Thursday, January 7, 2010

Black tourism in Brazil

Capoeira, perhaps the single image most associated with Brazilian blackness by the English-speaking media.

Tourism Black and Blues

by Ana Paula da Silva

When African Americans talk about travelling to Brazil, two types of tourism tend to be discussed. On the one hand, there is a growing interest in so-called “heritage tourism” to Salvador da Bahia, supposedly Brazil’s blackest city. On the other, there’s the “scandal” of what author Jewel Woods has called black America’s best kept secret: black male sexual tourism in Rio de Janeiro. In recent articles and books, these two types of tourism have been set up as diametrically opposed faces of middle-class black America’s recently conquered global mobility. However, as an African Brazilian woman who is also something of a professional gringo watcher, what strikes me about these two forms of tourism is not their differences, but their commonalities.

Both are predicated upon structures which not only reserve global mobility to a privileged few, but which also reserve the right to represent and interpret what is seen and experienced to those same few. Simply put, both sex and heritage tourists are empowered to forge interpretations of Brazil which – given the English language’s global reach – end up drowning out the diversity, ambiguity and complexity of Brazilians own views of themselves and their country. To cop a metaphor from anthropologist Mary Louise Pratt, both forms of tourism end up engaging and empowering an “imperial eye”, which rearranges the landscape according to its satisfaction and, in so doing, creates interpretations which are widely seen as “more authentic” than native realities themselves.

It’s easy to see this black imperial eye at work in the context of sexual tourism. Jewel Wood’s recently published Don’t Blame it on Rio records several examples as does W. J. Cobb’s famous Essence article. Wood’s informants and Cobb himself often project as fact their preconceived fantasies of Brazil and Brazilians on the spaces and people through which they transit. According to these men, Brazilian women are supposedly more natural, easy-going and sexy than their American cousins, with no weight issues due to a better diet and more exercise. This will come as quite a shock to anyone who lives in Brazil and is confronted by our country’s growing obesity problem and high incidence of elective cosmetic surgery. It will also surprise Brazilian sexologists who report that Brazilian women have fewer partners, less sexual fulfillment and more conservative attitudes towards sex than most of the other women of the Americas. Finally, I’m sure that Brazilian men will find the descriptions of Brazilian women as “non-confrontational” and “non-feminist” to be amusing, to say the least.

These illusions are fairly easy to spot and critique, but what about the more subtle fantasies of “roots Brazilian culture” which are often articulated by heritage tourists?

To hear African Americans talk, heritage tourism is a more respectful form of wandering about the world, one which involves learning about “our history”.

Wait a minute: “our history”…?

Listen, I am down with the idea that there is a Black Atlantic, but it is a diaspora and diasporas are defined by cultural, political and historical diversity and yes, power imbalances. Though I may be deeply inspired by the history of the U.S. American civil rights movement, it is not my history. If it were my history, I wouldn’t need to be interrogated by immigration agents every time I visit New York, now would I? And yet Brazil’s history – which most Americans, black or white, can hardly be bothered to learn – is now somehow a part of black U.S. heritage.

The idea of heritage is itself disturbing to me. It’s one of those buzz-words which doesn’t translate well into Portuguese. What precisely is heritage, as opposed to history? Having pestered many Americans about the topic, it seems to me that heritage can best be described as a myth-making attempt to fix claims to certain elements of history as personal or collective property. It thus disturbs me when black Americans come to Bahia in search of their heritage. What they seem to be saying is that Bahia – and by extension, Brazil – makes no useful sense on its own terms and holds little interest for them except as it fits into their personal mythologies of identity.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that the forms of “Brazilian black culture” which will be visible to most heritage tourists are those which most closely fit preconceived ideas of “African culture”. Capoeira and Candomblé will thus get the nod as “roots” and “real”, whereas Jiu Jitsu or evangelism will be seen as regrettable breaches of ethnic purity – if they’re seen at all. “Black Brazilian music” needs must have an “African” or “Latin” beat (whatever that means), because black Brazilians don’t play rock, European classical music, or (perish the thought!) heavy metal. And as for black Brazilian literature, well, it’s just not on the agenda at all. The next black American heritage tourist I meet who’s read Machado de Assis – let alone Cruz e Souza – will be the first and believe me, I’m not holding my breath.

Think about what this sort of attitude implies about black Brazilians. It implies that we have not participated in the modern world, that the only cultural forms which we can call our own are those which have supposedly been handed down from African ancestors. There is nothing wrong with traditional cultural forms, but since when has the be-all and end-all of blackness been tradition? Imagine African Brazilians flocking to the Carolina Sea Islands and declaring the Gullah to be the only “real” black culture in the U.S. Imagine a North America where jazz was not recognized as a black invention, where Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison were unknown entities, where the black churches were seen as “sell-outs” because they didn’t openly acknowledge the Orixás. Many times I have heard African Americans describe Brazil as “backwards” simply because things here aren’t done the same way they’re done back in the U.S.. Hearing this, I have wanted to shout “But isn’t that precisely why you’re here? Because you believe that we belong to another time and world, one that is not your own, but one which you feel free to define for us?”

American tourists of all colors recognize their own diversity and yet often reduce Brazilians to a superficial singular type. Of course, all peoples the world over engage in this sort of behavior – it’s practically a defining characteristic of being human. The problem is not that it happens, but that American structures of power, prejudice and pride are so strongly imbedded in the global scene that they almost completely drown out anything Brazilians have to say about themselves which does not fit into the limitations predefined by Americans.

And this, my friends, is where the “nasty” African American sexual tourist and his supposed opposite, the “respectful” heritage tourist, meet and shake hands: smack dab in the middle of imperial privilege. While it might seem ludicrous to decry African American privilege, given the deep and abiding white supremacy that still characterizes mainstream U.S. culture, it must be recognized that African Americans are playing a growing role in designating what is “really black” and what is not in the world beyond the Empire’s borders. Whether it’s playas with a couple of months of accumulated experience in Copa’s red light district expounding on what it means to be female in Brazil, or earnest social workers back from two weeks in Bahia, rhapsodizing about the Boa Morte Sisterhood as a “living document of African culture”, black Americans are determining what is to be seen and what is to be overlooked in Brazil. In so doing, they are ascribing to themselves – consciously or not – the role of purveyors of black Brazilian authenticity. And black Brazilians, as was traditional in the days of the casa grande e senzala, are left to cater to strangers’ fancies, whether these be carnal or of a more rarified nature.

Personally, I have no problem with either breed of tourist. I’m happy Brazilians can make a buck selling dreams to Americans. But I reserve the right to call “brother” and “sister” those people who attempt to step eyond fantasy, who are willing to accept me as an equal on my own terms and who recognize that I and the peoples which surround me have histories which cannot be reduced to the building blocks of U.S. American heritage – whatever its color.

Photos: Geographer Milton Santos, dramaturge and Senator Abdias do Nascimento, symbolic poet Cruz e Souza. Three of the many icons of black Brazilian modernity which are largely off the black American radar screen when it comes to thinking about Brazil.


  1. Agreed. That's what bugged me about Cobb's article and conversations I've had with black American men who have participated in the sex trade. There's a power imbalance inherent in sex tourism that feels even more exploitative to me than sex work in the States.

    But what makes me laugh for hours on end is that these men believe that the "easiness" of these women is something other than good customer service. And they will slam black American women for not catering to them in the same way.

    With regard to cultural tourists, part of that is the nature of tourism. You can't really understand a place and a people during a 10 day tour. Sadly, you become a Gazer and the people around you become Objects. Even if you're aware of that dynamic, it's hard not to fall into the trap. It's the privilege that comes with living in a rich hegemon. (And, interestingly, it's the same thing we criticize white Americans for doing: being ignorant of black American culture, while we have no choice but to be well-versed in theirs.)

    That said, I agree that my people -- black Americans -- can't seem to go anywhere or do anything without relating it to our own collective experience. Sometimes that's awesome and cool. Most of the time, it's patronizing. Thank you for calling us on it.

  2. A link to this blog post turned up in my Twitter stream, so I read it. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, though it's sad to see you indulge in the same sort of cultural chauvinism you so vehemently decry.
    Pan-Africanism is a very important concept to a certain subset of African-Americans and people of African descent who've grown up in the U.S. Since all history-making is nothing but creating "mythologies of identity" at the end of the day the net effect of your critique is to cage African-Americans in with the rest of the gringos, which the exact opposite of the "Pan African" project that the "heritage" tourists are attempting.
    Also, I have to say you're a little behind the curve as far as trends in African-American male sex tourism is concerned. The Dominican Republic seems to be the desination of choice these days.

    Instead of attempting to rebut every point in your post, which at the end of the day wouldn't make any difference anyway, I'll just give you a little story- a bit of "our" history.
    This happened the last time I was in RioMe and friend of mine (both African-American males) had just left the apartment we were sharing in Gavea and had walked 2 or 3 minutes down the main street there (can't remember the name) when a police car ran up on us. He asked us what we were doing there and even after hearing our bad US accented Portuguese explaination of why we were there refused to believe we were in Gavea for a legit reason. He pointed to the top of the hill (Rochinha) and asked us if we lived there. After we said no he asked/accused us of buying drugs up there. It wasn't until we went back to the apartment we were staying in and used our keys to open the doors that the cops believed us.
    Felt just like New York to me.

    I will say this: This post definitely got my attention. na paz

  3. First, a round of applause for contributing and elegantly written and poignant perspective in your piece entitled “Tourism Black and Blue.” I, too, have been appalled and even embarrassed at the paraphilian behavior of African-Americans males when they visit Brasil. As an anthropologist who taught classes on sex and gender at California State University-Los Angeles in 2004-2006, living in Salvador for the past three years with my Brasilian wife and family, and conducting ethnographic research for a book on Brasil, I concur with many of the points that you posit.

    For example, you said:

    “Simply put, both sex and heritage tourists are empowered to forge interpretations of Brazil which - given the English language's global reach - end up drowning out the diversity, ambiguity and complexity of Brazilians own views of themselves and their country.”

    “…both forms of tourism end up engaging and empowering an "imperial eye", which rearranges the landscape according to its satisfaction and, in so doing, creates interpretations which are widely seen as "more authentic" than native realities themselves…”

    “…What they seem to be saying is that Bahia - and by extension, Brazil - makes no useful sense on its own terms and holds little interest for them except as it fits into their personal mythologies of identity…”

    “…It implies that we have not participated in the modern world, that the only cultural forms which we can call our own are those which have supposedly been handed down from African ancestors…”

    In my own case, I have a rather critical attitude toward African-Americans visiting Brasil as evidenced by an experience that occurred in 2007. I made arrangements for a couple of African-American male friends to visit Salvador for a week and Rio for two weeks. Nothing was to their liking in Salvador. It is as you said…

    ” Many times I have heard African Americans describe Brazil as "backwards" simply because things here aren't done the same way they're done back in the U.S..”

    However, their stay in Rio de Janeiro was much to their satisfaction. It must have been sometime later that I discovered that they frequented Club Help and took back to America several photo albums of nude Brasileiras. Also, it seems to me that those notions about Brasilian women in terms of “easy-going and sexy, less sexually fulfilling, and non-confrontational” is nothing more than a bunch of cross-cultural, misconceptual nonsense.

