The Real Fight for Independence


On May 8th, 2013, Bahian Independence Day, which falls on July 2nd, was officially recognized by the Senate as a date of national importance in Brazil. The recognition doesn’t mean it will become a national holiday but the date does hold an important place in the hearts of Bahians.

While Dom Pedro I was shouting “Independence or death!” on the banks of the Ipiranga river in São Paulo, the war for the independence of Bahia against the Portuguese military was in full swing. In actuality, it not only ended after Brazil was declared independent but it begun before the fight for Brazilian independence had started. The Bahian efforts, in the end, were what sent the Portuguese packing. In fact, Bahian people are proud of July 2nd because it symbolizes the real fight for independence (and not just a mere proclamation of it), where they not only shed a lot of blood and tears, but where slaves and those of native indian descent (caboclos) came together to aid in the fight. It is also where they found themselves outnumbered, by three-thousand Portuguese soldiers versus one-thousand five-hundred on the Brazilian side, and still ended up victorious.

In 1822, the royal courts in Lisbon ordered Portuguese commander Madeira de Melo to take control of Bahia in light of Dom João VI’s return to Europe almost a year prior. The rumors, and later knowledge, that his son, Dom Pedro I,  would not return to Portugal brought about Madeira de Melo’s appointment. With the start of 1823, Portuguese reinforcements arrived in Salvador, dominating the city. Dom Pedro I, then, sent in Brazilian troops, who eventually had to fall back into the Recôncavo region outside the capital city. (Important to note that “Brazilian” here means fighting for Brazil, since almost all the troops actually doing so were Portuguese-born).

Surrounded and with food and ammunition running out, Madeira de Melo requested more Portuguese troops from Europe. It was then that Dom Pedro I sent in the French general and mercenary, Pedro Labatut, to expel the enemies. Labatut had previously participated in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as alongside Simon Bolivar in Colombia. It’s somewhat ironic that a Frenchman would push the Portuguese out of Brazil since it was due to the French invasion that the Portuguese went to Brazil in the first place.

In the Battle of Pirajá, which was a defining moment in the fight for Bahian independence (and, ultimately, that of Brazil), Madeira de Melo took the offense and ended up getting injured. One account of the battle relates the story of a soldier who, while being Portuguese but fighting for the Brazilians, confused the Portuguese troops by giving the sound for them to advance according to a specific battlefield scenario. The only problem was the scenario wasn’t actually happening so instead of advancing, they fell back, at which point the Brazilian troops attacked, winning the battle.

The Portuguese retreated to the city center and soon found themselves weakened, tired, low on firepower, and with a Brazilian fleet (with an Englishman at the command) all but surrounding them seaside. Madeira de Melo and the remaining troops finally fled the country, returning to Portugal while being chased all the way back to Lisbon.

The day that Labatut and his men took back the city was July 2nd, 1823.

Give freely, or else

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 5.11.43 PMMy day shift at the hostel in Ipanema had ended and, as usual, I stuck around chatting with the friendly manager and some of the guests. Upon noticing it was already dark out, I said goodbye, then ran a quick errand before heading to the nearest Zona Sul supermarket, kiddie corner to General Osório square, to pick up some spaghetti for later. With the errands completed, I went a few blocks towards the beach to catch a public transport van back to Rocinha. Numbered according to their trajectory, I was hoping to catch the less frequent of the two lines that went through Gávea because it would leave me closer to my apartment.

I waited there like on any of the other hundreds of times I had caught a van back home, aware of my surroundings, even though this was Ipanema and I was dressed in the usual shirt, shorts and flip-flops. As I held my grocery bag with its one item inside, I thought about the dinner I’d soon share with friends, accompanied by a beer from the bar across from my front door.

Right then a lone young man (reminiscent of those I saw daily in the favelas) appeared on the median strip, shouting out to someone on the sidewalk where I was.

