It’s Still Not Easy Being Black in Brazil

Blacks don't enter In Brazil, unlike other countries, different ethnic groups interact a lot – sometimes peacefully, sometimes not.  This interaction leads, frequently to mixed marriages, genes and cultural heritage.

This healthy mix gets more evident when geneticists investigate our origins. Neguinho da Beija-Flor, a famous samba composer from Rio, is mostly white, genetically – even if his nickname stresses his very dark complexion.

On the other hand, Daiane dos Santos – Olympic gymnastic gold medalist recently involved in a doping scandal – represents what could be a "typical" brasileira: 39,7%  African, 40,8% European and 19,6% Native Brazilian.

Both celebrities had their genes analyzed in a study promoted two years ago by the British news conglomerate BBC with several prominent Brazilians of different backgrounds.

This mix didn't, necessarily, produce a racial democracy. In an interview to the BBC on this subject, sociologist Ronaldo Sales, from Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, in the city of Recife, points out that miscegenation doesn't create a homogeneous mixed race group, but a hierarchy – the whiter you are, the better your chances of social integration.

The underlying racism is particularly evident in bank branches. Most of the banks that operate in large cities install revolving doors, conceived to block the passage of costumers holding metal objects or bulky volumes.

The following video, just released by Circo Voador, a very engaged theatre and cultural movement in Rio, shows how this mechanism is used to avoid the entry of black Brazilians in banks.

Two guys try to enter the same bank, dressed similarly, carrying the same bag. One is black, one is white. Guess who entered immediately and who had to remove his T-shirt and drop his belongings before being sent home, without entering the bank?

Big-Screen Capoeira

It was high time capoeira were represented in the big screen in all its glory. A movie just released tells the story of Besouro (The Beetle), a true myth among those who practice the Afro-Brazilian martial art/ballet.

The director João Daniel Tikhomiroff had a high budget for Brazilian standards – US$ 7 million – spent in a production that embellishes an art that is, to begin with, extremely beautiful.

Several actors are true capoeiristas and their fight scenes were choreographed by Huen Chiu Ku, that previously worked in "The Matrix", "The Tiger and the Dragon" and "Kill Bill".

The film is based on the book "Feijoada no Paraí­so", written by Marco Carvalho, a novel based on the life of the fighter, who lived in Bahia in the 1920's. The movie portrays the racial conflicts in the country, that had freed the slaves only three decades before.

Besouro was known for his ability to fly and his corpo fechado – a supernatural protection obtained through candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion.  He also challenged the powerful landowners who had, and still have, lots of power in the region.

Ailton Carmo, the 22-year-old baiano who plays Besouro, never acted before, but has been practicing capoeira for most of his life. In a recent interview he remembers that, when he was 9, he watched an American movie called "Only the Strong" (Esporte Sangrento) that depicted a capoeirista (played by Mark Dacascos). He says he told his mother: "Mainha (mommy), one day I will represent my culture".

Brazilian born, French citizen, married to an American, Regina Scharf is the ultimate globetrotter. She graduated in Biology and Journalism from USP (Universidade de São Paulo) and has worked for Folha de S. Paulo, Gazeta Mercantil and Veja magazine as well as Radio France Internationale. Since 2004 she has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the US. She authored or co-authored several books in Portuguese on environmental issues and was honored by the 2002 Reuters-IUCN Press award for Latin America and by the 2004 Prêmio Ethos. You can read more by her at Deep Brazil – www.deepbrazil.com.

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