Beautiful Bandit

Maria Bonita, Better Half of
Brazil’s Riskiest Love Story

It’s easy to romanticize about outlaws who fall in love, lead a trailblazing life, and burn out like shooting stars, leaving the holes in their story to be filled with awe by future generations. As legends recede, it’s ever harder to match them with reality.
But the life of Maria Déia and Capt. Virgulino Ferreira da Silva sure packs all the heat those landmarks evoke, placing them at the rarefied pantheon of anti-hero couples whose feats and memory still transfix the living, no matter how much time has passed.
As infamous leaders of a ragtag bunch, who terrorized the hinterlands of Brazil’s Northeast and entranced the nation in the 1930s, Maria Bonita and Lampião are at par with contemporaries Bonnie and Clyde, and after them, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.
They all rose quickly from the anonymity of underprivileged classes to news headlines by the way of the gun, leaving a trail littered with crime and death in their wake, but also, a surprising tenderness, represented by their mutual affection.
But while Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not lovers, and Charles may have manipulated Caril Ann to follow him, Maria Bonita (Beautiful Maria) and Virgulino (lampião means oil lamp, but his nickname is a reference to his lethal firepower) did it all together.
They were equals and in synch in both love and killing skills, although she may’ve been demonized by the Brazilian press at the time, because she was a woman. How fitting then that today, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 107th birthday.

Lampião, 14 years her senior, was already a wanted bandit when he met and literally swept Maria off her feet, around 1930, in the arid Sertão of Brazil, in 1930. A kind of local Robin Hood, he’d avowed to avenge his parents’ deaths in the hands of government soldiers.
When she joined in, Maria became a de-facto co-leader of his gang, which certainly benefited from her charisma. They became folk heroes and it’s not hard to picture how the impoverished populace embraced their fight against enforcers of big landowners and corrupt politicians.
Lampião’s campaign lasted some 16 years, and even as Maria could have played Marian to his Robin exploits, the cangaceiros, as they were known, were closer, (more)
Read Also:
* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

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Kids, These Days

Things Teenagers May Excel at,
Despite What Their Parents Say

It’s a brand new, wild world out there. But some things have hardly changed. Parent complaints, for instance, about how their teens are wasting their lives and may wind up in the gutter.
Not so fast, though. Yes, the air is lethal out there, and happy campers will be crushed. But it’s all so new that jobs that weren’t even around in the 1990s, are already minting millionaires.
For millions of baby boomers, who did waste their youths telling their elders that they could outsell The Beatles, or live off the land, or become a yoga master, the end result was not so pretty.
But it’s not fair for them to now bitterly preach platitudes they never believed in the first place, and that may actually wind up breaking the hell out of their kids’ spirit.
Time to stop barking lessons, and focus on what’s at stake here: how to dislodge that gym-trained body holding a dream-soaked mind, from the cocoon of their room out to the real world.
No, we’re not about to dispense advice, but we did do the ‘finger’ work for you, to uncover some of those things that actually occupy their hearts and minds, when you think they’re doing their homework.
It’s a short list, because we too have boring jobs and unfulfilling lives, and no longer get excited about the latest and the shiniest to capture the attention of immature minds. Just something to get you going.

It’s clear what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not about to digress in the wonders of those utterly annoying Web kids, who command audiences of millions, and have hardly anything to say.
But if your teen spends a lot of time on the Web, messaging friends and, well let’s not go there, he or she may be ready to dole out videos about any kind of expertise he may have.
It’s a good gig but let them try on their own; you would never understand any of that anyway. But it may offer him a path, a window? to their destiny. Or not. Just don’t waste money on it.

Let’s face it: there’s just one Malala Yousafzai. Or Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. But all over the world, there’s a huge demand for compassion and helping hands. And the causes in need are vast.
Your kid may show a penchant to help out others, if at the end of the stick there’s a possibility of travel a million miles away from you. Your masterful skills will be required to put it all together.
But, heaven forbid, always make it look as if it’s their own idea. (more)
Read Also:
* Dime a Dozen
* Half-Past Child
* Feral Children
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Curtain Raiser

