“The favela (slum) is a field of extermination of black people,” says Rio-based community leader
Note from BW of Brazil: When you really stop and think about the situation of black Brazilians, there is simply no way to deny the obvious: the country that they built with their blood, sweat, tears and bodies does not want them. What is my proof, the naysayer might ask. Well, nearly 20 years of studying racial issues with nearly 8 years of work sharing my conclusions, as well as the evidence on this blog. And the fact is, many black Brazilians who analyze the situation and are honest enough speak the truth are also coming to this conclusion.
When I first starting researching the history of brothers and sisters in Brazil at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, I honestly thought titles of books by the great Abdias do Nascimento such as Brazil: Mixture or Massacre or The Genocide of the black Brazilian were exaggerations. Now, nearly two decades later, I see these books as the grim prognosis of a reality that has been in the works for more than a century. The more I dig, the more I find evidence that the extinction of the black Brazilian is an ongoing work in progress.
The invisibility and stereotyping of black people in the media is a powerful weapon that continues to spread the idea that black people are inferior beings, a belief that is already widespread in Brazilian culture and in certain ways denies an entire people of their humanity. Re-enforcing the idea that no one should want to be black leads to the stripping of self-value and self-esteem, which in turn leads another weapon: self-annihilation through widespread miscegenation. And if that weapon isn’t sufficient, the third weapon, direct extermination will continue to job. Think the last two are far-fetched? Well, there are plenty of articles on both dating back to 2011, and speaking directly to the last weapon, one community leader recently spelled it out in a very thought-provoking interview below.
André Constantine, community leader of the Favela Não Se Cala movement
“The favela is a field of extermination of the black people”
In an interview with TV 247, André Constantine, from the Favela Não Se Cala (the Favela will not shut up) movement, unmasks the UPPs project in Rio de Janeiro and rescues the origin of the communities; “I know why I’m here and how my ancestors came here,” he says; he also criticizes the ‘glamorization’ of the hills: ‘the favela is not a good place to live, this here is a field of extermination of the black people’; watch
A member of the movement Favela No Se Cala and former president of the Associação dos Moradores da Babilônia (Association of Residents of Babilônia), André Constantine spoke to the program Luta e Verdade, on TV 247, about daily life in the communities of Rio de Janeiro, a “divided city”, as he defined it, and argued that it is necessary to deconstruct the romantic image of the favelas. He also criticized the anti-war package of Justice and Public Security Minister Sérgio Moro and described Rio de Janeiro state governor Wilson Witzel as a “fascist.”
For the community leader, some intellectuals from universities and the political left romanticize life in the favelas. “There is an intellectual part of the university and also intellectual parts on the left field that romanticize and greatly glamorize the favela. I don’t romanticize living here, I know why I’m here, I know how my ancestors were cast here. We did a debate here, ‘das senzalas para as favelas’ (from the slave quarters to the favelas), I know because the favela is a black territory, this has a historical content that has to be talked about.”
“Here in Babilônia (see note one) there are three clandestine cemeteries with more than 400 bodies buried, how will I romanticize living in a territory where my daughter does not have the opportunity to develop intellectually because of the confrontations? She loses, practically, the school year because of this drug war policy based on these confrontations. One thing that is important to deconstruct is this romanticization that exists on the part of the intellectuals and the scholars here in Brazil. The favela is not a good place to live, this is a field of extermination of the black people, and here the State exercises two types of violence: violence through the tip of the gun of the capitão do mato (see note two), who used to come on horseback and today comes in the camburão (paddywagon), and the symbolic violence that is the lack of basic sanitation, of decent housing, day care, school. I wanted to reiterate the importance of my comments so that we can stop romanticizing and glamorizing living in this territory, I know very well why I’m stuck here and I know very well how my ancestors got here, they didn’t get here as an option, they were cast here,” he added.
Constantine also recalled the emergence of favelas and the origin of the black people’s destination for these communities. “On December 13, 1850, the Lei de Terras (law of lands) was created that even the black having the purchasing power to acquire a land couldn’t acquire (see note three), and when I speak of land I speak of power, so that the dispute in the field is so fierce and so violent. I know very well in the hands of who the lands are in Brazil, I know very well, blacks have no land, that lasts until today, I’m talking about a law created by the Brazilian State in 1850, why does it lasts until today? Because all moradores de favelas (slum dwellers) are protected by the usucaption law that protects the benefactor, we have no land, we don’t have the titularização de terra(land titling). It is important to understand how our ancestors were cast in these territories denominated and classified as a favela.”
Rio de Janeiro, he said, is divided and it is necessary to end certain narratives that strengthen this division. “A main struggle of ours is to argue: is the favela the city? Let’s think about points that we can dialogue with the formal areas of the city, I always dialogue with the middle class that lives here in the district of Leme, mainly by deconstructing certain narratives that foster this split city, we have to break down this invisible wall that divides this city. Among these discourses and narratives there is one that is primordial that it is favela and asphalt: ‘André, I live in the favela of Babilônia, no, you live in the upper part of the Leme district.”
He further complimented saying that the state works to foster this model of a split city. “To deconstruct some narratives is important, and some public policies were fostered that the poor citizen of Rio de Janeiro who lives in the suburban areas didn’t understand, I’ll give an example: the piscinões (see note four). The piscinão was a form of segregation. I am not against the piscinões provided that you provide public transport, especially on weekends, in which these transports are cut in more than half to make it impossible for the suburban people to reach the southern beaches (see note five). We have to understand how the state thinks and how it works to foster this split city.”
