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Mulatice : F ETISH OR F EMININE P OWER ? Corey Souza University of Florida


Corey Souza

University of Florida

[C]ultural performances are not simple reflectors or expressions of culture or even of changing culture but may themselves be active agencies of change, representing the eye by which culture sees itself and the drawing board on which creative actors sketch out what they believe to be more apt or interesting ‘designs for living’ (Turner 1987: 24).

This paper engages critical race and gender studies in Brazil with par- ticular interest in the mulata’s 1 role in nationalist performance. Brazilian nationalism based on mixed race ideology or “racial democracy” parallels that of mestizo ideology of other Latin American nations (Wade 2010). The professional mulata or passista 2 performs the ideology of racial democracy through the medium of samba (Parker 1991; Gilliam 1999). Although the term mulata indicates a woman of mixed African and European descent, Brazil’s ambiguous racial terminology and social categorizations allow for performances of mulatice 3 to be experienced through the bodies of women ranging from very dark (black) to light skinned (white). Regardless of the dancer’s skin color, her performance draws on a distinctly Afro-Brazilian aesthetic: thus, this paper considers her performance to be non-white in essence. Obtaining professional mulata and passista status is not based on the color of a woman’s skin, but instead is based on her proficiency in performing samba, the national dance and rhythm of Brazil. Academic analyses of samba and carnival vary from pessimistic views of these phenomena as reifying racial and gender hierarchies to interpre- tations of carnival as a counter-hegemonic performance (Chasteen 1996; Sherriff 1999; Perry 2010). Critics of the sexist and racist overtones of per- forming mulatice only take into consideration the social and political body, while excluding the phenomenological body, that is, the lived experience of the performer (Pravaz 2003: 119). The performance of mulatice is a vehi- cle for socio-economic mobility and pleasure for the individual performer. Furthermore, passistas and professional mulatas bear the responsibility of maintaining and displaying the art of samba no pe´ 4 (in the feet). Grounded in the anthropology of embodiment and performance, this paper combines historical evidence and recent ethnographic data 5 to show that performances of mulatice bridge a fetishized image of non-white female sexuality to one of power and independence when one considers

The Latin Americanist, March 2013

the phenomenological body. The unstable nature of the passista’s or profes- sional mulata’s prestige sparks questions as to the manner in which much contemporary scholarship has attributed social status to marginalized individuals.

Embodying Brazilian Nationalism

Precursors of contemporary Brazilian nationalism are seen in the works of nineteenth-century romantic poets and composers. Brazilian novelist Jose´ de Alencar’s O Guarany (1857), followed by Antonio Carlos Gomes’s opera Il Guarany (1870), promoted indianismo to describe Brazil’s national origins (Volpe 2002: 179). The indianismo myth constructs the ‘primordial couple’ as that of a Portuguese woman and a male Amerindian. How- ever, in fact, this couple portrays the inverse of actual sexual relationships between colonizers and the colonized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The original Portuguese colonizers were male and the rape of indigenous women was common. Viewed simultaneously, as archetypal figures of primitive savagery as well as inherent innocence, the disap- pearing Amerindians could be more easily romanticized in the imagina- tion of elite Portuguese colonists, in contrast to the threatening presence of Africans and Afro-Brazilians (Alberto 2011: 8). After Brazilian inde- pendence in 1822, Amerindian names were adopted and the Tup´ı 6 lan- guage was seriously considered to be the official language of Brazil. Elite Brazilians would often claim Amerindian heritage as proof of their au- thentic Brazilianness (Skidmore 1974: 7). By the turn of the twentieth century, however, anthropologists and eth- nomusicologists started describing African and Afro-descendent culture in Brazil as superior to that of Amerindian cultures (Reily 2000). This tran- sition coincided with the negr ophilia´ sweeping the modern art scene in Sao˜ Paulo, Paris, New York and other global metropolises (Vianna 1999). U.S.- trained Brazilian anthropologist Gilberto Freyre 7 produced several works in the 1920s and 30s describing the fortification of Brazilian culture due to African contributions. Freyre defended Brazil’s popular culture, particu- larly that of the northeast, an area highly stigmatized to this day, because of its high percentage of people of African ancestry. Similarly, Oswaldo de Andrade published his Cannibalist Manifesto ( Manifesto Antropofago)´ , which circulated widely at Sao˜ Paulo’s 1926 Semana de Arte Moderna. An- drade’s work celebrated the uniquely Brazilian ability to digest foreign influences and reinterpret them into a new culture. Abdias do Nascimento has critiqued the cannibalist ideology, which continues to carry weight in Brazilian nationalist discourse:

While modernists believed they were rejecting the colonial European standards in favor of ‘more authentic’ Native Brazilian and African ones, they in fact understood little if anything of Native Brazilian or African tradition and were merely mouthing slogans newly articulated but Western in essence (2002: 110).

