Tag Archives: brasil

The Pro-Choice Fight in Brazil


This is an edited and cut down version of this piece. It is part of my Beyond the Sex and Sunshine series, where I write about Brazilian women and try to change the sexualized narrative around them. To read the full text please click here and support my work.

Jandira Magdalena dos Santos Cruz, 27, was last seen alive on her way to an illegal abortion clinic in Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro. Weeks later, her body was found carbonized in a burnt car, without limbs or a dental arch. A divorced mother of two daughters, Jandira resorted to abortion when her boyfriend refused to take responsibility for the pregnancy.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or if the mother’s life is in danger. This illegality what led Jandira to pay USD$1,200 for a procedure in an illegal clinic. Her case is not a rare one: according to the World Health Organization (WHO) one woman dies every two days because of unsafe abortions in Brazil. Brazilian public health care estimates indicate that 1.5 million women get abortions yearly while the Ministry of Health’s calculations reveal that 3.7 million Brazilian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have had at least one abortion in their lifetime. In Latin America, 95% of abortions are considered unsafe by WHO.

In Brazil, having an abortion is punishable by law and could result in one to four years in prison. In 2005, a proposed bill of law threatened to take away the already existing provisions for abortions and to make abortion a heinous crime. The law would also forbid stem cell research.

In an election year, the subject of abortion is curiously absent from electoral campaigns and debates. Despite Jandira’s death and that of thousands of women which has caught the attention of mainstream media, advocating for the legalization of abortion is considered political suicide in a country where 79% of people are against any change in legislation.

“Abortion is a taboo, religion and the media display dead babies of eight or nine months and say this is abortion, which causes discomfort in any person,” says activist Isabella Medeiros, organizer of a pro-choice march in Rio de Janeiro on September 28. “This image of taboo that the media shows the population is very fictitious; the rate of women who get abortions is immense. In truth, it is a great manipulation because of religion, more so than politics, where conservative values are predominant.”

Mariana* says this predominant attitude in society makes it harder for women who have abortions to speak out or even heal mentally from the procedure. She got an abortion after paying R$12,000 ($5,000) to a doctor who instructed her to go to a high-class hospital and pretend she was having a miscarriage so she could be operated safely.

“He told me to come to a hospital – a good hospital in Rio – and pretend I was having a miscarriage. I would have to arrive in the early hours of the day. I was lucky – we paid a lot of money. My father got a loan from the bank, my mother didn’t go on a planned trip. I was lucky to have a family that was looking out for me, that supported me. They understood it wasn’t the time for me to have a kid.”

While Mariana was fortunate to have the procedure done in a proper hospital, this is not the reality of most Brazilian women.

“Jandira’s case is an example of what we call unsafe abortion,” explains Dr Ligia Bahia in an interview to newspaper O Globo. “It’s an abortion performed outside of a medical unit with proper credentials. In Brazil, because abortion is illegal, interventions in illegal clinics are more common. Women put themselves in a situation of extreme risk when they seek this kind of operation. Ideally, society would debate this theme without an ideology, focusing only on the grave issue of public health.”

Since the legalization of abortion in Uruguay, the number of abortions has decreased and there have been no deaths as a result of the procedures. Despite this positive result, political leaders in Brazil seldom mention a direct change in legislation, with presidential candidate Marina Silva only going as far as proposing a referendum on the issue. According to Uruguay’s Public Health sub-secretary Leonel Briozzo, “that’s not the best way to solve the problem.”

“For the life of women,” they chanted


On September 28, Latin American and Caribbean Day for the Legalization of Abortion, women took to the streets in several cities across Latin America to protest for their bodily autonomy. In Brazil in particular, organizers of the movement hoped to bring attention to the issue in times of election.

At the end of Copacabana beach, a small group of feminist activists painted pro-choice signs for the march later in the day. They were of all colors and backgrounds, but all of them recognize that the criminalization of abortion is a bigger danger to low-income women of color. One of the signs read: “The rich women pay, the poor women die.”

