazilian origin that has become one of many national symbols of Brazil.
  • PCC: The Primeiro Comando da Capital (first command of the Captial) is Brazil’s largest criminal organization or gang.  They are known for their infiltration into Brazil’s prison system with 6,000 of their 13,00 members behind bars.
  • Urban Renewal: The redevelopment of areas within a large city in an attempt to modernize, typically involving the clearance of slums.

Check out Rio’s Geography on Google Earth (only works in Google Chrome),-43.22919069,16.863676a,8022.0764203d,35y,154.9154265h,59.93206572t,-0r


Go listen to some of his great music!