Three weeks before the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, the
tournament already has an iconic image. And FIFA is not going to like
On May 10, Brazilian artist Paulo Ito
posted this mural on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia
district. Less than a week later, it has become an international
sensation, drawing huge attention on Facebook. It has also taken off in Brazil—a post on the popular Facebook page TV Revolta has been shared and liked more than 40,000 times.*
I first saw the image when The Nation’s Dave Zirin posted it on Twitter.
The portrait of a weeping, starving Brazilian child with nothing to eat
but a soccer ball is so simple and evocative that you don’t need to
know much about Brazil to wrap your head around it. All you have to
understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere.
“People already have the feeling and that image condensed this
feeling,” the São Paulo-based Ito told me in an interview today. He says
he’s never created anything so popular in his 14 years as a street
artist, and was surprised by the powerful response. “The truth is there
is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,”
he explained via Facebook chat. “I didn't mean [to say] nobody is doing
anything against poverty,” he said of the mural. “But we need to show
the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”
Earlier this month, the populist Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced increases in welfare payments
ahead of the World Cup and in anticipation of this October’s elections.
And last year, after millions took to the streets to protest a hike in
bus fares and other systemic problems including a broken health care system,
the government responded quickly, abandoning the fare increase,
importing doctors from Cuba, and reserving oil money for education. But
in his new book Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer,
David Goldblatt describes that response as a half-measure, one designed
to squelch the demonstrations. “It wasn’t much, but it was enough to
take the sting out of the movement,” Goldblatt writes.
Ito echoed the idea that the government’s response has been largely cosmetic. He mentioned two Brazilian aphorisms: tapar o sol com a peneira and leis para inglês ver. The first means to “cover the sun with the sieve.” The second can be translated as “just for show for the English.”
Still, Ito doesn’t appreciate how his artwork has been used by
conservative networks like TV Revolta to attack President Rousseff. He
says the mural is a broader criticism of Brazilian society, and
Rousseff—the chosen successor to populist President Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva—has done some good things for the poor.
Ito initially wanted to put the image outside of the 70,000-seat Itaquerão Stadium,
the site of the World Cup opener. He later changed his mind, thinking
that the school, in what he describes as a largely middle class part of
Pompeia, was more appropriate. He says he did not want to place it in a
poverty-stricken district, such as one of São Paulo’s favelas, and that
he has gone out of his way to avoid posting such images in those areas.
“Two years ago I painted in an [abandoned] building and I was
thinking to paint something about poverty, but when I went inside I
changed my mind,” Ito told me. “They already live what I was supposed to
paint.” Instead, he said, in those cases he painted what the people
asked him for: football team symbols, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
*Correction, May 20, 2014: This post originally misidentified TV Revolta as a television network.
This World Cup is going to be a disaster, plus a lot of people will be robbed. I read that they are cloning people's credit cards straight from ATM machines and blowing 2k at once. Brazil also has a lot of children sex trafficking, and many pedophiles will enjoy their stay there Last year, when people were doing their protest, many carried signs saying things like "with world cup we don't have schools" because there are sh*tty schools all over the country and people dying in hospitals but the stadium is supposedly costing billions yet many are not even ready. I read an article saying that one stadium doesn't even have seats for the press and they will stay in a tent! And that idiot Pele keeps saying things like "let's forget (whatever it is wrong with the country) and focus on the world cup".
“The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,”
...truth... at least ppl won't be surprised like they were with the fiasco in Moscow.
Actually, people WILL be surprised, because many never saw the amount of children living in the streets, and when people do, and see the police violence towards them, many will be horrified. I met a French woman once who went to Rio and I asked her if she saw the street kids and she said "no, but if I had seen them, I would have cried". I don't know how she did not notice them, but she probably thought they were just poor black kids wearing rags Plus there's slum people too, and depending of the city, there's way too many slum people going hungry who will rob your shoes, since they are much more expensive there.
I hope all tourists wear Havaianas, or they will be barefoot.
I wonder if Brazil loses the world cup, if some people will turn against the tourists from the country that won and attack them. I hope not, but I think the World Cup will end with Brazil with a really bad reputation, and broker than South Africa after the WC.
racists? the racism in Brazil is much more subtle than the racism in the US. And you being a foreigner there would not suffer much, because they would think you were rich. Sao Paulo has a diverse population, but I just googled very quickly "sao paulo racism" and found a page about skinheads concentrated in Sao Paulo. The state with most blacks is Bahia, btw.
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