Besides remembering the death of thousands of women across Latin America who died from unsafe abortion, the march in Copacabana had as an objective to start a political conversation about the legalization and decriminalization of the procedure.

Protester Desirée Carvalho, 23, said: “We think this is something to be debated since we are in an election year and this is a subject that isn’t debated, even though we have more than one woman running for president so our objective is this, to talk about the need of the legalization of abortion by the public health system.”

The march was peaceful, but also met with a bit of hostility. Many people shook their heads in disapproval when the protesters chanted pro-choice songs to call attention to the march. A few others observers pumped their fists and joined in, but the march was mostly met with silence.

In a Lugar de Mulher (A Woman’s Place) blog post that went viral last month, Brazilian feminist writer Clara Averbuck summarizes an approach to the legalization of abortion that might work for Brazil.

She wrote: “Your personal opinion about abortion doesn’t matter. Women will continue to have abortions and to risk their lives while it’s not a legal and safe procedure (…) You hate the idea of abortion? OK, so don’t have one. Your opinion won’t change that women have abortions (…) All kinds of women have abortions and there is not one personal opinion that will change that.”

*Not her real name.

This is an edited and cut down version of this piece. To read the full text please click here and support my work in changing the narrative around Brazilian women.

Beyond Sex and Sunshine


It’s not news that Brazilian women are used to sell plane tickets, hotel stays, tours, and whatever else there is to do in Brazil. In the last year covering Brazil, I’ve come to realize that the mainstream press is reluctant to cover anything other than Brazilian women’s sexuality – which enforces stereotypes and dehumanizes women in a way that puts them in danger.

So far I have reported on the fact that here in Brazil there are more rapes than murders, that 80% of Brazilian women have been sexually harassed in the street, how one woman dies every hour and a half in this country, how the former Human Rights Committee president was sexist and how sexual exploitation of minors is considered normal in Brazil.

While Brazilian women are depicted as hypersexual, they live in an extremely sexist and conservative society. It’s not really surprising since most women around the world live in that kind of environment, but I believe this fallacy is especially harmful in Brazil. While we, women, are viewed as sexual objects, beckoning Brazilian and foreign men alike to a ‘sexual paradise, we are also human and we support the country in so many more important ways.


For example, did you know 25% of Brazilian households are financially supported by women? Yet, men receive, on average, salaries that are 42% higher than women’s? Did you even imagine that native indian women and black women have the hardest time getting health care in Brazil? Or that in eleven years, rape rates have risen by 88% in Rio de Janeiro – a supposedly sexually free city?

These statistics are terrifying to me. I know women here in Brazil from all walks of life, and they are so much more than sexual objects. I want to tell their stories and explore how their particular lives are affected by their nationality and its stereotypes.

This is why I have launched the project Beyond Sex and Sunshine at Beacon Reader. Although I have pitched similar projects / reports to mainstream publications they have been widely rejected – there is really no interest in selling such a humanizing project, I guess.

The cool thing about Beacon Reader is that you can back my work financially, so you will be helping me directly in making this project happen. I know a lot of people don’t have money to contribute, but I also believe writers should be paid for their work.

Here are the subjects I am planning to cover:

  • The life and stories of Brazilian women in the favelas
  • Afro Brazilian culture
  • Racism and gender
  • Transgender women and their struggles
  • Queer women and their struggles
  • Brazilian carnival, sexual harassment and the non-sexual aspects of carnival
  • Brazilian women and football
  • Native indian women’s lives in a colonized Brazil
  • Rape, rape culture and the failings of the Brazilian system
  • Women, politics and religion
  • Sex workers
  • Sexual exploitation of girls and its normalization
  • Women entrepreneurs

As I move forward with the project I am sure new subjects will come up. I also ask that if there is anything you think I should be covering you please get in touch with me through email at nicolefroio@gmail.com. I am so, so excited about it and I really hope I get the funding I need to get this project off the ground. It would be really amazing if you could fund me but I know that’s not always possible. For those who cannot fund me I will sporadically release shorter, edited versions of my work.

