Lima Barreto – Sad visionary

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At the top of Affonso de Henriques de Lima Barreto’s record of his first hospitalization in the Hospício Nacional, the writer is identified as white. The year was 1914, the diagnosis alcoholism, the city Rio de Janeiro. Just below the header, however, a sepia photo belies information about his color. Just like countless intellectuals and well-known Brazilians, who were black but were repeatedly portrayed as white, Lima, who was still alive, was taken as something he was not. In his case, however, the “whitening” is even more absurd, since being a black in the last country in the world to abolish slavery was a central issue of his life and work.

“In his characters, plots, and personal writings, the attention given to the racial question and descriptions of characters’ physical types are always emphasized,” says anthropologist Lilia Moritz Schwarcz. If at the beginning of the twentieth century, racial determinism – which claimed that mestizo and black populations were biologically weaker – was in vogue, Lima appeared as a dissonant, combative, and often lonely voice. “The mental capacity of the negro is measured a priori, that of the white a posteriori,” he wrote in Diário in 1904, offering a clear picture of the tenor of racism that prevailed in Brazil after the abolition of slavery.

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The theme of race, not by chance, is also made more relevant in the biography Lima Barreto: Triste Visionário, which Schwarcz launches on July 10, from editor Companhia das Letras. “Lima is a well-played character. The whole series of researchers who followed Francisco de Assis Barbosa, his first biographer and diffuser of his work, is excellent. The question I asked, which had not yet been asked much, is about the issue of race. “A grandson of slaves and the son of free parents, born on May 13, 1881, on the same date the ‘golden law’ would end slavery seven years later, Lima approached the subject from his own experience. His work, in this sense, is extremely autobiographical.

As a teenager the writer attended the Polytechnic School and found himself to be the only black person in a class composed of elite white children, feeling all the rejection that could exist in such a situation. In Memorias do Escrivão Isaías Caminha, from 1909, his debut novel, he made the character Isaías, the bastard son of a priest with a slave, go through a childhood in which he received regular education, discovering in the future that his color would be a barrier for him to move up the ladder. Like Isaías, Lima also had a relatively stable childhood development, only discovering in adolescence and early youth the displacement that his social condition and color would impose on him.

Commonly portrayed as a poor writer, Lima had had some family stability for much of his childhood. His father, João Henriques, and his mother, Amalia Augusta, were ambitious and had good relations with the elite. They were educated and free. While he had a promising career as a printer, she was a schoolteacher. Things started to change when Amália died of tuberculosis and João lost his job. In 1902, after a series of episodes of emotional exhaustion, he also lost his purpose, which led Lima to leave college to financially support the household.

At the age of 21, he became the breadwinner of the family, made up of three brothers, a father and a few other members. Working as a public servant and, at the same time, following his literary goals with routine collaborations in newspapers and magazines, Lima found the critical propensity of his main brand early on. If it denounced racism, it also directed attacks against the Republic, the press, and anything that smacked of foreignisms. “There is a history of comparing Lima Barreto with Machado de Assis, but it is an injustice. They had completely different goals, while Machado was a universalist, Lima was an engaged writer who denounced mischief and criticized what he saw in his daily life”, says Schwarcz.

Looking back at his era, Lima was, for example, a ferocious critic of downtown Rio’s renovation, undertaken by mayor and engineer Pereira Passos. The era marks the beginning of the opening up of large avenues in the city and the subsequent expulsion of poor people living in slums to places further and further away. According to Schwarcz, “his view of the renovation was impressive, because many of those who witnessesed it at the time were delighted with what was being done.” He, on the contrary, already saw the plight of those that were expelled – which would ultimately result in a chronic problem for Brazilian cities, present until today – and was also incited by what he saw as the exportation of European city standards, especially of Paris, to Brazil. A great angst of his life, for example, was the neighborhood of Botafogo and the city of Petropolis, both “French-ified”.

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The sad end of Lima Barreto

Between 1909, the year that Memórias do Escrivão Isaías Caminha was launched, and the year 1922, when he died at age 41, Lima wrote hundreds of chronicles and short stories, such as O Homem que Sabia Javanês and Nova Califórnia, and published at least one masterpiece: The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma, in 1911. Other novels, such as Numa e a Ninfa and Vida e Morte de MJ Gonzaga de Sá, were also published in the short time frame. In addition to these publications, a lot of material came to the public after his death, such as Diário Íntimo, Clara dos Anjos and Os Bruzundangas. In short, it was a productive and intense output.

