All posts by Regina

5 million workers under age

child labor and slavery in Brazil

One hundred and eleven years after Brazil abolished slavery, the number of workers deprived of their freedom is still huge. They raise cattle, produce charcoal, sugar cane or timber. Some of them, most undocumented Bolivians, work in basements of small apparel factories in São Paulo and other metropolis.
According to the latest official statistics, the country also counts at least 1.2 million young workers between the ages of 5 and 13 – even if Brazilian law forbids those under 14 to work. If you add teens up to 18 years-old, you will have more than 5 million underage Brazilians in the market place. A huge percentage of them receive no salary.
This number includes teens “adopted” informally to work as housekeepers and submitted to very long hours. It also includes many sexual workers. Brazil’s highway police recently identified more than 1,800 truck stops around the country where minors offer sexual services .
A report released in September by the US Department of Labor, aiming to shed lights on “exploitative working conditions in the production of goods” in 77 countries, concludes that there is fair evidence that several Brazilian industries are responsible for perpetrating these irregular labor practices.

But the report also acknowledges that the government “has taken an exemplary, multifaceted approach to the elimination of child and forced labor”. It has “improved its legislative framework, enforced these laws effectively, established targeted action plans to combat child labor, forced labor, and trafficking in persons”, among other initiatives.

Last October, Brazil and a few other countries signed an agreement to work together to eradicate child labor by 2020, with the support of the International Labor Organization.

The Brazilian government also created the so-called “Dirty List” (Lista Suja) of forced labor cases, including the names of companies and property owners who use workers under forced labor conditions. In my former job, as a Social and Environmental risk analyst for Banco Real, one of the main financial institutions in the country, we wouldn’t offer credit to companies included in the Dirty List without promoting extensive auditing of their labor conditions and verifying their compliance to a series of laws.

There are, in fact, evidences that all these federal initiatives are pretty effective.

Between 2003 and 2008, almost 27 thousand people submitted to forced labor were released. Child labor has been steadily declining (in the early nineties, there were around 8 million under age workers in the country). One of the reasons is that the Brazilian economy and middle class are growing. Many families that had to find their kids a job now afford to keep them in school.

It is still not good enough. Civil society and the government have to increase their engagement in this combat against labor practices that are both shameful and deeply rooted.

10 wonders of Brazilian cuisine

Brazilian food - tacacá
Selling tacacá in Belém. Photo by Paratur/Wikipedia

You most certainly heard of, or even tasted, churrasco (barbecue) and feijoada (a complex meal that includes a stew of black beans with pork and several side dishes, including rice, collard greans, pealed orange, cassava flour, red pepper sauce and our national distilled beverage, cachaça).

Now, can you tell me what a buchada de bode is? Or pato no tucupi?

Here I list 10 classics, not necessarily easy to digest, but amazing windows to Brazilian culture. The links lead to recipes, whenever possible in English:

  1. Cuscuz – Despite having the same origin as the Moroccan couscous, it looks and tastes way different. In São Paulo, where I come from, it is made with corn flour, olives, tomatoes, eggs, peas, sardines and has the look of a decorated cake.
  2. Barreado – Typical of the coast of the southern state of Paraná, it probably originates from the Portuguese Azores islands. This meat stew served with rice is  prepared in a very peculiar way. It is cooked in a clay pot for around 20 hours – the time needed for the meat fibers to be dissolved in a thick sauce. The pot is layered with banana leaves and its outside is covered with hardened manioc flour paste, in order to avoid the heat to escape. Continue reading 10 wonders of Brazilian cuisine

Coffin Joe, the movie

Coffin joe, Brazilian horror filmmaker
Esta Noite Encarnarei no teu Cadaver

Brazilian filmmaker José Maria Marins – a.k.a. Zé do Caixão – built an international fan base thanks to his psychedelic and campy horror features. Coffin Joe, as his movie persona is known to foreign audiences, is a blasphemous undertaker obsessed with Satan and the desire of conceiving a son. The character appears in several features, beginning in 1964 with “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” (À Meia-Noite Levarei sua Alma).

