Author Archives: William Barnett

Two I.S. Symposium Presentations

In both of the posters I observed, I saw parallels between Brazil and the US. In analyzing these parallels, I saw unique ways in which the US, Brazil, and other Latin American countries are fighting back against the same problems and systematic hierarchies.

  1. Machismo

I got to talk with the poster’s creator for a long time about the life of Mexican American women in Chicago, and the positive and negative impact of machismo that they experience. Machismo, deals with essentially the idea of toxic masculinity. Men are brought up in a culture where they are supposed to act a certain way. Otherwise, they are called out for it. Women are in the same boat, but are seen as subservient. As a result, Mexican American women are found to receive much emotional abuse from male partners.

One of her biggest findings from this study was that in contrast to people in Mexico, Mexican Americans, men and women alike, are fighting against this hierarchy of oppression. She found that many people believe that the both the oppressors and the oppressed can be victims of machismo. Their fight is based on finding their own identity, requiring them to challenge the system that seeks to rid them of that.

There is perhaps something to be said about America and American culture from this study. While sexism and the patriarchy still remains a problem in America, it would appear that fighting against the established order is deeply engrained in American society, both in modern times and historic times.

  1. LGBTQ Representation

In Danica’s poster, I got to see the amount of representation that lgbtq people receive in Brazil, as well as other Latin American countries. She found that the amount of representation this demographic gets can influence people’s views on same sex marriage. Danica analyzed and surveyed the impact of this representation in all different countries of Latin America using four different models. These models included church attendance, interest in politics, and even how preferences have changed from year to year. Given that the amount of representation varies depending on the country, she concluded that the amount of lgbtq representation does increase favorability of same sex marriage.

I’m not surprised with Danica’s results. A similar analysis could be made to the preference of race based on representation. The US government for example is currently predominately white. It is quite possible that racism levels would decrease if more people of color were to be elected to the different levels of government in the years to come.

While the US has made great strides towards sexuality equality, such as legalizing gay marriage nationwide, we still have a long way to go. Perhaps our goal should be to get more lgbtq people running for office. The election of transwoman Danica Roem in 2017 proves that a lgbtq candidates have a chance at winning elections.

What I’ve Learned: Music, Art & The World

  1. Music

I was completely unaware of the music scene in Brazil, as well as Latin America in general. Since being introduced to the music video Via Milandra, I have been listening to a lot of Brazilian music on my phone and discovering Brazilian artists that I like a lot. Just from listening, I’ve learned a lot about Brazilian music, its forms, styles, influences, and culture. I’ve observed that Brazilian pop music is highly influenced by American pop music. However, it contains many elements of Spanish sounding music, such as Spanish guitar and accordion.

  1. Film & TV

I was not aware that Brazil had a film and TV industry. American movies seem so dull and uncreative compared to the Brazilian films we watched in class. I was very intrigued in learning about the telenovela format and am actually curious to learn more about them, as well as watch some of them. It’s cool to see how Brazilian life and culture is reflected in its art and entertainment. It gave me great insight into what it’s like to live in Brazil, as well as how Brazil differs from the US.

  1. The Rest of The World Is Not So Different

It becomes very easy to live in a bubble. I had begun to think that the US was something special, and that our lifestyles and cultures were something unique, in both good and bad ways, from the rest of the world. In studying Brazil, its culture, politics, social issues, and everything else, I realized that Brazil struggles with many of the same problems that we do. I began to realize that the world beyond the US isn’t so different. In fact, in many ways, it’s the same. I realize that there are obvious differences between us and them, such as culture. However, throughout the course, I noticed many underlying and overlying parallels. By studying and analyzing these parallels, our problems seem much more solvable when we look at how Brazil is dealing with the same problems, and where they succeed and fall short.

3.5.  The Music of the Rest of the World Is Different

In my new fascination with Brazilian music, I have grown curious to learn what music from other countries is like. I have learned that as a composer, I need to escape my musical bubble of southern California American pop music and listen to the music of other countries. Aside from Brazil, my new craving for foreign music has (metaphorically) brought me to India, Argentina, South Korea, Egypt, Japan and Mexico. I hope to try writing a piece or pieces in one of these foreign styles. I look forward to seeing where else in the world my love for music and new curiosity for it will take me, as well as what I will learn about our world from it.