    To this list of misconceived notions, I would like to further comment on your statement about “American structures of power, prejudice and pride…completely drowning out anything Brazilians have to say about themselves.” If we stop to recall that Brasil is the third largest democracy in the world, well on its way to becoming the fifth largest economy in the world, possesses an enormous energy matrix, incomes of the poorest 10% of the country growing faster than the richest 10%, second largest cellular phone market in the world, second largest jet and helicopter manufacturer, and the world leader in biotechnical research and development…etc...etc., we would easily realize that these are the results of a specific and extraordinary system that is interacting with the larger forces of history and modernization that speak for themselves. Also, that Brasil possesses an effective cultural ideology that is applicable not only in national affairs but the globalized world as well. And finally, I wonder how Americans will rationalize or explain away the fact that Brasil was the last to enter the world economic crisis and the first to recover?

    Of course, there are still problems with social inequality, hunger, education, and I believe that Brasil needs to adopt a more radical stance on human rights. Yet, in my opinion, its efforts to avert being just another imperialist model of the West are at least a step in the right direction.

    Neil Turner, Ph.D.
    Salvador, BA

  4. (Ana fromulating, Thaddeus translating)

    Thank you for all the pondered commentary! There are only two things I would like to say:

    1) I'm not denying that both countries are racist, so it's confusing to me why Melvin thinks the story about Rocinha somehow goes against what I say. Racism and classism are hemispheric constants. But unless you believe that those two things are all there is to black culture, they are not enough to allow you to "intuitively grasp" Brazil if you are black and American.

    2) Far from being "chauvinist" towards black american culture, I find it highly interesting and inspiring. I read black american authors, listen to jazz, read black american history, pay attention to black american news... All I would like in return is a bit of the same from some of my black american "brothers" and "sisters".

    A bit of Brazilian chauvinism, though: some years ago, Brazilians were banned from attending mass in a black Baptist church in New York. They went to hear the singing by the busload and disrupted the service with talking and picture taking. This was one small and rare example of the tables being turned, I suppose!

  5. Ana Paul says...

    Tiffany, thank you very much for your comments. I think that there are many ways of experiencing blackness and, unfortunately, too many people believe that there is only ONE way and that this way is, essentially, the American way. It's view in my mind that's very close to classic social evolutionism, with one group situated as the "winners" on the top of the ladder and all the rest somewhere below, ranked in accordance with how close they are to the "winner" group in terms of beliefs and habits.

    And this is why I'm a bit upset with Melvin's "It's just like New York" comment. It should be obvious that no, it's not. Melvin, a black man, was waylaid by the cops here in Brazil. What saved him was his blue passport. Or does he really think that if he were a black native, the cops would have let him go when he got back to his apartment?

    Melvin's experience with Brazilian racism is demonstratably not the experience a black Brazilian who looked just like him would have had in the same circumstances.

    Melvin's experience, also, is not simply color-based. My white husband - who looks pretty trashy, most of the time - has several times been stopped here in Rio and, like Melvin, his blue passport has saved his ass. This is not to say that there's no racism: it is to say that there are a lot of factors that play into social exclusion and inclusion. Melvin's experience is not something "only a Black person would understand". Anyone who lives here has similar experiences. And the way he got out of it is actually something a WHITE Brazlian or a gringo would understand more than a Black Brazilian.

    So here's the irony: Melvin thinks his experience makes him more like "one of the brothers on the hill". Actually, from the way he describes it, it makes him more like one of the well-heeled (generally light-skinned) kids in São Conrado. A poor black Brazilian man would have had his ass kicked, at best, and not politely let go once the cops reached his home.

  6. Ana writing, Thaddeus translating...

    Dear Neil,

    Thank you very much for your kind comments. My intention is not to destroy the idea that "black experience" doesn't exist. Rather, I'm trying to reflect on how this constructed history ends up being hegemonic and overruning certain groups' specificities.

    I object to the notion that Brazil is somehow "backwards" because it has not quite followed the American formulae on race. Sure, our country is as racist as the day is long. What I object to - and which I unfortunately here from so many African Americans - is the idea that Brazilian racism is somehow "worse" because Black Brazilians are bamboozled, being that they don't react to racism in the same ways that Black Americans do.

    I'm very, very happy that you seem to understand exactly what I am saying!

    Oh, and one more thing...

    I need to make it very clear that I am not criticizing the black men who come here for sex. I work with the local prostitutes' union and I am not a prostitution abolitionist. I think these guys pay well and, by and large, the women I have met who provide services for them don't find them worse than any other customers and much better than some.

    What I do find rather silly - like Tiffany - is the view that many of these men have that the relatively good service they get from Brazilian prostitutes (at top dollar, I might add) somehow reflects Brazilian female attitudes in general.

    I think most of these men would be VERY surprised if they ever actually had a relationship with a Brazilian woman outside of the context of prostitution.

    You're married to a Brazilian, so you probably know what I'm talking about, first hand. :D

  7. Honestly,

    I have been to Brazil, both Bahina and Rio and I'd have to say that I would never go there to "find my heritage" since all of the culture they have there they got from Nigeria, Angola, etc. Moreover, I found it to be very disempowering. My husband and I were there in 2002, and we fought to find nice Black-owned businesses to support. They were all owned by the white Brazilians. We had just had an empowered diasporatic wedding in the U.S., and when we went there, we were at first glad and then stunned and greatly saddened to see Orishas (Oshun, Shango) represented by Black people dressed up like these spirits in order to get us to go in and support white-owned businesses. Quite frankly, I felt more empowered and closer to my roots in the U.S. Brazil has the largest number of Africans and yet we are at the bottom of the rung when it comes to wealth and health in that country. The Africans who are there and who do fight for justice are torn down, and the whole mindset of the country seems to be where we were back in 1940 in the U.S. I'm not saying we are where we should be, but I am saying that as New Africans in the Americas and the Caribbean, we should learn from the lessons of other countries who have demanded their freedom (Haiti is an excellent example). If anything, I think African Americans should look there for empowerment, not Brazil It is really behind in it's race relations, like most Latin countries who would consider people who look like me and my family (from Belize) to be second class citizens. Brazil has a very long way to go and seem to be going at a snails pace with regards to race relations.

    At one point when my husband and I were in Brazil, a man there was trying to convince us there was no race problem in Brazil. As we watched people Samba in the streets (An Angolan/Lingala word, btw) he said to us, "look, we all get along , Black, white, brown, all of us are Brazilian" I said to him, "yeah, but who makes the money after the party and who cleans up afterwards" that's it in a nutshell.


  8. Cara Ana,

    Obrigada pelo artigo, tema difícil e necessário. Continue o trabalho, adoro o blog! Coloquei um link no meu blog, espero que não se importe.

    Abraços em ti e Thaddeus,

  9. Trying to project what someone thinks from their comments on the internet is difficult to impossible so I try to keep my comments to what's actually been written.

    I didn't "think" I was one the guys from up the hill- the police did. I'm very aware the blue passport what is saved me- just like I'm aware that the blue passport is why I ended up staying in Gavea and not up the hill in the 1st place. But it should be noted that the passport saved me AFTER the fact. It saved me from being arrested and beaten, for sure, but lets be clear that it was the cops who made the determinination that I was a favela dweller. I wasn't like I was a slumming African-American looking for an "authentic" cultural experience.

    I gave that anecdote as a counterpoint to your immigration comment. If getting stopped by the at the border proves that you're different than African-Americans because you're Brazilian than getting stopped by the cops for "Walking While Black" in a rich (white) neighborhood proves that the cultural experience of Afro-Brazilian and African-American males might be more similar than you'd care to admit.

    This "Pan Africanist" regards the issue what what passport I hold as an accident of fate. My African ancestors didn't book a ticket on the ship they took to Charleston. They could've just as easily ended up in Rio or Georgetown, Barbados. This fact fact is the root of the "our history" concept you find so perplexing.

    African-American and Brazilian/Afro-Brazilian views of race and racial construction are very different- almost diametrically opposed it seems. The "one-drop" rule for Africans in the U.S. has produced a vastly different culture than the Brazilian "shades of brown" tactic has. I've found it's better for me personally to accept each for what it is than to see one as somehow "less" or "unsophisticated" compared to the other.

    I'm addressing myself more to the heritage question simply because I have no desire to defend the brothers who go to Help ;~).

    I don't think there's a right or wrong in this discussion but I do think that teaching people about other cultures is a process and by definition people start off ignorant. Where they end up is much more important, I think.

    na paz

  10. Ana writing, Thaddeus translating...

    Anonymous says:

    "The whole mindset of the country seems to be where we were back in 1940 in the U.S..."

    Let's think about this for a minute.

    This "sister" went to Brazil for maybe, at most, a couple of weeks. She probably didn't get out of the tourist strip at all - probably, in fact, wasn't even aware that she was in a tourist strip. She doesn't speak or understand Portuguese. She doesn't even know how to correctly spell the name of the state she visited ("Bahia").

    Yet somehow she is possessed of enough accumen, wisdom and knowledge of this country to classify 180 million Brazilians as stuck somewhere, in social evolutionary terms, behind the United States.

    Thank you, Anonymous, for providing me with an excellent example of the arrogance and ignorance which my article describes.

  11. Muito obrigado pelo link, Eloisa! Vamos ler seu blog ainda essa semana e retribuir o favor!

  12. Melvin, it seems to me that you are making the point that Brazil is racist. I agree. And...?

    The point I'm making is that you being black AND American in that situation gives you a different experience of it than a black Brazilian.

    "I gave that anecdote as a counterpoint to your immigration comment. If getting stopped by the at the border proves that you're different than African-Americans because you're Brazilian than getting stopped by the cops for "Walking While Black" in a rich (white) neighborhood proves that the cultural experience of Afro-Brazilian and African-American males might be more similar than you'd care to admit."

    Except for one thing: all Brazilians except the very upper crust have similar experiences to the one you described. The "while black" part of it comes when they arrest you and beat you later - an experience which you didn't receive, did you?

    Getting stopped by the cops and frisked for drugs is a pretty common experience for any male who hangs out near favelas. Black men probably get targeted more, yes, but it isn't some incomesurable black experience.

    The difference is that a white middle class kid can generally presume he's going to get out of that situation with, at worst, a bribe paid. Which is, again, pretty much where your blue passport places you, isn't it?

    I agree with you about teaching people about other cultures. But are most Americans listening, whatever their color? You say "This fact is the root of the 'our history' concept you find so perplexing." I don't find anything "perplexing" about it. I find it to be a simple fact: our history as Black Brazilians is not learned, as a rule, by Black Americans. Your history is learned by us, however. The "diaspora" and this "heritage" thing you're talking about is not a level playing surface and some (hi)stories are much more heard than others.

    "Anonymous" post above is, sadly, a very typical black American view of Brazil. What does she know of our history and culture, really? And yet she feels quite justified in judging it.