With a life touched by alcoholism, however, his texts and books were often viewed and evaluated by critics as erratic. Lima piled up several projects at the same time and did not fit the virtuoso profile with which writers were seen. In addition, the autobiographical tone of his books and the lack of concern in hiding the real personality of some of its characters were not well evaluated at the time. In Memórias do Escrivão Isaías Caminhas, for example, he critically portrayed different journalists who were easily recognizable, such as the celebrated chronicler João do Rio and Edmundo Bittencourt, owner of Correio da Manhã, one of the most influential newspapers of the time. He didn’t have an easy life after that.

“It was only after 1950, when he was rediscovered by biographer Assis Barbosa, that his work began to circulate again, but I think his name only came to be remembered, in fact, recently”, says Schwarcz. Today he will also be the main honoree at the 2017 Paraty Literary Festival (FLIP), which takes place at the end of July. According to the biographer, it’s also interesting to think that if the image of the Bohemian writer was so romanticized in some cases in literary history, with Lima Barreto it was always seen as something derogatory. “Bohemia and alcoholism, in his case, always appeared as an accusation”, says the biographer. Behind this, perhaps is the question of race once again. Not that Lima didn’t have serious problems with alcohol. He did, and they cost him his health. But it’s curious to think about the difference in treatment that his bohemia received.

In 1919, when he was hospitalized for the second time at the Hospício Nacional, Lima was already described as someone ragged, with his shoes on the wrong foot, perspiring a lot, with a swollen face and “sampaku” eyes – when there is white below the iris, a characteristic common to alcoholism. Three years later he died lying on his bed while reading a French magazine. At that time, Schwarcz describes, his personality was increasingly merging with that of the suffering suburban residents – he portrayed so much in his texts.

Lima, according to his new biographer, is our visionary for having spoken of racism practically a hundred years before the subject was actually open for discussion. He is our visionary also for having anticipated a series of Brazilian themes, such as the unplanned urbanization of cities. It’s sad to know beforehand that it wasn’t going well and that the euphoria of the years in which he lived  – the time of the Belle Époque, where scientific advancement and the growth of cities gave the impression that humanity’s problems were resolved – would not last. Unfortunately, the sad visionary may have had his maturity interrupted: “If we think that Machado de Assis wrote his main works after the age of 40, it is a pity that Lima was gone so early.” – Source (PT)


For a written interview with the author and short videos of her talking about his life, go here (PT)

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Trolley Etiquette – Machado de Assis

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Machado de Assis would have turned 178 years old on June 21st. Here’s an etiquette guide he wrote back in 1883. Take note of Article II which sounds like manspreading.

How to behave on the trolley

It occurred to me to compose certain rules for the use of those who use trolleys. Between us, the development of this essentially democratic! means of locomotion requires that it not be left to the pure whim of the passengers. I cannot give more than a few extracts from my work; just know that there are no less than seventy articles. Here are just ten. 

Art. I – The throat-clearers

Throat-clearers can enter the trolleys on the condition that they do not cough more than three times within one hour, and in case of phlegm, four.

When the cough is so stubborn that it does not allow this limitation, the throat-clearers have two options: – either to go by foot, which is good exercise, or to go to bed. They can also go to hell coughing.

The throat-clearers that are at the ends of the row of seats should spit towards the street, instead of doing it in the trolley itself, except in case of betting, a religious or Masonic precept, vocation, etc., etc.

Art. II – Position of the legs

Legs must be brought in so that they do not disturb the passengers on the same row of seats. Open legs aren’t formally forbidden, but on condition of paying for other seats, and having them occupied by poor girls or underprivileged widows, and giving some small change.

Art. III – Reading newspapers

Each time a passenger opens a page he is reading, he should be careful to not lightly touch his neighbor’s nostrils, nor lift up their hats. It is also not pretty to lay the pages on the passenger in front.

Art. IV – Cigars

The use of cigars is allowed in two circumstances: the first is when there is no one on the trolley, and the second is upon exiting.

Art. V – Annoying people

Anyone that feels the need to speak of their intimate businesses, not caring about others, should first inquire from the chosen passenger about such confidentiality, if he is very Christian and resigned. In the affirmative case, one will ask him if he prefers the narration or to be kicked off. Being it probable that he would prefer the latter, the person should immediately strike them. In the case, however extraordinary and almost absurd, in which the passenger would prefer the narration, the proponent should do so thoroughly, heavily conveying the most trivial circumstances, expelling what is said, going over and over things, in a way that the patient swears to God to not be subject to it again.