Questioning The Wasteland

Q1: Is there an allegory or double entendre in the Wasteland?

It is literally a wasteland because of the garbage. However, there seems to be an underlying metaphor that applies to the people living there, how society perceives them and how they perceive themselves. Many of the pickers are people who have had unfortunate circumstances that led to them moving to the landfill. While many of the pickers take pride in their work, some of them, as well as society, perceive them as garbage.

Q2: Is there an underlying message in the film, revolving around the celebration of things and people who have been deemed useless?

The artist’s work takes the concept of making garbage into art, both actual garbage and people perceived to be garbage. The art says that these people are worth something and that they are praise worth contributors to society.

I think it should also be noted that most, if not all, of the pickers are people of color. While racism is not directly addressed in the film, there is something to be said about the way people of color are celebrated in this film, and how their beauty is brought out.

20th Century Dictators & Homosexuals

  1. “Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in 20th Century Brazil”

In a heavily anti-lgbtq country, when most people think of the lgbtq community, they think of Carnival, a special festival and celebration held in Rio known as the one place where homosexuality is socially accepted. They do not think of the many other public displays of specifically male homosexuality that took place in Rio outside of Carnival. One example of this was public squares, Gay sex and public displays of affection would take place on a regular basis, often leading to arrests. Another popular place for gay sex was movie theaters, as it was seen as a dark place where people only paid attention to the movie. Gay brothels would even take place in male homes. These public acts included more than just sex. These even included gay friends getting together on the beach. However, while the settings of homosexuality in 20th century Brazil set quite a definition of the male lgbtq community, they were not what truly defined it.

In 20th century Brazil, public male homosexuality, despite being solely between males, seemed to center around rather misogynistic ideals. These ideals even influenced the roles that male gay couples believed each partner should play. The two standard roles in male homosexual Brazilian society were the Homen and the Bichai. In sex, the Homen were the givers. Because of this, they were considered the definition of masculinity, a definition that even included racial undertones. The Bichae were the receivers. Because of this, they were considered to be more feminine. These misogynistic ideals were also exposed in popular preferences among homosexual men. An example of these preferences is that men with less body hair were considered to be more feminine, just as those with more hair were considered to be more masculine. Sometimes, these ideals resulted in outright sexism, such as in the exclusion of the female lgbtq community. In addition, gay men claimed themselves to be stronger than lesbian women.

These ideals appeared not to extend into the 21st century, as unfortunately the modern ideals of homophobia seem to center around murder. This would arguably account for the lack of public displays of homosexuality outside of Carnival in the 21st century. The modern murders of lgbtq people in Brazil documents a power struggle. The victims of these hate crimes are often poor and of color. White homosexuals with higher incomes are less likely to be targeted.

  1. “Father of the Poor: Vargas and his Era”

Throughout history and particularly in the modern era, dictators and authoritarians have risen to power on platforms of populism, nationalism and anti-elitism. The Brazilian dictator Getúlio Vargas was no exception to this rule. Like the rise of any great dictator, there was a political and economic backstory that led to Vargas’ rise in the 1930’s. Brazil’s first republic had been decentralized and destabilized. In addition, Brazil was currently suffering from “the great depression,” during which the price of coffee, the key export of Brazil, skyrocketed, creating an even bigger blow to the Brazilian economy. The depression led to the decline of the first republic. This decline led to a major revolution in which Brazil’s current leader was gruesomely murdered in a coup. During this long era, from 1914 to 1945, Brazil’s working class doubled in size. Despite this political and economically instability, Brazil was also experiencing an industrial revolution. Unfortunately, this growing working class was failing and struggling to integrate into this new ever-changing society, leading to anger, frustration, desperation and nostalgia for the old days. It was in the midst of this political and economic instability that Vargas was able to rise to power.

