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.

QUEEN AND KING OF CANGAÇO
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)
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Read Also:
* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

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Rousseff Is Ousted


In the end, it was all just a matter of time. After a few pro forma procedures, which paralyzed the country for most of the year, the Brazilian Congress voted today to oust President Dilma Rousseff.
For a 61 to 20 count, 81 Senators ignored calls inside and abroad against the measure, and impeached a leader who, less than two years ago, had been re-elected with over 54 million votes.
It was the end of a serendipitous and embarrassing process, which produced no recognized proof to justify such radical step, and wound up exposing the shameful underbelly of Brazil’s politics.
Accused on a technicality by a group of legislators with a particularly long rap sheet of law-breaking and misconduct, Rousseff goes down along a political project led by her Workers’ Party, that momentarily placed Brazil among the world’s most progressive nations.
Before being itself completely overwhelmed by its own misconduct and abuse of power, the party, known as PT, managed what many thought was impossible, and now more than ever, is unlikely to be repeated: lift an estimated 30 million out of extreme poverty.

BACK TO THE PAST, PART TWO
As that was happening, though, it’s now obvious that an influential segment of the upper classes was not about to give up what it had consistently lost in the polls: government access. All it took was to channel popular dissatisfaction with PT to get it all neatly done.
It was, by all accounts, a coup, orchestrated by a coalition of parties that share one trait: none have convinced the electoral majority that they should be entrusted the reins of Brazil, (more)
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* New Continuity Leader
* An Overturned Cup

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52 From the Coup

A Day for Brazil to Count

Its Democratic Blessings

The Ominous Use of Brazil's National Colors (A Tarde, 2015)There are two wrenching, overlapping moments hitting Brazil right now: one punctual, threatening to postpone the future for another 40 years. The other is a permanent state been of self-doubt, of insular auto-sabotage that betrays a profound fear of realizing the dreams that it has been dreaming for so long.
Thus, if Brazil were a person, March 31th would feel like having a screwdriver making turns while deeply encased in the gut. Any other year, it’d be a day to be quickly forgotten, as it’s been for over half a century. But this year, the pain’s different and the bleeding, worse.
When the tanks took the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and other Brazilian capitals, on that March of 1964, they were not just aborting democratically elected President João Goulart. They were strangling a nation trying to come on to its own.
For the 1950s had been Brazil’s rebirth, and the promise of a time unlike anything that had come before. It was the decade the nation discovered its blackness, its youth exploding with possibilities, and most people started moving to live in modern cities, with an emerging industry to boot.
Suddenly, Brazilian popular culture, music, cinema, fine arts, architecture, even its passion for football, acquired an exuberance, a gusto for living that surpassed that of all ethnicities that had been thrown in the mix since the founding of the nation in 1500.

WHEN BOOTS HIT THE GROUND
That’s what the truculent military coup hoped to squashed like tropical cockroaches. The country’s powerful oligarchy, and the always unsecured middle class, readily embraced the muscular support from the U.S., who couldn’t bear seeing Brazil fall into the Soviet Union lure.
The military showed a unified front, swiftly consolidating power, even as they were at each other’s throats behind the scenes. Their single-file determination drove great Brazilian minds to exile, or to an early grave, but also had a tenacious resistance to fight from day one.
While tirany indebted the nation, and mercilessly punished dissent and free expression, Brazil grew around and despite it. It took 21 years to restore democracy. It may take many more (more)
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Read Also:
* John & João
* Dead Presidents
* 50 Summers

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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 Sunday, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 104th birthday.

QUEEN AND KING OF CANGAÇO
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

Continue reading

Photo Retouch

Photographer Known For Essay
on Albino Family Dies in Brazil

The plane crash that killed Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos this week threw the country’s succession of President, and still front runner, Dilma Rousseff, into grief and turmoil. But it also may help us correct an injustice of sorts, in a completely unexpected way.
Along with Campos, eight other people also died: the two co-pilots, two political aides, a cameraman, and a photographer, Alexandre Severo, well known in Brazil for an essay on a rare multiracial family that counts both black and albino kids among its members.
As it turns out, Colltales had published a post on albinos last year, and included a photo of the Fernandes de Andrade family, taken by Severo. Except that his name was not mentioned on the credit of the picture, only Reuters’, its license holder, which is correct but incomplete.
Severo, 36, had already an established career when he portrayed the unique group in 2009, black mother Rosemere, and her two black and three albinos kids, all from Severo’s homestate city of Olinda, Pernambuco. Chances for that to happen: one in a million.
Actually, to prevent yet another correction, let’s say that those odds are estimates; we don’t have scientific data to support such claim. Nevertheless, there’s no need to estimate the challenges for such a poor group of Brazilians for it’s downright hard to even fathom what they go through every day.
As far as we know, the five are doing fine, but again, we have no data to back that up. So we hope, just like albinos do, that they are, and that health issues don’t get in their way to a fulfilling life. Also, that we all come to understand their condition and, more importantly, that our prejudices don’t hamper their right to be loved and respected.
That was the point of our story, anyway. But not of this one. For this is a due correction that we needed to make, and a sign that Severo’s work will outlive him and honor his legacy. In his short life, he managed to link his name to a theme of love and racial equality, almost as rare today as the genetic mutation that triggers albinism.
Tip of the hat to you, brother.
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Read Also:
* The Hunted