  13. By the way, do you guys know Wendi Muse and her contribution to the collective blog Racialicious?
    Here's a link to Bela or Bust, a reflection on beauty:


  14. I am more shocked by the comments than the leaps in the originating piece. As a black woman who travels to Brazil annually, I can stand firm in this - Blacks in America aren't sufficiently taught our own history, and the diasporic account would most certainly include Brazil's history (or Mexico's or Peru's). Therefore, if we don't know Nat Turner, than we certainly won't know Abdias Do Nascimento. This is heartbreaking though as it (article and comments) signifies "crabs in the barrel" mentality that leads to the warring of which black is worse off. Really? WOW. Can't we all just be well screwed over??!!
    I agree strongly with Melvin. And I despise generalizations. I have witnessed both Brazilian black and American black men pulled over or stopped while in Brazil. The outcome? The same. And no, Melvin's passport which, as you pointed out, may have saved his life, was not a bribe - nor should his experience be so trivialized by "normalizing" it as a certain rite of passage for any culture. And I am sorry to disappoint you lest you think the experience is just for those who don't live in America - but you should know they grill ME at my own immigration check-in desk in NYC and honey, it ain't cuz they think I'm Brazilian! This comment comes from an American Black Girl, well educated and well traveled - who hold on now - HAS read Cruz e Souza, Jorge de Lima, Vinicius de Moreas, Chico de Buarque (yes the book and the music), to just name a few. Don't scratch our surface - we are much deeper than you may care to really see. - This from an not so anonymous (Hi, I'm Melissa) not so very typical Black American Woman.

  15. Hello Ana Paula. Anna B. Scott here. We were on a panel together in 2004. I feel compelled to respond, mostly to ask you as a fellow scholar to comport yourself with much more grace. The work you have done in your dissertation and in this article is being undone by the way you are interacting with your readers. I am some what disappointed. I understand that this is a very personal topic for you, but by way of example, the woman who made the unfortunate social evolutionary comments about Brasil is in fact from Belize. That would point to a larger and far more complex discussion that Melvin seemed to hope to have with you about diasporean notions of ancestry, cidadania, and socio-political success: what is Pan-Africanism in the 21st century? Now I recognize that your topic is about transnational racial privilege, but I think your argument would do well to think through that frame, as well as "heritage." Too be honest, most of the people I know who go back forth to Brasil are doing so to be in dialogue with the African-descnded experience as it is articulated in various places in Brasil. And they are doing it by hook or crook: they fundraise, they ceate programs so that they bring capital to their colleagues in Brasil. They fret over their privilege to leave, but most have not relinquished themselves to staying in Brasil, for whatever reason.
    If you've "lived on the economy" in Brasil as a black person from the US, you do have a vastly different notion of the complexity of "blackness;" in both locations!
    I respect your exasperation, but it should be said that there are many many people of African descent living in the US who work tirelessly to disabuse other people residing here of their fantasies of sex and race and Brasil. The difficulty appears to lie in capitalism: even with my Ph.D. in Performance Studies and decade-long research into dance, race and politics in Bahia, I only got to teach about it one time in 9 yrs: my department felt it could not support a class so "specific" and run the risk of loosing funding dollars from central admin. Or think of edutourism that struggles to market a program that does not have time to be an ugly american built in. Discussions of privilege are very much a component of these exchanges.
    Once while hanging out before my dance class in Pelourinho, a group of Af-Am appeared in "African garb" strolling donw the hill. My friend said, " ohla só! aqui tá chegando seu tribo!" A vergoña! Of course, the next question was why was I so different from "them." It is very complicated, but regardless, it demands grace.
    I wish you continued success with your research.

  16. Ana writing, Thaddeus translating...

    Dear Melissa,

    I'm confused as to why you would see my description of a factual situation as a "right of passage". That seems to me to be a pretty large "reading into". It's not a "right of passage": it's a violation of rights which almost all of us live under in this country. My point, again, was the incomensurable "black" side of this experience isn't so much as being stopped, but the much higher probability of being framed and beaten, once one is stopped. I know very few white Brazilians who've been through that - at least since the end of the dictatorship.

    And again, I wonder where you see "warring as to which blacks are worse off" in my article or commentaries. What I am saying is simple: Brazilian blacks have a culture and a history that is their own and is not simply a lego-block part of a master American or Pan-African narrative. No "worse off" discussion there at all.

    You say you hate generalizations?


    Generalizations aren't bad in and of themselves and you use them everyday. It's when generalizations reify into stereotypes that things become a problem.

    A question, Melissa: you say you've read Cruz e Souza. You read Portuguese, then? This is good. And I agree that American blacks need to be educated in their own history (as do Brazilian blacks). That doesn't at all touch my main point, however: the black elite which has the economic and cultural capital to travel SHOULD be learning about the places they are going and they, as a rule, don't. Now, this is true of tourists in general, but then again, that is why I'm not dancing about in happiness over Black "heritage tourism" as some sort of supposedly superior branch of tourism.

    Finally, as for passports, yes, you get harassed. So do I when I come home or leave my country. That is a completely different thing from being deported, wouldn't you say?

  17. (Ana writing, Thaddeus translating...)


    I wrote an enormous response to your post and then lost it to the internet erês. Sigh...

    Here are the highlights as well as I can remember them.

    "Grace". I'm an ex-metaleira from suburban industrial Rio de Janeiro. I know more about tango than dança afro and am more interested in Marcelo D2 and O Rappa than Olodum. I would hazard a guess that my experience of "blackness", in this sense, is much more common among Brazilians these days than the stuff most Americans find to be "typically Brazilian and black". What it is not, however, is "graceful". Culture formed by late industrial and urban capitalism very rarely is.

    The vast majority of black Americans who come to Brazil go to two cities - Salvador and Rio - and they stay in very limited parts of those two cities. They then generally believe, as Hatshepsut does, that they understand black Brazil and can neatly pigeonhole it as backwards in comparison to the U.S. (By the way, what in heaven's name does Hatshepsut being from Belize have to do with the validity of her viewpoint? Clearly, being from Belize is not an innoculation against social evolutionist thought.)

    These views have quickly come to the fore in both instances where this article was published (here and at Abagond's blog), so I am somewhat surprised at your surprise regarding my comments. I don't think "gracefulness" is an appropriate way to respond to imperialism and social Darwinism: I think cooly laying out the facts of the matter serves us much better.

    As for pan-Africanism, I'm up for a debate regarding it, as long as Melivn realizes that my views on the matter are not as sanguine as his. However, when Melvin basically articulates the point of view that "walking while black" in São Conrado gives him an experience similar to black Brazilians (and it does not) and that the situation is basically like that in New York (and it is not: compare NYC cop-caused deaths with the same in Rio), then - again - I think that I am not being rude or ungracious to point out what's wrong with that view of things. This is, presuming, that we're debating, of course. :)

    What is perhaps "ungracious" is that a black Brazilian women is saying things in English to Americans that black Brazilians privately discuss among ourselves. Things that are at the root of the perception that "there goes another tribe" when black Americans walk by.

    ---continued below---

  18. --- part 2 of response to Anna ---

    Regarding "grace"...

    "Grace" and "gratitude" are both rooted in the Latin word "gratus", which means "pleasing". Given what I've written in the main article, are you REALLY sure that you want to call me to task for being unpleasing?

    It is inherently unpleasant to point out that fantasies and realities are not often congruent, at least when one is talking to dreamers. It is also unpleasant to have to say that, in their zeal to find "roots", many African Americans are completely ignoring Black Brazilian modernity unless it's spectacular or exotic. I know of no pleasant way in which these things can be said but I will say this: I'm very sure that if things keep going the way they have been, you'll be hearing these sorts of comments from many more black Brazilians in upcoming years.

    You're correct that African Americans who "live on the economy" here, particularly over the long term, do indeed change their views and attitudes and become much less certain about America's supposedly "superior" development. I cherish these people. And yes, there are a significant number of individuals who radically go against the grain of the syndrome I described above. But I'm sure that we can both agree that these people are a minority within a minority within a minority. And yes, as many people point out, there are many, many ignorant, racist and obnoxious Brazilians. One of the points of my article, however, is that due to imperial power and wealth, Brazilian ignorance simply doesn't affect the U.S. to the same degree that American ignorance affects Brazil.

    My article generalizes, of course. I don't find generalizations to be necessarily bad unless they harden into stereotypes. What I'm more concerned about is if the generalization adequately describes the object at hand. I feel that this one does. It is my HOPE that twenty years from now, we'll be able to say that this is no longer the case.

    But I'm not holding my breath.

    Beijos e abraços,
    Ana Paula da Silva

  19. Hello,

    I think all Americans, particularly African-Americans should read your essay. It is very well-written and I think you captured the ways that African-Americans willingly, consciously and subconsciously participate in the hegemonic ideal of American supremacy, even being the group considered on the bottom of the American hierarchy.

    I often speak of this with other African-Americans who only seem to visit Brazil in search of the legendary beautiful, Brazilian woman. People turn a blind ear when I tell them that statistics estimate that 40% of Brazilians are now classified as overweight. They also ignore me when I tell them that there are millions of Afro-Brazilians who one would not be able to differentiate from African-Americans. From what I know of black American men, they are in search of the racially indefinable woman with just a hint of African ancestry that they believe not to be in abundance in the US.

    As a frequent visitor to Brasil (11 times and counting), I must always be careful of how my actions can be construed as the "American gringo carrying himself in a manner of superiority". After people get to know me and learn that I probably know as much or more about Afro-Brazilian history, I think people see me in a different light; the gringo that has taken the time to learn about Brazil, its history, culture and people.

    Yes, I DO know about the legendary Abdias do Nascimento. He is the man whose books in English were the primary influence of my wanting to learn more about Afro-Brazilian History and visit the country. I realized a goal of mine when I met Mr. Nascimento back in 2003 at the 25th anniversary of the MNU in Rio de Janeiro.

    I know about the Frente Negra Brasileira, Joao Candido, November 20th Black Consciousness Day (I've been there twice now), Latin America's first and only black university, Uni-Palmares (I know people there) and I've been to the Trofeu Raça Negra awards twice now.

  20. Part 2

    Sometimes, it is sad to say, but Afro-Brazilians recognize that when we are in public, and doing research together, I as an American, can often times get access to things and people that they themselves as Brazilians, feel they would have difficulty obtaining.

    Even as the minority group in the US, I have noted how African-Americans DO see themselves as being "better" than other non-Americans; there's no excuse for this type of behavior especially given our history in this country. It amazes me that black American men continue to carry so much anger about the way that black American women were raped and treated as whores during the era of slavery but then they don't have a problem with participating in sex tourism in Brazil.

  21. When I am in Brazil, my friends tend to be people who are involved in the Movimento Negro in some way. I also know people who are detached from any aspect of this movement so I must acknowledge that there are several different modes of identity in Brazil, with Movimento Negro-identified identify being in the extreme minority.

    I am often disappointed to see how much American culture has penetrated Brazil. I hear it in the many English words that have become a part of Brazilian vocabulary, untranslated. The obsession with American products and American music. In this way, the Brazilian/American exchange is influenced in more than a few ways. 1) Brazilians who see many aspects of Americanisms as being superior and 2) Americans who are taught and believe that "all things American" are superior, including themselves.

    I don't know what the solution to this dilemna is, as so much public opinion and a people's perception of self is shaped by the media. But this is a dialogue that I would like to continue.

    I study and write much about race and racial issues in Brazil. Although I haven't written in my blog for more than 6 months, please visit it and feel free to comment.

    I have also written a number of articles on other websites, particularly BRAZZIL.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    My name is Mark Wells and articles can be accessed here:

    I also have two youtube pages:

  22. (Ana commenting, Thaddeus translating...)