Art. VI – Spitting talkers

The front row of seats is reserved for the emission of spitting talkers, save for the occasions in which the rain obliges one to change seats. Also they express themselves on the back platform, with the passenger going next to the conductor, facing the street.

Art. VII – Conversations

When two people, sitting at a distance; wish to say something aloud, they should be careful not to use more than fifteen or twenty words, and, in any case, without malicious allusions, mainly if there are ladies about.

Art. VIII – People who smell bad

People who smell bad can participate in trolleys indirectly: remaining on the sidewalk, and seeing them pass by from one side to the other. It would be better if they lived along the street where trolleys passes by, because then they could see them from their window.

Art. IX – Women passing

When a lady enters, the passenger at the head should stand up and allow passage, not just because it is uncomfortable for him to remain seated, squeezing his legs but because it shows a great rudeness.

JULY 4, 1883

Source (PT)

A piece of Santa Teresa’s high society

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A little far from the center of Santa Teresa, the Parque das Ruínas is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful views of the neighborhood, although it is little known and almost always empty [less true these days]. The main attraction is the view overlooking the bay on one side and the city center on the other. With Rio de Janeiro at your feet, the viewpoint is perfect to understand the geography of the city, from the top of Santa Teresa.

It’s recommended for dates, relaxing, reading a book or for a good chat with a privileged background.

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The Park and the ruins are the remnants of the Palacete Murtinho Nobre, erected between 1898 and 1902, and where Laurinda Santos Lobo lived, a society lady and heiress of a very rich family. Her house was one of the most effervescent spots of the cultural life of Rio de Janeiro and the local scene where famous singers performed for prominent figures of the time.

Later, abandoned, the place was invaded, plundered and occupied by beggars and traffickers. It is said that even the doorknobs, which were made of gold, were stolen during this period of abandonment.

In 1993, the State of Rio gave protection status to the property and, in 1997, the Parque das Ruínas was inaugurated. The ruins today have a style that blends bricks with metallic and glass structures.

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The park also has an exhibition hall, auditorium and cafeteria, which work with special events. In the outdoor areas there are shows and a special program for children on weekends. The beautiful views begin right at the entrance to the park and continue to the top of the house. But the best of them all is on the ground floor, at the back of the house, next to the cafeteria. – Source (PT)


The Palacete Murtinho Nobre: ​​from splendor to ruin

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The palace at Rua Murtinho Nobre, 169, in Santa Teresa, was the residence of Joaquim Murtinho (1848 – 1911), doctor for great figures from the Old Republic and famous for restoring the republican finances in the Campos Sales government (1898-1902), in which he was the finance minister. Of refined education, Dr Murtinho was a civil engineer, doctor of medicine (specialized in homeopathy, owner of Mate-Laranjeira) and professor at the Polytechnic School. He also served as vice-president of the Senate.

At the end of the 19th century, knowing about the death of his brother-in-law, Dr Murtinho received his sister and her daughter, Laurinda (1878 – 1946), whom he resolved to support and provide the best education. Thus, after being married, the niece joined her uncle in his taste for dances, soirees, theater and all the cultural and leisure activity available in Rio’s Belle-Époque. More than that, while the old uncle began to move away from social activities, Laurinda became prominent in the social columns and enjoyed great prestige with the political and artistic classes, having been an inspiration for João do Rio’s chronicles.

In 1911, Joaquim Murtinho died without leaving descendants and constituted Laurinda as sole heir of its property: villas in Petrópolis, the Mate-Laranjeiras factory, the shares of Ferro-Carril and, especially, the Murtinho mansion, that in the hands of Laurinda would witness glorious moments. Now rich, Laurinda consolidated her position in society, becoming a patron of artists and opening the halls of the mansion for the most famous dances and lyrical-musical events of the beginning of the last century. Laurinda was a woman ahead of her time: she presided over the Council of the Brazilian Federation for Women’s Progress and used her prestige for feminist struggles. During the 1920s she promoted meetings about Modernism, and raised funds to publicize composer Villa-Lobos in Paris. Determined, she even helped artists that were unknown to society, such as Sílvio Caldas, who played guitar at one of her soirees. During her time in Paris, where she held residence, she also received and helped promote Brazilian artists in search of  international recognition.

