Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Get to Know a Brazilian – Clarice Lispector

The great Carisse Lispector

Americas South and North

This week, Get to Know a Brazilian takes a look at Clarice Lispector, a unique voice in  Brazilian literature with an ineffable style.

Clarice Lispector, was born Chaia Pinkhasnova Lispector to a Jewish family in the Ukraine. Facing Antisemitic persecution during the Russian Civil War, her family relocated to Brazil, where relatives of her mother lived, when Lispector was just an infant. Upon arriving in Brazil, the entire family changed their names to sound more Brazilian, and so “Chaia” became “Clarice.” The family settled in the Brazilian northeast, where Lispector’s mother died when Clarice was just short of 10 years old. In an attempt to find better job opportunities, her father relocated the family to Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of Brazil. There, Lispector’s abilities became apparent, and she entered the prestigious National Law School (although the Law School itself was founded in the 1880s, it had recently become…

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Images from Sao Paulo

Cool images from Sao Paulo

yestheydont

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The conflict of the century

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Whoever thought that the conflicts of the Nazis against the allies ended with the second world war may be wrong. The conflict of conservatism against freedom is still out there. As this site relates to Latinos I will talk about the face under which it appeared in Brazil, in form of  the conflict between caretas (squares) and doidoes (crazies) that was ever-present in the 60’s 70’s and part of the 80’s.

After the dictatorship got rid of the left wing revolutionaries (many of whom were caretas ) the families, the military and other reactionary forces moved their attention to the menace that long-haired rockers, surfers and weed smokers in general presented. It remains a mystery why the powers found these libertarian minds dangerous, but they did.

The Brazilian middle class bought into the American mainstream fury against the libertarian forces of the sixties. The divide was clear, or you were in favor of changing the world, wore hippy clothes and had long hair or you wanted to save the world from those agents of change. The doidoes were in the minority, but their intensity was irresistible and their presence was overwhelming to a mainstream that had the entire military and police apparatus on their side.

It is easy to minimize and make jokes about this conflict, but if one looks beyond the surface it has had an immense effect on the world as that generation reached maturity. The first one was the growth of religious fundamentalism; in order to undermine this hunger for change and the growth of communism (which in its essence is simply the notion of a society based on collaboration rather than on profit) the powerful introduced religion as an effective diversion. The place where this was most felt was in the Muslim worlds here the US and its careta allies invested heavily in zealots, such as Osama Bin Laden. The disaster in Afghanistan and in other countries with a Muslim majority is there for anyone to see. But it was not only there that this offensive took place, in Brazil and in the rest of Latin America all sorts of evangelical churches appeared and became the acceptable face of the will to change and of hope in for a better future. They became an important political force which the internal and external powers rely on.

The other area of combat against the doidoes was the war on drugs. The hard fist on drugs strengthened the criminal element, and the innocent cannabis was substituted by the lucrative cocaine and heroin. What was once something designed to be a chill out and a way to have a few moments without the weight of “the system” on one’s back became demonized and resulted in a costly multinational war. If diverted to more rational uses, the amount of money spent on this global paranoia against the “long haired” would have helped mend the economic, cultural and social cracks happening everywhere in our times, it would also have helped the world become a more intelligent and less hypocritical place with much weaker criminal organizations.

The doidoes counter attacked with the internet, a free vehicle to spread information, and to bring people together. The founders of the internet envisaged it as an instrument to bring democracy to knowledge as well as a way for people to escape the control of the state. Although the caretas are trying to undermine its freedom, this has been a highly successful revolution and has been one of the few  positive developments in the past decades.

Although no one knows how the future will be, if we take Brazil – a country known for absorbing anything you throw at it, where people of all races, cultures, faiths and ideologies are building something new – as a paradigm for what will happen at the end of the tunnel some conclusions may be taken. There, the conflict betweencaretas and our doidoes is still alive but got less important after the country was forced to brace together to tackle an economic crisis that lasted fifteen years and that makes the current one in the “First World” look like a walk in the park.

