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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice

Abstract

The 2001 Brazil census reports that of Brazil’s 150 million people, 53 percent of them are Afro- Brazilians and 47 percent are white. Of these, Afro-Brazilians hold a 28.5 percent illiteracy rate compared to the 11 percent held by whites. Income distribution indicates that the poorest 20 percent of the population owns only 2.6 percent of national wealth, while the wealthiest 10 percent command 48.1 percent. These facts are prime examples of the skewed distribution of wealth across Brazil and offer insight to the reality experienced by Afro-Brazilians who are most affected by this disparity. Together with the assumption commonly held by whites that racism does not exist in Brazil, the low status ascribed to Afro-Brazilians, their history of exploitation and abuse, and sociocultural marginalization, Brazil’s black communities have become anxious and confused about their identities1. There is perhaps no condition that serves to magnify this confusion as that of great poverty. One Non Governmental Organization based in a favela in Alagados, Salvador, Bahia that struggles to resurrect the self-esteem and consequently the identities of these impoverished Afro-Brazilian youths is Grupo Cultural Bagunçaço. Central to the rhetoric of Grupo Cultural Bagunçaço is the idea of rescuing the self-esteem and identity of a marginalized people. But with the increasing roles that public education and the media are maintaining on the creation of identity and the affirmation of a people’s place in society, what can a community based organization like Bagunçaço offer to its Afro-Brazilian students on the foothills of an eroded identity? This question was the subject of my curiosity and efforts to find its resolution was the reason I set out for Alagados. The two and a half weeks I spent in Alagados were marked by constant reminders of the force education coupled with cultural activities and cultural field trips can have in instilling the idea of “melhoridade” (embetterment). Through these classes and activities, Bagunçaço not only aided the youth of Alagados in the formation of their self-esteem and Afro-Brazilian identities, it also undertook the greater obligation of teaching the youth of Alagados to demand and work for a better society; “uma sociadade humana” (a human society).

Disciplines

Inequality and Stratification | Latin American Studies | Race and Ethnicity

 

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