“Eu sou porque nós somos” was Marielle Franco’s campaign slogan when she ran for office in 2016. The Brazilian congresswoman from Favela da Maré was elected with more than 40,000 votes for Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly. Black, lesbian, single-mother, she was a human rights activist, who constantly criticized and denounced police abuse and civil rights violations, particularly when it occurred in the most vulnerable areas of the city. Her political platform was based on the promise to give visibility to black and peripheral minorities of Rio de Janeiro.
On March 14, 2018, Marielle Franco was executed along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, while leaving a public event held at Casa das Pretas (Black Women’s House), a space created for hosting the voices of black women from the favelas. After a polemic investigation that lasted over a year, two former police officers were arrested accused of killing Franco, shedding light on Rio de Janeiro’s parallel state ruled by mílicias – paramilitary gangs led by Rio’s police force. Acting as an almost lateral power, the milícias operate wherever there is a vacuum or omission of the state. And for the last two decades, these groups have grown more powerful and their areas of influence have spread throughout the “marvelous city,” under the blind eye of Rio’s governors, of which five are or have been imprisoned sometime just in the past three years.
Despite the arrests, the question “Who killed Marielle Franco?” still haunts the streets of the city. It is unknown who ordered Marielle’s murder, as the two police officers accused of carrying out the action used to operate a “crime office,” responsible for executing commissioned killings.
Posted by Alejandra Rosenberg Navarro – Ph.D. Student of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at NYU
“‘Archival’ memory exists as documents, maps, literary texts, letters, archeological remains, bones, videos, films, CDs, all those items supposedly resistant to change…The repertoire, on the other hand, enacts embodied memory: performance, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing…The repertoire requires presence: people participate in the production and reproduction of knowledge by ‘being there,’ being a part of the transmission.”
(Diana Taylor, The Archive and The Repertoire, pages 19-20)
Tengo frío. Escribo con lápiz en hojas sueltas, el único material que permiten entrar a la sala de consulta. Un cuaderno es peligroso para el archivo, me explica la bibliotecaria. Cierto, aunque nunca había pensado en ello. Ella también tiene frío y viste un abrigo como los que usamos en Nueva York en enero. El aire acondicionado sigue fuerte en estos días de invierno brasileño. Me recuerdo que el frío no importa y me concentro en lo que he venido a ver: las fotografías de Alice Brill que se encuentran en el archivo fotográfico del Instituto Moreira Salles de Rio de Janeiro. Son maravillosas y muestran la obsesión por capturar los cambios urbanos de los años cuarenta y cincuenta ––junto con la aparición callejera de sujetos femeninos–– en tensión con otras instituciones modernas que catalogan y ordenan el sujeto, tal y como la institución psiquiátrica. De Alice Brill llego ––con la indispensable ayuda de la bibliotecaria–– al trabajo fotográfico de Hildegard Rosenthal. Me quedo sin palabras: si sus fotografías urbanas recuerdan a las de su coetánea, lo que más capta mi atención son los autorretratos que esta última hace de sí misma. En algunos, se representa siguiendo las marcas de una feminidad hollywoodiense, con el rostro parcialmente oculto por el velo que acompaña su tocado. En otras, se representa siguiendo una performance masculina, con un traje y mirando directamente a la cámara mientras fuma un cigarrillo. El archivo fotográfico del IMS conserva cuidadosamente los restos materiales del pasado, entre los cuales encuentro las piezas que faltaban a mi investigación.
Posted by Ricardo Duarte Filho – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU
Vi os montes, e eis que tremiam.
E todos os outeiros estremeciam.
Olhei para a terra e eis que estava vazia,
sem nada nada nada.
Carlos Drummond de Andrade – Triste Horizonte.
This summer I am conducting a research about extractivism and mining in Brazil. I was propelled by the dam that collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, at the beginning of this year – an accident that killed at least 248 people. In my original plan, I had proposed a clear split between the archival research, to be conducted in the first two weeks, and the fieldwork, in which I would go visit some cities that are historically linked to mining activities – including the cities that were affected by the dam collapse. Even though I am still following this plan , it has been an interesting experience noticing how these two parts of the research are continuously superimposing each other.