Laurinda died in 1946 at the age of 68, leaving no descendants. Her mother (deceased in 1960, at 92) and stepfather (who passed away the following year) remained in the house. After the stepfather’s death, a long-running lawsuit followed for the possession of the property and its contents, which in 1965 would be definitively transferred to the  Hahnemannian Institute, as Laurinda had determined. In the meantime, as the house was unguarded, it was constantly ransacked, with trucks at the door, taking what was of value in the small palace (which, incidentally, still occurs with properties listed as being of historical heritage and with churches). Without being maintained and subject to bad weather, the beautiful mansion deteriorated, suffering with the invasion of the homeless and finally remaining in ruins, becoming a hide-out and a place for drug use.

After constant complaints from neighborhood residents and at the suggestion of a group of illustrious residents in Santa Teresa, led by the theatrologist Paschoal Carlos Magno, the city council expropriated the house in 1979, but its restoration was no longer possible. He opted then to take advantage of its ruins as an integral part of a new architectural concept. As for the life and glory of the illustrious resident, there is little left of her memory until it was redeemed by Hilda Machado in her book “Laurinda Santos Lobo: Mecenas, artistas e outros marginais em Santa Teresa” (Casa da Palavra, 2002).

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Today, few of her belongings can be seen in the permanent exhibition at the Laurinda Santos Lobo Cultural Center, installed in the former residence of Senator Joaquim Lima Pires, acquired by his family in the 1970s. The history of Rua Murtinho Nobre is an example of government neglect with our historic assets. If they were in a European city, our mansions, which safely hold very important moments of the history of Brazil, would be well-preserved, illuminated, guarded, and serving cultural tourism, which financially supports so many cities in the old continent.

Tardily acquired by the city, what remained of the palace received architectural interventions and became the Municipal Cultural Center Parque das Ruínas, inaugurated in 1997 to house exhibitions, musical, theatrical and literary programs. And so the old place of so many soirees and dances resumed the activities of its past and there it remains like witness of a time that will never return again. – Source (PT)


For additional text (in PT) and images from the era, see the magazine clippings I found below while searching through online archives.

Rio’s one and only suspension bridge

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Opened in February of 1915, the “Alexandrino” suspension bridge united Ilha das Cobras, where many naval establishments are located, to Rio’s downtown (between current Museum of Tomorrow and Praça XV). The construction was made in the form of a transporter bridge, meaning it had what’s known as a “flying ferry” (pictured below) which could deliver cargo and people from one side to the other.

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With the transference of the Navy Arsenal and the construction of a new Navy Depository on the island, the bridge no longer served its function. It was replaced in 1930 by the current Arnaldo Luz bridge, which lacks the flying ferry and the ability for large ships to travel beneath it. For a brief time, both bridges existed side by side. – Source (PT)

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As part of the newly created Naval Aviation School, deputy director Lieutenant Delamare took a seaplane on a test run with Santos Dumont (in black) as passenger, flying under the Alexandrino. This was Dumont’s first time in a military aircraft, in an era when seeing a plane in the sky was still a very rare sight. The date was January 25, 1917. Fifteen years later, battling multiple sclerosis and sad over the military use of his invention, Dumont would commit suicide. – Source (PT)

Also bringing together the subjects of the bridge and death, monetary prizes were said to be given out to those who would attempt the so-called “pulo da morte”, that is, jumping the 137 feet (42 meters) off the middle of the bridge into the waters below. Most notably, a 16-year old Portuguese boy would complete the feat in 1918 with no promise of any pay whatsoever. Source (PT)


A few notes on the Ilha das Cobras / Island of Snakes. The original name of the island, given by the French in the times of France Antarctique, was Ile des Chévres / Ilha das Cabras / Island of Goats. From there, it became the Ilha dos Monges / Island of Monks, and finally it took its current name, after a report from the São Bento Monastary said the island was full of snakes.

The Kaiser examines trickery and soccer

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‘The Kaiser’: film debates malandragem (trickery) and soccer in Rio de Janeiro

The British-made documentary looks at the formation of the Rio trickster by way of Carlos Kaiser

Kaiser is a nickname that, for some – including Carlos Henrique Raposo, owner of the honorary title – traces a parallel with that of German Franz Beckenbauer, a world champion that played for Germany. There are those who point out a less pompous comparison, comparing the physical form of the guy with the nickname to a bottle of beer.