    Thank you for your kind comments, Mark. People with your attitude give me hope.

    I only met Abdias myself some 6 years ago, but one of my pet peeves is Americans who ignore the fact that he was a federal senator (because only in America can blacks be elected to public office - right...?). I mean, if we Brazilians are so backwards and unconscious in comparison to Americans, how the hell did we manage to elect our version of Amiri Baraka to the Senate in 1994? There have only been 4 black American ssenators, period, outside the reconstruction age and three of them are post-Abdias. None of them was anything as near as militant as Abdias, either.

    I mean, we must be doing something right...

    Again, I just want to underline that I have no problems with the black American men who come here for sex tourism. They contribute a lot of money to the economy and I see no necessary problems with their choice. It seems to me that the regulation of prostitution serves the women involved in it much better than attempts to ban sex tourism or so-called "sexual exploitation". Prostitution is a job. Jobs in capitalism, by nature, are exploitative, which is why we have laws regarding what one can and cannot do to an employee and why we allow workers' unions - neither option which is available to Brazilian prostitutes under our current laws.

    Maybe I should do an article soon on what I think about the "scandal" of African American men paying for sex in Brazil...

    What do you think?

  23. The 1st time I went to Candeal in Salvador to visit Carlhinos Brown the road was unpaved and almost everybody lived in shacks without running water. Now the road is paved and most people live in properly built houses with running water. Are you going to say the people of Candeal aren't authentically "Black" anymore because they live in houses now instead of shacks? Carlinhos himself flies all over the world (probably 1st class) and makes very good money. When he's yelling at the cops during Carnival to stop beating up on people because they're Black is he less "Black" because it's someone from the hood who's beaten up and not him?

    I reject the premise that "gringo privilege" somehow makes me less Black in the context of Brazil and in the context of this conversation.

    Should Michael Jackson and Spike Lee have been forced to read English translations of Cruz E Souza and learn about the work of Abdias do Nascimento BEFORE they made the "They Don't Care About Us" video?
    Or should have done what they did, which was make a document that asserts the commonality of Afro-Brazilian and African-American creativity and innovation?

    Expecting an African-American who's researched enough to find Mae Stella or Mestre Morais to know about Nacao Zumbi is like expecting Brazilian Jehovah's Witnesses who come to N.Y. to study to know about TV On The Radio- it's besides the point.

    The line between generalizing and stereotyping is a thin one that's easy to cross. I'd imagine it's obvious to you now that a few of the commenters felt you crossed it- which is ironic because you're essentially preaching to the converted here.

    I have friends who have gotten on the plane to go to Help, yes. I also have friends who have gotten on the plane because were invited to Salvador to drum bata for Mae Stella. I have friends who have apartments in Salvador. I also have friends who live in the interior of Bahia and know people who go there for eco-tourism or sustainability research. I know about people who went to Rio to link up with DJ Marlboro and/or check out the "baile funk" scene and I've helped out people who've gone to Sao Paulo to link with grafitti artists there.

    On that note, the hip-hop community is an influential community with a very slight overlap to the "heritage tourists" that's totally engaged with what you would call "modern" Brazilian culture circa 2010. You ignored them and their influence completely in your original post. I don't know anybody in the part of the hop-hop community that I'm in contact with that would say B-Negao is somehow "less authentic" hip-hop wise because he doesn't live "our" African-American experience or fault him or anybody else in the Brazilian hip-hop community for their "myth making attempts to fix claims to certain elements of (African-American) history as personal or collective property".

    I personally don't believe that demonizing people who are willing to make an effort to interact with me because they don't have the same level of cultural "grace" (in the sense of pleasing and in the sense of "axe") I do contributes to developing meaningful long-term interactions.

    Of course, as I said up top, you're certainly entitled to your opinion.
    This has been a bracing exchange.

    na paz

  24. (Ana commenting, Thaddeus translating)

    Melvin asks: "Are you going to say the people of Candeal aren't authentically "Black" anymore because they live in houses now instead of shacks?"

    Melvin, what kind of question is that? What in heaven's name would lead you to ask something like that, given what I've written (and rewritten) about black Brazilian modernity above?

    Of course modernization doesn't make black Brazilians any less black. That is the entire point of my article.

    As for you being "less Black", that is also not the point. The point is that your experience here is not "the same as New York", irregardless of whether you are black or not.

    As for Spike and Michale, it couldn't have hurt for them to have informed themselves a bit more about the political situation they were getting involved with. In the event, they ended up paying members of drug gangs for "permission" to film where they did. That money went straight back to buy bullets, some of which probably found their way into black and brown bodies. "They don't care about us", indeed. The filming of that video caused a huge polemic in Brazil. Personally, I'm on the wall myself about whether it caused more good or more bad, but yes, I think it was problematic for them to do what they did without thinking about the greater repercussions of their choices. Certainly, reading more about the situation could not have hurt in this particular case.

    But let's put the shoe on the other foot: how would you feel if B-Negão decided to do a video in a Baltimore housing project, paying the local gang for "security"? "Positive effect on the community", would you say? Or would you perhaps shake you head and say "Couldn't the brother have figured out a better way to make his point?"

    Studying the larger context and history of the situation one claims to be interested in is never beside the point and I'd make the same criticism regarding the Brazilian Jehovah's Witness. In fact, I have criticized Brazilian colleagues, in the past, for attempting to engage with the U.S. in shallow and piecemeal fashion. If you want to see the work of a friend who is doing something I find really cool in this respect, please go to:

  25. Continuing with comments to Melvin...

    "On that note, the hip-hop community is an influential community with a very slight overlap to the "heritage tourists" that's totally engaged with what you would call "modern" Brazilian culture circa 2010. You ignored them and their influence completely in your original post."

    This is a very good point, but I was talking about the major streams of black tourists that come into Brazil, not a handful of cultural activists. If you find me examples of significant numbers of these guys coming to Brazil - let's say 1% of the numbers of people going to Rio or Salvador for the aforementioned tourism - I will revise my opinion of their impact. I haven't seen much of them yet, nor what they've produced. I have seen Snoop Dog's little piece with women walking down Copacabana with Brazilian flags on their asses and I've heard several rap and hip hop pieces on the internet refering to Brazilian women as sexual machines. I did find the Black-Eyed Peas song to be cheery and and cute and whatnot.

    Perhaps you could name some books or pieces from hip hop that you feel are positive and include dialogue with Brazilians? Most of what I've seen so far falls into the category of "musical safari" and I'd be happy to learn about things that don't.

    As for "demonizing", who's doing that? Criticism is not demonizing. I am far from saying - in my article or comments - that what black Americans do in Brazil is evil and horrible or that all Black Americans in Brazil can all be reduced to two simple categories.

    What I have very clearly said is that the two main thrusts of Black tourism here are not as antagonic as people would have you believe, nor do they do much for black Brazilians, one way or another, aside from rpoviding service economy jobs.

    That is hardly "demonizing".

    As for "preaching to the converted", I very much doubt it. Eu diria que botei o dedo bem na ferida. Pimenta no olho dos outros é refresco, neh, Melvin? :-)

    The problem with generalizations is that they are general, by nature, and don't contemplate exceptions. But let's do this Melvin: next time you're down here, you take me around showing me all the black American hip-hop people in Rio and I'll show you the black American sex tourists (which is a group that does have a significant overlap with the hip-hop folks, by the way) and we'll see if you think my generalization is so far off base.

    Yes, there are people like you down here, just like there are white American communists. You are, unfortunately, not the majority of tourists however.

  26. This article has angered black sex tourists on

    They think that the comment "Though I may be deeply inspired by the history of the U.S. American civil rights movement..." is a racist code signifying that the author is unaware of any other moments in black history.

    It's unanimous: both the heritage and sex tourists dislike criticism when it comes from mouthy Brazilian academic women. Ana should stick to the ivory tower.

  27. If anyone would like to see an incredible hiphop group with referances to Brazilian culture , including sambao and mangue beat, as well as one of the greatest Afro Brazilian dancers anywhere, you can see it at Hard Rock Cafe in Rio , Febuary 4th, the Mr E show.

    This is truly an example of American hip hop culture mixed with high leval Brazilian culture. The playback tracks have cuts with Elza Soares , Luizao Maia ,as well as serious top leval funky New York musicians, all especialy recorded for these special artists, Mr E and Edi Machado.

    Any one who has even a mild interest in hiphop, and Afro Brazilian dance and ryhthm and how they can be forged together , will have an interest in seeing this show.

  28. Great. A Hard Rock Café out in Barra da Tijuca.

    Can't get much more "roots" than that, I guess. It's where all the funqueiros hang out.

    What's the entrance fee for this extravaganza? A third of a Brazilian monthly minimum wage....?

  29. Culture is where it gets booked....these venues dont have agendas anymore, they are just trying to make money...

    Call them yourself and find out...I just know its going to be a heavy show i wont miss, and a heavy show for anyone who is interested in afro brazilian culture and hip hop and how they can be forged together in a powerful english and portuguese...I know who these artist are and their show is original music and high energy dancing...It will cost a lot more when they get more recognition , you can beleive that...

  30. "Perhaps you could name some books or pieces from hip hop that you feel are positive and include dialogue with Brazilians? Most of what I've seen so far falls into the category of "musical safari" and I'd be happy to learn about things that don't. "

    By the way, Anna Paula asked for some reccomendations of hip hop that has a positive dialogue with Brazilians, and , this show if nothing else is exactly that.

  31. Really? Fingers on wounds and peppers in eyes - ouch. (smiley face?)

    For starters, go here (stay there and study it for awhile - there's a lot)

    and then, you may end up here

    Just 2 of many. many many.

    Submitted in honor of the miseducation of...


  32. Ana says….
    Dear Melissa,
    Once again, the problem here is generalizations - the same generalizations, I might add, that we make when we talk about racism.
    Imperialism, like racism, is a social process. It exists in aggregate; for all that it also appears in individual manifestations. It is not undone by individual acts of good will because it is transindividual in nature. One can always bring up an individual example which seems to go counter to the general trend, but one versus, say, one hundred, does not a trend make. White people so this all the time when they say that “I’m not racist and neither are my friends. Look at all the good we do! We LIKE black people! So you’re just overly sensitive when you talk about racism.”
    Imperialism is likewise real and, like white people and their blinders regarding race (no matter how well meaning they may be), Americans, whatever their color, have a hard time perceiving racism.
    Yes, I do know about Afroreggae and they do good work. However, they are not a major cause or even on the radar screens of more than 99% of the black American tourists who visit Brazil. They are an individual exception to a general rule. “Favela Rising” is a nice documentary, but it is very much “p’ra gringo ver”. It often repeats stereotypes without questioning and avoids dealing with the complexities of certain issues.
    As long as we’re discussing documentaries, however, I suggest that you see “Notícias de uma Guerra particular”, produced a full 6 years before “Favela Rising” and which, as far as I know, has never been translated. At least, to this day, I have not met a gringo who’s watched it unless they were professionally involved with studying Brazil. I think this film is a lot better and more nuanced version of Rio’s violence. Unfortunately, gringos probably won’t see it, because it was not produced by American film makers and thus doesn’t even have the small distribution and marketing infrastructure that are available for this sort of thing in the States.

