While we are still waiting for President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to make up his mind on who will form his government, let us take advantage of this pause to give readers a brief taste of contemporary Brazil.
This is an edited version of an article, which appeared at the bottom of a page in the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper on December 6.
"Ex-deputy Osvaldo (Vavá) Mutran, 71, was arrested in the act, after killing David Abreu de Souza, 8 years old. The boy was playing on Mutran's land in Marabá in southern Pará state. According to witnesses, Mutran came out of his house carrying a revolver. David was shot in the head. "The boy was lying on the ground. Vavá approached and kicked the body, telling the boy to run away", said a neighbor.
"Later in the day, local people invaded Mutran's land and damaged it. In 1992 Mutran had his mandate as a state deputy removed after invading the home of an official and shooting him to death. He was condemned to 10 years in prison but did not stay one year in jail."
Bad News for Lovers of Architecture
Oscar Niemeyer, the creator of some of the world's most horrific architectural works, including Brazil's inhuman capital, Brasília, is still going strong at 95. According to Veja magazine, he is working on three new projects, including an auditorium in São Paulo's Ibirapuera Park. If ever an international tribunal is set up to try "art" criminals, Niemeyer should be the first to be brought to account. One hopes that in the centuries to come the city of Brasília crumbles to dust and disappears and Niemeyer is remembered like the arrogant Ozymandias in Shelley's eponymous poem.
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Many families in Brazil rely on remittances from members of their family living and working abroad. The biggest community is in Japan, where over a quarter of a million Brazilians, most of whom are of Japanese descent. Banco do Brasil even has several branches in Japan to handle the transfers.
However, another group of Brazilian emigrants also sends home remittancestransvestites working in Italy. In some cases they are remitting several thousand dollars a month, a substantial sum by local standards. As the remittances from these emigrants also helps the country's trade balance, one looks forward to the day when their efforts are publicly acknowledged. To my knowledge the current finance minister, Pedro Malan, has not paid any tribute to these patriots. Maybe the next finance minister will and, should former President Itamar Franco be nominated Brazilian ambassador to Italy, as may happen, then he should host an official reception for them.
Coming to a Cinema Near You
The image of Brazil as a place full of happy-go-lucky people dancing in the street and playing football is likely to change, thanks to two films, which have attracted much domestic attention, one of which will shortly be launched abroad. The theme, however, is something which every Brazilian faces every dayviolence and crime. Cidade de Deus (God's Town, the name of a poor Rio's neighborhood) is set in a favela (shantytown) and follows the violent actions of the gangs who live there. Nearly all the cast is amateur and the film gives a flavor of life inside a favela, a place most Brazilians have never visited.
The film was elected one of the top five foreign films by an American jury and there is talk that it might be nominated for an Oscar. Another film, which has just been released here, is called Ônibus 174 (Bus 174) and describes the horrible event in June 2000, which millions watched live on television, when a gunman took over a public bus in Rio de Janeiro and held a young woman hostage. In a botched rescue operation, the police managed to kill the hostage and wound the gunman who later died, or was killed, according to some versions. It is not known if this film will be exported but it promises to show an unfortunately common aspect of life here.
The Girls from Brazil
Some well-known Brazilian girls were annoyed to learn that they were being featured as models on an American escort site, based in Miami, and are taking legal action. One can understand the reaction but, while they are obviously not prostitutes, they have only themselves to blame in the way they have prostituted their lives, if not bodies, and made themselves public property.
I will not name them here but both were members of a short-lived pop group and neither had any talent. Their sole asset was to wiggle (rebolar as they say in Brazil) their skimpy-covered backsides. They have appeared in the Brazilian version of Playboy several times and undergone the kind of plastic surgery, which seems mandatory for any up and coming celebrity these days.
As they cannot actually sing, dance or act they have really nothing to offer the public, which has a short attention span. One of them married and had a baby. This gave her nine months attention in the trashy TV magazines plus a few months more as a proud young mother.
In one particularly nauseating publicity stunt, she was photographed breastfeeding her own child at the same time as another baby which, for some reason, could not get its own mother's milk. No doubt, at this moment, her agent is thinking of ways of getting more publicity. In fact instead of suing the escort agency in Miami these girls should be thanking it because they will be back in the news again. And, dear reader, I know I am falling into the same trap by writing about them. However, I bet most of you are curious to find out who they are.
Veja - All Talk and No Action
on Brazil's Black Population
Here is a translation of an e-mail correspondence I have just had with Veja magazine over its position on opportunities for black people in Brazil (published at the beginning of December).
December 2, 2002
I read with interest your Letter to the Reader "The Barrier of Race" and the article "Where are the Black People?" and would like to know how many black professionals - journalists, managers, marketing people etc - work for Veja. If Veja published this information it would be providing a valuable service for the reader, particularly the black reader.
Dear John Fitzpatrick,
The factor of race is not taken into consideration at any moment in hiring professionals for Veja. We look for professionals whose work is outstanding. A number of black and mixed race employees work at Veja and in Editora Abril and is similar to that found in other companies of the same size in the sector. Nothing exceptional to report. We remain at your disposition for future contacts.
Editorial team/ Veja magazine
Dear Veja Editorial Team,
Thank you for the quick reply to my question. I would like to make some comments on your e-mail:
a) From what I understand you will not be publishing my letter or present information relevant to the subject even though you, obviously, have access to this information. The reader, particularly the black reader, will remain in ignorance.
b) The reply "A number of black and mixed race employees work at Veja and in Editora Abril and is similar to that found in other companies of the same size in the sector. Nothing exceptional to report." shows that, even though Veja laments the inferior position of almost half the Brazilian population, in fact, it is doing nothing concrete to improve this scandalous, shameful situation. For me this is a highly smug attitude.
c) The comparison with other companies is irrelevant to my question. Veja has a much higher profile than most Brazilian companies and is in a good position to set national benchmarks.
d) Finally, I would like to know the opinion of these "black and mixed race employees" you highlight on Veja's performance (because it seems that your human resources area has no "policy") in this area.
Dear John Fitzpatrick,
Prejudice shows itself in different ways. To choose an intellectual professional by the skin color is an inappropriate, prejudiced and useless attitude. Veja combats inequalities by publishing information about the life of the population and reports on the problems of minorities. This is the duty of the serious press. Demagogic acts, such as highlighting a number of black employees, only serve to make those people who suffer from some kind of guilt feel better. Veja does no carry out demagoguery. Social, racial and economic problems resolve themselves through serious policies of social inclusion, the standardization of education and competent economic administration.
Editorial Team/Veja magazine
John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicaçõeswww.celt.com.br, which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© John Fitzpatrick 2002
You can also read John Fitzpatrick's articles in Infobrazil, at www.infobrazil.com