5 de março de 2014

For Brazilian youths, carnival provides an escape from job, crime concerns

Victor Moriyama/Getty Images - Revelers participate in the traditional 28th Bloco da Lama (Mud block) carnival in on March 1, 2014, in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. The event, which was begun by two men in a playful manner in 1986, has now become a traditional carnival in which participants disguised as primitives with rags, lianas or skulls and bones, dive in the mud.
PARATY, Brazil — José de Moraes leapt into the air as if possessed by the frenzied rhythm his squad of drummers was beating out. As master of the battery of drummers of his carnival street party, or bloco, his job was to choreograph the furious samba beats that sent carnival revelers wild.
He leapt and danced like a rubber man in the midst of his squad of drummers, called Paraty do Amanhã, or Paraty of Tomorrow, on a narrow street in Paraty, a popular tourist town on the Rio de Janeiro coast that attracts more than a million visitors a year.
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“You have to do something good for your city, that you get recognized for,” Moraes, who is 34 and unemployed, said in an earlier interview. “Our recognition comes from carnival.”
This charming colonial town is one of Brazil’s postcard tourist destinations. It stages an international literary festival, the FLIP, and thousands also flock here for carnival. They come to see blocos like Paraty of Tomorrow, which had a cast of 80 as it moved through a crowd of thousands, many in fancy dress, in the early hours Tuesday.
Scenes like this were being repeated across Brazil. For Brazilians, carnival is a five-day national escape from the harsher realities of life. The year in Brazil only really begins once carnival is done.
But for the bloco’s drummers and musicians, the optimism for which Brazilians are famous was absent as they contemplated the year ahead, a year in which Brazil will stage a World Cup.
Drummer Jhaimerson Santana, 21, said he supports his national team but was against the “enormous costs” of building stadiums. He, Moraes, drummer Talita Jesus, 20, and singer Rodrigo Penha, 38, all said they expected protests during the World Cup, like those that sent a million people into Brazilian streets in June.
They said the city desperately lacks basic sanitation, decent education, jobs for its youths and reliable public health service.
“These make Paraty difficult,” Santana said.
It also has a murder rate that’s more than twice the national average. Paraty had a population of 37,500 in the 2010 census, the last available. The city saw 27 homicides in 2013, up from 23 in 2012 and 17 in 2011.
According to Prof. Julio Waiselfisz, coordinator of violence studies at the Latin-American Faculty for Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Rio de Janeiro, the 2013 total gives Paraty a murder rate of 68.6 per 100,000, more than twice the Brazilian average of 27 per 100,000 in recent years, Waiselfisz said.
In its frustrations and problems, Paraty is a microcosm of Brazil.
“It is too much. ... The fault is with those responsible for the city,” Santana said. Like Moraes, he lives in Mangueira, or Mango Tree, a poor neighborhood just a 10-minute walk from the historic center but which is one of the worst hit by violence, which both locals and authorities blame on the drug trade.
On Monday afternoon, Moraes pointed out a quiet street that divides Mango Tree from another poor district, Ilha das Cobras, or Island of the Snakes. “There is a fight over the [drug] traffic, from two factions,” he said earlier.
Island of the Snakes is controlled by the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command. Mango Tree is under the influence of the Terceiro Comando, or Third Command. Both are affiliated to the Rio gangs of the same name, locals said.
Both Moraes and Santana know people who have died in the violence, and they scoff at assurances from authorities that the situation has been resolved.
“This ‘security improvement’ does not exist,” Moraes said. Many of the gangsters are just teenagers, he added. “It is 14. It is 15,” he said. “It’s absurd.”
The administration of Paraty Mayor Carlos Miranda, known as Casé, has just signed a $36 million public-private partnership to provide Paraty’s first public sanitation project. The city either relies on septic treatment for sewage, or pumps it straight into rivers and from there into the sea.
The mayor, who entered office in January 2013, said that when the rudimentary septic systems fail, sewage flows into the street. “When you enter the historic center, you see sometimes that the road is wet,” he said. “It’s the sewage.”
He said the city had gone through a violent period which was now being resolved. “In the last ten, eight months, we had a very big reversion,” he said.
Homicide numbers have fallen slightly in recent months – there were none in November, two in December.
Marcos da Silva, head of Paraty’s civil police, who took office in December 2012, said the police have succeeded in stemming the crime wave. “It is a response to the police work,” he said.
But he said he needs 40 investigating officers, rather than the 18 he has, and that the city needs better education for its youths.
Both the mayor and the musicians from Paraty of Tomorrow agreed that basic sanitation is a good place to start resolving the city’s problems.
But Penha, the bloco’s singer, outlined another problem that Paraty, like many Brazilian cities, faces: a complete lack of faith in its political leaders.
Penha, who works in the municipal chamber in nearby Angra dos Reis, has stood unsuccessfully for public office, an experience that he said has put him off politics for life.
“People think everyone involved with politics is corrupt,” he said. “So when we get involved in politics, people start to imagine it is us as well, they think that good people can’t get involved in politics.”
José de Moraes and his bloco paraded wearing shirts for their favorite Rio soccer teams and sweated over their instruments. Soccer and samba are inseparably linked, he said, and a 90-minute game offered an escape from the problems of life, much like carnival.
It was this, Moraes suggested, that was behind the decision to stage the World Cup in Brazil.
“It’s a political thing,” he said. “’Let’s give them a cup, for them to have a happiness in life.”

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