In those dark days each side learned from each other and now that the country found prosperity people from all classes have become more confident, more creative, more aware of their situation and more practical. It is not that the country can put itself in a place to teach other nations on how to deal with their contradictions, Brazil still has many problems with corruption and social inequality. However its experience shows that the friction of opposites makes things move forward and dealing with them in a rational way, using them equally and with an open mind is the way forward.

Cool pictures of a day in Ipanema

Brasil! Pra mim . . .

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Capoeira history.

In a similar fashion to the Japanese and Chinese martial arts Capoeira is a self defense system that requires self-discipline a lot of training and has a hierarchy that goes from masters and legends to the hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. But in our opinion it goes a bit beyond that and there is a cultural, historical and indeed spiritual dimension that may pass unnoticed to the non-initiated.

What interests us here is the historical, and who knows spiritual aspects of this fight. Until recently the generally accepted history was the following: it came from Africa and was used and developed by the slaves in Bahia as a means of self-defense against the slave owners, once the afro population started getting its freedom and slavery was finally abolished it was used in the margins of the society in the state of Bahia and gradually reached its white population. In the sixties and seventies of the 20’th century it was taken to Rio and Sao Paulo and was adopted by the middle class as a more colorful and closer to home martial art and from there it spread throughout the world.

Recently a richer history starts to appear. It links Capoeira to Candomble (the afro Brazilian religion). The terreiros where  the sessions took place were a constant throughout Brazil and because of the secrecy around them little is known or documented. The fact is that they were the meeting point for slaves coming from different tribes, speaking different languages and with different customs. What happened in them fulfilled a socializing role as well as providing them a place to express spirituality and give sense to their lives.

It is part of many African religions and tribal rituals that young males affirm their propensity to be good warriors in front of their community to be accepted into adulthood and it is more than probable that this went on in the terreiros and that this is how and where Capoeira was born. The “roda” or the people around the fighters singing and clapping to the rhythm of the drum probably came before or together with the fight. This explains why there were so many “Capoeiras” setting up “Quilombos” (hidden and independent sites) throughout the country at the same time, and not only in the state of Bahia.

In the context of a community coming from different ethnicities, speaking different languages and under an extreme duress the “roda” came as a unifier that give them vivacity, respect, a social life and pride which in many ways spread out to the wider Brazilian community and it way of being. In this Capoeira and Samba have a similar origin.

The history of Capoeira as a modern martial art is the subject for another discussion.

Brazil as a paradise.

It is common knowledge that the Portuguese already knew about Brazil long before its discovery. Who commanded the venture was the Academia de Sagres, Portugal’s maritime agency, the NASA of its time, who was obliged to make the discovery official as they could not hold the secret any longer.

Any way this is not what this article is about, its aim is to look into what went on in the head of the first europeans who arrived there and how this would impact in the new country. Manuel I, the King, his court as well as his predecessors had an extraodinary open mind and a huge curiosity about the world. Because of their contact with the Arabs they were the first europeans to acknowledge that the world was round, something that was considered a sin by the catholic church and wanted to discover what lay beyond the horizon.

On the other hand there were legends circulating, not only in their kingdom but throughout Europe, of a far away promised land, a paradise on earth: Bra Zil. A Scottish friend told me that Bra Zil figured in celtic mythology long before the church decreted that Earth was a plain at the center of the Universe.

To put these two trends together the Portuguese leaders had a vision of something close to a third revelation. It is not that they broke away from the Vatican but they were on the verge of doing so by saying that the discovery of Brazil was something close to finding paradise on earth.

The feeling on the street was something close to that, and the description of a land generous in vegetation, in beauty and in weather with inocent inhabitants living naked in harmony with nature did not contradict the popular imagination. It seemed to be inviting the world to go there and be happy on its beaches.

This vision of Brazil has not died entirely, at least ouside Brazil, and we hope that one day it will become the country’s mission.

Get to Know a Brazilian – Abdias do Nascimento

Great article on the remarkable Abdias do Nascimento.

 

 

Americas South and North

This week’s entry in the Get to Know a Brazilian series focuses on Abdias do Nascimento (1914-2011), a politician, poet, and activist who became one of the leading intellectuals and spokespersons for Afro-Brazilians in the twentieth century. Nascimento’s own activism, writings, and words provide a marked contrast to the rosier picture of race in Brazil that Gilberto Freyre offered.

