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Platform Americas: Brazil, New and Old

Courtesy Americas Quarterly/Calé Merage
Sabrina, a 19-year old performer in Rio de Janeiro, goes by the stage name MC Martina.

Brazil new and old: We examine the lives of teens, like Sabrina, in Brazil, who have high expectations for their futures. Then we take a peek at the hidden, magical world of the penitents, a Christian sect that spun off from Catholicism several centuries ago. There are penitents in Brazil, Colorado and New Mexico. And we bring you a song from singer/songwriter Michele Castro, who moved to Denver from a favela in Rio de Janeiro two years ago, now sells out her shows regularly on Colorado's Front Range.

Credit Courtesy Americas Quarterly: Calé Merage
Courtesy Americas Quarterly: Calé Merage
Sabrina's favela stretches out behind her -- one of the largest in Rio de Janeiro.

Teenagers in Brazil, and in all of Latin America, are the most optimistic teens in the world right now. But they still face structural problems like racism, poverty, and economic inequality. We talk with Brian Winter, a magazine editor who sent reporters to spend several weeks with teens like Sabrina, to help us understand their lives today.

Interview Highlights:

Brian Winter, editor-in-chief Americas Quarterly: "I think it's safe to say [Sabrina is] somewhat of a celebrity in [Rio]. And we thought it was important, particularly after the Olympics gave so much exposure to Rio last year. We thought it would be interesting to find one of these communities and really tell a rich human tale about what it's like to live there."

Winter: "Eighty four percent of [Latin American teens] think that they'll have an easier time achieving their professional goals than their parents did. And that's the most optimism that you find anywhere in the world among the age group including even eastern Asia."

Credit Courtesy Museo de las Americas: Guy Veloso, 2010
Ano-novo, Campeche Beach, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina

It took two years for Museo de las Americas curator Maruca Salazar to bring an exhibition of Guy Veloso's magical photographs of the penitents to the Denver museum. Salazar talks about the centuries-old penitent tradition, which is devoted to helping troubled souls move from this world to the next, and shows off Veloso's dreamlike photos. 

Interview Highlights

Maruca Salazar: "Guy Veloso has photographed the 39 groups of penitentes for the last 20 years. This is a labor of love because what he's doing is preserving the tradition that is disappearing slowly."

Salazar: "There are two kinds of brotherhood: The Brotherhood of the Light and the Brotherhood of Blood. The blood brotherhood is a brotherhood that offers flagellation as part of the penance...only five percent of all the 39 groups that we have in Brazil participate in the flagellation process."

Credit Chris Medina
Michele Castro performs at Swallow Hill in Denver, along with pianist Victor Mestas.

Michele Castro is a singer-songwriter from one of Brazil's largest favelas. She now lives in Denver and performs original music and covers of bossa nova classics all over Colorado's Front Range. Listen to her perform the classic Brazilian song, "Zé do Caroço."