Rio wasn’t a stranger to me and I had always kept my wits about me while living there. Even though I had never found myself in any kind of unwanted situation before, this guy didn’t immediately make me think twice, but he made me want to think twice. “Calma, just be cool”, I thought to myself, “I’ve got nothing visible he can steal,” knowing full well that prior to the supermarket, I had made a stop at the bank to take out R$60 for the next week. Luckily, while still in the bank, I had folded the bills up and stuck them, along with my bank card, under the waistband of my underwear.

He shouted again, across the sparse lanes of traffic, which prompted me to take a quick look around me to see whose attention he was trying to get. It was mine. I was alone and it was dark. That’s when he went for my bag, with his eyes.

Tem comida aí? Me dá alguma coisa,” he suddely mumurred.
(You got food there? Give me some.)

É macarrão, tem que ser cozido,” I reluctantly responded.
(It’s spaghetti, it has to be cooked.)

E daí, dou um jeito, cara.
(So what, I’ll find a way to cook it, man.)

Não posso, é pra janta.
(I can’t, it’s for dinner.)

I didn’t want him to think I was an easy target, and by that I mean gringo. I considered playing the sympathy card, telling him I was a resident of the morro, the comunidade (favela), without specifying which, but that might lead to more talking, and more talking might reveal I’m a foreigner. Two or three more times he asked for food but as many times as he asked, I denied him. That’s when he changed tatics.

Então, me dá um real aí.
(So give me R$1.)

Tem, não, cara. Preciso pro transporte.
(I don’t have it, man. I need what I got for transport.)

Ô, me dá um real!“, he repeated, a little more directly.
(Hey, give me R$1!)

Não posso“, I said.
(I can’t.)

I realized this was going to continue for a while unless I either gave him money or food, which meant getting close to him physically, or I would have to go back to General Osório and walk down ‘Visconde’ (a main street in Ipanema) all the way to Leblon where I could also catch the same van. Just as I was about to offer up R$1 to get it over with, I heard another person shouting at me. It was the cobrador (fare collector) of the van I had been waiting for. Giving him a quick wave to stop the van, it blocked out the view of the lone peddler and I got on and went home.

To this day, I don’t know what would have happened if I let him approach me. At the most, I suppose I could have lost a simple bag of spaghetti or maybe the bus fare. In the least, I would have helped someone in need. He was the one breathing thing that could have stood in the way of my belief that, crime-wise, Brazil isn’t as bad as others say it is.

One of my favorite views

Having lived to the left of the beach, in Vidigal, and behind the beach, in Rocinha, the view below is no stranger to my eyes. Unfortunately, bathing in the water at São Conrado’s beach is best to be avoided but fortunately just sitting there and enjoying the 360 view is worth it (especially for those who don’t like extra-crowded beaches). The person that gets to see this every day is a really lucky one.

Apart from the beach, the stretch of road/highway from Leblon to Barra is the most memorable I’ve ever been on. The first part is Avenida Niemeyer, going until São Conrado, where it ‘meets’ Estrada Lagoa Barra, which becomes Vevd. (Via Elevada) das Bandeiras, passing along and under Joá, before reaching Barra.

(Little known fact: Before the modern roads and highways were built, Av. Niemeyer was originally going to be made into a a 120-mile railroad connecting Botafogo to Angra dos Reis.)

Thanks to Eat Rio for the photo.

How far will Cabral’s Military Police go?

(after molotov was thrown, likely by undercover police, aka “P2”)

“The cravings of Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro, of making his successor in the State government and contemplating that part of the population that applauds BOPE when they gun-down drug traffickers in Complexo do Alemão is taking Rio de Janeiro along a dangerous road. Cabral’s recent acts and declarations have revealed a despotic facet of the governor and, apparently, serve as a licence for the Military Police to expand the authoritarianism they employ in the favelas to the wealthiest neighborhoods of the Fluminense capital.

After last week’s riot in Leblon, the most expensive per square meter in Brazil, Cabral diagnosed the vandalism problem in Rio de Janeiro in the same way as Arab dictators — placing the blame on “international organizations”. As it happens in the Middle East, attributing the violence to the foreigner isn’t a simple diagnostic error. It’s a device to exempt their own government from any responsibility for what’s occurring.