Originally born in 1914 to parents of humble means and ex-slave grandparents, Abdias do Nascimento grew up in the coffee-producing interior of the state of São Paulo. In his own recollections, Nascimento’s childhood played an important part in his eventual activism, as he recalled Italian immigrant workers as well as middle- and upper-class Brazilians using racial epithets towards him as a child. In his teenage years, he joined the Frente Negra Brasileira, Brazil’s first black political party, which existed from 1931 until 1937, when Getúlio Vargas abolished all political parties and ushered…

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A bit exaggerated but not entirely untrue article about the state of some Favelas
in Rio

 

Parallel Worlds

[words and photograph © Mark Eveleigh]

Bandit country. Apache territory. The Red Zone. All too often the press is responsible for labelling places as ‘dangers zones’ with little reason. I was in Sudan within a few days of president al-Bashir rise to notoriety as an internationally recognized war criminal: according to international media Khartoum was in a state of rioting and anarchy. I was amazed to find myself in what I still say is the safest city I have ever been in. A similar situation on arrival in tranquil Bali just a month after the first bomb and in hospitable southern Algeria during bombing in Algiers. All hype aside, here are a few places that could genuinely have features on any list of the world’s most unpredictable hotspots.

Over the next few days we’ll bring you stories from ganglands. Be warned they might not be what you expect…

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The Pink House

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The house above was iconic for boys from my generation and from many generations before and after mine.

Inaugurated in the beginning of the last century it was the most famous brothel that Rio de Janeiro has ever had. It was situated on one of the streets that goes up the hills leading to Santa Tereza, rua Alice. This was a very good address when Rio was Brazil’s capital, and for a long time the Pink House was  the naughty place where the politicians and the wealthy who lived in the surrounding mansions the went to enjoy paid sex.

In my teens, in the seventies, it had already lost its exclusive aura but had become the most popular place for boys to be initiated in sex in town. Parents took their kids, or went alone, and mentioning rua Alice created a familiar buzz in any male conversation in Rio’s middle class. It was old school: the place had a dance floor downstairs and rooms for all sorts of budgets and tastes upstairs; the girls stayed around the dance floor sitting around tables waiting to be requested.

As time progressed, the pill arrived and relaxed the moral codes regarding girls having to marry as virgins and the Pink House became more and more obsolete.

It continued to function until the early 2000’s when it had become a place for nostalgic frequenters and for people who didn’t have money to pay for the more expensive and younger prostitutes on Avenida Atlantica, Copacabana’s sea promenade.

Currently it is a cultural center and a Samba club, yet it still sits on a special spot in memory lane for most carioca grown up boys.

The book about Brazil that was missing: Lost Samba

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Brazil – You know that the economy is doing well, that the next Olympics and the next World Cup will be there, you have heard about its Football, its Carnival and the crime scene. But is this enough to really know anything about the country? Wouldn’t you like to know how it is to live there? How it would have been growing up there?

Surely you would like visit the country in its most exciting times experiencing memorable football games in the Maracana, unforgettable carnivals, days on some of the worlds most famous beaches, revolutions, hyperinflation, the seventies and the eighties, drugs and crime, and travel with a guide who you understand, and who understands you, through Ipanema, Copacabana, Bahia, Favelas, Salvador, Arraial d’Ajuda, Trancoso, Sao Paulo, Canoa Quebrada, and so many other places.

Wouldn’t it be great if he also explained Brazil’s culture and its football, its mentality, its ecology and its politics as well as taught you about Samba, Brazilian Rock, Frevo, Lambada and the Trio Eletrico?

You will find all of this in Lost Samba: a book about true stories bathed by the bitter-sweet happiness of Rio de Janeiro’s golden youth in the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s. In its pages you will know about the roller coaster of events that took that generation from the “Economic Miracle” of the sixties to the worst economic crisis in recent history in the eighties, all seen through the eyes of the Brazilian son of a British expat and a Holocaust escapee.

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