Category Archives: Brazil History & Culture

Cultural blogpost: Indigenous Brazilians rally to demand land protections

Photo of protestors taken by Eraldo Peres (Associated Press).

The last five hundreds years of history has seen in the American continents a large disregard for the rights and privileges of native peoples by colonial governments. Their very ways of life have been altered significantly to the point they will never be able to go back to the way things were prior to colonization.

In April 25th of this year an estimated 3,000 indigenous people from all across Brazil marched on the capital of Brasiliia to protest around thirty three large infrastructure and economic projects on native lands that are proposals in the Federal Congress. These projects includes dams, mining, logging, and agriculture.

They are also protesting dramatic cuts to the agency in charge of native relations (FUNAI). Their third major point of protest has been violence towards natives. A year ago it was reported dozens of members of the Gamela tribe were hospitalized after a brutal attack by local ranches. A truth commission has been set up by the federal government to investigate the deaths of around 8,000 native Americans between the years of 1946-1988. It has been reported that the number of homicides of indigenous persons is the highest since 2003 at this time.

Brazil has two hundred federally recognized tribes which have 900,000 people. The main organization leading these protests is Brazil’s Indigenous Ministry Council (CIMI). These issues surrounding ingenious Brazilians have also gained international attention recently and in the past. Greenpeace did a journalistic investigation of logging encroachment on indigenous land. The UN Environmental Office has condemed violence against Brazilian natives. Two weeks ago a member of the Karipuna tribe spoke on the floor of the UN General Assembly denouncing the treatment of natives by Brazil’s government and nationals and calling it a “Genocide”.
Link to article:

From Janitor to Chief Justice: Could Joaquim Barbosa be Brazil’s Next President?

Joaquim Barbosa made history in 2003 when he became the first black Supreme Court Justice. He is a man who came from nothing and fights for the poor and and focusses on stopping the corruption that happens within the Brazilian government. He is a surprise candidate for presidency as he announced that he was running very late. In the first poll conducted on April 15 he was put at 10% of the vote. This was surprising as he has done very little campaigning as well as his lack of notoriety amongst voters. Barbosa being the wild card of the election is taking part of an election that in considered to be one of the most unpredictable in Brazil since the mid 1980s. The man who leads in the polls is Jair Bolsonaro. This is extremely controversial as he was recently charged with inciting racism and discrimination against blacks. This is everything that Barbosa is against. Barbosa is an advocate for the poor and colored community while Bolsonaro fights for the common person.


Barbosa was raised in the poor city a Paracatu in the Minds Gerais State. His father worked as a brick layer and worked for a short time as a janitor in the courtroom of Brasília. He was also the only black student in his law school class at the University of Brazília. While he looks like a candidate that can speak for the common person as well as all the minorities in Brazil people fear that if he is elected the state of Brazil may be unstable. The support for Bolsonaro comes from this fear as people are afraid of crime. Miguel Oliveira a 47 year old maintenance worker had this to say about Barbosa: “He at least knows what it means to be poor in a country where politicians are stealing all of the money.” While his values are something that many people would want his lack of experience in politics and very little connections within the government make it a stretch that he would get the support for presidency.

Brazil is once again pictured as a broken country that deals with problems of race, corruption, and a lack of support for the poor community. While you see Barbosa making steps in the government as a back man it is still very evident that he will need more people to be open to the idea that he is running. They are however portrayed as showing that they are making progress and want to make change. This will all be up in the air however as the election comes up this October. This election can help bring Brazil further or take more steps backwards in the wrong direction.

This fits into the class scheme as this race has a lot to do with race issues within Brazil as well as corrupted politicians. The leader of the initial poll has had many issues with the law including racism and corruption yet he still leads the polls due to the fear and stability of Brazils government. If Brazil wants to take a step towards a corruption free government and help bring a voice to the minorities and local people Barbosa seems like a candidate that should pick up traction. While he lacks experience and connections his values and blunt attitude towards these issues should be enough to make him a real candidate.