Marins’s adventurous life will be soon portrait on the big screen by Matheus Nachtergaele – actor previously seen in two award-winning films, “Central Station” (Central do Brasil) and “Four Days in September” (O que é isso, Companheiro?). The feature about Coffin Joe should be produced next year, and it will be directed by Vitor Mafra, who has a background in publicity, just like Fernando Meirelles and other directors that Brazil is exporting to Hollywood.

The film is definitely promising. Marins’s story is almost as exotic as Coffin Joe’s. He produced his first movie when he was 10, using a camera borrowed from his father – a movie theater manager and former toreador. His first short, “Final Judgment” included a scene where a flying coffin would rescue good souls and send the bad ones to eternal damnation. He kept faithful to this theme.

His colorful portrait of Hell, in an otherwise black-and-white movie, in “This Night I’ll Possess Your Soul” (Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver), released in 1967, remains one of his most powerful scenes.

This surrealism is present in all of his movies – several of them censored during the military rule, in the seventies.
Check this great story published recently on Coffin Joe by the LA Times . You can also check most of his films here: The Coffin Joe Collection – 5-DVD Box Set ( À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma / Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver / O Estranho Mundo de Zé do Caixão / O Ritual dos Sádicos / Finis Hominis / A Estranha Hospedaria dos Prazeres / Inferno Carnal / Delírios de


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… check the feature articles or choose a city in the map (it offers details about the local culture, interesting sites and the weather today).


20 best tips if you are visiting or moving to Brazil
10 favelas of Rio shown by their residents
Practical tips for driving in Brazil
The best nudist beaches
The most beautiful waterfalls
The essentials: 18 Unesco Heritage sites

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Continue reading Travel

Art Gallery

A collective exposition of the best of Brazilian art, from baroque sculptures to graffiti, from naïf to Modernist. The images lead to the artist individual expo.

War Anatomy
“War Anatomy”/ Flavio Shiró
"Meteor"/Bruno Giorgi
“Meteor”/Bruno Giorgi
"Bororo Indian"/Hercules Florence
“Bororo Indian”/Hercules Florence
"Inocência"/Eliseu Visconti
“Inocência”/Eliseu Visconti
"Self Portrait"/Tarsila do Amaral
“Self Portrait”/Tarsila do Amaral
"Presentation Mantle"/ Arthur Bispo do Rosário
“Presentation Mantle”/ Arthur Bispo do Rosário
Favela chair"/Campana Brothers
Favela chair”/Campana Brothers
"Red room" / Cildo Meirelles
“Red room” / Cildo Meirelles
“Navio de Emigrantes”/Lasar Segall
Alex Vallauri
“Carpet-style Tilework in Live Flesh”/Adriana Varejão
“Abigail”/ Di Cavalcanti
“O Derrubador Brasileiro”/Almeida Júnior
“Graça”/Victor Brecheret
“Lampião”/Mestre Vitalino

Exotic, erotic, chaotic

Consolacao Sampa Eno Medeiros adaptado

“Nation of the future”. “Sex paradise”. “Wonderland of pickpockets”. “The emerging economy that grows in the rhythm of samba”.

Stop right there. There is more in Brazil than meets the eye.

Thank God, it is exotic, erotic and chaotic – to borrow an expression used by Dean Graber to describe how the international press sees the country. He is a brazilianist from Austin, Texas, that I met briefly years ago. But these beaten clichés are getting old.  As a journalist I am well aware of the use of mental frames to make communication easier. To some extent, clichés help us understand the world. This doesn’t mean we should buy them without questioning.

Naturally, if you cannot read Portuguese, you have limited options to escape the beaten paths.  That’s why I came up with the idea of launching the Deep Brazil blog. This will be a space to cover interesting aspects of Brazilian Visual Arts, Architecture, Media, Music, Cuisine, Fashion, Folklore – but not your average “culture for export”. I also intend to give a panorama of Politics, Economy, social issues and other themes that are often covered hastily by the foreign press. No hurt feelings, fellow journalists. I know it is hard to evade clichés when you have to write three stories a day. Plus, let’s face it. Brazil is not so easy to understand. Most of the time, I don’t get it, myself.

So, whoever is listening, welcome to Deep Brazil. Please, visit often, leave suggestions of new topics and spread the word.