Posted by Michelle Hurtubise, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Experimental Humanities. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant.
When I said I wanted to go to a protest against Michel Temer this summer a mentor gently said, well just stay on the fringe. Or in other words, this is Latin America young white one, you have no idea what you’re getting into. I cared, I wanted to witness, what did it mean to protest in Rio de Janeiro? There had been many a protest in New York in my recent past and I was curious. Let’s just say that while I may be skittish, good thing I’m not a cat.
I was surprised by a few things June 30, 2017. One, what a great idea to sell drinks and snacks at a protest! Everyone gets hungry and needs a beer once in a while. Two, seasoned journalists knew how to wear their riot gear as well as the police, only the press were the ones wearing blue helmets. Three, you are never too old for more stickers. Four, fireworks thrown at police is a very effective scattering method. Five, do not be an undercover policeman discovered in a protest, ever. Six, tear gas does in fact make you cry. But it wears off pretty quick. Seven, trash cans are usually removed from the path of the protest so as to decrease the amount of readily available material to set on fire. Eight, the sound of glass being shattered repeatedly can be oddly soothing in contrast to things exploding. Nine, I am definitely afraid and way out of my small sphere of limited existence. Scaredy cat, check! Ten, I have never had something at stake in the same way these courageous Brazilians have.
After time and friends helped us find our way out of the dispersing crowds, we stumbled upon a capoeira group just blocks from where the fires started. As the music and rhythms genuinely soothed and worked themselves into my breathing, I was reminded of the origins of capoeira. Early slaves in Brazil created a practice of survival and strength that continues to bring people together today. Their form of resistance has spread all over the world and is often viewed with awe. People have been fighting, resisting, and rebelling in many different ways and against so much for far too long. So much is at stake. Here I was, surprised again, witnessing something unexpected. Here there existed a different kind of rebellion, and it went on long into the night.