Brazilian or African tradition and were merely mouthing slogans newly articulated but Western in essence (2002:



Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888. As recently freed Afro-Brazilians migrated to Brazil’s urban centers in search of work at the turn of the twentieth century, the Brazilian government began to sponsor white European immigration in the hopes of whitening the nation. The plan for racial cleansing via white immigration backfired in that the new white immigrants maintained distinct ethnic enclaves. In 1926, heightened tensions between elite white Brazilians and non-whites adversely affected by the legacy of colonialism had reached a boiling point. At that time, the proposal of a national monument in homage to Mae˜ Preta ( Black Mother ) was made by Sao˜ Paulo-based journalist Candidoˆ Campos. M ae˜ Preta gained support from white and non-white Brazilians alike, but with crucial differences in representation. The black press promoted the image of M ae˜ Preta holding her white charge and simultaneously turn- ing her back on her natural-born child, whereas white Brazilians’ ren- dition of M ae˜ Preta excluded her natural-born black child. Despite these distinctions, M ae˜ Preta’s image, then and now, simultaneously recalls nos- talgia for the colonial past, while building a bridge of masculinity be- tween white Brazilian men and Brazilian men of color (Alberto 2011: 101). M ae˜ Preta, however, does little to speak for Brazilian women of color, who may have been better represented with the then-burgeoning mulata fetish. The mulata’s image on the Brazilian national stage would be firmly established by the mid-twentieth century. She is equally rife with contro- versies as is the body of Mae˜ Preta, but with additional advantages that Mae˜ Preta lacks. The mulata, for example, parallels the malandro 8 in her inde- pendence and subversion of hegemonic normalized standards of feminine propriety. Alberto recognizes the malandro as “a form of activism, a strate- gic performance staged by some [male] Cariocas 9 of color in response to the same sorts of exclusionary ideologies (racism, vagrancy, and so forth) that plagued upwardly mobile men of color” (2011: 89), but does not give the same credit to mulatas . Heternormative ideology signals sexual availabil- ity in women as a sign of weakness, even if for men, it can be interpreted as a form of power. However, just as one can recognize interpretations of M ae˜ Preta ranging from stoic and humane to passive and subservient, one can and should emphasize that the power of the mulata also lies in the independence achieved through assertion of sexual power. Real-life Mae˜ Pretas assumed responsibility for their households after the abolition of slavery in 1888. Women became the dorsal fin of the family, supporting their children and husbands by selling domestic services in the homes of the wealthy, or even in makeshift kiosks in the city streets. Female street vendors are essential characters in Brazil’s contemporary tourist industry and can be found on postcards, in nationalist artwork, and of course, out in the streets themselves. Participation in the informal economy through street vending became a form of resistance for a group referred to in elite circles as “da rac¸ a 10 ” (Nogueira 2010). In the homes of Afro-descendent women such as Tia Ciata 11 , feminine energy abounded

0 ” (Nogueira 2010). In the homes of Afro-descendent women such as Tia Ciata 1 1


The Latin Americanist, March 2013

and helped to create samba carioca, a popular manifestation, which is a reference of Brazilian national identity. Many of Brazil’s recently freed Afro-descendants, like Tia Ciata, migrated from Bahia to the urban center of Rio de Janeiro at the turn of the twentieth century. Scholars have identified the birth of samba carioca within Tia Ciata’s home, located in Prac¸ a Onze , also known as Pequena Africa, in the Saude´ neighborhood. Her home was famous for its gatherings of samba enthu- siasts and visited by members of upper and lower classes, blacks, whites and mulatos . The first recorded samba (1917), Pelo Telefone 12 was composed in her home during one of these gatherings. Tia Ciata and other female Bahian migrants of her generation also initiated the practice of street vend- ing Bahian foods within the city of Rio de Janeiro.

At the end of the last century, the Saude´ neighborhood was con- centrated with African practices and artifacts brought from Bahia. Small, but numerous Bahian families accumulated, bringing to Rio habits of the old metropolis, with marked reminiscence of the black continent, among them songs and dances, popular festivals and foods, rites and beliefs. (Alencar 1968: 3, author’s translation).

At this time, both religious ceremonies and the secular form of samba were persecuted by the state, seen as symbols of primitive culture that needed to be extinguished in deference to the superior European culture and Catholicism. Ciata had been initiated into the candomble´ religion in Bahia and participated in the Irmandade˜ da Boa Morte 13 (Barbosa 2011). She, herself, was a mae-pequena˜ (priest’s assistant) in the terreiro 14 of Joao˜ Alab a´ in Cidade Nova, just one mile southwest of Sa ude.´ Ciata’s house was known for its candomble´ ceremonies as much as it was for its samba, and Ciata garnered respect for having saved (through prayer) the hurt leg of President Venceslau Bras´ (1914–1918). Ciata’s services to President Bras´ guaranteed not only employment for her husband, but also that her house would remain free from police persecution in spite of its illegal gatherings of candomble´ and samba practitioners (Moura 1983). The rationale behind the operations of a president that would accept the healing powers of the “black arts” in his personal life while prohibiting African cultural practices in his public life eludes facile contemplation. Unexpected cultural cleavages put a damper on the Brazilian white elites’ hopes to “civilize” the nation by making it whiter in appearance. Brazil’s first military dictator, Get ulio´ Vargas (1930–1945), established a policy of ethnic integration, setting quotas for national labor at a time when elite Brazilians were frustrated with recent white European immi- grants’ resistance to assimilate Brazilian culture (Vianna 1999, Alberto