It is a fact that the trajectory of the Brazilian Kaiser, who played for the four big clubs in Rio and also played in Europe without ever being a football player, underscores the trickster’s ambiguity. And if Brazilians still try to decide between fascination and embarrassment, foreign aid will soon arrive via the big screen: the documentary “The Kaiser”, by British director Louis Myles.

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Louis Myles, director of the documentary, kicks a ball with Eduardo Lara, an actor who plays Kaiser

The documentary immerses itself in the story of Carlos “Kaiser”, a character who made a career in football forging an image of a player that had little (or no) basis in technical quality. Kaiser, who started at Botafogo, got contracts through friendships with other players, or simply selling snake oil to club officials – and then using tricks to avoid being discovered.

When he signed with Bangu in the 1980s, he had a fight with fans and was sent off when he was warming up to take the field. He alleged that he heard trash talk about Castor de Andrade, then-president of the club. Instead of being punished, he ended up winning a contract extension for apparently proving his loyalty.

The interest in the unusual trajectory united Myles and a group of producers from the UK. None of them had come to Brazil before preparations for the 2014 World Cup. It was a time when the economic boom and international attention seemed to lead to renewed customs that, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, had created a romantic image of the country, although not always positive.

“When I talked to Tim Vickery (BBC correspondent in Brazil), he told me it was the best story he had ever heard from Brazil, not just in sports. There are other cases of players who have cheated clubs for some time, but with Kaiser they lasted 26 years”, notes Myles. “For a gringo, it’s harder to understand that sort of thing. People in Brazil are very receptive and friendly, except when someone from the outside begins to ask lots of questions about cheating. Kaiser himself asked not to be called ‘171’ (a trickster).

JEITINHO CARIOCA

Today, at 54 years old and far from football, Kaiser was interviewed for the documentary, whose filming began in 2015. The director himself admits that he couldn’t trust everything he heard. The former player, however, became more than mere character to Myles and his team, with whom he developed a relationship of complicity. Not surprising: it was Kaiser’s good relationship with then-football stars like Bebeto and Renato Gaucho, which opened a few doors for him.

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Kaiser in the famous photo next to Renato Gaucho, in the 90’s

“Almost everyone we spoke to showed a lot of affection for Kaiser. Everyone likes these romantic characters, full of personality. These are stories that could happen anywhere, provided there is a certain context. Kaiser is from a time when the great Brazilian players did not go to Europe, but played in Rio. The stadiums filled up more, there was a passionate atmosphere around football”, says Tom Markham, a football finance expert who, drawn by Kaiser’s story, became the documentary’s producer.

To get close to Kaiser, Myles learned to speak Portuguese and also adapted to the carioca way. The director stresses that the focus of his film is the player’s story – including, he guarantees, unprecedented details – but he estimates that it would be impossible to present it without understanding the Brazilian context.

Myles recalls that back when Kaiser played, with an unstable currency and political turmoil, the gulf between rich and poor was seen as more insurmountable than it seemed at the beginning of the present decade. After traveling to Brazil several times since the 2014 World Cup, he says a regression of expectations and “erosion of confidence” is visible.

“I don’t see it as a problem solely in Brazil, but here it is felt differently due to the expectation that had arisen,” Myles says. “Until the filming began, I had no idea that malandragem was something typical of Rio. Personally, I like the trickster’s celebration. In the UK, for example, there is a fascination with the anarchy of the punk movement. It’s as if people have to have something like that to deal with the difficult day-to-day. But there are consequences in doing so.

In addition to interviews, “The Kaiser” will feature some staged parts. Kaiser, for example, will be played by actor Eduardo Lara. The film is in the final stages of shooting, and due to be completed in early May. The forecast is to launch in September, with versions narrated in English and Portuguese.

“I had to dramatize some things because basically there is no footage of Kaiser,” says the director. “On the other hand, I think if I delivered a totally re-enacted movie, no one would believe the story. – Source (PT)


As I was translating the Brazilian version, an English article about the film came out.

The Hermit of Grumari

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The following is a story from 2014 about a hermit. If anyone has ever imagined what life would be like for someone living off the land, on the coast of Rio, here’s the answer. Crazy to think that I’ve been to this beach but didn’t know anyone lived there.

