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February 09, 2009

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Marcos

Hi (:

You know that you can write Jô a letter about your blog and your story, and he might invite you to appear on the show.
Just a heads in. You should do it!

Lucas C. Silva

Hi girl.
I'm Brazilian and liked a lot your text.
Unfortunately there is much prejudice against lower classes here. Some say that "Brazilian racism" considers how much money you have instead the color of your skin.
But something interesting in Rio is how poor an rich people leave near. For example, São Conrado, one of most rich neighboorhoods in Rio is beside Rocinha, one of largest favelas in Latin America.
I don't know if you speak portuguese. If you speak, or at least understand it, pass by my blog.
I've linked your there.

Dennis

What you're saying sounds a lot like the wealthy in the U.S., too, maybe with some regional differences. The wealthy here are definitely an entitled lot, and from an early age children of affluent families are very comfortable asking for exactly what they want. They also play by different rules (see Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner and the beneficiaries of TARP - banks nearly unaccountable for the billions they receive).

Luiz Felipe

I agree with Dennis, Rachel. Although Brazil certainly has a more pronounced problem with the rule of law applying differently to rich people, any elite, anywhere, buy and behave in a way to distinguish themselves from the rest and mingle mostly among themselves.

Btw, I've started an english language blog with restaurant reviews in rio. Check it out some time. http://eatinginrio.blogspot.com/

Levi Lacerda

Hi... Nice blog!
I'm brazilian and just wanna say that there is poverty and elitism everywhere in the world.. specially in new york.. we've seen a lot of cases recently about corruption and frauds happening in NY. I'm sure that what amazes you is that rich and poor here are so mixed together even though nobody seems to notice each other. I don't wanna compare the rates of poverty and etc of Brazil with US or anything like that. I guess what i'm trying to say is that we have the same problems, just here we have them in a deeper level.
Of course i have my opinions not only by reading a lot about world news but i've been in the US a lot of times.. lived there, worked there... and i've been in NY a few times too.
But anyways.. great blog.. keeping showing everyone the nice things about Brazil and also the not so nice! =D
Congratulations and pardon any mistakes with the language.

Germano

Rachel,
I am your faithful reader for about one year now. I am Brazilian, studying in the US. Albeit I would agree with most of your analysis, you generalize way too much. Brazil has 8.511.000 sq km, about 190 million inhabitants, immense cultural AND SOCIAL diversity. The kind of elitism you described is prevalent for Rio, the Northwest and Sao Paulo, old colonial elites and mentality. It's not true for most of the South, the interior of SP state (with exceptions), for the Middle west... I am not denying elitism, which is a common trait in all societies, just point out your apparently irreversible capacity for generalizations.

Guilherme

I COMPLETELY AGREE with you on this post.

"My personal impression is that much of the elite harbors several mentalities, though I don't think they're necessarily conscious. The first is that they are better than everyone else and therefore what they think and do counts more than what a poor person thinks or does. Money doesn't just buy things; it buys power and control that are often subtler than one may expect. They may live in the same city as poor, or even on the same block, but they may as well be on a different planet."

Couldn't have said it better.

Guilherme

Just replying to Germano's comment: this is actually a very similar behaviour to what you described on your post. They treat the south and SP as a different country, a completely different universe, as if the problems in other states were not problems of their nation.

There is a lot of prejudice against northeasterns in the south states and there is segregation.

If you think about it closed communities like condos in Barra da Tijuca and Alphaville in SP are a way of keeping the poverty outside the walls. And this is becoming more and more common in ALL states.

André

I see your point but I somehow disagree.

It's true that in Brazil the difference among classes is much bigger and serious than in developed countries. It's also true the poor and the rich sometimes live in the same block. São Conrado, as someone already mentioned, is the perfect example: in one side of the road, the biggest slum in Latin-America. In the other, some of the most luxurious apartments in Rio, a high-scale mall (Fashion Mall), a five star hotel (Sheraton). The upper class and the lower class is literally five minutes away from each other but they both ignore each other.