Vargas himself has been recognized for using samba, and the culture of Rio de Janeiro in general, as a political tool in establishing Brazilian nation- alism as defined by carioca culture. Within the essential Brazilian (carioca) culture, traditions from the northeastern state of Bahia hold an esteemed

Within the essential Brazilian (carioca) culture, traditions from the northeastern state of Bahia hold an esteemed



position as representative of the old “authentic” Brazil, and were made an integral part of the modern Brazilian nationalist performance. For this reason, samba schools of Rio de Janeiro are required to have a baianas 15 sec- tion in their carnival associations, referencing samba’s Afro-Bahian roots. In the early days of samba schools (1930s) it was the baianas that were responsible for singing the school’s theme song during the parade. Al- though history has recorded more faithfully the names of male samba composers, it was the groups of feminine voices that carried the melody over the men’s percussion performances in the days before samba schools became composites of several thousand members in an ever-expanding industry. At present, the baianas are a highly revered sector within samba schools, and their participation contributes directly to the scoring of a school’s performance in the carnival parade competition. Numerous scholars have recognized the role of samba and carnival within the nationalist agenda of the Vargas regime (1930–1945) in terms of the transformist hegemony as described by Bracket Williams, whereby

[D]omination worked partly by appropriation and resignifica-

particular cultural elements become incorporated (accom-

modated) into nationalist versions of the nation’s culture as long as their significance is defined within the central value complex of the

dominant groups[.]( apud Wade 2010: 93).


Other researchers have placed samba and Afro-Brazilian cultural orga- nizations as centerpieces in Brazilian political movements, actively fighting for popular interests (Winant 1992: 187; Nogueira 2007). Pessimistic views of art as tools of a nationalist, authoritarian regime trivialize or even negate the local-level achievements of cultural organi- zations, such as samba schools, which play a wide range of community leadership roles in territories where the governing body has forgotten its civic duty. Beija Flor Samba School’s porta-bandeira (flag-bearer) Selminha Sorriso confirms that samba schools often assume the role of the state in impoverished communities (Fran, Sorriso and Motta 2011). Furthermore, this view overlooks the powerful critique of authoritarianism embedded in the lyrics, as well as the polyrhythms of Afro-descendent immaterial patrimony. Interpreting performances of mulatice as reinforcing racial and gen- der hierarchies also denies the financial and social independence women achieve through this profession. For most black women from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (the home of authentic samba), there are far too many physical and psychological barriers for them to pull themselves out of poverty through education and socially acceptable jobs, such as domestic worker, bathroom attendant or waitress. The evolution of the carnival in- dustry has resulted in the professionalization of many aspects of carnival production. Most professional mulatas and malandros enter the realm of professional performance after having participated as passistas in samba schools.

and malandros enter the realm of professional performance after having participated as passistas in samba schools.


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Afro-Brazilian women may be undervalued on a national scale, but their presence is essential to the function of samba schools. Samba school members eulogize their women, who perform special roles as baianas , porta-bandeiras , passistas (soloists), and more recently, as percussionists alongside their male counterparts. Women also contribute creatively to all areas of samba school productions as performance artists, designers, culinary masters, and directors.

Emergence of the Passista and the Professional Mulata

A mulata is samba in the form of a person color; now it is a profession. (Pamplona 2010).

Mulata used to be a

The Brazilian fascination with women of mixed race descent can be identified throughout the course of the colonization project. Bastide (1961) observed the obsession for mixed race women found in Brazilian culture does not indicate a lack of racism as it might seem when examined super- ficially. More recent scholarship has corroborated Bastide’s concept and confirmed an intrinsic relationship between gender, race and class, found in modern Western societies, as a result of the colonial enterprise (Harrison 1995; Gilliam & Gilliam 1999; Stoler 2010; Wade 2010). The mulata’s role as both fetish and symbolic ambassador of Brazilian nationalism would crystallize in the mid-twentieth- century. One cannot, however, reduce performances of mulatice to fortification of race and gender disparities. The women who perform these roles claim artistry, pleasure, and financial mobility as positive aspects of their work. Furthermore, the art of dancing samba no pe´ is maintained exclusively by passistas and professional mulatas and malandros. Rio de Janeiro’s parade of samba schools is divided into two categories:

