Category Archives: Society

Bündchen, Wonder Woman and a Masp’s favela: mirages in São Paulo

Gorgeous Gisele, indeed

No exaggeration: São Paulo holds more surprises than Batman’s utility belt. Just spent a few days in town that never rests, camera in hand.

First, bumped totally by chance into top model/billionaire Gisele Bündchen at an improvised catwalk at Iguatemy Mall. I have been around presidents, prime ministers and princesses, but few times I saw a similar security apparatus.

Continue reading Bündchen, Wonder Woman and a Masp’s favela: mirages in São Paulo

Brazuca, brazi, brasiguaio, dekassegui – who are the Brazilian expats?

Brazilian Day Festival in New York, 2010. Photo by José Oquendo/ Flickr

A little over 3 million Brazilians live out of the country, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. It is less than 1% of the country’s population, a minimal percentage, specially if compared with the 13% Uruguayans that live abroad. And the real number of Brazilian expatriates could be even smaller. The latest official statistics were published in 2008, before the world crisis that led to the return of several immigrants that couldn’t find work  in the US, Japan and Europe. On the other hand, it is also true that it is hard to have solid estimates, due to the high percentage of illegal immigration. The Ministry calculates that 1.65 million Brazilian immigrants lack working papers and other documents that would legalize their stay in foreign countries.

Most of the Brazilian expats live in the US (1.24 million), followed by Paraguay (487k) and Japan (310k). Who are these immigrants and how do they live?

Continue reading Brazuca, brazi, brasiguaio, dekassegui – who are the Brazilian expats?

Sustainable – but bike unfriendly – Curitiba

Barigui Park, in Curitiba. Photo by Denise Mayumi/ Flickr

Curitiba, one of the biggest metropolis in the South of the country, is considered a highly sustainable city, thanks to its many parks and a series of environmentally-minded initiatives. But it is also the Brazilian city with the highest number of cars per capita. It is also quite bike-unfriendly, according to this wonderful documentary, “O Veículo Fantástico“, produced and directed by Nicole DiSante, with English subtitles.

Read also: Street golf.

Good news: hunger dramatically reduced in Brazil

Photo by Gabriel Rocha/ Flickr

The anti-poverty agency ActionAid released yesterday a report that alerts to the growing risks for the world food security, due to global warming, depleted natural resources and raising food prices. But the document also praises Brazil for being the best prepared to face these challenges among 28 developing nations examined by the organization. The country leads this ranking for the third time.

The report “On the brink: Who’s best prepared for a climate and hunger crisis?” evaluates that Brazil’s investment in small family agriculture and official programs such as Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), to minimize misery levels, paid off. The country reduced child malnutrition by 73% and child deaths by 45% between 2002 and 2008. But it still has to face the fact that 16 million Brazilians leave in extreme poverty (with a 70 reais/40 dollars  monthly budget).

According to the study:

Brazil is leader of the pack in the Hunger scorecard again this year. It has announced US$10 billion of support for smallholder farmers who have benefited from land reform committed in 2011. The government has also extended its genuinely women focused Bolsa Família social protection safety net to 12.4 million poor families and enshrined the right to food into its constitution Just as importantly, it has instated a robust policy of ensuring the country’s agriculture is climate ready, with a national plan dedicated to the agricultural sector.

On the other hand, ActionAid criticized the inequality in land distribution.

Around 3.5% of landowners hold 56% of arable land, while the poorest 40% own barely 1%. Similarly, large landowners obtain more than 43% of all agricultural credit, while farmers with fewerthan 100 ha (88% of the total number of all rural farms) captured only 30%.


Al Jazeera documentary about the killing of environmentalists in the Amazon

“I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment,” said Ze Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, an Amazon rainforest activist, at an environmental conference in Manaus. Six months later Ze Claudio was dead – gunned down, alongside his wife Maria, on May 24, 2011 in a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon.

This is “The Crying Forest”,  the new documentary produced by Gabriel Elizondo, Al Jazeera network correspondent in Brazil, that premiered yesterday. You can watch it here:

What if Brazilian states were nations?

The Economist magazine asks this question in this week’s edition and reveals that:

  • São Paulo’s Gross Domestic Product and GDP per capita could be compared to Poland’s; while its population is similar (numerically) to Argentina’s
  • Rio’s GDP can be compared to Singapore’s, its GDP per capita, to Russia’s., and its population to Kazakstan.
  • Alagoas, the poorest state, according to the latest official statistics, has the GDP of Afghanistan, the GDP per capita of China and the population of Albania.
  • Rio Grande do Sul, generally considered a very rich state, has the GDP per person of…Gabon.

Check all the other states status in their infographic:


Is coffee for children?

Photo by Igor Schutz/Flickr

I don’t remember a day of my life I didn’t have a cup of coffee mixed with milk at wake up time. It is absolutely normal for a Brazilian child to have it for breakfast as soon as he/she is out of the high chair.  But children generally don’t drink cafézinho, the coffee shot that may follow a meal or that is offered to guests – this is rather an adult habit. This reminds me of the way French parents deal with wine. It is offered to kids with moderation, maybe diluted in water, without fuss. And the French, by the way, also offer their children a bowl of café au lait in the morning.

Living in the US, I realized that the child-coffee connection is not universally accepted. More than once I met people who consider hideous offering caffeine to somebody underage.

Check this old Brazilian ads that make a huge effort to seduce very young viewers. Is this wrong, in your opinion?

The best Brazilian insults


Time for some political incorrectness, folks.

Is there a way of cursing, of insulting someone in Brazil without losing your elegance? If you are a classy fellow, why don’t you promote one of these fine, vaguely obscure traditional bad words? There is a good chance the audience and maybe even your victim will enjoy your creative  insult repertoire.

My personal favorites:

1) Maracujá de gaveta – used against someone old (that also looks old). Literally it means “passion fruit in a drawer”. This tropical fruit gets really wrinkled after its due date – or if forgotten in some kitchen drawer. Ok, it is ageist. But it is oh-so-delicious.  Continue reading The best Brazilian insults

A day with the Kamayurá indians

Maniwa Kamayurá, leader of his people, in a photo by the Ministry of Culture/ Flickr

This really cool documentary produced by Current TV network takes you to a Kamayurá indians village in the upper Xingu river, in the state of Mato Grosso. You will have an overview of their community, daily life, food and rituals.
You can also find tons of information about the Kamayurá and other native Brazilian groups in Portuguese, English and Spanish on the Instituto Socioambiental portal.