    Thaddeus says…
    Dear Melissa,
    I have acquaintances who have worked with afroreggae and they have told me some pretty nasty stories regarding the clashes that sometimes occur between the group and their foreign benefactors.
    More than any other group in Brazil, perhaps, Afroreggae has to deal with the problems and stereotypes Ana brings up. First of all, they apparently have had some difficulties getting a fair share of the world’s attention because they were a carioca group and “everyone knows” that the center of black Brazilian culture is Bahia. Secondly, because of clashes they’ve had with well-meaning gringos who feel that Brazil is “backwards”, Afroreggae is now very picky over whom it deals with and how. The group tries to maintain as much local control as it can over its projects, no matter who funds them, because they do not want to ever be in a position where they receive orders coming from overseas as to how they should run their business. The radio station dealt with in “Favela Rising” supposedly had some issues in this respect which I heard about second hand, but am not competent to address directly.
    But your comment is also a good example of what Ana’s talking about. You know about “Favela Rising” because it’s one of the few bits of info about Afroreggae available in English. For all its undoubted appeal, however, the film is a public relations piece produced by people who are very sympathetic to the group. There are other sources of information on afroreggae available to people who live here and have worked with the group, but these are not heard outside of our local sphere. Afroreggae’s world face is “Favela Rising” and the English-language stuff the group itself puts out because English is, of course, a world language and Portuguese isn’t. Because of this, a large part of the story of Afroreggae just isn’t available to you and other English-speakers and so it might as well not exist. Afroreggae is thus to you a great group not because you’ve really gone and seen what they’ve done (I presume – and let me know if I’m wrong here), but because you’ve seen propaganda produced by two American sympathizers. The real group and its life is a hell of a lot more complicated than “Favela Rising” lets on.
    So here’s an excellent example: Jeff and Matt’s fairly superficial film becomes much more emblematic of black carioca realities in the world than any of the numerous works produced by the group by Brazilians – often by Black Brazilians. Ana makes a very good point when she tells you to go see “Notícias…” Here’s a Youtube link:
    If you can find a subtitled version, I’d be much obliged.

  34. Thaddeus sez:

    That should be "imperialism" and not "racism" in the third paragraph of that last post by Ana.

  35. Thaddeus sez:

    There seems to be an English subtitled verison on Youtube as well, but it seems to be incomplete.

  36. For the record, I didn't offer commentary or justify.

    I simply posted links in reply to the direct question. I"m not "discussing" any documentary or point with you at all.. Like Hard Rock and the others; it was in reply.

    The suggestion for “Notícias…" is noted, hope I find a version I can comprehend.

    Peace to you two...much much much light, and even more grace.


    ps. far too few, and hardly any American Blacks I know, know of Salvador. And that's real. I wish the influx and influence was as great as claimed, but it's not. The barriers to access for travel for blacks are many across the board. So, all of this - in my opinion - is based on too narrow a few. Which then leads to these too narrow of views. When there are more American blacks (from hoods to the hollers (where I am from) to the white towers) then I'll feel knowing that you may run across a few more than your paths have led you to thus far.

  37. Melissa, check the subtitled section here, which should give you a good idea of what the film is about.

    What I love about it is that it interveiws everyone - cops, drug dealers, the residents of the favelas, jailors - and realy tries to avoid the "good guys versus bad guys" syndrome.


  38. "Culture is where it gets booked....these venues dont have agendas anymore, they are just trying to make money..."

    Rio is full of venues and your bohyz couldn't find a one outside of the carioca version of Malibu?

    Brother, please!

  39. What is your problem , Corporate ? They arnt from Rio...they played at Teatro Odyseia in the Lapa the last time...

    You seem like one uptight individual...get off your high snidy horse

    For the people on here who said they like Nacao Zumbie, there is an ode to Chico Science ,for the people on here who said they studied Afro Braziian dance for a decade, one of the finest practicioners of Afro Brazilian dance is participating and she is a two time Billboard World Music charting artist, and from Bahia and danced for escolas in Rio.

    The lead singer also raps hard in English and Portuguese with more than jive lyrics , and dances the James Brown and break moves...this is the real deal, the backing tracks have special apearances by Elza Soares and Luizao Maia as well as killer New York musician giving the Brazilian parts huge authenticity and the funk hip hop from New York huge authenticity.

    They have played in New York, Rio , Los Angeles, Recife, Porto de Galinhas Jazz fest, Florianopolis and many other places

    Any one who is really looking for something original and special with an emphasis on hard driving dancing,and Brazilian culture and issues mixed with Ameriacan hip hop...this is the ticket...

  40. Actualy , Ive seen "Noticias..." , it is very good, the guy who wrote "Tropa do Elite" is in it.I would reccomend the MV Bill docu "Falcons..." also.Do you think the average Afro Brazilian knows who the Santa Catarina poet , Cruz de Souza , is ?

    Excuse me for being dense here, but, I'd like to know what is the differance from an African American , Imperialistic privledged travler from the Empire, and you , Ana Paula , travling to the States ? Brazilians are looked on as Imperialists and gringos in Bolivia.

    And , what is so wrong with Afro Americans relating to copoeira , because of the Afro elements that actualy do exist ? Of course there are elements in capoeria that are Brazilian ,but, atabaques, call and responce chants are Afro charactoristics.

    Jiu Jitsu originaly came from Japan , why cant they come looking for the thing that they can relate to ? The U S A history, banned basic fundimentals of African culture that stayed in tact in Brazil, of course there was much discrimination against samba and capoeira and candomble , and maracatu, but , the power was so overwelmingly strong that it prevailed , and ,you can observe living examples of this culture ,if you can dig for treasure in Brazil, because it is not on general everyday tv...except a few drips that come out at carnival time...

    If they are trying to tell you to give up Rappa and heavy metal, then you have a right to be mad.Is that what they are trying to do ?

  41. No, the average afro-brazilian does not know who Cruz e Souza is, just like the average afro american does not know who Ralph Ellison is.

    But one expects college-educated people who are dealing with the culture in creative ways to know, não é?

    And whether or not an individual knows is hardly the point. Black America has many obscure heroes, but they are recognizably part of an educated person's pantheon. Black Brazil has the same situation, but Brazilians often hear from Americans - and I can give you written examples of this by the dozen - that "unlike the U.S., Brazil has no successful black people other than Pelé".

    So it's how cultures are perceived. Whereas American black modernism has a place in the pan-Africanist pantheon, Brazilian black modernism generally does not. Generally, Brazilian black culture is understood to have value to the degree that it supposedly remits to 16th century African roots. That IS the way the game is played, for all the individual exceptions brought up above.

    You asked about imperial privilege and my travels to the states As I wrote on, I have yet to travel once to the U.S. and not come very close to being denied entry, in spite of my so-called "economic elite status" in Brazil, in spite of the fact that I meet all entrance requirements. Every trip has begun with some sort of "screw up" where I was singled out for delays, paperwork malfunctions, customs "misunderstandings", the works. This happens to me routinely. It does not happen routinely to African American tourists coming to Brazil.

    If you and I were to sit down in a bar in Salvador, Anon, you'd be given quick attention by the waiter, no matter what your color because the presumption is that you are an american tourist spending money. I, on the other hand, am routinely mistaken for a prostitute, no matter how I dress, because what's a black Brazilian woman doing in a nice restaraunt in Salvador? I could only be there to chase the gringos. I'm pretty sure there's an off-chance that this could happen to Black American women in Salvador, too, but if they open their mouth once, imperial privilege will quickly be mobilized in their favor.

    In terms of my trips to the States, while I've been treated well, I am routinely talked down to. People presume that my husband "bought" me in some sort of "mail order bride" scheme. When we lived in DC for a few months, I was constantly receiving double entendres about "Oh, a Brazilian girl! I understand... So I guess you're glad to be living up here now, huh?"

    My class, education and social markers are completely opaque to Americans, to whom I'm "obviously" a third-world girl in a marriage with some white gringo slob in order to better my life. What I say, do, or wear doesn't change this in most cases and it's the same whatever the color of my interlocutor.

    Black Americans in Brazil face prejudices, yes. In general, however, once it is revealed that they are gringos, imperial privilege comes to the fore and they are treated with at least superficial respect. Meanwhile, I know black Brazilian women college professors who've lived in the U.S. for decades and who still have the problems I do.

    Imperial privilege. It is as real as race privilege. I find it ironic that an anti-racist has difficulties grasping this point.

  42. As for capoeira, there's nothing wrong with Black Americans relating to it. Why should there be? My article says nothing of the sort.

    The problem is when things like capoeira becomes the be-all and end-all of supposed Black experience in Brazil. It comes when Americans tell me that capoeira's myths are, in fact, its history. It comes from the presumption that "basic African fundamentals stayed intact" in Brazil and that capoeira is an example of this.

    I can't think of a single "intact African cultural fundamental" in Brazil. Can you? None of the four examples you mention - samba, maracatu, capoeira, candomblé - represent an "intact" cultural tradition. ALL of them are syncretic and highly modern.

    The fact that you can't see this is worrisome and underlines my point that black Brazilian cultures only seem to have value to Americans to the degree that they represent a 16th century African "purity".

    To a certain degree, this argument we are having is very old. The first black american intellectuals to look at Brazil in the 1930s and '40s split on this same divide: is Brazil African or syncretic?

    The problem is, since the 1940s, an entire cultural industry has come into being selling the concept of Brazilian "roots" and this is, in fact, "creating" an "African authenticity" which risks drowning out Black Brazilian history and modernity.

  43. I have some agreements and disagreements with you, Ana Paula.

    Being mistaken for a prostitute in Bahia for sitting at an upscale restaurant ? Yes, i could see how that could happen, and it could happen in Rio also , depending on the restaurant. I dont think it is in every restaurant in Bahia that is upscale , do you really beleive that?

    Ive had some bad experiances in Bahia , so, can relate.

    I dont agree with your cultural assesments.I can speak for myself , as a person who is extremly passionate for various Afro Brazilian manifestations of culture , but, certainly not all, nor am I aware of them all because their are hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand.

    Lets take maracatu, for example. Its been around for about 300 years. I also consider it modern, in the sence that you can see groups of today, like Nacao Pernambuco, who have preserved the traditions , using the alfais and actual court costumes that were worn in that time of 300 years or so ago , but, hearing them is anything like going into a museum. Its not pure 16 century Africa, its where the slaves at that time were at in how they were coping with their survival and the influences around them like the Portugues and the indians.And it is so powerful and alive that that is what makes it modern, because it is timeless.And thank goodness there is a representation of that we can look at today to give us an idea of a high interpreted art, that is powerful enough to not be like some museum tour.

    And that is what is worrisome for me about your opinion. You are asuming people think it is only 16 cetury Africa. I can hear Afro roots in modern music from any country that brought slaves from Africa,like Cuba, or, Haiti , or James Brown or John Coltrane with Elvin Jones in the States.And each example is their own living fotograph in time of that evolving expresion at that moment, like hip hop with break dancing is now. Its how they assimulated and evolved into each perspective culture and at what time period we are talking about.

    In jazz, you can see the evolvement, and, early 19 hundreds jazz sounds differant than say mid sixties Miles Davis. Who is a phenominal example in Brazil at that time ? Elza Soares among many others.The 70's? Banda Black Rio with the late Barrosinho , an incredible trumpet player.