João Mello is the happy owner of a property with a privileged view. Whenever it gets dark, the 54-year-old man is able, from his backyard, to see the lights of the lampposts on Barra da Tijuca beach. João lives in a house he built built on a hillside on Praia do Perigoso, in Grumari. So close to the lights of Barra, he has lived there for 30 years without electricity. Altogether, in the city of Rio, 773 houses have no electricity, according to the 2010 Census.

Life in the dark was, at the same time, an option and a necessity for João, known by visitors to the beach by the nickname Silêncio. Born in São João de Meriti, he spent his youth in the Baixada Fluminense. But he grew tired of the hallucinated life of the big city and found his refuge in the middle of the West Zone, a region of the city with the most houses without electricity, 473 in all.

“Whenever someone comes here and invites me to go to their house, the first thing I ask is whether there’s a backyard. I cannot stay very long inside closed walls. Here, I am repairing what nature spoils,” Silence says.

Praia do Perigoso can only be accessed via the Ilha de Guaratiba by boat or by a one-hour hiking trail. Silence got to know the place after going for a walk and ended up staying. Throughout the 30 years without electricity, he adapted in a singular way to the disconnected life. A carpenter by training, he built his own lamps with PET bottles, to protect the flame from the wind. His food is based on smoked meats preserved in salt and non-perishable foods.

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Curiously, Silêncio has two cell phones that he charges inside a bar on the Ilha de Guaratiba. He switches between the two devices: while one charges, he takes the other.

“My family doesn’t see me anymore, I have to talk to them somehow. I tried to live the same way you all do, but I couldn’t. When I look at the lights (in Barra), I see that it’s the distance that keeps me sane,” says Silêncio, in the midst of the darkness, with an ear glued to the battery-powered radio, which transmits, at a very low volume, “Hora do Brasil”.

Every month, 5,600 new electrical connections

Every month, Light, the utlity company that serves the city of Rio and 30 other cities in the state, makes an average of 5,600 new electric connections. At the request of newspaper Extra, the company calculated how many new connections it has installed in the last two years: in total there are 108,216 new connections, the great majority due to natural expansion of the neighborhoods.

In the state, Light and Ampla together are responsible for bringing electricity to 98% of the cities. Light serves 34% of the cities, while Ampla provides the service in 63%. In Friburgo, Energisa is the company responsible for electricity.

Light has reached, between 2005 and 2007, 100% of its goals for the federal government’s Luz para Todos program. The goal of the program is to set targets to bring electricity to all parts of the country. The company claims that it meets any new demand “within the established deadlines.”

Ampla states that “it has already connected 18,538 customers to the electricity system through the Luz para Todos program since 2004”. According to the company, “in this period, R$143 million has already been invested by the company in the construction and interconnection of the electricity grid in rural communities in the country.”

In the city of Rio, a situation that distorts the number of people with access to the electricity grid is the number of clandestine connections there are – known as gatos de luz. According to Light, in their concession area, gatos are equivalent to “the supply of electricity for the entire state of Espírito Santo for a year.” The company further states that “if all clandestine connections were eliminated, the customers’ bills would go down by 17%.” – Source (PT)

I feel like Silêncio should meet Domingos Fereira, the caveman from Minas

 

I am the Samba

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A Voz do Morro (aka Eu Sou o Samba) is the song that made Zé Keti’s samba career take off, in part due to Nelson Pereira dos Santos 1955 film Rio, 40 Graus on which it was featured.

I’m the samba
The voice of the hill, yes it’s me, lord
I want to show the world I have value
I’m the king of these lands
I’m the samba
I’m from right here in Rio de Janeiro
I’m the one that brings happiness
to millions of Brazilian hearts
Long live samba, we want samba
The people of the country are asking
Long live samba, we want samba
This melody of a happy Brazil

If you’d like to see Zé performing some of his other songs, he did so for Programa Ensaio in 1991.

After he passed away in 1999, his friend Nelson Pereira dos Santos, made a short documentary (below) in his honor, gathering some samba greats for a round of music.

In a jam session, in the late composer’s house in Inhaúma, a group of friends get together to play his music while a feijoada is being cooked in the kitchen. The samba-players, first-rate samba stars themselves, remember Ketti’s great hits in a homage to the man who was best known as “a voz do morro”. Among the guests, names of the traditional samba-school Portela and ex-partners. Also, the presence of a black hat on an empty chair, represents the composer himself after a life of many accomplishments in music, and appearance in three of Dos Santos’s films: “Rio, 40 Graus”, “Rio Zona Norte” and “Boca de Ouro”.