Brazil History and Culture

For my Brazil history and culture post I read an article about Jair Bolsonaro, a highly controversial right wing candidate in the Brazilian presidential election. The article begins by describing a Bolsonaro rally in Roraima, a town in northern Brazil, and vividly describes the excitement and enthusiasm he inspires among his supporters. It then goes on to describe Bolsonaro’s distasteful characteristics, such as his racism, sexism and homophobia. In addition to these alarming traits, Bolsonaro’s history of supporting dictatorship over democracy is also discussed. Indeed, he publicly stated that he was “in favor of a dictatorship” during his first term in congress. The article also points out that he was convicted of inciting hate speech due to his long history of attacking women and minority groups. However, despite these glaring problems Bolsonaro is currently the front runner in the election with 18% support in polls, although he is considered unlikely to win.

Bolsonaro about to address a crowd at a campaign rally:

Image result for jair bolsonaro campaign rally

The article continues its analysis by comparing Bolsonaro to Donald Trump. It described his populism campaign pledges to promote “law and order”, be “tough on crime”, root out corruption and curb Chinese influence. In addition to similarities in political agendas the article argues that Trump and Bolsonaro share a style of speaking that is improvised, rambling, and light on facts. It goes on to say that Bolsonaro may be actively copying Trump’s strategies, which could be effective given the similarities between the United States and Brazil. The article concludes by comparing Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election to Bolsonaro’s claims that electoral fraud could take place, raising the possibility that even if he is defeated, he could undermine the legitimacy of the government.

Bolsonaro at a Campaign rally:

Jair Bolsonaro during a rally in Curitiba, Brazil, on 29 March.

The overall portrayal of Brazil in this article is fairly neutral and unbiased, and often based on comparisons to the United States. The reader gets the impression that the United States and Brazil share important political similarities that have contributed to populist success, much as Trump and Bolsonaro themselves are similar. In general, the article focuses mostly on Bolsonaro and his similarities to Trump rather than on Brazil as a whole.

Bolsonaro’s campaign can be understood in the context of a worldwide surge in populist politics. In addition to Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, populists have also become increasingly common in Europe with Brexit representing a clear populist victory. Additionally, populist parties have increased in popularity in many European countries, particularly in Germany, Italy, and France. Bolsonaro has also exploited racial and social tensions in order to motivate his voter base and promote his candidacy. His attacks on women and people of color are calculated to draw the support of a voter base that is resentful of change and wants to maintain a stranglehold on political influence. These tactics are reminiscent of Trump’s attempts to blame America’s problems on immigrants. Bolsonaro also attacks the social structure of Brazil by claiming that his opponents are spreading fake news and dismissing all of their claims as lies, thus spreading distrust and discontent and undermining the validity of objective truth. These tactics are also common among populists including Trump. In conclusion, I agree with the article’s claim that Bolsonaro is essentially using Trumpian tactics and that he poses a threat to democracy in Brazil.

link to the article:

Joaquim Barbosa History and Culture Post

Joaquim Barbosa was a supreme justice of the Brazilian supreme court, he was the first Afro-Brazilian justice who is 73. Barbosa has not yet announced that he is running for president but it is known that he is going to run.  This article goes in depth describing him as a person and him as a justice. He is described as being a harsh person with not great personal skills, the article sites all of the arguments he got into during his term as justice. He is also seen as being anti cuption after the work he did while in the supreme court. Barbosa has done work on efforts similar to to the Brazilian version of affirmative action. Even though Barbosa is running for president he has pending corruption charges, with no trial date yet this could lead to a short political career.

New York Times

The polls have Barbosa in third which is impressive since he hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet.  Barbosa was born into poverty and started as a janitor in the courtroom then was able to go to law school and eventually became a justice.He is quite popular due to his “rags to riches” story, because of this the article says that the lower classes trust that he will seek out their interests as president. Barbosa also is seen as an outsider to politics and that he will “be a fresh new face to politics”(Darlington) There are speculations that Barbosa may be able to attract the former Lula voters, it all depends on who Lula indorces in the race.

The style of the article was reflective of horse race reporting, it was worded in a way to focus on the competition occurring between the candidates. The article describes Barbosa somewhat like a hot head which is reflected on America’s perception of Brazil. The article also discusses all of the corruption charges going around which makes Brazil seem like it’s falling apart at the seems.