That said, this type of elitism happens ANYWHERE in the world. Rich people in New York go to Waverly Inn, The Hamptons, Butters, Tenjune, have drivers, etc. In Rio, rich people go to Sushi Leblon, Angra dos Reis, Zero Zero, Baronetti etc. Of course it's more shocking around here, but still. Palm Beach is an extremely ostentatious city, in California (Los Angeles specifically) and Miami the social differences can be easily seen, etc.

I agree with what you said but this view on Brazil's elite can apply to the elite of anywhere else in the world.

Flavia

Hello,

I liked your post because you are right. I'm brazilian and my husband is English, he works with computers, but his father was a carpenter, it's weird, but if my husband's family was brazilian, we would probably never have met. I'm not rich, far from it, but it's just where people from different classes hang out,what they do, their interests, etc, etc. In saying that, I live in London and here, class segregation is even worse, because you just know there are places you will never visit, people you will never hang out with, etc, etc. I guess it's different types of segregation, but they are everywhere.

Pedro Cambier

Nice post !! I pretty much agree with you about all the things said, it`s sad to see such social contrasts over here. I live this every day, I`m currently studying for my Masters and I work as a researcher in a beautiful building that has an incredible view, a pool and top of the class technological equipment... this only a few meters away from Rocinha, it`s not uncommon to hear gunshots every now and then.
However it`s curious to see a lot of situations where the social barriers are crossed, where rich and poor are united mostly by music or soccer. Examples: the many social events that occur throughout the city that are open to public and free of charge, especially at carnaval, where rich and poor drink and dance together. The samba school rehearsels where the zona-sul people go samba with the locals in the school`s quadras or the funk parties you mentionned about. At most workplaces, after every important soccer game, emerges a huge groupal discussion involving from the big bosses to the toilet cleaners.
This is one more example of this incredible ambiguity that reigns over Brazil and especially Rio!

Rafael

Rio has a funny geography.

In time, our beloved city grew faster across the land closer to the sea, leaving behind the hills. Much like a hand findin its place in a glove, the city was shaped by the mountains and hills in the landcape.

These hills (which, in civilized countries, are usually more expensive and strategic places - like the old greek acropolis) became populated with poor people, free slaves and Retirantes. Thats the origin of our favelas. Guess why the police has such a hard time operating there...

So, we did create barriers to separate the upper and lower classes, but those classes have an dependancy relationship. Usually, the upper class finds part of their work force in the surrounding lower class areas, employing them to do "lower jobs" to serve them.

This phenomena happens pretty much every time an upper class area is being built. A lower class ara arises in their vicinity, providin the workforce necessary to its sustenance. Rocinha and São Conrado, Leblon and Vidigal, Copacabana and Cantagalo, and so on.

By the way, Rachel, do you know the story of Brasilia and its sattelite cities? Its pretty much the same phenomena.

P.S.: Great post btw =D

Eduardo Sant'Anna

I agree with the main idea of your post. But I have to agree with those who say that elitism is everywhere in the world.

However, Rio is indeed a special place. The social gap between neighbours - separated by a few hundred yards between a middle class condo and a favela - is huge. Others have mentioned here that these social differences are everywhere in the world, mentioning NYC, LA, London... TRUE !

But one thing is different: you've mentioned "able to show off their Jaguars and Mercedes". In all these other cities our colleagues here mentioned, you will find Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches nearly everywhere, and in the same traffic jam as other simpler or older cars.

That's because there are indeed different social classes, but they live together in the same community... In a much more peaceful way if compared to Rio. And it's simply because the gap is narrower and most people live fairly well as middle class (neither REALLY poor nor REALLY rich).

One figure sums up everything: in Rio, it seems that around 40% of the city population lives in favelas. And that should definitelly go into my "really poor" category...

Diogo Biazus

Gringa, you should watch the old Brazilian TV Show called TV Pirata. It's a very funny and critical look on brazilian traits from the 80s. This post reminded me of some TV Pirata sketches.

You can check a few of them on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZEeZSgt6nc

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TV_Pirata

Felippe

"Glass Walls: Social Stratification in Brazil"... Like that's any different than anywhere else in the world... That's a typical impression every "gringo yuppie-converted hippie" (and I know lots of them) has on developing countries.