Grupo de Acesso (Access Group) and Grupo Especial (Special Group). The twelve samba schools in the Special Group receive funding from the state tourism agency Riotur, are more widely covered by the media, and more difficult for newcomers to integrate into due to high standards of artistry. Schools in both groups have large community wings that accommodate members of Rio de Janeiro’s native population and thousands of tourists that arrive annually in order to participate in carnival. Community wings, however, serve as visual filler and do not require that their members necessarily know how to sing, dance or play samba. The primary wings within samba schools require year-round dedication and mastery of the art form. These wings and/or special roles are: comissao˜ de frente, alegorias, bateria, mestre-sala & porta-bandeira, velha-guarda, rainha de bateria, mestre de harmonia, int erprete,´ and, of course, passistas . The passista first appeared in the carnivals of the 1950s and 1960s. Prior to that period, all dancers were expected to move in harmony with one another. Passistas are soloists, individuals who distinguish themselves by their personal dance style (Rego 1996). Female passistas perform mulatice while male passistas perform malandrismo 16 . Eventually, passistas would

passistas perform mulatice while male passistas perform malandrismo 1 6 . Eventually, passistas would 96



be recognized as their own section of performers, amongst other wings of musicians and dancers within the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro. The term passista (when referring to a woman) has become synonymous with mulata. The fact that the quintessential image of a samba dancer has been established as that of the female passista, can be understood in terms of global economic influences, marketing strategies and tourism (Guillermoprieto 1990). In her dazzling rhinestone bikini and four-foot feather headdress, she effectively sells beer, carnival and Brazilian essence internationally. The first nude passista of the carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro performed in 1985. Nudity in carnival has since become a common sight in the parades of both Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia. Female nudity in the carni- vals of Salvador may actually predate that of Rio’s parade, however the mulatas of Salvador perform a stylized variation of mulatice that is distinctly northeastern, and mulatas in the northeast are not referred to as passistas in carnival. Salvador’s carnival groups 17 such as Timbalada, which perform samba-reggae and axe-´ music (as opposed to the samba- enredo performed by the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro), have been known to exhibit men and women parading in body-paint reminiscent of Amerindian or African warriors. These displays recall and reinvent a collective memory of African and Amerindian pride, whereas the nudity of passistas in Rio de Janeiro seems to celebrate only the female form itself, and, most often, the fe- male form of mixed descent. Full nudity is actually expressly prohibited in the carnival association’s regulations (LIESA 2011), however, costume designers have perfected the tampa-sexo (sex-cap), a product designed to cover genitalia (breasts excluded) while remaining nearly invisible. Passista Viviane Castro’s tampo-sexo was so miniscule in the carnival parade of 2008, that S ao˜ Clemente Samba School suffered a penalty in their scoring (O Dia


Critics of the barely there bikinis claim that passistas no longer display the art of samba no pe´ , given the new focus on the dancer’s body and the difficulties encountered dancing in four-inch platform shoes and large, heavy headdresses (Ferreira 2012; Nogueira 2012). On the contrary, the costuming (platforms in particular) has contributed to the dance’s evolu- tion, requiring dancers to adapt creatively and push their bodies to new limits of virtuosity in order to execute intricate footwork, shimmies and body-rolls without losing one’s poise. The mulata-show became a business in and of itself in the 1970s (Gilliam and Gilliam 1999; Pamplona 2010) and is roughly equated to Las Vegas- style showgirls’ performance. In fact, the costuming of Las Vegas show- girls is remarkably similar to that of Brazilian passistas and mulata-shows . Rio nightclub entrepreneur Oswaldo Sargentelli was a self-proclaimed mulat ologo´ ( mulata specialist), and promoted the first mulata-shows out- side of the carnival season. Today, elite Brazilians and tourists can con- sume carnivalesque performances of mulatice at nightclubs year-round. Mulata-shows are also presented worldwide as representative of authentic

of mulatice at nightclubs year-round. Mulata-shows are also presented worldwide as representative of authentic 97


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Brazilian culture. Despite the fact that performances of mulatice caricatur- ize Afro-Brazilian femininity, they offer opportunities for economic and social mobility to women who, historically, have limited options for finan- cial empowerment.

Mangueira’s Mulatas

Worse than being poor is not knowing how to find the inner strength to make life worthwhile. Mine was worthwhile. (Dona Zica, foremother of Mangueira Samba School)

Established in 1928, Mangueira Samba School ( Estac¸ ao˜ Primeira da Mangueira) is the oldest running samba school in Rio de Janeiro. Of the twelve schools in Rio de Janeiro’s Special Group, Mangueira holds the unique title of “Super-Champion” given that Mangueira Samba School won the 1984 carnival, marking the inauguration of the Samb odromo´ . The Samb odromo,´ however, is an artificial avenue, which definitively placed the once public festival in the private sector. It has been described as “the final straw that broke the back of authentic samba and the Rio carnival” (Sherriff 1999: 16). It has also been recognized as the culmination of car- nival’s transition from communal cathartic experience to spectator sport. Pravaz observes the politics of spectatorship as a project of modernity, which “invite[s] a voluntary and nonbinding participation from specta- tors, who remain individuated and uncommitted to such events and whose engagement is mostly reduced to the activity of looking” (2008: 101). The Samb odromo´ places a physical and financial barrier between carnival’s ma- jor spectacle (the parade of champion samba schools) and the community at large, but carnival and carnivalesque performances still manifest a liminal space, where participants experience social prestige and spiritual renewal. Furthermore, the inauguration of the Samb odromo´ did not put an end to the numerous smaller samba schools and carnival associations known as cordoes˜ that still manifest performances in public spaces during carnival. Mangueira Samba School is located in Mangueira neighborhood or complex, which is composed of the favelas 18 of Mangueira Hill: Chale´ and Buraco Quente, Telegraph Hill and Candelaria´ Park. Its boundaries include Benefica neighborhood to the north, Sao˜ Crist ov´ ao˜ to the east and northeast, Maracan a˜ to the south and Sao˜ Francisco Xavier to the west and southwest. The complex occupies less than one square mile. In 1991, the complex maintained a population of approximately 39,100 inhabitants with 28,125 individuals residing in substandard housing, which adversely impacts their quality of life and economic productivity. Currently, the population of the Mangueira Complex is close to 45,000 inhabitants. Of those individuals, 94.2% of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate with a monthly income of $357.43 reis or $230.90 U.S. dollars. Among the four hills composing the Mangueira Complex, there is no legitimized political organization, and the area is in 94 th place on the human development index of Rio de Janeiro 19 .