This minor – and almost cliché – realization is making me comprehend how the mining’s history – both to the Colonial golden rush as to the modern iron extractivism – is not only part of the documents that I had access through the archival research at the Biblioteca Nacional and Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa. This archive is also part of the day to day life of these cities affected by this activity, such as a long small talk between two strangers that I overheard on the bus trip from Goiás to Goiânia. The two men discussed the old gold mining and its relation to slavery and how both of them were certain that one could still find gold in the town’s river up to this day – neither of them had ever tried looking for it. This archive is also part of the own geology of these places, such as the rusted rocks alongside this river – Rio Vermelho (Red River), named for the reddish rust stains that indicate that these rocks contain iron minerals.
Posted by Fan Fan – PhD Student at the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, NYU
In the Royal Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro: the Palma Filia stands in place of the first royal palm (Palma Mater), planted by Dom João VI in 1809, after the latter palm was struck by lightning in 1972.
Brazilian journalist João do Rio published the crônica “Visões d’ópio” in Rio de Janeiro’s Gazeta de Notícias in 1905. The piece drew my attention not only because it is one of the few cultural texts I’ve seen from the belle époque period that provides a description of the Chinese in Brazil, but also for the unusual way that it approaches the topic. The crônica recounts the experiences of the journalist and a friend as they explore the alleyways of Rio’s Misericórdia neighborhood, where Chinese addicts languish away in provisional opium dens. True to his reputation as a writer of Rio’s margins, slums and other unsavory corners, however, the cronista focuses not on the Chinese themselves but on his fascination with opium and the drug’s associated images of the Orient and decay. Though the Chinese are the inhabitants of the Misericórdia slums, the consumers of opium, and the source of the abject, yellowed bodies on display in the crônica, the only hints João do Rio gives as to who they were and why they were in Rio are coded and sparse. He writes, “Os chineses são o resto da famosa imigração, vendem peixe na praia e vivem entre a rua da Misericórdia e a rua D. Manuel” (104) and “olham-nos com o susto covarde de coolies espancados” (106, original emphasis).
My reading of João do Rio’s crônica gave rise to several questions. Who were these Chinese, and how did they end up in Rio? What was the “famosa imigração” to which João do Rio referred? Why didn’t the journalist list other information about this immigration? Was it for stylistic reasons, or was it such common knowledge that it was assumed that his readers would readily understand his reference? Moreover, to what extent does his language reflect the trending expressions regarding Chinese laborers? Were the Chinese in the opium dens actual “coolies,” or was this word part of a popular linguistic currency?
Posted by Madeline Gilbert – PhD student in Linguistics at NYU
For two months this summer, I am doing linguistic research in Uruguay. I am splitting my time between Montevideo, the capital, and Rivera, a city that lies on the border between Uruguay and Brazil. The border between Uruguay and Brazil actually runs right through the middle of a city (along a main street), which is called Rivera on the Uruguayan side and Santana do Livramento on the Brazilian side. For all intents and purposes, it’s a single city that happens to have a border running through it.
My main linguistic interests lie in sociolinguistics and phonetics. The former deals with how language reflects and is used within a social structure: who says what, why, and how. The latter focuses on the sounds of human speech. My project here in Uruguay combines elements of both: how does the contact between Spanish and Portuguese on the border between Uruguay and Brazil affect the phonetics Spanish spoken? I’m collecting interviews of casual speech in Montevideo and in Rivera to be able to compare speakers from both regions.
On Thursday, March 22nd CLACS will be hosting two events that will bring a spotlight on Brazil. First at 12:30pm, Professor Marcos Cueto (Casa de Oswaldo Cruz and Visiting Scholar at the the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University) will be presenting a lecture titled “Brazil, Aids, and Global Health, 1996-2008.” In 1996, Brazil was the first country in the world to provide full and free access to antiretrovirals as part of a broad prevention and treatment health program. This decision was challenged by powerful pharmaceutical companies. Cueto’s presentation will discuss the meanings and vicissitudes of universal access to antiretrovirals in global health at the turn of the 21st century and will be followed by a Q&A session with the scholar.
The same evening at 6pm, we will be hosting Um Filme de Dança, a film directed and produced by Carmen Luz. The film is a pioneering documentary on the history of Brazilian dance. Filmed in four major Brazilian cities and in New York, this documentary shows the personal histories, philosophies and work of some of the most active black creators of dance in Brazil. It celebrates the perseverance of black dancers and choreographers of different generations and the black body’s dominion over its own dance. Organized by NYU Cinema Studies PhD candidate Léonardo Cortana, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the Brazilian filmmaker Carmen Luz, Columbia Ethnomusicology PhD candidate Maria Fantinato, and performer Autumn Knight. This event is co-sponsored with the NYU Institute of African American Affairs, NYU Leadership Initiative and NYU Cinema Studies.
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.