However, while Vargas rose to power on the same populist and nationalist platforms of other dictators and authoritarians, he stood out from others of his kind because he worked both in the interests of nationalists and populists as well as those of the common people, marginalized groups, and non-elites. Working in the interests of the common people and the working class, Vargas was the first to give Brazil universal access to health care and education. He also made an effort to help workers in different industry fields. He even declared war on Nazi Germany and reinstituted democratic practices. Working in the interests of the nationalists and elites, Vargas established Portuguese as the national language. He sympathized with fascists in order to maintain his respect. Despite his war on Germany, he also sent Brazilians to the camps in Nazi Germany.

Vargas served nineteen years in office and two terms: from 1930 to 1945 and 1950 to 1954. He was incredibly popular and titled “the father of the poor.” The news of his suicide in 1954 caused much upset and even tears, particularly from women. To this day, people still own and keep pictures of Vargas in their homes. Even today, Brazilian’s progressive movement continues to advance thanks to him. However, it is quite intriguing that despite his major popularity that Vargas did a mix of good, bad and even horrific things during his presidency. The misdeeds of his presidency seem to be overlooked by many Brazilians.

In a historical and international context, the Vargas era has much potentially for intellectual discussions and debates on the implementations of his era, such as the institutions and principles of populism, the implications of such a long term in office, and even leftist ideologies such as socialism. In the realm of populism, the implications and dangers of populism can be equally discussed, as well as the movements that it forms. Populist leaders come from both the working class and the elite class. The danger in populists is that they favor top down power, and will campaign on and say anything to obtain and maintain just that. Populists tend to build mass movements, in order to increase and maintain their power, while simultaneously giving the illusion that these movements are being started in order to change the systems in place. In the realm of socialist institutions, there is a great discussion to have had about the public state school system, first established in Brazil by Vargas. While there are definitely benefits to having a state-run school system, such as universal access to education and the lowering of costs for the state, there are always signs of indoctrination and institutionalizing. People are taught a certain type of method of education. When budget cuts are made, education is often the first to be cut. There are much longer conversations that can and need to be had for all of these political ideologies and institutions. These conversations can best be sparked, led and influenced by these historical events and parallels when put in both a historical and international perspective.

The Injustice of Brazil’s Justice System

There is an ongoing discussion in the United States about our justice system and equality, in relation to endemic racism, bias and injustice. It bears the question of just how “American” these problems are. It appears that Brazil is dealing with the same problems at the same level, if not a higher one. While people mainly talk about the Brazilian court system, there does not seem to be much conversation about what goes on within Brazil’s prisons, which has a lot to say about Brazil’s justice system.

Brazil’s prison system is internationally famous for its brutality, violence and injustice. In 2017, the New York Times published an article, documenting Brazil’s “deadly prison system.” Brazilian prisons are often run and dominated by gangs. Rivaling gangs often find themselves within the same walls. This has led to bloodshed, escapes and riots. Torture and sexual violence are also very prevalent.

Riots in Brazilian prisons appear to be quite common. The largest documented riot in a Brazilian prison was the Carandiru Massacre of 1992, where over 100 prisoners were killed. Ironically, the riot was started by a fight over a football game, the brutality and injustice runs so deep, that an event that should add some entertainment and camaraderie ended so violently. Some progress has been made in improving the prison system since then, but only interim solutions have been put in place and trials for the massacre continue today.

Although the cause of all this violent hate is not entirely clear, it may lie in the inequality that exists within society that is carried into prison. For instance, prisoners with degrees, the relatively higher ups in the socio-economic chain among the prison population, get better treatment than those without degrees. They are often given better living spaces and do not have to share cells. Among those in the lower levels of the socio-economic chain, non-violent offenders are usually paired with violent offenders. The problem may also lie in the size of the prisons. Generally, over 600,000 inmates are crowded into prisons built for around 400,000 and it is estimated that around 3,000 inmates are added each month.

There are many similarities between our prison system and Brazil’s. Like in the United States, Brazil’s prison system is predominantly comprised of poor black men. Despite all of the violence, the biggest prison time offenses for that population include drug possession and other non-violent offenses. In addition, legislation passed to help reform the prison system is not sufficiently enforced.