organization, and the area is in 94 t h place on the human development index of



Many Mangueira passistas work as professional mulatas to supplement inadequate employment in other areas. Twenty-year-old Evelyn Bastos claims that women in her position are beginning to be seen with more respect, and that performing mulatice is something they enjoy. Others ex- press the disjuncture between their daily lives and what is perceived by

others to be their normal routine: “People come and look and think that our life is just that carnival. They don’t see we have children that we have

to take to school, we go to work” (Heleno 2011). Mother of eight and grand-

mother of three, thirty-seven-year-old Marcia Anjo Heleno is employed as

a hairstylist, domestic worker and professional mulata. Luciana Ferreira

depicts working mulata-shows as a “good profession, just like any other” (Ferreira 2011). However, Ferreira transmits dislike for her alternate pro- fession as a janitor, a thankless job when compared to the pleasure she derives from working mulata-shows . Actually, the mulata profession isn’t just like any other, as the opportunities for socio-economic mobility are greater for women within the realm of mulata-shows than within the field

of janitorial and other domestic professions. Although performing mulatice

reflects a history of racial and gender discrimination, it is not the cause of such discrimination. Scholars should look to observers’ interpretations of the performance (from colonial missionaries to twentieth-first-century tourists) for the sources of discrimination, not as and aspect inherent within the performance itself. In a round-table discussion among veteran carnival performers, passista Nilce Fran described the tension amongst artists of diverse genres within Rio de Janeiro’s nightclub scene: “The sambista is certainly the worst paid. I

started doing mulata- shows at Platforma 1 20 . There is discrimination between ballet dancers, sambistas , percussion players and guitarists. The sambista is

always discriminated against in the payments

our reality, think we make a fortune.” Fran recognizes an aesthetic hierar- chy revealed in the economic returns on performing samba versus ballet, popular versus so-called classical dance forms. Fran also hints at the dis- crimination between musicians and dancers. Dancers are often the worst paid components of multifaceted live entertainment, reflecting a judgment made by producers and directors as to the inherent value of the dancing body. Nilce Fran is originally from Madureira neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Madureira has a population of roughly 50,000 inhabitants, includes sev- eral favelas and is home to two elite samba schools: Portela and Imperio´ Serrano. Fran’s father Wanderlei Francisco da Silva was the Mestre de Harmonia (Master of Harmony) of the Oswaldo Cruz Samba School, also located in Madureira. Fran began parading in 1972 at the age of five, and made her debut as a passista in 1980. Today Fran is president of the passista’s wing of Portela Samba School and makes appearances with Mangueira Samba School. She is also the founder of Projeto Primeiro Passo, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of children and adoles- cents through samba. Fran describes the passista’s wing as a discriminated

Those who don’t know

and adoles- cents through samba. Fran describes the passista’s wing as a discriminated Those who don’t


The Latin Americanist, March 2013

segment within the samba school itself, although, due to her pioneer- ing successes as a performer, choreographer and community leader, she receives more respect. While she recognizes the passista’s discriminated status, Fran is building a platform for the next generation of passistas to enter the carnival market with a professional and technical understanding of their performance as not only a form of enjoyment, but also a legitimate career option.

Recent Developments in Mangueira In December of 2008, the state of Rio de Janeiro began installing per- manent police units in various favelas across the cityscape. The Unidade de Pol´ı cia Pacificadora ( UPP – Pacification Police Unit) was designed to con- front the drug traffickers who have historically controlled the political and financial operations of the favelas and maintain order in these areas. The eighteenth UPP was installed in Mangueira on June 19, 2011. Seven hun- dred military and civil police, several tanks and helicopters were deployed

to establish order in the community ( Jornal do Brasil 2011). The residents of Rio’s favelas are ambivalent about the interactions of the UPP with the com- munity. Although there has been a decline in open-fire shootouts amongst gang members, residents note the violence with which police officers en- tered the community, indiscriminately harassing residents and destroying community architecture. The day after Mangueira Samba School’s first public rehearsal of the 2011–2012 carnival season, O Dia, one of Rio’s major newspapers, pub- lished a full-page article covering the event. It was also Mangueira’s first public event since the installation of the UPP. The article describes the space as “nearly empty” and quotes the positive reflections of the UPP’s ac- tivities by a Canadian tourist who “felt safe knowing the police were close by” (Boechat 2011). Yet this perceived feeling of safety was ironic given that the several hundred people in attendance could not fill Mangueira’s quadra, 21 which holds 4,000 people. At that time, the school was making plans to relocate to another building in order to accommodate the thou- sands of fans that have to enjoy the party from the street outside during the months leading up to carnival. Mangueira passista Rafaela Bastos revealed in an interview that Mangueira was sad on that night (Bastos 2011b). The community members came out to support their school, but everyone felt abused by the state, she said. The rubble across the street from the school was once trailers 22 , bars and shops where Mangueira fans and members met up before and after the school’s events in order to share a drink, a story or a laugh. Each bar had its own character and patrons. There was the bar where the older gen- eration of sambistas reunited, the young crowd’s section, the surdo players,

