IS IT GOING TO LAST?
I want it to. And to this end I’ll deliver information, independent and objective, bilingual and multimedia, about the momentous transformation that began in 2008 in Rio de Janeiro.
Is it just a mask? In 2017, should we expect the BMWs to revert to pumpkins and the politicians to turn back into myopic rats?
A BLOG WITH AN AXE TO GRIND
I want it to last. I want the changes to be deep and real. I can see that the way cariocas are thinking and talking about favelas and their residents reveals new tolerance, concern and solidarity.
The more we know about what’s going on, the more we can contribute to the process, whether we are cariocas born and bred, transplants like me, onlookers, investors, tourists, transients, or cynics.
I will give you links, original reporting, questions, ideas, images, sounds, reflections, answers and more questions. No bullshit. You won’t have to read between the lines. My only agenda is I WANT IT TO LAST.
This is Rio Real, a blog created in 2010 by Julia Michaels, an American writer, editor and journalist who has lived in Brazil for more than thirty years.
If you speak both languages, I suggest you read both texts. I’ll be providing more context in English and more detail in Portuguese.
We’re still pinching ourselves. Only five years ago you couldn’t walk in Ipanema and talk on a cell phone, for fear someone would snatch it off your ear. Now everyone has a cell phone, everyone walks and talks. You thought cariocas were a relaxed sort.
But only now are they finally starting to chill!
Construction is booming, favelas have an increased police presence (and more social services as well) rents and real estate are up, jobs and income are on the increase, education indicators are heartening, frozen yogurt is everywhere, health and sewage are getting serious attention for the first time possibly ever, the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is being cleaned, new restaurants and shops are opening, Brazilians are moving here from other cities, the beaches are policed, drunk driving is almost nonexistent, the Olympics are coming, the metro is expanding and best of all, key parts of the city are safer than since just about any carioca can remember. Politicians are buddies: President Lula da Silva, elected in 2002, and then President Dilma Rousseff, after 2011; Governor Sérgio Cabral, reelected in 2010 and mayor Eduardo Paes, reelected in 2012, are working in concert to turn around the decadence that set in back in 1960 when the capital moved to Brasília.
But will it last, will the politicians persist and businesses invest?
Please tell me what you want to know about. Meanwhile, I’ve got tons of questions…
Quero que dure. Para que dure, me lanço mar adentro pelas águas da mídia social para fazer oferenda à Iemanjá: informações, independentes e objetivas, bilíngues e multimídia, sobre a transformação histórica que começou há quatro anos no Rio de Janeiro.
É apenas uma máscara? Em 2017, os BMWs irão voltar a ser meras abóboras e os políticos, ratos míopes?
UM BLOG POSICIONADO
Quero que dure. Que as mudanças sejam profundas e reais. Constato que os cariocas pensam e falam das favelas e de seus moradores de maneira diferente do passado, que revela uma nova tolerância, consideração e solidariedade.
Quanto mais informações tivermos sobre o que acontece, mais poderemos contribuir, quer sejamos cariocas da gema, adotivos como eu, observadores, investidores, turistas, flaneurs ou cínicos.
Vou postar links, reportagens minhas, perguntas, ideias, imagens, sons, reflexões, respostas e mais perguntas. No bullshit. Nada de entrelinhas. Minha única agenda é QUERO QUE DURE.
Chegou Rio Real, um blog criado em 2010 por Julia Michaels, escritora, editora e jornalista americana que mora no Brasil há mais de trinta anos.
Se você fala tanto inglês como português, sugiro que leia os dois textos. O inglês terá mais contexto e o português, mais detalhe.
A gente ainda não acredita. Apenas cinco anos atrás, não se podia caminhar em Ipanema e falar no celular –apesar dos seguranças fortões da Richards e da Mr. Cat— pois um assalto era certeza.
Agora, todo mundo tem celular, todo mundo se dá ao luxo de perambular e fofocar. O carioca tem fama de ser relax, mas só agora a noia está começando a se dispersar.
Cresce o número de construções, temos as UPPs e a ocupação social das favelas, esquenta-se o mercado imobiliário, há mais empregos e a renda cresce, os dados educativos são animadores, as lojas de frozen yogurt se espalham, pela primeira vez a saúde e o saneamento básico recebem atenção pra valer, a Lagoa está ficando limpa, abrem-se lojas e restaurantes novos, brasileiros de outras cidades chegam para morar no Rio, nas praias temos o choque de ordem de verão já adentrando o inverno, a Lei Seca pegou, os Jogos Olímpicos estão a caminho, o metrô se expande, e o melhor de tudo é que partes importantes da cidade estão mais seguras do que qualquer época que o carioca consiga se lembrar. Em todos os níveis governamentais, os políticos se tornaram amigos de infância: Dilma, Cabral e Paes estão trabalhando juntos para reverter a decadência que se instalou em 1960, quando a capital se transferiu para Brasília.