    You have examples in Recife like Caboclinho (sp?), that is more indian than African, but the African beat touched it and dominated.The sub Saharan African influence of beats and dances dominated every place that slaves were taken in the Americas. You just find idioms that have less, like heavy metal. Its kind of hard to think of more than 2 or 3 (if that many) popular musics and dances in the USA, Cuba, Jamaica,Haiti, Brazil, Trinidad, etc etc etc ,that havent been deeply informed by sub sahara African concept of beat and dance.

    And , Brazil is like a place that you can slice through the culture and actualy see the developement of slaves brought to Brazil from Africa , in their interaction with the Portuguese and indians , and can see rich examples of various time lines .Just like you can study blues,work songs and chain gang chants, jazz, spirituals, tap dance, and see how that exactly relates to their time frame, all the way into rhythm and blues, rock, funk up to hip hop.But remember, drums didnt come back into African American culture until the jazz age. The drum set was invented for jazz.But Brazil retained its connection with the drumsm and then how those beats and dances interacted with Portuguese and indian cultural expresions.

    So i see Brazilian culture in that respect. How each of these expresions represents the developement of Afto Brazilian culture , with all the elements unique to Brazilian culture in there, as it is evolving .Samba has a rich history, from samba da rodas , to Chica Gonzaga and into choro making use of sophisticated European harmonies.Same with frevo, coco, and even tambor da criola which they say was actualy a boat of Cuban slaves brought to the North of Brazil.

  44. even tambor da criola which they say was actualy continued....
    a boat of Cuban slaves brought to the North of Brazil. And you can actualy almost hear how that could have been an early Cuban sound before timbales and other modern percusion instruments define its moder feeling in guaguaco or timba.That is extremly fascinatint to me.I just dont agree with what you are worried about how i perceive this.

  45. Ana Paula, this imperial privledge is the thing i have the most issue with you about.

    I have been hassled by customs in Brazil more than a few times and for sure in the States more than a few times. I have seen Afro Brazilian women going through customs with no hassles.

    When i travel in the world, i dont feel privledged at all, there are people in Brazil who get more reserved and distant when ,after saying no, i am not German,or Canadian or what ever they think i was,i am American.I dont buy this there is an open door and privledge thing just because i am an American,it certainly doesnt play out in the business world for me as an independent head of my business soliciting work.As a matter of fact, things get more closed and dificult when many people know they are dealing with an American.

    I dont think you can come up with a theory like that based on few voyages to the States.For sure there are dumb people there that will sound like idiots talking to you , and I think you can find that all over the world. There is just no absence of arrogance and culrural ignorance all over the world.

    You know, I understand that you dont want African Americans coming down and trying to tell you what Afro Brazilian culture is, and also how Afro Brazilians are suposed to follow their example of how you are suposed deal with society.That would make more sence than critisizing their preferances and then finding a common imperialist thread running between them and the ex Help disco black American crowd ( by the way,where is every one going now that it is closed? Just hanging at Sobre das Ondas?)

  46. ...and i surly dont fell privleged to be nickal and dimed by yellow taxi hustlers and people selling water in just a drug store, or various situations where people just want to hustle my privledged bunda because i am an American

  47. Anonymous, you very much remind me of a white guy talking about racism. He's suffered prejudice, so that means there's no racism. Hell, he's been to the ghetto and even had a rock tossed at him once, so that means he's as much a victim as any black person when it comes to prejudice... right? :D

    Here's some problems with that view:

    1) I'm not simply talking harassment in customs when I travel, Anon: I'm talking almost being denied entry. And this hasn't happened once: it's happened so far every single time I've travelled. I very much doubt a black American, coming to Brazil, can say the same thing in this day and age. Up to 1950, perhaps, yes. There's very good documentation for that. Not today.

    2) The vast majority of black Americans don't need to come to Brazil for their professional advancement. I must occasionally LEAVE Brazil for mine. This is a situation similar to a white boy who might indeed encounter prejudice in the ghetto... but he doesn't need to go there, does he?

    Simply put: yopu don't feel privileged because your imperial privilege is invisible to you in much the same way that a white person's racial privilege is invisible to them.

    I'd hazard a guess that if I interviewed those african-brazilian women you see "going through customs without hassles", their experiences would be much closer to mine than to yours.

  48. ok,Ana Paula.

    I definitly cant speak for you or know your real personal experiance.I know the consulate is a hell to try to take care of business.But once you get your visa, you dont have to keep going to the consulate to face that hassle until you renew your visa.So are you just referring to before you got your visa?

    And you dont know my personal experiance. My business forces me to go back and forth, I stand by my experiances and dont accept your analysis about my imperial privlege being invisible to me, that is only your theory, and i just plain dont agree with you on that point. Ive been hit by customs agents from America before i even hit the guys at the custome entry places, all over me to see my documentaion and everything.No, i dont feel some kind of imperial privlege you are talking about and i dont buy your invisibility theory .

    And , you underestimate my personal aquaintences with Afro Brazilian women and knowing their story.To be sure,ive heard absolute night mare stories and stories that had no problem what so ever. Instead of wildly throwing out some poor analysis of me just ask questions . I like your anthrological studies, so, im not here to just antagonate you.But some of your "bordering on flipant" analysis begs to be engaged.

  49. I'm referring to the entire process, Anonymous.

    You seem to think that the process of moving across borders stops at the Consulate's doors and begins again at Customs. This is an illustration of how your imperial privilege has blinded you to certain realities which, by your own admission, you deal with all the time.

    As I count it, upon moving from Brazil to the U.S., I can be stopped on 5 different occasions:

    1) Getting the visa at the Consulate.

    2) Upon leaving Brazil, going through the Federal Police check point (this happened to me last year).

    3) Upon entering the plane, going through the airline's spot checks (happened to me last trip).

    4) Crucially, upon going through U.S. Immigration. A visa does not give one the right to go to the U.S.: it gives one the right to ask to be considered for entry. Even with a visa, Homeland Security can deny you. That you don't know this speaks volumes regarding your own level of comfort when traveling.

    5) Finally, at Customs, which has so far been the least of my worries.

    While I don't know about your experiences, the fact that you don't seem to realize that a visa is not a free ticket into a country indicates to me that this problem has never cropped up in your life.

    Or am I wrong? If I am, why would you presume that once I have a visa, I have a clean ticket to go where I will and I only face harassment when I need to renew the visa?

    Furthermore, "Customs" and "Immigration" are two entirely separate affairs, Anon. You show your baggage at the one and your passport and visa at the other. The second allows you into a country; the first checks and sees if you're bringing in anything illegal.

    You don't even seem to recognize this basic division for all your extensive experience travelling. Again, you don't recognize this because you don't HAVE to. Any black Brazilian woman who travels learns about this stuff immediately because at every step along the way, she's under surveillance. I have been stopped and harrased at every one of the 5 check points above with the exception - so far - of Customs.

    Frankly, Customs and the Consulate are the least of my worries. My big worry is and will remain going through immigration. This is where the vast majority of Brazilian travellers are stopped, harassed and detained - visa or no.

  50. Ana Paula,you really are straining hard to try to portray me as the ignorant privaleged imperialist traveler from the empire.

    I was merely addressing your point about how hard it was to get your visa.

    yeah ,I have been stopped at all those points at one point or another on my journeys , but , hardly everytime. I just told you I got stopped and humiliatingly harrassed for documents before I even got to the first entry point of immigration into the States, and Im American. So there is number 6, dont go pee when you get off the plane before the immigration gates.

    And I had the special American privalege of being the only foreiners to have a special line for the reciprication finger prints in Brazil.

    Id say its just part of international travling these days.You could always go to Spain...ha ha

    I mean that is what gets me, you seem to have an extra special ooomph to sock it to Americans, black or white and give us the special privaleged imperialist empire travler award .

    And I refuse to accept your award.

    I see far too many privlaged travlers from all over the world and for sure right from Brazil .

    The truth is, Ana Paula, i think you were trying to make an actualy valid good point that African Americans come down to Brazil and criticise things they see in black Brazilians, because they wont deal with the problems they face in society the same way as black Americans (or go through the revolution like they did or at least that is what i heard from one of those type conversations i had with a black American). The African American struggle is a great stuggle and has great things to learn from, but, there is a black white devide in the USA that is as wide as ten lanes of mac truck highway that just isnt in Brazil, and is proof it isnt perfect by any means.And who wants to copy that.Brazil has its own peramiters , history , leaders and absolutly doesnt need to follow the USA to the letter. I would totaly agree with your feelings on that and how it played out in your conversations with all kinds of Americans black and white.

    Its so conveniant for you to imply im blind to this imperialist privalege.And your implication you have to travel for your profesion.What makes your traveling for your profesion any more special than my traveling for my profesion? Imperialist privaleged travler from the empire? puuleease

  51. Look Anon, do us all this favor: google up a count of how many Brazilians get deported from the U.S. every year and how many Americans get deported from Brazil.

    Let's start from there.

  52. No , what kind of ridiculas comparison is that? Ask yourself how many Brazilians try to illegaly get into , or are there illegaly in the USA compared to how many Americans try to get into Brazil illegaly .For sure there are some, but there are many more Brazilian illegaly in the States and that seriously affects the dynamic.

    I mean lets get for real, the USA has a huge complex out of control immigration problem that is pretty much off the map.And it means a lot of beauracracy on all levals of trying to travel there.

    Some one just tried to set a bomb off with their underpants on a plane to Detroit. The TSA smoke and mirrors version of security is mostly for show and we all have horror stories about it.

    Yes, there are privaleged tourists and business people who fly while most of the rest of the world is scraping by.And they come from everywhere in the world.

    You know Spain just went through a phase of absolutly humiliating Brazilians, are they imperialist privaleged travelers? Ask your self that anon or , actualy , id like to know that.

  53. As we say this is a lot of the "pot calling the kettle black". The name calling and leaps of assertions, it's all pretty shameful to read.

  54. And if you thought it was bad here (attacks, demonizing, generalizations, inferior complexes) check -

  55. B.R. sais (here is my identity just to seperate my statements from the last 2 anon posts)

    I cant get the linc up.

    Ive said a lot on here so maybe its time to say less.

    I would like to share with you one of the night mares i heard from an Afro Brazilian female travling to the USA , so you can pass it on.

    She got her visa and was going a few times to the States to see someone. When they pass out those immigration cards you have to fill out, she was afraid they might be suspicious of her traveling a lot to the States, so , instead of checking tourist visa, she checked student visa.

    They busted her and sent her back the next day on a plane at her cost.

    So make that number 7, be careful what you put on those immigration cards

  56. I think people who deny that there's imperial privilege are on par with people who deny racism.

  57. Damn Uppity Negroes! Just can't win.

  58. B.R. sais

    I think people who only think imperial privilege is American have issues and resentments towards America.

    And if that is your definition,i just plain dont agree with you.

    Do you think you are some authority about what racism is ? You cant just make up definitions like "imperial privlelge" and equate it to something that is recognised the world over.

  59. Well, I think people who think racism is a white problem have issues and resentments towards white people.

    Social criticism of any kind should be condemned. Any intelligent person knows that, as Margaret Thatcher once pointed out, there is no society and we are complete and utterly alone, masters of our own destiny, born into this world with no privileges or problems other than those we create.