Things to note:
1) Any NGOs/communities I mention in my reporting will receive a donation from the funding raised on Beacon;
2) I will try my best to let these stories speak for themselves, distancing myself from privilege and biases. I want to be responsible.

If you can’t fund me, I only ask that you spread the project’s link around. Tweet and share, please please please. Thank you!


FIFA opened a can of worms, which Brazilians won’t close

world cup draw
Wiki Creative Commons Licence

This Friday, December 6, the World Cup draw will be broadcast across 193 countries. After the messy, convoluted chaos that has been leading up to the draw, FIFA and the World Cup Committee are sure to be glad the day is finally here. And of course, they hope that once the first ball is kicked into a goal in 2014, people will forget all the disasters, protests and deaths that led up to this international event.

Football in Brazil is famous around the world, but it is much more than sport on Brazilian soil. When the Brazilian protests hit last June, the words on everyone’s lips were, ‘Brazilians don’t just care about football anymore.’ But Brazilians have, of course, always cared about things in addition to sport – the difference is that decades of government misconduct has culminated in their loss of the ability to use football as a means of controlling the masses.

Outside of Brazil, these protests and general anger might seem like a passing fad, but it’s not. It’s historic. Before June 2013, people died because of street violence and general government neglect and no one hit the streets with protests signs.

When it was announced that Brazil would be the next World Cup host, the federal government celebrated. In an attempt to embezzle more money (in addition to the $160,000 federal congressmen bag every year, not counting benefits) they didn’t realize that they were mixing politics with their most effective control tool.

After years of neglect, the government was making movements to improve transport, security and tourism in general. Security has indeed improved in Rio de Janeiro city but that doesn’t change the fact that this improvement only happened because of the international event Brazil is hosting. There would be no pacified favelas if thousands of international football fans were not travelling to Rio next June.

This World Cup improvement policy also ensures that some areas, where tourists are unlikely to visit, will continue to be dangerous, decadent and neglected. And the building of structures to benefit the tourists has also resulted in thousands of people being removed from their own homes into subpar apartments (or forced into homelessness).

Last week two people died in the building of a new stadium for the World Cup. The deaths were the result of an accident, but they are now in the body count the preparation of this event has left behind. These include innocent people being hit by ‘pacifying’ bullets; mothers, fathers and babies who die in line for the hospital every day due to a decaying health system; the child thieves whose favelas have been pacified but have not been educated because of a lacking, underfunded public school system; the people in the slums who die because of the disgusting, subhuman state of their surroundings, where the water isn’t clean and people live in litter.

All the public money and the time used to prepare Brazil for the World Cup has set the country back. This time and money could have been used to improve lives in the long term, to nip security issues in the bud, to make a plan of what to do after pacifying the favelas, to educate our young so that the next generation treats football as entertainment, not as a distraction from real issues: education, security, public services and decent quality of life for all.

Will Brazilians enjoy the 2014 World Cup despite the exorbitant ticket prices that have further segregated race and class (which go hand in hand in Brazil)? There’s no doubt about it, and there will be cheers for Neymar and Felipão to win the Cup for the sixth time. But this time, make no mistake, there will also be cheers and protests outside of the stadiums, calling for a better life, a better government, a better country.

“The Bullets in the Favelas Aren’t Made of Rubber”: A Report from Brazil for The Toast



The awesome blog The Toast has published one of my reports, and I am super proud of it! The first few paragraphs are below and you can keep reading after clicking the link at the end.

When J. took his first breath, fresh into the world, he was already condemned to be an outcast for the rest of his short life.

His birth certificate bore no reference to his father: he had none. He was–like thousands of children born in the Complexo da Maré, Rio de Janeiro–excluded from society.

His mother was HIV-positive and he lived in a 2m by 2m cubicle house without a bathroom. The complex of favelas where he lived is one of the most dangerous parts of town, where two neighbouring rival factions of drug traffickers make sure all Maré residents live in a state of constant civil war.

Read More on The Toast.

