Sunday, 18 August 2013

Self portraits by Fabiano Rodrigues

Fabiano Rodrigues is a former pro-skater who lives São Paulo. He's also a photographer and has just taken a wonderful series of self-portraits using a skateboard and a remote control.

If you know the city you will recognise some of the monuments of São Paulo in the background:

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

VIDEO: Inmates caught on camera breaking out of São Paulo jail

Intriguing video footage has emerged of last Monday's jailbreak in São Paulo. Despite recent efforts to reduce communication between prisoners and criminal gangs on the outside the break was the biggest security breach in the last 5 years, with around 60 juvenile prisoners jumping the wall of their detention facility. They then climbed down adjacent trees in an escape which looked surprisingly simple.
This was definitely not the high-tech, meticulously calculated prison breaks we are used to seeing on the movie screens! And whilst journalists and photographers managed to cover the escape in real time it seems that police officers were a little slower to respond.
According to local reports some of the escaped prisoners were quickly recaptured but many have apparently managed to escape permanently.
Watch the video here:

Monday, 12 August 2013

Blocking cell phone usage of jailed gang members in São Paulo

Anyone who was here last year and witnessed the escalating death toll of policemen knows that the Primeiro Comando do Capital (PPC), the criminal gang which operates in São Paulo, is a hugely powerful force despite having up to half of its 15,000 members in prison. Part of the reason for that is the ease with which mobile phones are smuggled into prisons and used from within. The urban violence which spread throughout the city in 2006 was famously alleged to have been coordinated primarily from inside prisons thanks to mobile phones.

Cellphones being Smuggled into Brazilian prisons is common

All of that, though, may be about to change.

Brazilian firm Innovatech and Israel's Suntech are both vying for the R$1,1 billion ($484million) contract to run cell phone blocking technology across the prisons of the state of São Paulo. The idea being to jam cell phone signals coming from within the prison in order to reduce coordinated crime and victim reprisals.

Both companies were recently involved in secret trials of their cell phone denial technologies at high security prisons and it now seems that this long-promised initiative will finally become reality by year end. During one of the trials at Mogi das Cruzes prison, over 1500 active sim cards (some of which presumably belonged to prison staff) were detected and the cell phone difficulties incurred by inmates is said to have resulted in 23 calls to the customer helplines of major Brazilian operators. Helplines which, once the scheme is implemented, will have very few ways to assist these particular customers.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Is Miss São Paulo racist?

Candidates to Miss São Paulo 2013
If you’ve been following the local news you may have noticed the official candidates for Miss São Paulo 2013 were recently announced. They are the lucky ladies who came through the initial selection process in which 77 hopefuls are put in black bikinis and high heels and appraised in groups of 8 by a panel of judges including last year’s competition winner. With photos of the winning girls having now been officially published, most mainstream media considered it important enough news item to cover, most of them under a predictable “pick your favourite” format.

Other than the obvious fact that this is a dated and sexist event, what is worth highlighting is what most media didn’t say about the photos despite it being glaringly obvious. Nobody questioned why almost every single candidate is white (incidentally they are disproportionately blonde) despite the demographic makeup of the region being 44% non-white at the 2010 census. 

There appear to be two ways of reading this, the first one being that, as this is a beauty contest and the ultimate criteria for success is ultimately how good looking the girl is, it has been decided that there are statistically fewer good looking black and mixed race girls. In other words it is a racist contest but nobody seems to mind. The usual argument to deny that racism exists, and there does appear to be a high level  of denial, is that although mixed race and especially black people are under-represented in many spheres (business, politics, etc) it is not due to discrimination but opportunity barriers (access to education & healthcare, wealth, etc) with the sometimes accompanying implication that the root of it all is historical (a long lasting effect of colonial slavery etc). If we were to buy that  argument, which I personally don’t, then the Miss World qualifiers would be an excellent way to prove it. After all, no minimum income or education is required to take part, removing the so called opportunity barriers and leaving beauty as the only criteria. What, then, is the reason non-whites are knocked out or, as is probably the case, don’t apply in the first place?

Miss Brazil 2012, an ambassadorial role?
The second reading is that it is not actually a beauty contest rather an exercise in charitable fundraising and the promotion of tourism. In other words, they are not just good-looking girls, they are ambassadors. This may indeed be the intention and it is true that a moderate sum of money has been raised across the globe by the Miss World organization and donated, mostly to children´s charities. But that takes us back to our original question; why are ambassadorial females consistently and disproportionately white year after year in an area of such, supposedly, celebrated racial diversity? Are there non-white females inadequate ambassadors or is Miss São Paulo not only sexist, but racist too?

Of course this is not an exclusively Paulista or even Brazilian issue. Miss World has been around since 1951 yet it took until 2001 for there to be a black Miss World and until 2007 for there to be an East Asian winner. But if upon reflection of all of that, you’re still interested in following the contest you’ll be glad to know it will be given live coverage on Band, one of Brazil’s major media groups, and will likely be hosted by Adriane Galisteu who is, you guessed it, a white, blonde, female…

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Vintage photos of São Paulo in black and white

Below are a selection of  black of white photos depicting São Paulo in times gone by.

It certainly looks a different place form modern day Sampa!

Anhangabau in the 1930s 
Hotel Esplanada 1950s 
Rua Augusta 1960s
Serra Negra 1925 
Theatro Municipal

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