Category Archives: Jeitinho Brasileiro

In Brazilian novellas, Brazil is an all-white country with a couple of happy-to-be-poor black people

Brazil’s Globo TV company is producing a new novella called “Sexo e as negas (“Sex and denials“), about a group of four black women living in a lower-class neighbourhood in the Zona Norte of Rio de Janeiro, loosely based on Sex and the City.

Instead, however, of it being about four white women working prominent jobs in Manhattan, the wealthiest neighbourhood in the wealthiest country on earth, the four black characters are poor (but glamorous), and work as a cleaner, a seamstress, a manual labourer and a cook.

sexo-e-as-negras like sex and the city, but with black girls in Rio

(Also don’t search that title on Google, or you’ll come up with a lot of naughty pictures).

Despite Brazil having a huge share of black people in prominent and senior positions (including a potential future black female president in Marina Silva), Globo’s novellas on TV prefer to cast black people in poor, subservient roles where they are the comic foil or lackey. Black men and women are cleaners, manual labourers or shop assistants in the world of Globo scriptwriters.

That’s if black people feature at all in the novellas.  Despite Brazil being the second most-populous country in the world for black people (over fifty-per-cent of Brazilians identify themselves as black), novellas are predominantly dramas based in a Brazil where only white people exist.

In the latest smash-hit novella from Globo, Meu Pedacinho de Chão, here is the main cast (which you’ll notice doesn’t feature any black characters at all):

Meu pedacinho de chao, the rest of the predominantly-white cast

 

And here’s the black character:

Meu pedacinho de chao's diapo, the one black character is a clown...

And here’s the female lead protagonist, just because:

Meu pedacinho de Chao seio hot Brazilian novella girl with huge breasts on TV

The cast is whiter than milk, which obviously doesn’t represent the real Brazil. In fact, the characters are so white it only represents the small contingent of European descendant Brazilians that live in southern Brazil and still have blue eyes and blonde hair. They’re a tiny percentage of Brazil’s population (think Gisele), but they receive the most amount of attention on TV, are considered the most glamorous and hold the most senior positions.

The majority of Brazilians are a mix of caramel, coffee and chocolate skin colours.  Most of them aren’t that poor; they hold down jobs and buy cars and drink beers and speak other languages and have dreams.  but Globo doesn’t want to portray that side, which is pretty sinister and cruel when you think of the insane popularity these shows have in Brazil and what that would do to a person’s psyche.

For Globo, it’s everyone in their place, forever, and for black people, that means staying poor and pathetic.

 

Car drives through wall of multi-storey car park and lands flipped upside down in road

Today a car in Belo Horizonte drove through the concrete wall of a first-storey car-park, flipped over and slammed upside-down on the pavement.

And the driver managed to crawl out with minimal injuries. Nice!Car landed flipped upside down after smashing through multi-storey car-park wall.

He said the accelerator slipped under his foot...
He said the accelerator slipped under his foot…

Six reasons Neymar represents everything that’s wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite

Although the advertising machine around Neymar works hard to make him appear a pretty nice guy, here’s six reasons why the footballer – rightly or wrongly – represents everything wrong with Brazil’s wealthy, corrupt elite and the crushing inequality these powerful figures create.

1) He, or the people around him, are corrupt: When Neymar signed for Barcelona its vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Neymar’s transfer fee was €87.2 million. They then declared the  official transfer fee on documents as €57 million, as €40 million “supposedly… flowed to a company which is close to Neymar’s family.”

Brazilian politicians are famously corrupt. One politician was elected to Brazil’s Congress while under investigation for murder after having an adversary killed with a chain saw. Another is wanted by Interpol after being found guilty of diverting more than $10 million from a public road project to offshore bank accounts. I can’t find the source but I read recently that 60 per cent of Brazilian politicians are currently under police investigation.

2) He’s rich: Neymar was making 1.5 million reais a year at just 16 years old. He makes 9 million euros a year now playing for Barcelona.

Similarly, Brazilian politicians are among the highest paid and least productive in the world.

And in the world of business the 15 Richest Families In Brazil are worth an estimated $122 billion — or about 5% of the country’s total GDP. Out of 65 Brazilian billionaires listed by FORBES in its World’s Billionaires list, 25 are blood relatives.