With the installation of the UPP, though, came the de-

the piriquitos

struction of these irregular structures, that is, structures that fall outside of the city’s building and planning ordinances, but which, nevertheless,

were at the heart of the community’s culture. Despite the fact that most

ordinances, but which, nevertheless, were at the heart of the community’s culture. Despite the fact that



favela residents live in irregular housing, the police saw fit to destroy only the trailers, a symbolic gesture that dealt a blow to the hearts and minds of Mangueira residents. In her blog featured in Brazil’s largest news con- glomerate O Globo’s website, Bastos refers to the trailers as significant cultural property “legitimated by the community as spaces of fraternity and leisure.” Furthermore, she wrote, “Many important samba-enredos 23 were composed there” (Bastos 2011a, my translation).

Conclusion The Brazilian nation has operated under military dictatorships twice within the twentieth century (1930–1945 and 1964–1985). Much of the pop- ulation of Rio de Janeiro experiences daily violence within the crossfire of the newly installed military occupation, which is strategically implanted within the marginalized communities of the metropolis. The female samba dancers, representatives of the Brazilian nation and hailing from these communities, understand violence and racial, gender and class prejudice in ways that elite Brazilians never will. Yet despite the obvious discrimi- nation they experience both within and without their local communities, they continue to invest emotional and practical energies into the work of performing mulatice. Passistas like Nilce Fran and Rafaela Bastos have set the stage for a new generation of professional mulatas that demand respect for their artistry and their contributions to the celebration of Brazilian patrimony. Even though women working in this sector of the economy experience racism and sexual harassment as part of the package of per- forming mulatice, their work cultivates an inner strength and joy that seems to defy these prejudices. Soniaˆ Capeta of Beija Flor, for example, asserts: “I don’t worry about prejudice, because we are the ones that draw the line of respect.” Similarly, Elaine Riberio does not take offence to offers for prostitution, because she knows that these come from “little people” (Pamplona 2010). These statements reflect the sort of internal organization described in Zhou’s study of occupational prestige, whereby marginalized groups (based on race, gender, ethnicity or occupation) are likely to resist the “official” order and form their own basis for social hierarchy (2005: 101). Performing mulatice represents an aesthetic unique to Rio de Janeiro’s urban community. This aesthetic has evolved in response not only to Rio de Janeiro’s blend of cultural values, but also to market demands formed by the millions of tourists who visit annually in order to experience those performances. It is not the performances themselves that generate socio- economic disparities; rather, they are a reflection of the status quo on race and gender relations in a global metropolis. This, however, does not negate the very real material disadvantages and limitations for crossing into other social spheres experienced by the community responsible for producing the aural and kinesthetic manifes- tation of carnival. The execution of carnival performance is the crux of a billion-dollar industry whose revenues never manage to circulate back into

of carnival performance is the crux of a billion-dollar industry whose revenues never manage to circulate


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the marginalized communities that perform the essence of carnival. Still, passistas and professional mulatas can be seen as active agents in transform- ing the destiny prescribed to them by the history of colonial domination, capitalism and patriarchy.


1 Mulato/Mulata – A Brazilian of mixed African and European heritage.

2 Passista – Literally means “one who passes” as in passing down the av-

enue of carnival with agility and intricate footwork. Passistas are solo dancers in the carnival parades of Rio de Janeiro. Female passistas are often referred to as mulatas.

3 Mulatice – “Mulataness

fetishized features” (Pravaz 2003: 117).

4 Samba no pe´ – Highly stylized form of samba found in Rio de Janeiro.

5 Ethnographic data collected via participant-observation, observant- participation, informal and unstructured interviews with members of Mangueira Samba School and Portela Samba School June-August 2011, Dona Dalva’s Samba School and interviews with independent artists in Bahia December 2011-January 2012, and samba schools Alegria da Zona Sul, Academicosˆ da Rocinha and Vila Isabel in Rio de Janeiro June – November 2012. This research was carried out with support from a Field Research Grant from the Center for Latin American Studies at the Uni- versity of Florida and the Amaya Burn Award from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida.

.the embodiment of a mulata’s ‘essential,’

6 Tup´ı – One of the major Amerindian tribes of Brazil. The Tup´ı occupied

much of the Atlantic coast at the time of Portuguese arrival.