Barbosa masks at Carnival. Felipe Dana/Associated Press

This article relates to class because of our following of the presidential election. We have also spent a significant amount of time dissecting the idea of race in Brazil and Barbosa is a way to add to that image of race. Since he is the first Afro-brazilian in the supreme court he is a prominent figure and his possible run for presidency would make him even more impactful.

Main article:

NYT Barbosa Profile:

Living With The Effects of Zika: Culture Post

Though the spread of Zika has decreased significantly since its initial outbreak in 2015, many Brazilians are still struggling with supporting children born with disabilities due to the illness, especially in favelas. In Recife, Maria De Fátima dos Santos cares for her one and a half year old daughter Eduarda Vitória. Though efforts by the Brazilian government greatly curbed the spread of Zika, some mosquitoes still survived, one biting Maria during her pregnancy. Eduarda was born with various disabilities, including microcephaly, digestion issues, reoccurring seizures, and impaired vision. Her medication is stored in a plastic bag within a bottle, tied to a pole. This prevents rats from stealing it.

Both Maria and her husband Paulo Rogério Cavalcanti de Araújo are unemployed, and receive 880 reais (about $225) monthly from the government. Welfare programs in Brazil lack support to Brazilian families in favelas, as formula was no longer sent to the family once Eduarda turned a year old. Clinics took months to schedule an appointment to get Eduarda glasses, but then failed to provide her with braces that fit her arms and legs. Physical therapy for the child is hard to get, as it is a two-and-a-half-hour walk, or thirty minutes by paying the bus fare. Maria still struggles to get the support needed to take care of her child, but is hopeful for the future.

Coverage of this event by The New York Times, though in a through attempt to be objective, still somewhat sensationalizes the problems faced by those in favelas. Emotional terms such as “cope” and “struggle” are used throughout the article, and a section on Maria’s past focuses on her time as a drug addict and prostitute. Though it’s all factual, it feels as though the issues she faces are somewhat glorified for an American audience. Though this may be an attempt to draw international attention to the issues faced by millions living in Brazilian favelas.

In combination with Waste Land / Lixo Extraordinário and Ben Penglase’s Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela, this article provides a current example of the poverty many Brazilians face. Penglase’s work provides a more indepth look at what goes on beyond Maria’s household. Both discuss the issues of drug trafficking and inequality impacting those living in favelas, but Penglase furthers this discussion by examining the friendships and support systems formed around communities with shared struggles. Waste Land continues this exposure of communities in favelas and the hope for a better future by interviewing workers at Jardim Gramacho. These interactions between those in Brazil’s discarded communities add to our own analysis of how Brazilians form their own identities in their communities, race and class inequality, and the socioeconomic structure of Brazil’s welfare systems.

Source + 360 video of Maria’s home:

Brazil Culture Post for 04/19

A current candidate in the Brazilian presidential race is being charged with inciting hatred and discrimination. Right-wing Congressman Jair Bolsonaro has officially been charged by Brazil’s attorney general with inciting hatred and discriminating against women, Afro-Brazilians, indigenous and LGBTQIA+ communities. Bolsanaro is polling second in upcoming Brazilian Presidential election in October. The conviction cites a list of comments that were made throughout various parts of the country by Bolsonaro. If this sentence is carried out Bolsanaro could face three years in prison and a fine of $117,000.

Jair Bolsonaro

Also in this incident, the son of Bolsanaro who is his largest supporter was also charged with threatening a journalist. Due to their status as congressmen, both cases are required to be tried by the Supreme Court which has a large backlog. Therefore, most likely the case will not be tried before the presidential election in October. This news comes shortly after former President ‘Lula’ turned himself in for a twelve year sentence in prison on corruption charges.

This article stays very neutral on the entire situation and its portrayals of Brazilians. It really focuses on including many direct quotes from Bolsonaro himself in order to remain as objective as possible on the issue. Overall, the tone of the article seemed quite worried about how the Brazilian election will turn out due to current polling of Bolsonaro and that these charges will most likely not be carried out until after the election.

This article relates to the course in many ways. The themes of discrimination and racism within this article speak to our discussions on the Afro-Brazilian movement and the current race relations within the country. This article also goes against the idea of Brazil as a “Racial Democracy” because it shows outright racist remarks being made from a well-supported presidential candidate in modern times. Learning about the current political situation within Brazil is very important in understanding modern happenings within the country.