Ants do the same. Herds, flocks, packs... alike are gathered, diverse are apart. Thing is though, we're no chimps.

Anyway, don't blame me or anyone else who posted their comments for getting defensive, because it's exactly what you should expect from your post.

Nice blog.

ana

Sounds just like Orange County...

ajoy

This is the way of the world unfortunately. Not just Brazil. Maybe it's more pronounced there, because the rich and poor live in close proximity (however, rich and poor live in close proximity in New Orleans, LA as well). I think the rich are granted many privileges that the majority are not grated in most countries. Money = Power in this world... money talks... loudly!

The rich are also allowed into certain institutions because of family money . Bush only got into Yale because his rich father went there. John McCain got into the Naval Academy (or where ever he went) because of his dad and grandfather. Caroline Kennedy was considered to replace Hilary Clinton in the Senate because she's a Kennedy, she's never worked anyplace and admitted that she didn't even vote!

The Kennedy's are the Best American example of this and their family money came from bootlegging! They have had quite a few family members get in trouble with the law where people turned up dead even, but they usually get off. Except for the cousin who was finally prosecuted for the murder of a teen girl he grew up with, I think he may have been convicted. But Ted Kennedy had a bout with trouble and let's not forget the William Kennedy Smith rape case.

It's a shame, but many people seem to worship the rich. I have seen many people go out of their way to impress someone because they are rich. When the rich come into a store or restaurant, people scurry around like God has entered the room and they immediately star kissing a--.

Also, consider this, would we pay attention to famous athletes and entertainers if they didn't make a lot of money? Would we follow religious leaders if they didn't have money (i.e. Rick Warren, TD Jakes,... mainly in the US or even the Catholic Church)?

Ray Adkins

Many of the comments are certainly valid but too obvious, if I understood Rachel correctly her observation is related to something much more subtle than the Wealthy separating themselves from the poor, and Brazil having or not too many poor people and other countries not.
Yes, we do have poverty in the US, and we have a lot, but we hide our dirt under the rug much better than Brazil, just look at what happened during Katrina in New Orleans.
You will have to drive outside of Manhattan and around the New York metro and into Bridgeport, CT for example to see real poverty, high crime, drugs etc...
There is no doubt that in Rio de Janeiro and the Northeast of Brazil the "BEHAVIOR" of the upper classes is peculiarly different, mainly because they are an absolute minority, they are the true "ELITE", the "Coroneis" in the Northeast and the "Lins e Silva types" in Rio, they do behave like they are ABOVE the law.
Just look at the "Lins e Silva family" using their influences and money to turn the courts in their favor, defying federal judges because they know the local "RIO JUSTICE SYSTEM TRIBE" will certainly protect them from getting in trouble.
The wealthy in Rio have a very peculiar behavior, that is exactly what Bruna Goldman couldn't find in New Jersey and one of the things she missed the most about Brazil and couldn't live without.
She had a wonderful life in suburban New York city area, but that wasn't enough, she craved the lavish life with servants, friends and influence which ultimately gave her the great feeling brought by the status she enjoyed in Rio's high society, she couldn't get that here, in US society, no matter how rich you are, you are just another one, you are not as special as let's say, the "Lins e Silva" might feel in Rio.
In places like Sao Paulo and the south of Brazil where the middle class is the majority, these "elitist behavior" is very well diluted and rarely ever noticed, they are just another family, among many alike.
When I made comments of the Goldman's case with lawyers and judges from Sao Paulo I heard them all saying the same thing, "THEY WOULD NEVER GET AWAY WITH THAT HERE", Rio is like a small tribe where the rich all know each other and protect each other and even international law has a hard time to be enforced, things like this are commonly seen in their Judicial system.