In the same speech, given last Friday, Cabral promised an “answer to society”. The answer came via the Special Commission of Investigation of Acts of Vandalism in Public Manifestations (CEIV, in Portuguese). The so-called CEIV was created on the 19th of July, by way of the decree 44.302, published in the Diário Oficial of the State on Monday, the 22nd. The text that the commission created (here in its entirety, in PDF) has alarming authoritarian contours (not to mention it’s illegal, PT).


In Article 3, Cabral determines that all “solicitations and determinations of the CEIV” have “absolute priority” above any other request sent to public or private bodies. In a single paragraph, Cabral obligates telephone companies and ISPs to follow requests by the CEIV in a “maximum timeframe of 24 hours”. It’s not clear if questions like the Pope’s security or a problem in a hospital, for example, will be put to the side in detriment of combating vandalism, or if the telephone/Internet companies have the right to appeal the CEIV’s orders.

More worrying is Article 2 of the commission’s creation. According to the decree, the CEIV can “take all actions necessary to carry out the investigation of acts of vandalism, and may request information, conduct investigations and perform any acts necessary to the conduct of criminal proceedings for the purpose of punishing wrongful acts under public demonstrations.” This text, as Bernardo Santoro on his blog Instituto Liberal reminded us, opens it up to anything, through not being clear on what “all necessary actions” means. Can the CEIV declare prison sentences, do illegal wiretapping and torture suspects, for example?

In the best of hypothesis, the text is a disaster provoked by haste and by the lack of knowledge of those who wrote it. In the worst, it’s a reflection of the climate, inflated by the government of Rio, of “anything goes against vandalism”.

Reflections of the climate have been observed. On Friday, the newspaper O Globo published an interview with the sociologist Paulo Baía, in which he commented on the riot in Leblon. “The police saw crime occurring and didn’t act. The message of the police was the following: now I’m going to give a smack-down on everyone”, said Baía. On that very Friday, the sociologist suffered a lightning kidnapping in the Aterro do Flamengo. “In the car, they passed along the message and nothing else. They said I shouldn’t give any other interviews like todays at O Globo and to not say anything else about the Military Police, because, if I did, it would be the last interview I’d give in my life”, said Baía.” – Carta Capital (PT, more here)

Mayor supports AfroReggae


“I’m an optimist. Time and again, despite my age, I still have flashes of utopic hope of a more dignified life for the Carioca.

One of these rare moments from last weekend.

What happened was the following: the State Government considers that some favelas in Rio are pacified. Without a trace of the old drug traffickers or militia that, in fact, governed the communities. Among them are the favelas that make up the Complexo do Alemão. Cabral — and his Secretary of Safety — consider the region “pacified”, free from the truculence of traffickers. A sad untruth. In spite of the existing UPP in Alemão, the NGO AfroReggae received orders from the traffickers to close out their activities at the community center there, which benefited 350 children, with art workshops at the principal activity.

While the State Government kept mum on the announcement that the NGO would stop operating in the favela, the mayor Eduardo Paes personally went to the location and said the Mayor’s Office would assume all of AfroReggae’s activities, with an attitude that I would define as “macho”. He personally confronted the orders of the traffickers. And even donated some land to Renê Silva, responsible for the newspaper Voz da Comunidade, to rebuild the new headquarters. The old one was located in the AfroReggae building and was burned down in an act that until now is considered criminal by the NGO’s directors.

Paes was also elegant. He said the pacification process of Alemão wouldn’t reverse, an affirmation that should have been made by those responsible for the security of the State, or rather, the governor. It was a way he found that wouldn’t leave Cabral in an uncomfortable situation.

“Paes’ political bravado” is what the political adversaries of the Mayor’s Office, of which I include myself, might say. It may be. But he fulfilled a role that’s of an authority: he went to the place of conflict and invoked the power given him. If he is going to manage to keep this attitude or not, we will see in the next few weeks.