7 Gilberto Freyre trained under Franz Boas at the University of Chicago in the 1920s. Freyre claimed that Boas taught him the difference between race and culture (Vianna 1999). His most famous work Casa Grande e Senzala (1933) is often cited as establishing the basis for the myth of Brazilian racial democracy.

8 Malandro – Ruffian or thug. Malandro does not indicate a color (as does mulato), but the assumed social status of the malandro presupposes a non- white identity. Mulatas and malandros form the quintessential Brazilian couple of Rio de Janeiro as seen in popular discourse.

9 Carioca – Of or pertaining to the city of Rio de Janeiro. 10 Da Rac¸ a – Of the race (Afro-descendent). 11 Tia Ciata – Aunt Ciata (Hil aria´ Bat´ı sta de Almeida 1854 – 1924). 12 There is some controversy as to whether or not Pelo Telefone was truly the first recorded samba. For full discussion on this matter, see Tupy


13 Irmandade da Boa Morte – Association of candombl e´ practitioners regis-

tered under the guise of a Catholic sisterhood. See Barbosa 2011 for more detail. 14 Terreiro – Terrace or yard. Term generally used to refer to homes or communities where candombl e´ is practiced.

– Terrace or yard. Term generally used to refer to homes or communities where candombl e



15 Baiana – Of or pertaining to Bahia. The Ala das Baianas is a wing of the Rio-based carnival schools whose dancers and costumes emulate female religious leaders (maes˜ de santo) of Bahia. The birth of Rio’s samba itself is said to have been cultivated in the homes of female priestesses of the can- domble´ religion. Many of these women were migrants from the northeast around the period of abolition of slavery (1888). See Nogueira et al. 2007. 16 Malandrismo – Borrowing from the term mulatice, coined by Pravaz (2003), malandrismo indicates malandro-ness, that is, embodying the inher- ent qualities of a malandro. 17 Carnival groups in Salvador take on a number of forms, among them:

Trio El ectrico,´ Bloco-Afro and Afoxe.´ 18 Favela – Slum or ghetto. 19 Mangueira neighborhood statistics taken from the Centro Cultural Car- tola’s informational guide, author’s translation. 20 Platforma 1 is a nightclub located in the upper class neighbor- hood of Leblon. The club is geared towards tourists, and showcases “the biggest and most traditional Brazilian folklore.” http://www. Accessed Nov 24, 2011. 21 Quadra – literally means block, but refers to a samba school’s rehearsal space. Samba schools hold public rehearsals and charge admission in order to raise funds for carnival costs. 22 Trailers – The concrete fixtures that served as vending points outside of Mangueira were referred to as trailers. The term is adopted from the English “trailers” or mobile units, which are commonly used by vendors in Brazil. 23 Samba-enredo – Type of samba played by samba schools in the competi- tion between schools during carnival.

Works Cited

Articles & Books

ALBERTO, Paulina. 2011. Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth- Century Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ALENCAR, Edgard de. 1968. Nosso Sinhoˆ . Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilizac¸ ao˜ Brasileira S.A. BARBOSA, Magnair Santos. 2011. Festa da Boa Morte. Instituto do Patrimonioˆ Art´ı stico e Cultural da Bahia : Fundac¸ ao˜ Pedro Calmon. BASTIDE, Roger. 1961. Dusky Venus, Black Apollo. Race & Class. 3(1):


BOECHAT, Isabel. 2011. Manguieira Busca Nova Quadra Para 15 Mil Folioes.˜ O Dia. July 4, 2011. CHASTEEN, John C. 1996. The Prehistory of Samba: Carnival Dancing in Rio de Janeiro, 1840–1917. Journal of Latin American Studies. 28(1): 29–47. GUILLERMOPRETO, Alma. 1990. Samba. New York: Random House.

Journal of Latin American Studies . 28(1): 29–47. GUILLERMOPRETO, Alma. 1990. Samba . New York: Random


The Latin Americanist, March 2013

GUILLIAM, Angela and Guilliam, Onik’a. 1999. Odyssey: Negotiating the Subjectivity of Mulata Identity in Brazil. Latin American Perspectives .


HARRISON, F. 1995. The Persistant Power of ‘Race’ in the Cultural and Political Economy of ‘Racism’. ARA 24:47–74. LIESA 2011. Regulamento Espec´ı fico dos Desfiles das Escolas de Samba do Grupo Especial da Liga Independente das Escolas de Samba do Rio de Janeiro (LIESA) . Rio de Janeiro: LIESA. MOURA, Roberto. 1983. Tia Ciata e a Pequena Africa do Rio de Janeiro . Rio de Janeiro: Funarte. NASCIMENTO, Abdias do and Nascimento, Elisa L. 2001. Dance of Deception: A Reading of Race Relations in Brazil. Beyond Racism: Race and Inequality in Brazil, South African and the United States. Edited by Charles V. Hamilton et al. London: Lynne Reiner Publishers. P 105–



NOGUEIRA, Nilcemar, ed. 2007. A Forc¸ a Feminina do Samba. Rio de Janeiro:

Centro Cultural Cartola. PARKER, Richard. 1991. Bodies, Pleasures and Passions: Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil . Boston: Beacon Press. PERRY, Keisha-Khan. 2010. Racialized History and Urban Politics: Black Women’s Wisdom and Grassroots Struggles. Brazil’s New Racial Poli- tics . Bernd Reiter and Gladys Mitchell, editors. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers. PRAVAZ, Natasha. 2003. Brazilian Mulatice : Performing Race, Gender and the Nation. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 8(1):


2008. Where is the Carnivalesque in Rio’s Carnival? Samba, Mu- latas and Modernity. Visual Anthropology 21(2): 95–111. REGO, Jose´ Carlos. 1996. Danc¸ a do Samba: Exerc´ı cio do Prazer , 2 nd ed. Aldeia:

Rio de Janeiro. 1996. REILY, Suzel. 2000. Introduction: Brazilian Musics, Brazilian Identities. British Journal of Ethnomusicology. 9(1): 1–10. SHERRIFF, Robin. 1999. The Theft of Carnival. National Spectacle and Racial Politics in Rio de Janeiro. Cultural Anthropology 14(1):


SKIDMORE, Thomas. 1974. Black IntoWhite: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought . New York: Oxford University Press. STOLER, Ann. 2010 (2002). Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule . Berkeley: University of California Press. TUPY, Dulce. 1985 Carnavais de Guerra. Rio de Janeiro: ASB Arte Grafica´ & Editora Ltda. TURNER, Victor. 1987. The Anthropology of Performance . New York: PAJ Publications. VIANNA, Hermanno. 1999. The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and Na- tional Identity in Brazil . Translated by John Charles Chasteen. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.

tional Identity in Brazil . Translated by John Charles Chasteen. North Carolina: University of North Carolina



VOLPE, M. 2002. Remaking the Brazilian Myth of National Foundation: Il Guarany. Latin American Music Review 23(2): 179–194. WADE, Peter. 2010. Race and Ethnicity in Latin America, 2 nd ed. New York:

Pluto Press. WINANT, Howard. 1992. Rethinking Race in Brazil. Journal of Latin American Studies. 24(1): 173–192. ZHOU, Xueguang. 2005. The Institutional Logic of Occupational Prestige Ranking: Reconceptualization and Reanalysis. American Journal of Soci- ology. 111(1): 90–140.

Audio-Visual (DVDs & Websites)

BASTOS, Rafaela. 2011a. Orednac¸ ao˜ Urbana e Desordenac¸ ao˜ Hist orico-´ Cultural . Blog: Plumas, Paet esˆ e um Pouco Mais: os carnavais e o cotid- iano de uma passista-show da Mangueira. O Globo. June 26. Acessed on October 15, 2011. NOGUEIRA, Nilcemar, org. 2007b. Soninha Capeta: Soniaˆ Maria Regina Mas- carenhas . Samba: Patrimonioˆ Cultural do Brasil. Projeto Memoria´ das Matrizes do Samba no Rio de Janeiro (DVD). Rio de Janeiro: Centro Cultural Cartola.


NOT ICIAS. 2011. Jornal do Brasil. June 19. Accessed on October 12, 2011.,,OI5194259-EI5030,00-

Rio+Bope+comeca+ocupacao+da+Mangueira+para+instalar+UPP. html O DIA. 2008. Passista da Sao˜ Clemente Garante Que Nao˜ Ficou Nua.

Tecnologia. Editora O Dia. February 6. Acessed on October 12, 2011.,,OI2351663-


PAMPLONA, Waldemir. 2010. Mulatas: Um Tuf ao˜ nos Quadris (DVD). Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Filmes.

Public Events & Interviews

BASTOS, Evelyn. 2011. Personal Interview (July). Mangueira neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. BASTOS, Rafaela. 2011b. Personal Interview (July). Botafogo neighborhood , Rio de Janeiro, RJ. FERREIRA, Fernando. 2012. Telephone Interview (November). Centro Cul- tural Cartola, Mangueira neighborhood , Rio de Janeiro, RJ. FERREIRA, Luciana. 2011. Personal Interview (July). Mangueira neighbor- hood, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. FRAN, Nilce and Pele´ Valci (Choreographers). 2011. Malandro & Mulata. (Dance Performance) Grupo Primeiro Passo. X-Tudo Cultural SESI. Centro – Rio de Janeiro. July 29. FRAN, Nilce; Sorriso, Selminha and Motta, Aydano Andre.´ 2011. O Chao˜ do Samba. (Panel Discussion) Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil . Centro – Rio de Janeiro. August 16.

O Ch ao ˜ do Samba. (Panel Discussion) Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil . Centro –


The Latin Americanist, March 2013

HELENO, Marcia Anjo. 2011. Personal Interview (July). Mangueira neigh- borhood, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. NOGUEIRA, Nilcemar. 2010. Matriarcado do Samba. Paper presented at Comcultura Seminario´ Permanente Pol´ı ticas de Cultura do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro. 2012. Personal Interview (November). Centro Cultural Cartola, Mangueira neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro, RJ.

Janeiro. 2012. Personal Interview (November). Centro Cultural Cartola, Mangueira neighborhood , Rio de Janeiro, RJ. 106