3) He’ll sell himself to the highest bidder: Neymar has sponsorship deals with Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic and an 11 year boot deal with Nike worth at least $1 million per year. There’s nothing wrong with footballers making hay while the sun shines, though.

Brazilian politicians see nothing wrong using the same “sponsorship” tactics, however. Municipal and state officials are close to the mega-corporations that run Brazil’s construction, beverage, transport, energy and food industries. The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, for example, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing.

This after the construction company for Brasilia’s stadium increased its political donations 500-fold in the most recent election.

4) He’s light-skinned: Neymar’s dying his hair blonde might seem insignificant, but it takes on huge cultural significance in a country that has a legacy of slavery and inequality. It’s known as “Branqueamento”, (“Whitening”) and can lead to a prosperous shift from the darker-skinned underclass to the lighter-skinned Brazilian elite.

Neymar a few days ago: tall and tanned and young and blonde?
Neymar before the Brazil-Mexico game: tall and tanned and young and blonde.

Over 70 per cent of Brazilian politicians are light-skinned.

The Berkeley Review suggests this is because white Brazilians have more money on average than non-whites. Brazilian politicians elected to office had significantly higher mean total assets, at 432,000 Brazilian reais (R$), than those who were not elected, whose average assets totaled only R$188,000. White Brazilians have an average net worth of R$440,000, compared to R$247,000 for non-whites, indicating that on average white politicians simply have more cash to spend on campaigns than non-whites, and therefore gain power more easily.

5) He left Brazil: In 2010 Neymar’s agent said Neymar “wants to become the best player in the world. The chances of him doing that while playing in Brazil are zero.” Neymar added that  it was a “dream” of his “to play in Europe”.

There’s nothing against a football player wanting to play for one of the biggest teams in the world, and those teams are in Europe. But it is a familiar desire amongst the wealthy Brazilian elite to leave the country (they have the power to change, rather than rob from) and in which they have made their fortune to hide their money in Cayman Islands bank accounts or spend it on handbags, iPhones and suits in New York and Europe.

In 2005 a senior politician in Lula’s government was seized at an airport with $100,000 in his underwear as part of the Mensalão corruption saga.

6) He’s not afraid of backing out on a promise: Neymar promised his youth club Santos he wouldn’t leave them until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos consequently doubled his wages to raise him to European footballer salary levels.

…And in 2013 Neymar signed for Barcelona, anyway.

Politicians are familiar with breaking promises. A trainline between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro promised for the 2014 World Cup has, as of today, never even started. A huge number of World Cup projects remain unfinished or were never started. Belo Horizonte’s metro system was supposed to be extended for the World Cup. As of today it has one line.

Dilma, Cade o Metro? ("Where is the Metro?")
Dilma, Cade o Metro? (“Where is the Metro?”)

So there you have it; six reasons why Neymar represents everything that wrong with Brazil and its wealthy elite.

Interview with Brazil’s “Chainsaw Queen” politician, who wants to loosen laws to chop down more trees in Brazil

Brazilian politician Kátia Abreu leads agricultural lobbying in loosening controls on Amazon deforestation. She wants to make Brazil a powerhouse in the exportation of soy products, a plan which will require deforestation to take place, unless it can be carefully controlled in areas like Minas Gerais’ Triângulo Mineiro.

Here are the highlights from her interview with The Guardian about a country in which more environmental activists are murdered than anywhere else in the world.

Running for president is not a plan – it is fate. Criticism from radical environmentalists is the best form of endorsement. It gives me satisfaction. It shows I am on the right track and playing the right role.”

“We have all the essential elements: abundant water, advanced technology and plenty of land for production. Based on this, we can become number one without cutting down trees.”

She alleges environmentalists, indigenous groups and landless peasants are working for foreign interests. “I don’t have concrete proof of this but I get a very strong impression that this is the case.”

“Forty years ago, the average Brazilian spent 50% of his or her income on food. Now the proportion is about 18%.”

“For many years, environmentalism reached an extreme pitch and we in the agribusiness sector were treated like criminals. Now, our agribusiness sector can influence the choice of kings and queens in Brazil. In the past, we only exercised economic influence. Now we also have political power.”