Mas vai durar? Será que os políticos irão persistir e as empresas vão investir— ou seja, se comprometer com o futuro a longo prazo?
Me diga o que quer saber. Da minha parte,tenho muitas perguntas...
Great entry Julia. I am simply at a loss for words with all that is going on in Brazil. Learning that a few people I respected and held dear as great hope for police had fallen to corruption has left me heartbroken. I am not as optimistic as I was. The country is in a deepening sinkhole and I do not see how it can recover in the short term.
Eduardo, Brazil can’t recover in the short term and perhaps it shouldn’t. Yes, I wish the pain of unemployment and the threat of greater unemployment might disappear. But remember that even during the heyday of the Lula years, corruption was going on. Lula is one of my heroes but I can’t forgive him for saying, “Mensalão, what Mensalão? I don’t think there was one.” That’s not facing painful reality. It takes courage to face reality. Brazilian have courage, the older ones have been through all this many times. They will pull through the pain. (I am shielded from the pain by my USA pension.) But when Brazil eventually comes through, the corruption may still be there and all this will repeat further down the line. I hope all people of good will do what they can, though only Brazilians can solve their problems.
I’m counting on young people, like the daughter in The Second Mother. They are Brazil’s future.
I am reading this book on Nem by Misha Glenn and I must admit that I absolutely share your opinion on its value. Amazingly clear and thorough view of Brazilian problems with drugs and violence. Very well written and researched.
Thanks for the heads up, Did you look at Erika Robb Larkins’ Spectacular Favela?
I have it and it’s next on my list, after A número um, by Raquel Oliveira!
Reblogged this on msamba.
Welcome back Julia. I hope you will give us a sneak preview of your projected work. Assume it’s non-fiction but not a memoir like your last book, Solteira no Rio. (Which I am enjoying and seem to be extracting a moral from, likely not one intended by the author.) Your new book will be about Greater Rio, but I would like to know what facets you intend to examine.
I look forward to reading the book about Nem. I wish someone would do interviews with another man I believe is currently is prison, or at least I hope soon will be — José Dirceu. What a life that man has lived and how much we would gain by understanding it! (I will allow those interested who don’t know Dirceu’s story to Google it)
I have the suspicion that politics in Brazil tends to reward the corrupt with success and punish the honest with failure or the crumbs of success. Many a good man has gone bad or at least become complicit with wrong. We must learn how this situation came to be and how it can be changed.
An ocean of fascinating things about Rio awaits our research and everything we can help one another to understand tends to the common good.
The trailer for The Second Mother made me dubious about seeing the movie. I feared the movie might be like some “manufactured” Brazilian novelas (soap operas), which are fabricated according to the following scheme:
A team of writers take an issue being talked about in Brazil such as homosexuality, crime, or social inequality. They craft a plot that will disturb almost no one; in fact, almost everyone will feel in step with things, modern, and enlightened. But the treatment is stock, cliché-ridden, sentimental, and superficial. Most soaps in the US follow an identical pattern.
What is that pattern and what’s wrong with it? The root problem seems to be, in order to be popular, a novela must have a happy ending. And it can’t be disturbing or challenging. If a soap deals with the contacts between very high and very low status individuals, it must be comforting to both classes because both classes will watch it.
But since Julia recommended A Second Mother, I saw it. I’m glad I did.
First, the basic cinematography of the movie – music, acting, visual effects, costume design, pace, etc. — is far superior to that of the usual soap.
For example, in the movie we see a section of the home where the movie is set, with no one in the scene. The scene lasts perhaps ten seconds, in silence. What is the scene? Just a corridor leading to a bare stairway with closed doors on either side of the corridor. This is a scene that one would never see in a novela.
Second, the characters are not stock. Here I must give a short summary of the characters and plot, being careful not to give away the denouement.
A mother of low social rank, Val, must leave her daughter Jessica in northern Brazil to work as a live-in housemaid for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo. Though Val is separated from the father of Jessica, the move is due to merciless economic necessity, not choice: Val must earn more to properly raise her daughter.
