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In Brazil, A Disturbingly Persistent Life Expectancy Gap

In Rio, Brazil
In Rio, Brazil

In Brazil, where you're born not only affects how you live, but can also have an enormous impact on how long you'll live. The results of the latest report from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, published in Folha de S. Paulo, show that life expectancy in the country of samba varies from what is typical in Denmark to one closer to a country like Tajikistan, in central Asia.

Conditions in Brazil have improved dramatically over the past century, and with an average life expectancy of 75 years, babies born today can theoretically hope to live 30 years longer than those born in the 1940s. But averages tell only part of the story.

The richer states in southeastern Brazil have a much higher life expectancy — almost 82 years for women born in Santa Catarina, for example. Men in the small northeastern state of Alagoas, meanwhile, aren't expected to live beyond 66, a gap that serves as damning evidence of unequal access to health care across Brazil.

Accidents and violence also disproportionately affect men. According to Folha, a 20-year-old man in the Alagoas state is eight times less likely to reach 25 than a woman of the same age.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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