  60. To: Anna Paula...Don't worry, be feliz! Focus on this and end this hatred of African Americans's and African American interests your so comfortably are spewing! You strike me as the type of angry person who doesn't have the depth of character to engage in intelligent dialog with the understanding that your own views may be inaccurate. Don't be so bitter, bitter bitter..or such might suggest that Brazileiras aren't so sexy or easy to get along with as mentioned in the very silly magazine artcles cited above.

  61. So, let me get all this straight-

    A black Brazilian woman, who just so happens to be partnered with a white man ( purely coincidental, of course! her own racial complexes had *nothing* to do with that choice, suuuure...) feels the need to criticize 'black American elite' tourists for not having a sufficient understanding of her country and for flaunting their 'imperial privilege' all over the place.

    She then goes on to basically compare them to white Americans who 'don't really understand what prejudice is', and subtextually asserts that her experiences while traveling internationally make her somehow more 'authentically black and disempowered' than those uppity Negro gringos from the north.

    Is that all correct?

    Because if so, it proves my assertion that Brazil is without a doubt, one of the worst places on the planet earth. And that the people that inhabit it are some of the most screwed-up human beings of all time.

    Good luck with all that. LOL!

  62. Uau, eu estava indo para colocar em você sobre seus comentários, mas depois do comentário anterior, eu vou facilitar para cima de você. Eles têm uma palavra para as mulheres do patrimônio africano que falam a preto e branco do sono: confortável. Eu ouço ódio machos por americano africano. Deixe-me adivinhar? Você prefere mais leve a mais escura. Temos Africano americanos, que também pensa assim, durante a escravidão americana, geralmente ajudou o senhor de escravos quando os escravos estavam tentando escapar. Africano-americanos têm anos 100-150 avanço ligado afro-brasileiros, financeira e educacional. Nós podemos ajudar avanço outros, nós somos uma família alargada. Problema muitos brasileiros na sociedade superior ignorar é que uma vez que os que não têm no seu país de reconhecer a sua semelhança com as de todo o mundo. Pode não ser seguro para associar com o "branco" ou pessoas de origem euro. A educação é a principal diferença entre os brasileiros afro-americanos e Africano.
    O nosso foi distorcida e Brazil's Não foi oferecido até recentemente. Juntos, podemos preencher as lacunas.

  63. Wow, I was going to lay into you about your comments, but after the previous review, I'll ease up on you. They have a word for women of African heritage who speak in black and sleep white: comfortable. I hear hatred for African American males. Let me guess? Do you prefer lighter to darker? We have African Americans, who feel the same way, during the American slavery, often helped the slaveholder when slaves were trying to escape. African-Americans have 100-150 years advance bonded african-Brazilians, financial and educational. We can help advance the other, we are an extended family. Problem many Brazilians in society ignore is that once the have-nots in the country to recognize its similarity to have nots all over the world. It may not be safe to associate with the "white" or people of the euro. Education is the main difference between African Brazilian and African Americans.
    Ours was distorted and Brazil's was not offered until recently. Together, we can fill the gaps.

  64. Hmm I see Anna has been silent for several months. Do you think she learned anything from the various positive comments that were different from her thinking?

  65. @imhotep

    Ana doesn't write English, so I need to read this stuff to her, translate it and then translate her responses here. We're both working hard this semester at new jobs and, consequently, this blog has somewhat suffered. We hope to be updating it more constantly in the following months.

    Plus, we're new to this blogging stuff. I think Ana hasn't been paging back over past posts, realizing that people are still responding to her thoughts.

    But thank you VERY much for posting a reply in Portuguese, Imhotep. I'll make sure that she sees it this morning and gives you a response!

  66. Y'know, I think it's damned funny that of all the folks above who are pissing and moaning about Ana's denunciation of imperial priviledge, not a single one other other than imhotep took the time out to try to communicate with her in the only language she dominates: Portuguese.

    Even if it's a crappy Babelfish translation, Imhotep took the time to do it and actually try to really communicate instead of going through me, the translator.

    This speaks volumes about the possibilities of actually democratically "sharing" solutions to the mutual problem of white supremacy across the frontiers of the African diaspora.

    What many of the posters are saying above, in their actions if not their words, is "Yes, you can join this great transnational dialog, provided you speak OUR language".

    Want to talk about being "comfortable", people...?

  67. Caro Imhotep,

    Agradeço às críticas e o seu pensamento sobre o que escrevi.

    Vejamos, vc acha que eu sou confortável em fazer estes comentários porque sou casada com um homem branco? Desde quando, ter dinheiro, casar com branco apaga o racismo? Onde vc aprendeu isto?
    Aliás, o que eu tenho demonstrado nos meus estudos é que as discriminações não são diluídas porque um negro tem mais dinheiro e/ou tem um relacionamento com mulheres e/ou homens brancos.

    Outro ponto: continuo afirmando que as experiências negras no Brasil são diversas e que não podem ser entendidas no mesmo contexto que as experiências negras nos EUA. Portanto, esta insistência de que por termos saido da Africa como escravos nos dota de uma história comum, é um problema.

    Tal afirmação ignora as diferenças e histórias específcas de cada país e a pergunta que os afro americanos teimam em fazer, quando olham a experiência negra brasileira, é "por que o Brasil não passou pelas mesmos processos que resultou nos direitos civis nos EUA?". A meu ver, essa pergunta se equivale a uma tentiva de retornar ao "modelo social evolucionista de civilização", que coloca o Brasil como menos apto ao processo civilizatório e os EUA no topo desta equação. Meu caro amigo, isto é, infelizmente, uma visão imperialista, mesmo que quem a articula tenha a melhor das boas intenções.

    Como diz um ditado aqui no Brasil: "De boas intenções o inferno está cheio".

    Poderíamos inverter a pergunta: por que os EUA não seguiram a trajetória dos movimentos negros brasileiros? Ahn, mas esqueci um ponmto: vocês norte-americanos acham que "movimento negro brasileiro" não existe, ou é apenas um fenômeno recente. Não é? Todavia, tal visão presumiria, meu caro, a noção de que o Brasil não está tão atrasado em relação aos EUA.

    A sua pretensa irmandade negra parte do princípio que nós, pobres negros brasileiros, aceitemos o fato de sermos menos educados, menos "civilizados" e que não entendemos o processo histórico e deveríamos aceitar de bom grado a ajuda de nossos irmãos afro americanos, mais ricos e poderosos a encontrarmos o caminho do "progresso" que, por sinal, é o mesmo e único que eles trilharam.

    Caro Imhotep, desculpa, mas esta "ajuda" eu recuso. Enquanto os irmãos afro americanos como você não compreenderem que nós, negros brasileiros, temos uma história bastante complexa e que não merecemos ser reduzidos a condição de "pobres", "incivilizados" e incapazes de nos "livrarmos do PODER BRANCO" (por causa de nossa preguiça ou incompetência), é dificil achar que vamos querer o auxilio de gente como você.

  68. wow, this got really ugly.

    "Aliás, o que eu tenho demonstrado nos meus estudos é que as discriminações não são diluídas porque um negro tem mais dinheiro e/ou tem um relacionamento com mulheres e/ou homens brancos."

    THIS. my translation since Thad is being lazy(!)
    "What I have shown in my studies that discrimination is not diluted by the fact that a black person has more money and/or a relationship with white women and/or men"

    in fact the volume of the criticism seemed to go up a notch when some commenters 'discovered' that ana is married to a white man.

    ana, te escribire en espanol, lo siento, pero mi portugues es horrible- espero que me entiendas.

    muchas gracias por el comentario, me gusto mucho. soy capoeirista y ese articulo me hace pensar en la manera en la cual capoeria se entiende en varios partes del mundo. la primera pregunta que me hacen cuando explico que 'jogo' capoeira es 'ah - y has ido a brasil?'
    bueno, de verdad si tengo ganas de ir. PERO no considero que ir a brasil es necesario para disfrutar el arte. tambien me encantan los libros de James Baldwin, pero nunca me preguntan si he ido a Harlem en Nueva York. es decir, pienso que el arte de capoeira todavia se considera mas como un 'artefacto cultural' y menos como un arte similar a la poesia, la pintura etc.

  69. Ahn. I didn't translate Ana's comments because they were specific to Omahotep, who did her the favor of writing in Portuguese. I'll let Ana know about your post, Rayuela, as soon as she gets back from São Paulo.


  70. Wow this was an incredibly informative article. I first off want to say that you are right many African American have internalized a sense of cultural superiority that borders on arrogance. I myself have been to Brasil on multiple occasions. Through these experiences I have fallen in love with Brazilian culture, language, cuisine, music, art, history and its incredible people. I am ashamed at the African-American sex tourism, which is totally despicable and hypocritical given the African American experience of sexual exploitation during slavery and beyond. As an African American and a global citizen, I have much to learn from Brazil and her many dimensions. I think there is value in learning about Brazil for African Americans and all Americans in general. For many generations the majority of African Americans have believed that we were the quintessential Africans in the New World, well come to find out we are not alone. Brazil if any nation may deserve this title. This is one of the things that fascinates me about Brazil and other nations in the Caribbean and Latin America. I think it would be ridiculous to consider Brazil more authentically African than the US or vice versa. The key issue for me is: are African Americans willing to utilize their access to economic and political status to work with African Diasporic communities to address the historic inequalities that exists for people of African descent throughout the Diaspora? I know that I am. I am not interested in sex tourism, home or abroad. Neither do I feel more connected to Africa in Brazil than I do in Boston. We all have unique American experiences that when shared on equal footing can serve to be mutually beneficial. I have written a piece on my blog about some of my experiences in Brazil as well. I hope i can devoid myself of any imperialistic psychological residue that I may have received being a product of the USA. If I haven't hope you can forgive me.

  71. Sorry for taking so long to respond, Amil. We only look at this article every now and then.

    Neither of us considers prostitution to be necessarily "sexual exploitation": we consider it to be a job. And after having interviewed many carioca sex workers, we feel safe in saying that the vast majority of women turning tricks with gringos on Copacabana feel more exploited as maids, waitresses and short-order cooks than they do as prostitutes.

    Sex work isn't a great job, but it's no more necessarily "exploitative" than any other form of labor under capitalism.

    The point being [Ana writing here] that African Americans who go to hotels in Bahia and utilize the poorly paid, often badly abused, labor of the maids, cooks, doormen and whatnot in their hotel should not feel that they are necessarily contributing to Brazil in a more positive way than African American sex tourists.

  72. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  73. Yikes, maybe I should cancel my plans to visit Brasil. I wanted to go to learn more about the culture and history (with no plans to compare it to my own country, just learning for the sake of learning), but reading all these comments has made my head (and heart) hurt.

    With sad regards, a black American (female) grad student.

    1. So critical thinking wasn't part of your education? You won't be missed.

  74. Dear Anonymous black female grad student...

    If you go to another country and try to understand it, respectfully, expect your head to hurt. Brazil is no different in this respect from any other place on Earth.

  75. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  76. Wow, I can say that I have learned a lot here. I hope to visit Brazil one day, as I am fascinated with the culture and history of Brazil. I am black Jamaican-American but I hope to enjoy and learn about the entire culture hence why I am on this blog. This blog has really opened my eyes. All I can do is be as open minded as I can be regardless of the country I visit. It is very important to learn about any country's culture before you visit it.