Ray Adkins


Ray Adkins

Many of the comments are certainly valid but too obvious, if I understood Rachel correctly her observation is related to something much more subtle than the Wealthy separating themselves from the poor, and Brazil having or not too many poor people and other countries not.
Yes, we do have poverty in the US, and we have a lot, but we hide our dirt under the rug much better than Brazil, just look at what happened during Katrina in New Orleans.
You will have to drive outside of Manhattan and around the New York metro and into Bridgeport, CT for example to see real poverty, high crime, drugs etc...
There is no doubt that in Rio de Janeiro and the Northeast of Brazil the "BEHAVIOR" of the upper classes is peculiarly different, mainly because they are an absolute minority, they are the true "ELITE", the "Coroneis" in the Northeast and the "Lins e Silva types" in Rio, they do behave like they are ABOVE the law.
Just look at the "Lins e Silva family" using their influences and money to turn the courts in their favor, defying federal judges because they know the local "RIO JUSTICE SYSTEM TRIBE" will certainly protect them from getting in trouble.
The wealthy in Rio have a very peculiar behavior, that is exactly what Bruna Goldman couldn't find in New Jersey and one of the things she missed the most about Brazil and couldn't live without.
She had a wonderful life in suburban New York city area, but that wasn't enough, she craved the lavish life with servants, friends and influence which ultimately gave her the great feeling brought by the status she enjoyed in Rio's high society, she couldn't get that here, in US society, no matter how rich you are, you are just another one, you are not as special as let's say, the "Lins e Silva" might feel in Rio.
In places like Sao Paulo and the south of Brazil where the middle class is the majority, these "elitist behavior" is very well diluted and rarely ever noticed, they are just another family, among many alike.
When I made comments of the Goldman's case with lawyers and judges from Sao Paulo I heard them all saying the same thing, "THEY WOULD NEVER GET AWAY WITH THAT HERE", Rio is like a small tribe where the rich all know each other and protect each other and even international law has a hard time to be enforced, things like this are commonly seen in their Judicial system.

Ray Adkins


Ray Adkins

Great Post!

Many of the comments are certainly valid however too obvious!
If I understood Rachel correctly her observation is related to something much more subtle than the Wealthy separating themselves from the poor, and Brazil having or not too many poor people and other countries not.

Yes, we do have poverty in the US, and we have a lot, but we hide our dirt under the rug much better than Brazil, just look at what happened during Katrina in New Orleans.

You will have to drive outside of Manhattan and around the New York metro and into Bridgeport, CT for example to see real poverty, high crime, drugs etc...

There is no doubt that in Rio de Janeiro and the Northeast of Brazil the "BEHAVIOR" of the upper classes is peculiarly different, mainly because they are an absolute minority, they are the true "ELITE", the "Coroneis" in the Northeast and the "Lins e Silva types" in Rio, they do behave like they are ABOVE the law.

Just look at the "Lins e Silva family" using their influences and money to turn the courts in their favor, defying federal judges because they know the local "RIO JUSTICE SYSTEM TRIBE" will certainly protect them from getting in trouble.

The wealthy in Rio have a very peculiar behavior, that is exactly what Bruna Goldman couldn't find in New Jersey and one of the things she missed the most about Brazil and couldn't live without.

She had a wonderful life in suburban New York city area, but that wasn't enough, she craved the lavish life with servants, friends and influence which ultimately gave her the great feeling brought by the status she enjoyed in Rio's high society, she couldn't get that here, in US society, no matter how rich you are, you are just another one, you are not as special as let's say, the "Lins e Silva" might feel in Rio.

In places like Sao Paulo and the south of Brazil where the middle class is the majority, these "elitist behavior" is very well diluted and rarely ever noticed, they are just another family, among many alike.

When I made comments of the Goldman's case with lawyers and judges from Sao Paulo I heard them all saying the same thing, "THEY WOULD NEVER GET AWAY WITH THAT HERE", Rio is like a small tribe where the rich all know each other and protect each other and even international law has a hard time to be enforced, things like this are commonly seen in their Judicial system.

Ray Adkins

André

It's a lie this type of thing only happens in Rio (and OF COURSE paulistas said "it would never happen here". Way too obvious. Also, not true). The same occurred in Bahia, for example, and everybody knows it because it was with a popular actor Vladimir Brichita (the grandmother, mother of his deceased wife, was a judge in Bahia and she wouldn't let her granddaughter see her dad).