To the Boys & Girls of 2014, Colltalers

It’s been a tough for year teenagers, and we’re not talking about their choice of iPhone here. Around the world, the plight of adolescents often accurately reflected the state of their societies, either by achievement or, most likely, by the relentless sacrifice of their lives.
Using demographics to pinpoint the ills of our times may not be the most comprehensive way of going about it. But the past year has shown, with stark clarity, the kind of world we’re setting up for those we’re breeding to occupy it. And the picture is bloody.
There has never been a time when being an adolescent was easy, regardless of what a certain brand of parenting may prescribe. Since the post-Industrial Revolution era, that ever evolving segment is constantly oppressed between their innocence lost and the brutal awaking to a world mostly indifferent to their needs and aspirations. Some perished, by the dozen, while some excelled.
In the U.S. and the Americas, in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, their voices have been heard, but only briefly, and usually right before being silenced by the thunder of gun barrels and the proselytizing of homicidal leaders, pursuing their intolerant agenda.
Thus it was a small miracle that, at the year’s end, a courageous 14-year Syrian boy, Usaid Barho, refused to ignite his suicide vest inside an Iraqi mosque. For most of the months prior have been a story of lives destroyed before they even reached their 20s.
Take the U.S., for instance. Throughout the year, scores of black teenagers have been shot and killed by police, joining the ever open graves of racially-motivated murders, whose numbers are already inflated as if we were all back in segregated times.
For such an underprivileged segment of the American society, 2014 has gone to the books as a blood-red blotch, as law enforcement institutions continue to downplay their own lack of preparedness to deal with this country’s glaring racial inequalities.
Since crime has been on a statistically downward trend, and even recent fatal shootings of cops, albeit tragic, remain rare, how come so many black youth have been killed in the streets, and thousands more continue to swell the jail population to record levels?
The young is always getting into trouble, one may say, brains still forming and all. But what we blame on them is exactly what governments and societies use to manipulate them into being unquestioning soldiers, loyal militia members, and gun-bearing vigilantes: their idealism, cluelessness towards danger, longing to belong. In 2014, we’ve betrayed them even more than usual.
Consider the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, kidnapped by a terrorist outfit, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Debate of Little Substance, Colltalers

Poor old Chris: since the 1960s, he never seems to catch a break. Every year a new spark adds flame to the bonfire and demotion of the Columbus legacy lore. From intrepid conquistador, ‘first global man,’ to the greatest agent of ethnic cleansing in modern history.
In truth, debate over the discovery of America (actually, what’s now Bahamas, but never mind), 522 years ago yesterday, is now more nuanced, and his legacy, a bit better understood. Seattle, though, couldn’t wait: Oct. 12 is now Indigenous People’s Day.
That it rarely falls on that particular day (as a movable holiday, it’s marked on the second Monday of the month) is not the point. The movement to turn it into a celebration of the millions of natives who perished when the Genovese landed in the Caribbean island has gained momentum worldwide and other places are expected to redefine the day according to a new understanding of that.
Revisionism aside, though, political correctness not always work on hindsight and often tends to turn a well worn tradition into an incoherent travesty, with no bearing either to the historical record or justice to the figure itself. In the case of Columbus, however, it makes sense reassessing the myth, add context, and reestablish a narrative that may serve a higher purpose.
Despite Seattle’s early move, though, today will likely proceed as planned, following a familiar pattern of most American holidays: parades, political grandstanding, shopping, and B-B-Qs. And time off, of course, which for many won’t even be part of the bargain.
This year, the official story was assailed from the left field, by a respected discipline, unrelated to the controversy: underwater archeology. Last May, a team of ocean explorers thought they had found the shipwreck of Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, off the coast of Haiti. If further studies would confirm it, this could revive the dog-eared holiday with a fresh paint of wonder.
But it wasn’t to be. U.N. investigators have proven that the carcass was of much more recent vessel. Copper nails, found at the site, were exactly the ones sinking the theory for good, since at the Italian mariner’s time, shipbuilding would use iron nails, not copper.
More: at least one historian, American-Portuguese Manuel Rosa, is now questioning even the belief that the Santa Maria ever sank. To him, the ship was hauled onto the Haitian shore, used to house sailors left behind by Columbus, and later, burned down.
Even if neither of these findings relates to the ongoing cultural and political revaluation of the sailor – who supposedly lost his way to ‘the Indias,’ and the lucrative spice markets of Asia, but found a spanking new world – globalization and its woes certainly has.
What was expected to be the end of border wars and the creation of a global market of all goods produced by mankind to benefit all corners of the world, with free trade and exchange of knowledge and riches among all, became another nightmare of even greater contrasting realities between the mega rich and the miserably poor. Worse: it’s accentuated a hundredfold racial and ethnic hatred.
The arrival of Christopher Columbus to a new continent – strangely not named after him, Continue reading