  77. This is a great article and I whole-heartedly agree that black Americans are going to Brazil taking their imperialistic garbage with them. I landed on your article because I was wondering why I keep seeing words like 'afro-brazilian' and similar ideas that pop up in my research of Brasil. To my dismay, I have come to learn that visiting African-Americans are causing a schism in Brazilian communities that probably wasn't as great until sex tourism increased. I do agree that when I read articles about Brazil, it seems the distinction is based more on income level than skin color.

  78. [Thad writing]

    Dear Anonymous,

    I think it's great you want to learn about Brazil, but like the U.S., we have cultures, plural. Bahia is different from Rio; the cities are different from the countryside, etc.

    One thing that is very good, however, is to learn about Brazil's history. Or histories, as the case may be. ;)

    Dear NatalBound,

    I don't know if African-American tourists - sexual or otherwise - are causing schisms in Brazilian communities. I DO know that the political organizing of certain American NGOs does indeed cause problems in various favela communities. That's not a black or white issue, however.

    Sex tourists are by and large an inocuous bunch. Sure, there are some bastards and exploiters in that group, but as Ana Paula points out, that's true of tourists in general. Nothing I've seen makes me believe that sex tourists are more exploitative than other sorts of tourists. In fact, some of the worst sexual behavior I've seen by foreigners in Brazil was conducted by people who work for groups like Amnesty International and who HATE sex tourists.

  79. Less than 5% of African Americans have passports. What are the real numbers of African Americans going to Brazil to truly effect such an article? I went to Brazil a few years back with a group of African American high school students. None were "elite" or particularly privileged as we all were on a payment plan for months leading up to the trip. I'm sure the group from Bed-Stuy would be less than humored to be called "imperial" in any sense of the word, least wise politically or "racially". We went to see how BLACK people live in the part of the Diaspora known as Brazil. No, we were not accepting that every "mixed raced" "typical Brazilian" were the folk WE wanted to commune with, as it was our purpose to commune with the people who shared a recent common history of enslavement with us and see how they were faring.

    The article and the comments from the writer does serve to verify a point I've come to note after traveling to several Diasporic countries - mainly on the African continent - and that is that African Americans (or Africans in America) had better get real about seeking validation of our African-ness from other Africans/Blacks in the diaspora. We better get real about seeking automatic racial "unity" with other Black folks in the world because as this author did - when WE don't fit the stereotype that THEY have of us, we suddenly become the same as our white oppressors here. We become American imperialists, tubobs, foreigners, etc - all because we care to scrape together the dollars to travel. I think African Americans have to remember as one of our great poets said (may Dunbar?) - "We aren't African because we were born in Africa, we are African because Africa was born in us." Let us continue to travel to Brazil and Africa and all the places where other Black people reside, but let's go not looking for validation from those of us in those places.

    NatalBound - It bothers me when folk say "...distinction is based more on income level than skin color" when if you are a certain skin color you can not get the jobs that will increase your income level. It's real curious why people continue to say that while everywhere you go, including Africa, the darker people are at the bottom of the economic pole - to the extent that we ran into people, in Brazil and Africa who told us they mated lighter so their children would have better chances. Skin bleaching in the Caribbean, Brazil and Africa are at all time highs. The author of this piece is married to a white man. If indeed there's no relationship between income level/class and skin color - give me the evidence and I will stand corrected.


  80. "It bothers me when folk say..."

    I'm not shocked you feel this way. Any time an African-American writes convoluted garbage about a "Diaspora" I expect them to follow-up with nonsense about all black people the world over are held back merely because of their skin color. This type of thinking is what keeps you at a low income level and nothing else.

  81. What was the need for the disrespect? I expressed that I was willing to be corrected :

    "If indeed there's no relationship between income level/class and skin color - give me the evidence and I will stand corrected. "

    What did I say that suggested I was at a "low income level?" Pele was/is not at a low income level. Is he indicative of the average person of his hue in Brazil?


  82. The word 'you' was meant in a general sense, not specific, and went along with the flow of the sentence referring back to 'black people the world over'.

    I had no intent to give "evidence" as I know what those types of statements imply: people listen to argue, not to learn. I've been in enough of these type of debates to know that there are black people(way too many) that spend all of their time arguing they are at a disadvantage because of their skin color.

    Freed slaves in the U.S. did way more with little than present-day blacks do with a lot. Over the past 30 years the U.S. government has dumped trillions of dollars in aid from various programs to both black U.S. communities and African countries as well as dozens of set-asides for quotas for schools and jobs. And black people haven't done squat with it except keep whining how their skin color entitles them to more and more after they have exhausted and wasted all the other aid.

  83. [Thad writing]

    Dear DebNBrooklyn,

    Whatever the number of African Americans who have passports, their presence in Brazil has become quite significant over the past two decades, although still a minority compared to white Americans. They have become important playes in tourism scenes such as Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.

    The thing Ana is driving at is the marketing of Brazil in black tourism - and that is indeed a mostly black issue. Her point is that Black Americans increasingly have more power to define what is "real" in the Black Brazilian experience than Black Brazilians.

    Of course, the mostly white driven tourism market dominates the general discourse about Brazil, no doubt. This is what makes it so upsetting, however, when groups and people who have a critique of that discourse fall into, essentially, the same problems.

    With regards to your privilege, it is relative. Yes, your students from Bed-Stuy may not be "privileged" in their at-home context. The fact that they can come to Bahia, however, is indeed a marker of imperial privilege. Not very many working class black Brazilian high school student groups get funded to go to New York. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if none ever had (although I'm sure individuals have). Just the thought of what would be necessary in terms of getting such a group their tourist visas boggles my mind...

    Again, I think that it's absolutely fine to travel around the diaspora and - checking with Ana here - she thinks so as well. The article isn't about how black tourism is BAD. The article is about how it often enables discourses about Brazil that have little connection to Brazilian histories or realities and that these discourses often end up drowning out what black Brazilians have to say about themselves. You don't get to "see how people really live" in a couple of weeks, Deb, without knowing their language, history, literature, music, etc. Ana's point is that it's dangerous to believe that such travel allows you insights beyond the superficial.

    Your points on "seeking validation" lie at the heart of the matter. What Ana is claiming is that no, there is no ineffable "Africa" that is born in one's soul. What there are are histories. And histories require some effort to learn and understand... unlike the "just so" stories promoted by tourism.

    Here's an example of where the mindset described by Ana leads.

    Last year, we stopped over for a day in Charlotte North Carolina on our way to England. They have a very nice African American history museum, so we went in to see it. On the wall, they had a mural depicting the slave trade out of Africa.

    According to that mural, the vast majority of slaves went to Africa, followed by a smaller flow to the Carribean. Way down at the bottom, there was this little arrow coming out of Africa and headed to Brazil and Argentina.

    In reality, those flows should have been exactly reversed.

    Ana remarked that this was a great portrayal of the typical American view, black or white, of forced migration out of Africa: "Once again, America is at the center of the story and dominating discourse." Kids go through that museum every day and, although it's a lovely museum, one lesson they take away from it - probably unconsciously - is that the United States is the most important part of the African diaspora.

  84. [continued...]

    With regards to your not liking the idea that class trumps race, I agree. We need to constantly remeber that race WAS a form of class in the Americas for centuries. Blacks weren't enslaved because Europeans didn't like their color: blacks were enslaved in order to work and make money for their owners. White criminals and Indians were also enslaved in the same manner, but for a series of reasons, Africa ended up supplying the vast majortiy of forced laborers in the Americas.

    Race was thus built hand-in-hand with economics and cannot be seperated from it. It would also be foolish to presume that racial barriers to economic success have disappeared, given the vast body of empirical evidence showing that they persist.

    As for the fact that Ana married a white guy... Interesting.

    You think that she shouldn't have? Why? Because love should be color-coordinated?

    Or do you think that she was just dazzled by my supposed "white beauty" because she's been brainwashed by racism and doesn't have the critical or analytical ability to apply an anti-racist understanding to our relationship? Because it sounds very much like you are claiming to be able to descry the effects of racism on Ana's personal choices much better than she herself can.

    An interesting position for someone to take when they are simultaneously claiming that black Americans do not see themselves as superior to black Brazilians...

  85. ^The vast majority of slaves went to the U.S. on that mural

  86. I'm still deciding whether I should have enjoyed the intellectual discourse in this comments section or decried how much I think the proverbial Willie Lynch would have rejoiced at it. Nevertheless, I was glad to have read the actual article. Sure, it includes vast generalizations about African Americans that don't always reflect the ones that I know who travel nor reflect the vast majority of African Americans, who, like most Americans, do not travel internationally, but it also challenged me, I am happy to say, to continue to interact with members of the Diaspora and human beings in general according to their own terms. Sometimes, it will be difficult to determine whether even those people's perceptions of themselves have been impacted by outsiders, or to determine whether even their self actualization is authentic, but unfortunately I cannot go that deep. I do intend to continue to just let others define themselves instead of thinking that I've had an authentic experience being in Brazil for a short period of time. Ultimately, though, if us as Africans in the Diaspora continue to allow foreign languages and foreign structures to divide us, we won't last many more centuries as Africans and certainly will not prosper.

  87. [Thaddeus writing]

    The question of generalizations is, to me, an interesting one. All observations of social reality are, ultimately, generalizations. Whether or not they are GOOD generalizations are what we should be talking about, not whether or not they are generalizations.

    Ana originally wrote this article after listening to and reading hundreds of African American generalizations about the African Brazilian experience which she believed were pretty bad generalizations. And her point wasn't that these generalizations shouldn't be made: it was that imperial power ends up giving them more weight in the global views of Black Brazilians than Black Brazilians own generalizations about themselves.

    So it is ironic that black Americans, having to confront A black Brazilian woman making generalizations ( that I personally think are fairly good), are disturbed by this.

    It is also interesting to me what has happened since this article was published. Many of the comments above cast Brazil as "backwards" with regards to civil rights. I wonder how the authors now feel following Fergusson, etc? Are they willing to be so triumphant re: the black american experience in comparison with the black brazilian experience, now that we know that murder rates for young black men in both countries are relatively equal?

    To me, that has been the most salient thing I have learned over the past five years: Brazil and the U.S. are much more similar to each other than different when it comes to racism.

  88. Well I'm going to be brutally honest here. To say that class trumps colour in Brasil is something that I would expect an African woman married to a European to say. If class trumps colour in Brasil why are Africans in Brasil at the bottom of almost every socio-economic scale that exists. The Portuguese within Brasil have been typical of every other European dominated nation in the new world. They have dealt death, destruction to indigenous communities and to enslaved Africans during and after slavery. But above we have a pissing contest into which European dominated state grants more privalages or discomfort to its African inhabitants. And this is supposed to denote a " different and unique experience".

    This is nonsense. The African has faced virtually the same system of white supremacy throughout the Americas and the barring various nuances it results in the same things. Blacks have the largest proportional numbers of being at the bottom of the social and economic and political classes.

    I could see, read, smell the issues of being black in Brasil as I was often taken for being local. Wtf does it matter whether I have a passport from an imperial power or not. The point is if I didnt have that passport I would be the same predicament. Please lets stop fighting over who gets more crumbs from the masters table.

    Unapologetically African.