When the people changed the angle


One of the most substantial problems with the media-audience relationship is representation. Though journalism is supposed to be neutral, it has always been blatant that political bias is a reality that cannot be avoided. Though a piece of writing or a news reel might be balanced, by having both sides of the argument there is always an angle to present the information with. Editing, choosing quotes, structuring the piece, all of this depends on the opinion of the writer or the media outlet.

This has never been a secret. And the problem with it is that many times the work of journalists can fail to represent their audience’s interests because they are too out of touch. People might complain of the Daily Mail but it is incredibly unlikely that they will change their sexist, misogynistic, shaming agenda.

But in the last three weeks Brazilian protesters all over their country forced the media to change their angle on the movement completely. In the beginning of the protests newspapers were using words that implied all the protesters were being violent. One perfect example of this was the front page of O Globo in the first week of unrest that splayed the Turkish protests and the Brazilian manifestations. The headline referring to the Turkish unrest called the Turkish people ‘activists’. The headline pertaining to the Brazilian protests used the word ‘vandals’. Placed side by side it showed the clear right-wing intentions of the newspaper to make the protests into a violent, senseless affair.

Soon enough citizen reporters started posting photos of the peaceful movement on social media, saying that O Globo and Rede Globo weren’t reporting the protests correctly, and that they had been for the most part completely peaceful.

Those involved in the movement, be it online or on the streets, quickly started sharing personal accounts of the events, conspiracy theories and instructions on how to protest (including how to recuperate from inhaling tear gas). It became clear that no one was happy about how they were being represented and this  issue started coming to the streets with everything else people were angry about. It wasn’t only that they were being misrepresented but Globo has been monopolizing information for the last two decades. It is the most watched free-view channel in the country, and the other options are scarce.

After a week or so of complaints the turning point came when a female reporter was forced to leave a protest after being antagonized furiously by protesters chanting at the top of their voices against Rede Globo. They sang “The people aren’t stupid, down with Rede Globo” and “The truth is harsh, Globo supported the dictatorship”. The reporter was driven away afraid they would hurt her. The same happened to a male reporter a few days later.

Soon Rede Globo reporters were forced to start using microphones without the network’s logo and to report from the roof of buildings looking over the protests as opposed to the ground.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed though. While broadcasting the violent action live from a helicopter, journalists continually said the movement was mostly peaceful and that the violent actions were completely isolated. The agenda, the angle, the opinions changed just like that. And even though people are still complaining online and would probably be hostile to any Globo reporter they recognize, the media in general has changed their tone. They are no longer disapproving or generalizing the movement.

It is not only an interesting phenomenon for any media geek, but also a point that should be taken by all journalists. Listening to your audience is and will always be important.

Photo courtesy of Michel de Souza.


Why are Brazilians so angry?

As protests in Brazil grow, I find it increasingly important to listen to the people involved. Before it all kicked off on Monday, June 17th 2013, I interviewed protesters & organizers of the movement. The report might be a little late, but it’s still important to pay attention to what they have to say. Thanks for reading.

“Sorry for the inconvenience, I’m changing the country”, read a sign held up by a protester in São Paulo, in the midst of chants, shots, tear gas and outrage. In five other cities, people followed suit and took to the streets.

For two decades, Brazil has been infested with corruption, violence and despicable public services. Until last week the fury was repressed, locked somewhere inside Brazilian chests all over the nation waiting for a trigger to explode.

There are many things Brazilians should be angry about. The construction of expensive stadiums in a country where the wealth and social gap is so huge the UN has declared it the fourth most unequal country in Latin America. The miserable monthly salary of public school teachers (around R$800 or £240) in comparison to that of congressmen (around R$17,000 or the £5,050). The war zone like scenes in public hospitals and the government’s failure to invest in health care. The decaying state of streets, historical buildings, public transport and sewage systems when the value of taxes are exorbitant.

But the last drop was a rise of 20 cents in bus fares in several cities. And though the protests started as a movement for better and fairer public transport soon became a call for political change and a decent society.

Raphael Godoi, 16, is the founder of the Fórum de Lutas Contra o Aumento (Fight Against the Increase Forum) in Rio de Janeiro. Godoi is still in high school but his voice is strong and angry. He explains that the 20 cents are symbolic of deeper political problems and only one of the reasons why he and his colleagues organized the unified protest on June 13th.