A look into Rio’s mayorial campaign

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I just finished 2013’s Rio, Ano Zero, a documentary that follows Rio politician Marcelo Freixo on the 2012 campaign trail to become mayor of Rio. By looking at my films list, you can tell that I’m a fan of documentaries, as it’s always interesting to see a slice of life of different kinds of people. Even more so because I was living in Rio at the time, but paid zero attention to the campaign, on the grounds that one cannot be of the people and above the people at the same time (but that’s a discussion for another time).

While the film shows a positive image of Freixo, it doesn’t leave out small encounters and instances that inevitably throw a little light on what it means to be yet another campaigning politician in Rio de Janeiro. As readers might know, Freixo ran again in late 2016 but lost to Crivella.

To read a little bit more about the film (which the director has made available for free), click on it below and see the description. If you’re interested in this type of documentary, also check out 2005’s Portuguese language-only Vocação do Poder (coincidentally, I was living in Rio then as well).

Bezerra da Silva at 90

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The late, great samba musician Bezerra da Silva, who was the straight-talking “voz do morro”, would have turned 90 years old today. Bezerra was pretty much ignored by mainstream media, despite finding success in the world of samba in the late 1970s and onward.

He mostly sang about social problems faced by favela residents, such as being exploited and oppressed by employers, roguery (malandragem) and outlaws, drug use and condemning the ratting out of friends (caguetagem). He once said, “these songs I sing are from composers that are stonemason assistants, street vendors, unemployed, car washers, and cooks.”

When he was younger, he was poor and alone, working as a wall painter in the construction business. Upon becoming unemployed, he ended up homeless, even attempting suicide before being saved by Umbanda where a priestess told him his destiny was in music. Later, he would say that if he hadn’t got out of the construction business, he surely would have turned into “a ladder, a brick, a bag of cement.” What he did turn into, in the end, was one of the most respected interpreters of samba music in Brazil.

If you want to get a good sense of who he was, read this interview (PT), see the short interview directly below, or watch the documentary Onde a Coruja Dorme (either the original 15 min version or the elaborated 50 min follow-up).

Darwin in Rio – 1832

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A 23-year old Charles Darwin, in his travels around the world aboard the Beagle, went to Brazil in 1832, and stayed in the state of Rio de Janeiro from April 4th to July 5th. The actual time he lived in the city itself is hard to track down, but from what I can tell, it was apparently from April 4th til the 8th, and from April 23rd or 25th til July 5th. The last link at the bottom has a section talking about how Darwin received a guided tour of the city by a friend.

His diary, on the day he arrived in the city of Rio, is as follows:

“The winds being very light we did not pass under the Sugar loaf till after dinner: our slow cruise was enlivened by the changing prospect of the mountains; sometimes enveloped by white clouds, sometimes brightened by the sun, the wild & stony peaks presented new scenes. — When within the harbour the light was not good, but like to a good picture this evenings view prepared the mind for the morrows enjoyment. — In most glorious style did the little Beagle enter the port & lower her sails alongside the Flag ship. We were hailed that from some trifling disturbances we must anchor in a particular spot. Whilst the Captain was away with the commanding officer, we tacked about the harbour & gained great credit from the manner in which the Beagle was manned & directed. — Then came the ecstacies of opening letters, largely exciting the best & pleasantest feelings of the mind; I wanted not the floating remembrance of ambition now gratified, I wanted not the real magnificence of the view to cause my heart to revel with intense joy; but united with these, few could imagine & still fewer forget the lasting & impressive effect.”


Around April 23rd or 25th, he went to live in Botafogo, for which he had the following to say:

“During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for anything more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country.

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, with much truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of the formation which Humboldt designates as gneiss granite. Nothing can be more striking than the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock rising out of the most luxuriant vegetation.”


Parting Thoughts

“It was impossible to wish for any thing more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country. In England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all.” – Charles Darwin

On the flip side, upon leaving, he vowed to never again visit a slave country due to the horrors he witness regarding poor treatment of slaves.


You can find all of his diary entries, by date, in the archives of this blog (here’s a detailed version in Portuguese, as well as a shorter mapped version). There’s also a nice post on Darwin’s time in inland and coastal Rio here.