Article Link:

Further Reading:

(In Portuguese)

Brazil Culture: Soccer and Politics

Brazil, with the record of winning five World Cup trophies, is known for their playing style in football. Usually referred to as a ‘Samba soccer’, Brazilian soccer was based on fantastic individual skills. That was what fascinated people and made Brazilian soccer ‘great’. In a report by ESPN Brazil, he expected that Brazil “could be sending the least Brazilian team of all time to the 2018 World Cup…” Manager Tite was newly elected as a manager for Brazilian squad in 2016. Although at the beginning of his call-ups for the national team, he picked eight players from the Brazilian league. ESPN expects that only two players from Brazilian League will go to Russia to play on the World Cup. When the Brazilian soccer shined the most, none of the ‘foreign’ players were on the team. Everyone from the national team was in Brazilian League and they were able to win two consecutive World Cups in 1958 and 1962.

Getty Images

When did Brazil start to ‘lose’ their own style of soccer? It was after the success of Brazilian soccer until the seventies. Up until 1970 World Cup, Brazil had won three World Cups out of four. However, the government at the time, under military control, did not like ‘samba soccer’. Individual skills were ignored under Captain Claudio Coutinho and instead, teamwork and physical attributes were praised. He defined dribble as “our specialty as ‘a waste of time and proof of our weakness” (122). Brazilian specialty and power were degraded by the military government to an extent of a waste of time and weakness.


Former President of Brazil

After Brazil won the World Cup in 1970, General Emilio Medici’s government declared a national holiday, rewarding each player with the equivalent amount of 18,500 U.S. dollars, tax-free. Medici declared “I identify this victory, achieved in the fraternity of sport, with the ascension of faith in our struggle for national development.” (122). Opinion Poll in 1970 stated that “90 percent of Brazil’s lower classes identified soccer with the nation.” (122) However, after the victory in 1970, Claudio Coutinho who was the manager of the national team was given a mission to modernize the Brazilian playing style. Instead of individual skills, teamwork and discipline were emphasized as Medici’s government made efforts to modernize the Brazilian economy.

After the ‘modernization’, Brazil started to lose their specialty. We see players like Neymar and fascinate because he plays Brazilian style of soccer. His dribbling skills and self-centeredness remind people of ‘samba soccer’ that people missed. Brazilian league, once considered one of the greatest, still produces great players but they no longer stay in the league like the past. What military government did in the past was not a modernization. Instead, it was ignorance of culture and style.

Work cited:

“Brazil Could Send ‘Least Brazilian’ Team of All Time to ’18 World Cup.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 21 Mar. 2018,

Shirts, Matthew. “Playing Soccer in Brazil: Socrates, Corinthians, and Democracy.” The Wilson Quarterly (1976-) 13, no. 2 (1989): 119-23.

The Guardian Publishes Activist Letter Calling for Justice for Marielle

As a follow-up to Thursday’s discussions of Marielle Franco’s assassination, I wanted to share this letter signed by international activists, artists, and writers calling for her death to be fully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Signers of the letter include Ava DuVernay (director of Selma & A Wrinkle in Time), Angela Davis, Janelle Monáe, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi (founders of Black Lives Matter), and Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres (Beta Cáceres’ daughter).

Brazil History and Culture: Michel Temer

The current President of Brazil, Michel Temer, suggested that he plans on running for a new term in this October’s election. Temer originally entered the office of the Presidency in 2016 after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. To this point, much of his presidency involves straddling corruption charges and attempting to pass economic reforms to fix, to use Temer’s words, “a country that was broken” from the heavy public spending of his predecessors. On corruption charges, Temer has avoided trial in the Supreme Court thus far. If he wins the election and continues in the office of the presidency, it may allow him to continue avoiding trial due to special legal privileges for high-ranking government officials.

Michel Temer responding to allegations of bribery in the Chamber of Deputies President Eduardo Cunha on May 20, 2017 in Brasilia, Brazil

In an interview with the newsmagazine Istoé, Temer claimed that he seeks to protect the legacy of his presidency, highlight his successes and the advancements of his administration, and to continue in the pursuit of economic reform. However, the same interview carries threads of the desire for a maintenance of power to protect himself from potential persecution by the other candidates and political opponents. Temer’s opposition is large, which is readily apparent in his single-digit polling numbers. Also, his opponents mainly lie on the left, as center-right Temer’s attempts at economic reform have changed labor laws and weakened the political power of unions and their members. Because of these polling numbers and Temer’s rampant unpopularity, running for office is a relatively safe option for him. That is, his approval is so low that his candidacy will not significantly damage those numbers, and if he, or one of his allies does win, he is likely to have some level of protection from previous charges of corruption.