Carlos Ramalhete

Brazil is at aheart a feudal country. The upper classes (including the higher middle-class) are nobility, and consider themselves nobility. In another post, you said DaMatta is your guru. The guy is brilliant! See what he writes about the differences in the Brazilian and the New Orleans Carnaval/Mardi Gras (BTW, the Carnaval Tuesday used to be called "terça-feira gorda", which is the Portuguese for the French "Mardi Gras"). To make a long story short, in N.O. they make a hierarchy because Carnaval means to have everything upside-down and the American society is egalitarian, and in Rio everybody becomes equal because it is a hierarchical society.
Big walls are not a privilege of the rich, either: when the Dutch invaded the North-East, they said it was hard to figh because every Brazilian house is a fortress. When poor people get some money, they immediately build huge walls. Wooden houses are not common (only in the South, where most of the population descends from people from immigrated in the XXth Century and is not so strongly "Brazilian" in many cultural aspects), and wooden-house sellers have to refer to them as "massive hard-wood houses" and such in order to sell them. The average Brazilian wants his house to be able to withstand a siege, as it is his own castle (feudal order, again).
Until a few decades ago, it was much more common for "nobility" to be ashamed of Carnaval, samba, etc. Foreigners would be treated with classical-music concerts, operas, and ballet, and people would hide typical Brazilian art. Nowadays, there is a growing acceptance of this kind of thing, but either in an asseptical way (middle-class-only "blocos de Carnaval", for instance, with security guards to keep poor people away) or as paternalizing "folklore", which treats the cultural production of the poor as if it where something "instinctive", "pure" in a Rousseaunian way. A kind of cultural curiosity, to be watched as one watches the birds in a zoo. Old black women from the favelas are treated with the "Dona" title (which comes from the Latin "Domina", "Lady of the Manor", via the Portuguese "Dona", "[land] owner"), and revered in a paternalistic way as if their poorness and blackness embodied some hidden "pure Brazilian-ness". They may be invited to parties, but the same people who treat them as nobility would never even consider the possibility of respecting their worldview or befirending them. They are more akin to the Indians who were brought to European courts in the XVIth Century as curios.
It is also important to notice that what matters is not exactly money: money comes from privilege in Brazil, not the opposite. The son of someone important will find it much easier to make money, and almost impossible to become really dirty poor. On the other hand, the son of a poor person will find all kinds of glass ceilings on his way up. It is much harder to change social class in Brazil than in the the USA, precisely because it is a hierarchical society. Social barriers exist, and are manned at all times.
Portuguese nobility was considered "tainted" by other European nobilities, because it was not hermetically closed: it was possible (never esay) to became noble or for a noble to become a commonner in Portugal. This is what prevented its end here (Brazil is very much a continuation of old Portugal). While French nobility had their heads chopped, ours keeps going on. Beautiful women from the lower classes will become nobility with a certain ease, and will help their families. Exceptionally dumb children of "noble" families will sometimes become poor. This small measure of social-class-changing possibility is what prevented bloody revolutions here, and this is what you have been noticing.
Oh, BTW: as a foreigner, you are automatically nobility (unless you are Bolivian, Paraguayan, etc.). There are probably people who would never befriend your husband, who - as the son of a sargeant - is in the lower spectrum of "nobility", if not a plain commonner, but who will do it on your behalf. It is very much the same situation as when a member of the "nobility" marries a beautiful poor woman, who is then given his status.

Fabio Bossard

"It seems to me that things have changed little since the times of slavery with the stratification of social classes and the desire of the elite to separate themselves, physically, culturally, and symbolically, from the rest."
When you go to Jardim Botânico you notice that clearly. Walking down the streets there you see lots of blue-eyed blond kids with their black nannies. Most black people or brown skinned you pass the street there are servants.

Felippe,
""Glass Walls: Social Stratification in Brazil"... Like that's any different than anywhere else in the world... That's a typical impression every "gringo yuppie-converted hippie" (and I know lots of them) has on developing countries."

I'm from Rio and I have the same impression as Rachel's.

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