Tag Archives: Wealth

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.



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.

Six steps for dressing flashy in Brazil: youth edition

How do young Brazilians show off in a country riddled with poverty, where Brazil’s richest 10% earn in one month what the poorest 10% make in more than three years? 

You’re going to need designer clothes, sunglasses and sneakers to show you’re not just a favela kid, that you’re ambitious and going places.

Buying designer clothes and jewellery – rather than saving your money or moving into your own place (many Brazilians live at home until they marry) – is the most economically-astute way of showing off your wealth in a country like Brazil, because more people will see your clothes than the inside of your house.

Spending money on ostentatious clothes rather than more subtle indicators of wealth like learning another language or saving up for rent helps to coin in that delicious “status” currency that Brazilians need to get by.

So here’s what you need to be wearing if you want to fit in with the Brazilian kids.

A young Brazilian man wearing a Hollister shirt

1) Hollister, Quiksilver or Abercrombie shirts. They must have ludicrously large lettering spelling out designer names, and the badge has to be a few times larger than normal.

2) Mirrored sunglasses in either blue, red or rainbow.

3) Neon, candy-coloured Nike or Adidas trainers. Keep them clean.

4) Multi-coloured braces. All Brazilians want perfectly-straight teeth, and if you’re going to wear them you may as well rock it.

Multi-coloured braces in Brazil

5) A cool baseball cap, the peak straight, hanging half off your head.

And you’re ready to hit the streets. Or the night-club. Or church.

The celebration of designer clothes, cars and alcohol aimed at the poorest members of Brazilian society all links to music like Funk Ostentação (Ostentatious Music) in Brazil, where ostentation is applauded and encouraged, even when the money you’re throwing around is fake.

Inequality in Brazil: the iPhone and the shop-worker

Brazilian girls taking a selfie on an iPhone during Carnaval 2014

An Apple iPhone 5 in Brazil costs R$2,800 new. That’s US$1,250 or £743. It’s also three times the average monthly salary of a low-skilled worker in Brazil.

A sales associate in a retail store in Brazil working from 8am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, makes R$1000 a month (US$445, or £265). This is a common wage in Brazil for all low-skilled jobs and services. High-skilled jobs fare little better; the average wage for a primary school-teacher in Sao Paulo – one of the most expensive cities on earth – was recorded as R$1900 a month in 2013

The salary for Brazilian sales-associate works out as approximately R$4 an hour, or less than two dollars an hour.

When a rich kid’s toy phone costs three times what a full-time salesperson (or bus-conductor, restaurant-worker, or garbage-man) makes in a month, the disparity between the rich and poor in Brazil is clear.

An unlocked iPhone in the UK costs £530. By the same logic the average wage of a shopworker in the UK would be £175 a month, working full-time. The income disparity in Brazil is obscene.

The iPhone is a slight outlier given its aspirational value and its scarcity in Brazil, but it’s the same situation for cars, washing-machines, TVs, clothes and pretty much any consumer goods. Prices are hugely inflated and wages are tragically low for the vast majority of Brazilians.

The reason so many Brazilians protest when bus prices go up a few cents is because – of the R$40 they might take home in a day, R$12 will immediately go on taking an old, unreliable bus to and from work.

An extra 50 cents every day for a Brazilian on a few dollars a day makes a big difference over the year.

One-bedroom apartment in downtown Belo Horizonte *now selling* for a mere US$180,000

That’s a tiny one-bedroom apartment in downtown Belo Horizonte for £108,000. Think about how much house that buys in Miami or Manchester, and then remember the average annual salary in Brazil is £6000, or US$10,000.

The price for a home in Belo Horizonte has increased 93 per cent since 2009.  In Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro property has risen 200 per cent in six years, a boom that began right after the financial crash in the US.

Analysts say Brazil is not experiencing a property bubble like the US, however, because mortgages are only given to those who can prove monthly payments would be no more than 30 percent of their income. As such, only 20 percent of Brazilians have mortgage debt.

And yet the chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics estimates that Brazil’s residential real estate market may be overvalued by as much as 50 per cent.