For André Constantine, Moro’s anti-corruption package gives the police carte blanche to kill and this will accelerate deaths in the favelas. “It is very dangerous because it will corroborate and accelerate the deaths within favela territories, there’s no doubt about it. We already have a law that is the autos de resistência, there you will get all the deaths that were considered by the Military Police institution as autos de resistência (deaths resulting from opposition to police intervention) and the shots are in the nape and back, I don’t know what resistance this is. In fact the autos de resistência is to give a carte blanche to the Military Police to kill, but to kill in certain territories of the city and the State of Rio de Janeiro.
Another thing that we have to end is with this discourse that the police are unprepared, it is not unprepared anything because if it is unprepared its unpreparedness is selective. I don’t see the Military Police institution confusing an umbrella with rifle, as it was confused here in Chapéu Mangueira, in other noble and formal areas of the city, I don’t see it confusing a drill with a pistol, as it confused in Favela dos Prazeres, in other formal and noble areas of the city. It’s all a matter of color and CEP (zip code), that’s the reality. It is criminal this package that Judge Sérgio Moro, this fascist, is trying to implement in Brazil.”
The member of the Favela No Se Cala movement still said he was not surprised by Governor Wilson Witzel’s election in 2018, although the then candidate didn’t even rank high in the polls, and criticized the left. “Moro’s anticrime package will only corroborate the crazy ideas of this fascist governor who was elected by two very strong camps, the neo-Pentecostal churches camp and the militia camp. I wasn’t surprised by the election of the Witzel, it was these two camps that elected this fascist. So I make a criticism to our left, to our parties: we need to go back to the bases, to these territories, the left left that territory vacant and when you leave a vacant space it is filled and has already been filled, mainly, by Neo-Pentecostal churches.”
Source: Cadoná, Célio Valdemar. Acesso à Terra: Direito Fundamental e Exercício da Cidadania. Ijuí, UNIJUÍ, 2014. Santos, Marcela Ernesto. Resistindo à tempestade: a interseccionalidade de opressões nas obras de Carolina Maria e Maya Angelou. 2014. 143 f. Tese (doutorado) – Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho, Faculdade de Ciências e Letras de Assis, 2014, Brasil 247
1. Morro da Babilônia is a hill located between the neighborhoods of Botafogo, Urca, Leme and Copacabana, in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
2.In Brazil’s slavery era, the main task of the black capitão do mato was to hunt down, capture and return fugitive slaves to captivity. In the modern context, it’s equal to calling someone a “sell-out” or “house negroe”. The Ficha Corrida blog defined these sorts of characters as “the black that does not protest against the measures, the institutions and processes that cause inequality and marginalization of black.” And over the years, the black Brazilian struggle has seen a long line of futebol players, actors, singers, politicians, etc. who could fit this description. Usage of term has become increasingly common in the modern context by black activists.
3.What Constantine is saying here is very important as the black community today has no power and almost no wealth, which was greatly influenced by the fact that blacks were denied access to land as far back as the mid 19th century. This has been thoroughly documented. For example, José Graziano da Silva stated that the Land Law played a decisive role in the arrival of nearly five million European immigrants to Brazil. This is because vacant lands, which could only be appropriated through purchase or sale, would yield dividends, making it possible to finance the arrival of immigrants from Europe. In this way, three objectives could accomplished.
One, access to land was restricted to those who had no money, two, the foundations were created for the organization of a free labor market to replace slaves, who were increasingly gaining their freedom, and, three, excluding those slaves from the access to land. At that time, the 1840s and 1850s, Brazil’s elites knew that the end of slavery was inevitable, and knowing that access to land was a manner of building wealth, is obvious that the intention was to maintain the subjection of the captives and former captives, making it difficult for them to have any chance of acquiring a piece of land to become independent of their masters.
In today’s Brazil, land still means power. A 1999 report showed that the concentration of land continues to be in the hands of large landowners According to that report, “2.8% of landowners own over 56% of arable land, 45% of the total area is occupied by only 1% of agricultural holdings. Moreover, 50% of small holdings have access to only 2.5% of the total area.” The situation has changed little in the past two decades and it is still very common read reports over people being murdered in land-related conflict. A 2013 report showed that every 12 days, someone was being murdered over land issues. Support for modest land reform was a key issue that led to the eventual overthrow of President João Goulart in 1964 and the implementation of a Military Dictatorship that lasted for 21 years ending in only 1985.
4. A piscinão (plural: piscinões) is an enormous, artificially created beach-like swimming pool. An example is the Parque Ambiental da Praia de Ramos Carlos de Oliveira Dicró, popularly known as Piscinão de Ramos (Ramos Swimming Pool), Praia de Ramos (Ramos Beach), Parque das Vizinhanças da Maré (Maré Neighborhood Park), Praia da Maré (Maré Beach) or simply Piscinão da Maré, a leisure area that consists of an artificial beach of sands tumbling around a public saltwater pool, installed in the district of Maré, in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro.
5.Rio de Janeiro’s beaches are examples of what many define as Brazilian styled segregation. Beaches such as Ipanema and Copocabana have long been known for security policies that treat the black and poor that arrive from their neighborhoods as if they are automatic criminal elements.
Piscinão de Ramos located in north zone Rio de Janeiro
It was planned, built and inaugurated in the government of Anthony Garotinho during 2000 and 2001 and opened in December of that year. Controversial, the park divided the opinions of the Rio’s population, under accusations of being a work of electorate and populist intentions, prohibitions of traffickers wearing the color red, contamination of the water by excess urine, drowning due to the lack of education of its users, of low income. Despite this, the park quickly became a symbol of Rio’s suburb and gradually a postcard of the city.