This decision to run also occurs about a month after his decision to allow the military to control security in Rio de Janeiro, which was a calculated strategy to attempt to secure some political favorability. However, the effectiveness of this decision is debatable, as Temer’s approval rating is still extremely low and violence in Rio remains.

Vampire in Carnival 2018

Brazilian politics in this New York Times article are portrayed as consisting of corrupt politicians who use their positions and the tools of those offices (ie. the military) to pursue personal and political gains. It also shows the Brazilian public, at large, as dissenting and politically engaged, especially in art forms such as graffiti and samba. The article is suspicious of Temer’s motivations, not only due to corruption charges, but also because there is a disconnect between the rationale of decisions and the reality of their consequences. This disconnect is demonstrated in the author’s disapproval of the recent decision to allow the military to run Rio’s security due, in part, to the assassination of Marielle Franco. In discussing elections and presidents, this article relates to class conversations on political leadership and transfers of power in Brazil.

Main Article for the Blog Post:

Michel Temer, Brazil’s Deeply Unpopular President, Signals Run for a New Term

Articles for context and/or further reading:

Brazil’s Military Is Put in Charge of Security in Rio de Janeiro

President Temer of Brazil Faces New Corruption Charges

Killing of Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Critical of Police Rattles Brazil

Upending Brazil’s Presidential Race, Court Upholds Ex-Leader’s Conviction

Photo: Carnival

Photo: Michel Temer May 20, 2017 in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazilian History and Culture Post: Yellow Fever

On March 20th, Brazil’s government announced that it planned to vaccinate the entire country against another outbreak of yellow fever by April 2019. For those who may not know, yellow fever is a nasty disease. It’s caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. The first time I learned about it was in the seventh grade when my class was studying Colonial American history in Philadelphia. The worst epidemic occurred during the summer of 1793. At the time it started around 100 people died, but at the end, the death toll reached 5,000. While modern medicine has come a long way since 1793, yellow fever is not to be taken lightly, further evidenced by the fact that in this year alone 300 people (including tourists) in Brazil have already died from the virus.  “This virus has hit the outlying areas of the country’s largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, particularly hard, threatening to become (Brazil’s) first-blown urban epidemic since 1942.” ( 

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Despite the disease’s normal location in Amazon River basin, it broke out of its usual pattern in early 2016 and started to move toward the country’s largest cities, which prompted the declaration of a public health emergency in 2017. Perhaps what is more troubling than the outbreak of the disease, is the number of domestic people who still need vaccinations. At a news conference, Health Minister Ricardo Barros said, “We are going to act preventively instead of reacting with emergency measures as we have done.” Referring to the fact that health officials would need to vaccinate an additional 77.5 million people to reach the country’s entire population by April of next year.

Ironically, critics say health officials are the ones who failed to act aggressively, due to the fact that they determined yellow fever had limited reach and was therefore not worth the risk of vaccinating the entire population. These actions or lack thereof subsequently left them scrambling when the virus appeared near São Paulo in the most recent outbreak. Additionally,  increasing efforts to vaccinate 23 million people this year have been hampered by “false rumors” about the vaccine.

Historically, it is hard to conceptualize the recent events going on in Brazil. While we have talked about shifty politics and dictatorship in class, I’m not sure this current epidemic falls directly under those categories. I think that if one wanted to, they could make the argument that the governments’ ineptitude in handling the yellow fever outbreak could possibly fall under state-sanctioned violence. I myself am not making that argument because I feel like I would need to do more research, but judging from the tone of this article, I feel like it could be made. I also feel like this argument might hold credence due to the fact that Brazil just came off from dealing with the massive Zika virus outbreak that spread from 2015-16.

Health workers visited the Pirituba neighborhood of São Paulo this month to vaccinate residents. Credit Dado Galdieri for The New York Times