He said: “I think everyone is already tired and outraged at the public policies our governments have enforced. Our outrage isn’t just over 20 cents but for a change in transport and public policies. The government has only been thinking about the economy, the money and has forgotten about the population. I think people are tired and want improvements, which is why so many people participated in the protests.”

Lilian Campadello, 27, says Brazil’s public transport is one of the most expensive in the world. A round trip commute would cost a worker around £35 a month, an extortionate amount for someone whose monthly salary is £193 – and this is assuming said worker would only need to catch one bus each way, which is often not the case.

“The public transport is, in a way, a reflection of how a city treats its citizens,” she said. “It’s inadmissible that there is corruption and the enrichment of the few at the cost of the right to dignified transport.”

Only in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro there were 50,000 people who took to the streets. The atmosphere in Rio de Janeiro was peaceful, and protesters were happy and eager to be doing something they believed in. The city centre traffic was stalled, but it was a small price to pay for a possible revolution and yells for a better, cleaner, fairer society reverberated on the old colonial buildings of the centre of Rio.

In São Paulo the protest turned into chaos as police and protesters clashed violently. Julia Kaffka, 19, says she was chanting peacefully in the crowd when the police started throwing tear gas bombs in their direction.

“The streets were brightly lit, buildings had banners that supported us, people were yelling and clapping. It was when we got to Consolação that we had our first encounter with the police. We yelled to them not to use any violence and they started marching towards us.” She said. “We recanted into a gas station, thinking they wouldn’t bomb us in there. We were wrong.”

Claims of police brutality filled social media websites this weekend and newspapers reported seven journalists were hit by flash bombs, two hit in the eye. The police violence that ensued in the protests is another concern for Brazilian citizens. Godoi said he only felt in danger once he reached the police.

“The police is like the personal guard of the government. Its role to protect the citizen has been forgotten and the police defend the government and its dictatorships. They are always the ones who start the violence, and then there’s no other way, no one is meek and mild. And then we are called troublemakers and vandals. The police, the shock battalion, they are a disgrace.”

The protests are scheduled to continue all over the country in the coming weeks. The objective is to attract international attention through the events being hosted in Brazil in the next four years so that other countries pressure the government into helping its own people.

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Documentary exposes World Cup wounds Brazil refuses to acknowledge

Brazilian police raise their guns to pacify the Mangueira community. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/.

An independently filmed and funded documentary that has investigated the billions of dollars invested on the upcoming World Cup and Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will lose all its funding if their target is not reached this week.

The project has provided a voice for favela residents to speak out against the construction of venues and supporting structures in their communities. The project has denounced crimes committed against inhabitants of the slums since the preparation for the international sporting events started. But these voices will be lost if not enough money is raised.

Domínio Público, or Public Domain, has revealed through research and gut-wrenching interviews with the affected people, that thousands of people have been removed from their homes illegally, and some without previous warning, to make space for private sector investments and touristic structures.

It is estimated that 30 to 35 thousand people have so far been removed, and that the gain of citizens with the new structures is minimum in comparison.

Public Domain has already released a short film with its findings, but the ultimate goal is to make a documentary of an hour and a half that will dig deeper into the subject.

“We started by asking ourselves why only certain slums were being pacified by the government and others weren’t,” says Fausto Mota, producer and director of the film. “Why were favelas in the south of Rio being pacified, especially those around the Maracana? When we dug into the research we found out that the UPPs (Police Pacifying Unit) were being funded by Eike Batista, by Coke and by CBF.

“We got worried, why was Eike Batista [a Brazilian business magnate] interested in donating to the UPPs? Then we started going to the favelas and talking to people who were removed – and this is the most serious issue. We realized Rio is receiving a social cleanse, to be completely honest.

“Public land should be used, by law, for social housing, but instead big companies are taking this land and making big investments that won’t benefit the citizens of Rio.”