While Brazil’s justice system is interesting to analyze, it may also provide potential solutions. The New York Times offers this potential solution: “Rather than imposing more draconian laws and building new prisons, Brazil needs to enforce existing legislation — including ensuring that suspects are provided hearings within 24 hours of their arrest and expanding the network of public defenders.” The Times also proposes that Brazil come up with new “Strategies to decriminalize drugs, ensure proportional sentencing and provide rehabilitation for offenders.” These potential solutions could benefit not only Brazil, but also the United States. There has been great discussion dealing with the injustice of the U.S. justice system, but change lies within the discussion of potential solutions, and not just the expansion and continuation of a broken system.

Works Cited:

Muggah, Robert, and Ilona Szabó De Carvalho. “Opinion | Brazil’s Deadly Prison System.” The New York Times. January 04, 2017. Accessed February 19, 2018.

Contributors, Wikipedia. “Carandiru massacre.” Wikipedia. February 17, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2018.




The Cirandiru Massacre

For my research project, I will be expanding on the Wikipedia article on the Carandiru Massacre of 1992. The issue I see with this article is that while it does give all the facts, the cause, the aftermath and the court case, it does not give a full picture. I want to know exactly why the massacre happened, what events or tensions may have led to it, what people’s reactions to it were, and its impact. Is it taught in schools? Is it covered up? Do prejudice people try to justify it? Was it the first of a kind? What influence and impact did it have? Did anything change after it, for better or for worse?

The article also gives a bullet point list of pop culture documentations of the massacre. However, it gives no detail into how pop culture portrays the massacre? Has it become a trend? Does pop culture take creative license? Is it biased or inaccurate in any way?

The article particularly needs more details of the trail. It gives the fact, but barely touches on the fact that these trials continue today. What implications does this have? From it, I would like to get at least some insight into how Brazil’s justice system operates.

This article gives a good summary of the massacre and, to some degree, lives up to Wikipedia’s title of being a reference source. However, this article could be a much more invaluable resource with more elaboration, research, insight and documentation of the massacre. I hope to research and answer every question I have asked in this post. My goal is to make this article the invaluable resource of a tragic and historically important event that is crucially needs to be.

The Identical Strengths and Weaknesses of “Race and Ethnicity in Brazil”

There are multiple positive critiques I can give this article: It is overall well informed, gives extensive detail and contains a good structure. However, while these are strengths of the article, they are also weaknesses.

The article appears to be overall well informed. However, it fails in multiple areas of the article to include citations and its sources. While the author appears to have done his research, the accuracy of the article must be brought into question due to his lack of listed sources. In addition, there are instances where the article discusses the actions of “some people” as opposed to stating explicitly who “some people” are.

There is a problem in the amount of detail used throughout the article. In some areas of the article, the detail is necessary and welcome, such as in the history and controversy over race and immigration both preceding and following the abolishment of slavery. In other sections, however, the detail is unnecessary and takes away from the interest and quality of the article, such as in the controversy over the IBGE’s categorizations of race. While one could argue that the details in this section of the article are necessary in order to gain a full account of the history of race and racism in Brazil, they do not add anything to an argument that has already been well proven and analyzed. In addition, this excessive use of detail causes a conflict of interest. The first half of the article appears to remain neutral, while the second half reflects the author’s personal views on the topic. One example of this is in the section “Genetic Studies,” which goes into extensive detail about the prevalent racial mixing that exists within the DNA of the Brazilian population. While it could be said that the study of DNA is crucially important in the study of race and racism in Brazil, its only purpose in the article appears to be the exposure of racial hypocrisies and ignorance in Brazil, therefore breaking the neutral state of the article.

In some sections, the structure is well organized and helps progress the article. In other sections, majorly towards the end, the structure becomes loose. The author appears to forget what his/her/their main point is. An example of this is in the sections that discuss the racial makeup of Brazil’s different regions. While this section is interesting, it appears to detract and detour from the changing and evolving ideas of race in Brazil that the article begins with.

This article is overall well written and well informed. It is informative, engaging and fairly well organized. However, while the article excels in these aspects in some areas, it falls short in others. As one reads through it, the article becomes decreasingly informative, engaging and organized. A potential consequence of this may be that the reader loses sight of the article’s main point and topic.