The quick action of Eduardo Paes as a constituted authority imposing itself is encouraging. Leaving his office to show his face in a conflict zone should be common in a democracy. Paes inaugurated the posture of a statesman of Rio. One point for him.” – CartaCapital (PT)

Novos Paulistanos

“According to IBGE, the number of foreigners living in Brazil almost doubled between 2000 and 2010. São Paulo is the Brazilian state that receives the most immigrants. They’re executives imported by megacorporations, African refugees running from wars and ethnic persecution, European hipsters in search of the “next Berlin”, latinos in search of work, etc. Say “olá” to your new neighbors.”

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Trip magazine’s piece called Novos Paulistanos (PT), on foreigners who’ve chosen São Paulo as their adopted city.

Hacker reportedly helped politicians change votes

Apparently, this is news from late last year, but it’s still being reported (but not mentioned in large newspapers). One issue with the veracity of this report is something I read about votes being printed, and voters and political parties being able to request the printed numbers from the voting location at any point. 


“At a seminar  last year titled “Is the voting machine reliable?”, which took place at SEAERJ (Society of Engineers and Architects of Rio de Janeiro), a young hacker of 19 years of age, identified merely as Rangle, for security reasons, revealed how he defrauded elections in Rio de Janeiro.

Rangel showed how, via illegal and privileged access to Rio de Janeiro’s Electorial Justice intranet – under the telecommunications company Oi – intercepted data from the totaling system and, after delaying the sending of this data to its destination, he altered the results, benefiting some candidates in detriment of others.

According to Amilcar Brunazzo, a specialist engineer on the subject, in spite of this, no activity was detected by the official system.

“We get on the Electorical Justice’s network when the results are being transmitted for totaling and after 50% of the data has been transmitted, we act. We modify the results even when the totalization is ready to be closed”, explained Rangel in general terms. The information, as reported, ended up shocking critics and specialists towards the fragilities of the system.

The hacker declared that he didn’t act alone, participating in a group that utilized privileged information relative to the Oi system, altering the results before they were registered by the TRE – the Regional Electorial Tribunal. Rangel is under police protection and has already given his statement to the Federal Police.

He also denounced the deputy Paulo de Melo (PMDB), then-president of the ALERJ – Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro – as one of the beneficiaries.

For Fernando Peregrino, a coordinator of the seminar, despite many complaints, the police in general don’t focus on them for the very reason that electronic voting in Brazil represents the cornerstone of democracy in the country.

At the same seminar, Dr. Maria Aparecida Cortiz told of monitoring difficulties created by the Electoral Justice themselves, which would act to snuff out scandals of fraud. She also discussed, among other things, cases of fraud in Bahia, Maranhão, Londrina (PR), and in Guadalupe (PI). The meeting will be transformed into a book, and also give rise to a documentary on the subject, and new meetings.” – Source (PT)

The Pernambucan Revolution

This is a cross-post from Eyes On Recife.


“The Pernambucan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of the Priests (due to the participation of the heroic monk, Frei Caneca), was an emancipation movement that emerged on March 6th, 1817, in what was known at the time as the Province of Pernambuco. Among the causes for wanting freedom from Portuguese rule, the main ones were: the regional economic crisis, the Portuguese monarchical absolutism and the influence of the Enlightenment ideas, propagated by the masonic societies.” [1]

Their Own Republic

“For 74 days, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba and Rio Grande so Norte were a republic with their own government, army, navy, constitution, flag and even ambassadors abroad. This short period enforced the recently promulgated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the French Revolution’s defining documents. And the flag that was used in the most important libertarian war of the then-republic is the same that Pernambuco uses today” (minus two of the stars). [2]

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 7.27.23 PM(the republic flag that inspired the current flag)

“On March 29th, a constituent assembly was convened, with elected representatives from all the counties (now known as states), establishing the separation of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers; catholicism was maintained as the official religion (however there was freedom of religion); freedom of the press was proclaimed (a new idea for Brazil); some taxes were abolished; slavery was kept alive.