The short film posted online, produced by the independent film company Paêbirú Realizações Cultivadas, has statements from big names such as congressman and ex-footballer Romário, congressman Marcelo Freixo and expert on the subject professor Carlos Vainer.

“The map of the pacified areas in Rio de Janeiro is very clear,” explains congressman Marcelo Freixo in the film, as a map pops up so the viewer can visualize the issue.

“There’s UPPs in the hotels area in the south zone of the city, there’s some in the Morro da Providencia because of the port, there are some around Maracanã and some in City of God, which is the only place in Jacarépaguá that isn’t taken over by militia.

“The UPPs map is revealing of a city project where territory is being retaken so that an investment city can be a possibility.”

Resident of a favela tells the camera the government is removing the poor to introduce the rich to his community. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/

But the raw reality of the documentary lies in statements by the residents of the favelas who are still fighting to keep their space on the carioca hills.

Ney Ferreira, resident of Morro da Providencia and member of the Residents’ Committee in Defence of Housing, says the construction of a cable car in his community has destroyed a public square and threatened to remove around 2,000 people from their houses. Although they managed to stop the removal of the residents, the construction is still going ahead and Ferreira notes that it’s not being built for the benefit of the local community.

“We want to defend people’s rights and Fausto [Mota] heard of our movement and we got together and managed to stop the construction and removal.

“But what I say in the documentary is this: who is this cable car for? It’s not for the population of Providencia, that’s for sure. The main paradox of the cable car is that it doesn’t even reach the highest point of the hill.

“They’ve destroyed a square where kids used to play, Américo Brums Square, that was the only place they had to play and now it’s gone.”

Ferreira reveals that the cable car will leave from Central do Brasil, go up to the destroyed square and then go back down straight to the City of Samba, a tourist spot. According to him, residents of the community will have zero opportunities to use the car despite all the turmoil the building of it has caused in their favela.

“There hasn’t been any participation from the residents, actually when we got together to suggest things they didn’t accept any of it. The project got here, whether we want it or not. By law, there was supposed to be six months of social preparation for the people who live here so they know of the situation, but this wasn’t done.

“Around R$ 4milion were allocated to do this, but it hasn’t been done – where has this money gone?”

Structures that would benefit Morro da Providencia were also promised when the project started, but nothing has been done to make them a reality. A sporting park and a health care unit are supposed to be built, but Ferreira says so far not a brick has been laid.

“I asked and they said there isn’t space for a health unit. They promised a sports centre too and so far, nothing. It’s been one year and a bit, and all we’ve had are demolitions and the construction of the cable car.”

The story of Ney Ferreira and his community is one of many included in the short-film posted on the website to raise funds (http://catarse.me/pt/dominiopublico). Coverage of the problems the World Cup works have brought to the population of the slums has been scarce by Brazilian press, and the goal of the project is to inform people in Rio and all around the world.

“The objective is not the citizen’s interest, the well-being of the citizens. The government has turned into a business bank where entrepreneurs go and make their bid, make their investments and when it’s about business, what matters is making the most profit possible. If that means removing people from their homes and building a resort, that’s what they’ll do.”

In an innovative way to bring information to those who need it, the Public Domain crew set up a cinema in the middle of the favelas to teach the inhabitants they must stick together. Photo courtesy of http://www.paebiru.com/.

The situation has already been noticed by the UN but nothing has been done to punish those responsible for it.

“According to the human rights, when you remove a person from their home, that person must already have a key to go to a new place,” explains Romário on camera. “And what is happening is the removal of these people in an inhumane, illegal manner. The UN has already noted that, but people keep on going unpunished, unfortunately.”

The lack of dignity in which the residents were treated shows through in the short film. Mota said that interviewing people who were taken out of their own homes was “complicated”, as they clearly had lost their homes and sometimes most of their belongings.

He said: “It was obvious that these people were emotional, holding it together so they wouldn’t cry, they were appalled with the way they were treated. Dona Graça [shown in the short film] said ‘I wanted them to at least have told me to leave with four days in advance, so I could at least put my things together’.