Most chillingly, Abreu said:

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more. But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Five things about Brazil tourists should know before visiting for the 2014 World Cup

Five not-so-well-known facts about Brazil every tourist visiting the country for the 2014 World Cup needs to know.

1) Napkin rollies: You’re going to eat in a restaurant or bar, you’re going to reach for a napkin from a little dispenser and you’re going to grab a piece of wax-paper.

Napkins in Brazil feel as if they’ve been coated in some kind of non-stick formula to stop any liquid adhering to them. They absorb nothing, they’re crunchy, and you need twenty to clean up the tiniest blob of grease, so good luck with that cheesy dribble of pizza hanging off your chin. You may as well use your hands.

So what are these napkins good for? Well, making spliffs, actually:

For educational purposes only.
For educational purposes only.

2) TP Backlog: I need to talk toilets. Brazil has a terrible plumbing system, and toilet-paper is not allowed to go down the drain. Next to almost every toilet in Brazil is a little plastic bin for your used toilet paper.

Note there is no toilet seat and a waste-paper bin for used toilet-paper
Note there is no toilet seat. This is fairly common.

The cumulative effect of hundreds of thousands of visiting World Cup tourists throwing their toilet-paper down the drains could result in raw sewage pouring out onto Rio’s beautiful tiled streets.

Don’t do it.

3) Income disparity: On a more serious note, tourists should be aware that Brazil’s minimum wage is around 700 reais a month.

That’s about £185, or $314 in the US. A month.

In a country where a McDonald’s Happy Meal costs 20 reais and Brazil’s cheapest car costs 35,000 reais (£9,400 or US$16,000), that’s not very much.

Sexy, though, isn't it?
Sexy, though, isn’t it?

The price for a Fiat Palio Fire includes rear-seatbelts, AC and electric-windows. Wow. That’s the “buy-now” price, too. You’ll pay 50,000 reais if you want to pay installments.

So here’s the reality: street-sweepers, cleaners, McDonald’s workers, sales-assistants, porters, bus-drivers and even police-officers in Rio are making just 700 to 1000 reais a month.

That’s especially hard to imagine when you consider a couple of World Cup tourists could easily blow 300 reais on lunch and a few glasses of wine in a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.

A visit to a night-club might cost 300 reais each for entry and a few cocktails (See “Fifteen things foreigners should know about Brazilian night-clubs“). A night out can cost thousands of reais if you order table-service and a couple of bottles of Absolut.

And remember, 700 reais is the official minimum wage. Consider the street-sellers, the Giras (trash-collectors) and the homeless, scraping by on a few reais a day, surrounded by wealthy tourists and locals thinking nothing of spending 10 reais on a Coca-cola.

It’s important visiting tourists keep in mind the huge disparity between the rich and poor in Brazil. It leaks into everything; crime, education, health, transport, housing, entertainment, safety and culture.

4) Gridlock: What time should you leave your hotel to attend your World Cup game? An hour before kick-off? A few hours?

How about the day before?

Traffic in Brazil’s big cities is monstrous, and it’s only going to get worse for the World Cup. Dilapidated and neglected roads can’t take the amount of cars and trucks packed into them, in what is a modernising, industrialised country. Despite the ridiculous price-tag of the Fiat Palio Fire, it is a best-seller. And remember, Brazil has its fair share of incredibly wealthy people driving SUVs and sports-cars, too.

Bring a book...
Bring a book…

Driving is a source of independence and pride for modern Brazilians, even if you do just end up rolling off the forecourt and into two hours of gridlocked traffic.

If you can, tourists should just walk to the game. You’ll get there so much faster.

5) Fala ingles? Outside of the metropolitan tourist cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador you’ll struggle to find many Brazilians that can speak a whole lot of English.

Sunset in deepest Minas Gerais
A little bar in the Brazilian sticks

If you’re visiting Belo Horizonte, Manaus, Cuiaba or any of the other host cities, you’ll need to brush up on your Portuguese, as even in some of the big hotels the management don’t really prioritise teaching their staff English. It’s a case of time, money and the jeitinho brasiliero (“Brazilian Way”).

In any case Brazilians are very friendly people, and they’ll try their best to help you, even if the conversation consists almost entirely of Beatles’ song lyrics.

I’ll be writing five more things you need to know about Brazil, talking about winter, power and protests , very soon. Please comment or like if you want to hear more!