As the fervor of discussions and revolt against Portuguese oppression increased, Pernambucan patriotism also increased, to the point of using cachaça (instead of wine) in church and a wafer made of manioc (instead of wheat), as a way of marking their identity.” [3]

American Aid?

In May of 1817, Antônio Gonçalves Cruz landed in Philadelphia with 800,000 dollars in his bags. His mission was three-fold: to obtain arms to fight Dom João’s army, to convince the US government to support a Brazilian republic in the Northeast, and to recruit some ex-French revolutionaries living in the US to go to Brazil, make a plan to free Napoleon from jail and bring him to Pernambuco to lead their revolt. They agreed but arrived in Pernambuco too late, the revolution was ending. [4]

The End

The fight came to an end when the revolutionaries started finding it hard to fight such a powerful enemy, especially one that was slowly surrounding them. The other “counties” (Alagoas, Ceará, Rio Grando do Norte, etc) started to back off and revoke their support and the Pernambucan supporters started in-fighting due to disagreements on the topic of slavery. In the end, what remained was a single idea, that the Portuguese crown could never again be certain of its strength, loyalty and effectiveness in the Americas.

Interested in Brazil’s cultural powerhouse?

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I’ve mentioned Eyes On Recife a few times on this blog before and I thought once more couldn’t hurt. As it stands, I’ve got over 100 posts about the city and the local culture, and 50 people receiving each post in their email box!

So if you want to know why many people, Brazilians and foreigners alike, mention Recife (and Olinda) as one of Brazil’s cultural hotspots, reading Eyes on Recife does a good job on telling you why. In the meantime, academic types should feel free to check out the Research Papers page for downloadable PDFs on Recife, while others can check out a biologist who brings color and life to the caatinga, the history behind Casas Pernambucanas (and why Pernambuco isn’t home to one), the legacy of the multi-talented Mestre Salu, Olinda’s mamulengo museum, Black Tuesdays celebrating Afro-Brazilian culture, what made the Boa Viagem neighborhood so coveted, or why Recife is called the Brazilian Venice.

I’ll leave you with Master Spok’s frevo concert.

São Paulo and Rio have the highest bus fares

Continuing my coverage of the São Paulo protests, here’s a piece by Folha on research regarding bus fares across 12 cities.

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The infographic relates to how many minutes the citizen of each of the 12 cities listed above has to work in order to afford the bus. It was likely done in multiples of 100, as opposed to 60 (seconds/minutes), for calculation purposes.


“Last week was marked by the protests against bus fare increases throughout the country; it seems the protests originating in São Paulo are writing a chapter for the history books.

But is it possible that our bus fares are so expensive? We researched the price of bus fares in 10 cities around the world and compared them with Rio and São Paulo, where the protests were the most intense. Many analyses look at the prices in the local currency and convert them into dollars. These results show the same conclusion: Brazil is far from being the place with the most expensive fares — São Paulo and Rio are the cheapest, compared to those of London, Tokyo, Ottawa, New York, Lisbon, Paris and Madrid.

This type of analysis is superficial because it doesn’t take into account the average wage; in other words, one dollar in one country being easier to earn than in another. A more correct approach is to take into account the price of the fare in minutes worked, considering, therefore, the average wage and the hours worked in each city. Upon classifying the prices by the wages, São Paulo and Rio have the highest bus fares.

The resident of São Paulo has to work 14 minutes to pay to use the bus. For a resident of Rio, it’s 13 minutes. They’re higher than the 4 minutes worked by Chinese citizens. Perhaps the protesters aren’t actually against the R$ 0.20 increase in the bus fare, but rather they’re against a means of transport that doesn’t measure up to what can be found around the world.

As Enrique Peñalosa, the ex-Mayor of Bogotá, would say, “an advanced city is not one where the poor are using cars, but one where the rich are using public transportation”. What’s happening here seems to be the opposite.” – Source (PT)