The wealthy family consists of father Carlos, mother Barbara and young son Fabinho. The first scene shows Val, soon after moving to her new job, playing second mother to the child Fabinho around the family’s swimming pool. This first scene is apt: clearly Fabinho replaces the lost child Jessica in Val’s heart. The pool remains important throughout the movie.
More than a decade passes. Val learns that her daughter is coming to Sao Paulo to take an academic exam that will determine Jessica’s future. She arranges that Jessica lodge initially in the home of her wealthy employers. The drama is set.
Each character is finely etched. I thought the best acting was done by the father Carlos and the mother Barbara.
Carlos certainly is not a stock upper class Brazilian. With his white beard and balding grey head, he resembles Lenin, but perhaps Lenin after the latter had suffered his stoke. He is a weakened ineffective Lenin and his thick dark eyeglasses, almost shabby informal dress, thin frame, and reticent manner heighten this impression.
I must apologize to the reader for not being very proficient in understanding colloquial Portuguese. As I was able to gather, Carlos is from a wealthy family; he once painted but now he does not.
His wife Barbara, on the other hand, is quite active and ambitious. I could not ascertain exactly what she did – I would be grateful to anyone who could inform me – but it was important enough for her to be interviewed on camera. She is working, in some capacity, within Rio’s fashionable elite. Overweight but striving to be slim, she seems to be fairly bursting in her chic attire as she attends to her avant-garde guests. Very fine casting and acting.
Though there are no stormy family scenes as one sees in soap operas, the sense of tension within the wealthy family is heavy, almost unnerving. The first time Carlos smiles is when Jessica is introduced.
Jessica is at first awkward in her inferior position in the household and perhaps a little ashamed of her mother. The friendly attentions of Carlos flatter her but do not please Barbara. An easygoing relationship develops between the attractive teenage son Fabinho and Jessica. Clearly, Fabinho is closer to his second mother Val than he is to his natural mother Barbara. Perhaps even father and son are put at odds by their own respective attractions – not necessarily sexual – to Jessica.
So the cast of five is like a pentagon enclosing a five-pointed star – every individual is related to every other. The drama is heightened by the fact that Fabinho is also going to take an academic test that will determine his rank in society.
For me, the movie is about STATUS, HUMANITY and how the drive to STATUS can cause the loss of HUMANITY. I must define the two terms, status and humanity
First, status is what we all want. Status is simply rank in society but it can come in the form of money or some other badge of distinction. You can be rich or be a duke, a movie star, a renowned scholar, or, in some parts of the world, simply have white skin.
Brazil is moving toward a meritocracy. The other day, at the college near where I live, I saw boots on the ground. Yes, troops were stationed outside the college because the academic tests were being given in the college. The tests determine what college you can enter – and entrance is the first step to higher status.
One dictionary definition of “humanity” is “humaneness, benevolence”. In my use of the word I mean those things, but also spontaneity, the ability to giggle, guffaw, or blush without premeditation; to live in the moment without regard to future rewards of status.
To interact socially is a spontaneous human trait. But one can gain status by making the right social connections. Thus we see status seekers cultivating their spontaneous human charm. Barbara and her circle smile at the right times.
I include also in humanity LOVE OF LEARNING. Humans are born to explore and learn. Once must ask: do competitive academic tests foster love of learning or the drive toward status?
Finally, humans are born to play. Every child is born an artist, to one degree or another. Perhaps the attraction between Carlos and Jessica lies more in their common love of learning and art rather than sexuality. Jessica and Fabinho find common ground in youthful exuberance and horseplay.
In this movie, you will see the working out of these various conflicts between status and humanity.
We have a maid who cleans our apartment weekly. I have never lived in a home so clean. You could eat on the floor after she has scrubbed it. She is in her 60’s, unmarried, and could not earn more than R$2000 per month. I don’t know if she is scheduled for a pension but her prospects in life do not appear brilliant. She comes from a distant favela still dominated by violence; she has lost a child to violence and recently a son died of illness.
She seems intelligent to me. Her origins were very humble; with better opportunities she might have gone far. Yet she is not at all envious of me. If fact, I would say she is happier than me. At least she is almost always smiling and affectionate, especially with children.
I consider A Second Mother well worth seeing. I believe it will be showing in Rio until November 5th.
fantastic review. thanks so much for posting it here!
Thank you Julia. Must admit I am having personal problems and writing review was a sort of therapy for me — I hope I can contribute in some way. I am 90% through Solteira, Portuguese version, and will soon give you my take on it. The book is making me think about things!