“She lost her TV, fridge, sofa… it was raining and there weren’t any tricks to move her furniture so the saved a few pieces of clothes and had to go to her sister’s house. But she lost everything. The next day they had already destroyed and smashed her house.”

Despite great response to their video and having raised R$60,000 for the project so far, Mota says the people who most need to be informed have no means to reach their online page as the majority of favelas have no internet connection and suffer from digital exclusion.

“We do something called Cine Ataque [Cinema Attack] where we bring a projector and screen to the communities and put it all together in the middle of the street for everyone to see.”

Even with these efforts, Public Domain is struggling to get one message across: unity. Mota believes that to fight the government’s plans for the city, communities must come together, like Ferreira’s community has done. Mota hopes that with a longer film he will be able to push this point across more easily.

If the fundraising doesn’t reach its R$90,000 target by November 16th, they will lose all the money raised so far as the website they are using works with an “all or nothing” system.

“What we thought we were going to find – it was just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “So we need the money to dig even deeper.”

A version of the short film in English is available on http://catarse.me/pt/dominiopublico .

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Photos courtesy of Domínio Público.


Edit: as of 15/11/2012 the project reached its target and will be going ahead with the longer version of the documentary. I still recommend you watch and donate, as the more money they get the more voices will be heard.


You can smell it before you see it. The stench of fish warming in the hot air is everywhere, and soon enough you can see buckets of shrimp, big and small, come directly from Santa Catarina to Rio de Janeiro. Other smells of tangy fruit, fresh veggies and fried dough fill your nose too as you walk into the street the fair has been set up in. Barracks full of mangos, watermelons, figs, grapes, onions, garlic, carrots – all colourfully displayed along the street, every Saturday.

Men from each barrack try to sway you from buying from the others. They have the BEST PRICE for the BEST FRUIT. Doubt it? Here’s half a mango, here’s a piece of pineapple, take half this satsuma! It’s not a bidding war, but a delicious bidding party.

When I was younger, my favourite stand was the sweets one. But this was in a different fruit fair altogether in the suburbs of Sao Paulo, very far away from the fair I went to this morning. I used to beg my mum to take me so i could buy sweets – at the time I never realised the owners of the stands do some begging of their own.

Going to the weekly fair that is usually set up in your neighbourhood is a common activity for people in Brazil. The fruit is better than in the supermarket but more expensive – the quality of the fruit is a thousand times better so it’s worth it. After a few weeks of going to the same place, you pick your favourite stand to buy from. My parents buy from a picturesque man who was wearing a Flamengo shirt.

Football is always important in Brazil. No matter where you are you can see displays of team loyalty and harmony between them. For example, by the till of this stand there were two different football flags standing side by side.

The atmosphere is wonderful despite the grey skies threatening to rain and ruin all the stands. When the afternoon comes, they’ll pack up what’s left of their merchandise and come back next week.

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Photos by Nicole Froio.

Rio – The Movie

RioAs a Brazilian, I’ll be the first to say that I do not wholly embrace my culture; I really hate those “awesome street parties” – as most English-speaking people seem to call them – that we have during Carnaval and I don’t really listen to samba that much. In fact I barely ever listen to any traditional Brazilian music.

But this is not to say I don’t completely cherish my culture. I do like Carnaval; the actual parade, the part that isn’t a bunch of drunk men dressing up as women pissing all over the street, is one of the most amazing things in the world. I’ve never actually seen it live since it’s quite expensive to get a ticket, but I obsessively watch the floats on the TV.

And I absolutely love Rio de Janeiro, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever lived. So I was quite demanding of a film that promised to show the world how my favorite city in the world really is.

Whenever American films attempt to depict Brazil or Brazilians, they simply fail. Let me make it really clear: we are NOT in any way Spanish, we do not SOUND Spanish or act like Spanish people. We do not keep monkeys as pets nor do our gangsters kidnap tourists to steal their organs. Also, please, please STOP playing Girl from Ipanema whenever people go into elevators or start having sex in films; it’s actually an amazing song, not some track you can use to smooth out awkward situations.

But this movie depicts Rio perfectly. There are a couple of technicalities that were wrong because of how the plot is set up, but despite that it’s pretty right on. I was afraid it would be too stereotypical but it’s not.

Telling the story of  Blu, the only male blue macaw left in the world, it exposes Rio and the kind of culture shock foreigners experience when visiting. This is probably why I liked it so much, there’s little else I enjoy more than showing Rio around to foreigners; I love their reactions to it and their appreciation of it.

Besides that, it really depicts Carnaval how it really is. Everyone can dance (okay, maybe apart from me), and everyone is out partying; and everyone has had those moments when you run into some one you’re really not that intimate with wearing a full on feathery bikini costume in the streets, clearly off their faces, getting with some one they blatantly had never met before in their lives (seriously, true story – I saw one of my school teachers in a similar situation before). Obviously, as it is a movie aimed at children they haven’t made that situation quite so awkward.

The design and graphics left me completely speechless. I am very aware that my city is beautiful but this can’t really be captured by a photograph – but this was just amazing. It literally almost made me cry when they first showed the parade in the Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí, with the samba school Salgueiro dancing down the Carnaval specialised street. [Sidebar: This year’s Salgueiro samba parade had special floats and costumes to celebrate being in the movie, as their theme was cinema in Rio. It also had a whole section of people dressed as policemen from Elite Squad 2 – which, by the way is an amazing film as well. Anyway, here’s a link to the real thing.]

Something that really astonished me about this movie is the music. I really had no idea that it would be so concentrated on the music but it makes sense, that is another factor that makes our culture famous. It really annoys me that the most promoted song for the film is the one produced by will.i.am (this is not his first mess around with Brazilian music, actually and here’s another bizarro remix I found) because there are so many better tracks that could better show the Brazilian musical character, like the movie’s opening song. The bossa nova track is also amazing – I’ll post it here when I find it.

Anyway, watch this film! Just do it, I don’t care if you don’t like animations.

Brazil x Netherlands


On July 2 2010 20,000 Brazilians gathered in Fifa Fan Fest Rio de Janeiro, on Copacabana beach. Many people were turned away within an hour of the gates opening and even though it was relatively early morning the spirits were high. Yellow, green and blue were everywhere, and everyone was anxious, nervous.

The first goal made hearts jump and pride for Robinho’s beautiful move was everywhere. Running, with open arms, thanking the cheering fans, maybe Robinho thought the game was won. Big mistake.

This might be one of the biggest problems with the Brazilian team. So much can happen in 90 minutes, so why is it that when one goal is in the Brazilians stop trying? It was clear the game could be turned around, as it easily was, so why not be more careful? From the first half to the second half of the game, things can change quickly. My heart, as a fan, was tight all through the first half, even after the goal.

It’s amazing how football matters in this country. It’s sad to say, but it’s all we have. It is the only event in which everyone is one, unified, for the national glory. The only event I can compare it with is when I was in Times Square on the day President Obama was sworn in. Americans were stood there, watching the future of their country come together as one – that would never happen in Brazil. The government is so corrupt – and it has been excessively so because of Lula – for so long no one believes in politics anymore.

Fifa Fan Fest was a proof of how football is all we have; when Obama was sworn in, people were tearing up, cheering, proud. When Brazil scored against Holland, we were all brothers, happily walking towards one goal.

Brazilian football fans, defeated after the match.

When it was official that we had lost, Rio da Janeiro seemed to have had its heart broken and destroyed. There was not a soul smiling, it felt as if a bit of our hearts had been torn away. A man just sat on the sand and stared at nothing, probably trying to understand what happened. Another man crossed off the Brazilian coat of arms on his shirt and wrote SHAME in big letters beneath it.

I was wearing my official yellow Brazilian jersey and got drunken comments all day; “Take that off, we are a fucking failure”, “We’re not champions!”, “You better start supporting another team, love”.

Still in Copacabana, green and yellow shirts were on sale for one real. That’s approximately USD$0.60 or £0.40.

That’s how much we’re worth, apparently, without a World Cup.

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