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In The News

Fuel Depot Blast Kills 20 In Karabakh, Seoul Weapons, T. Swift Buzz

👋 Goedemorgen!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where an explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh kills 20, South Korea flexed its military hardware, and Taylor Swift’s NFL rumored beau goes viral. Meanwhile, in independent Latin American journal Volcánicas, Sher Herrera considers the roots and ramifications of the “white savior syndrome” and how it lives on in modern times.


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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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20,000 Feared Dead In Libya Floods, Brazil Rioters On Trial, Giraffe Oracle

👋 Nyob zoo!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Libya floods may have killed as many as 20,000 people, trials begin for pro-Bolsonaro rioters accused of staging a coup in January, and Obano the rugby-loving giraffe is put to the test. Meanwhile, Maria Corbi in Italian daily La Stampa looks at the man’s man’s world of influencers, and the one Italian woman who puts them all to shame.

[*Nyaw zhong - Hmong, China, Vietnam, Laos]

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The (Un)Friendliest Countries For Expats in 2023

Mexico is the most welcoming destination for expats, Kuwait the least, according to an Expat Insider survey.

In its 10th year, the annual Expat Insider survey by global expat network InterNations shines a light on the countries that make settling in easy — and those that don’t.

A warm welcome in Mexico

For the fifth year in a row, Mexico ranks 1st in the Ease of Settling In Index.

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This Happened

This Happened — August 21: Amazon Wildfires

Brazil reports fires burning in the Amazon Rainforest at unprecedented rate on this day in 2019.

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Danielle Romani

In Brazil, A New Generation Of Tarot Readers Rethink The Ancient Game

For the new generation of tarot readers in Brazil, the art of reading the cards aims not to guess the future, but to promote a deep search for self-knowledge.

In 1930, the surrealist painter Leonara Carrington came very close to synthesizing the symbolism of tarot cards, which date back at least several hundred years and are often used to divine the future: “Each arcana, being a mirror and not a truth in itself, becomes what you see. The tarot is a chameleon," said the artist, noting that the cards, even if they have the same meaning, can represent different questions for each one who consults them. The tarot, therefore, can be a direct and intimate channel for those who play them, or a kind of mirror in which the client's truths are reflected.

Leonora's theory rings true with many tarologists or scholars who study this art: a game that contains 22 major and 56 minor arcana (or cards). For many, the game is a key to unravel intimate issues or to help choose paths in difficult or pleasurable moments.

Sabrina Carvalho, a tarot reader from Pernambuco, Brazil, began studying the subject in 2007. She describes it as a "chameleon." The cards are “a great tool for self-knowledge and connection, a tool for communicating with ourselves," says Sabrina, who has worked as a tarot reader since 2012, and who is responsible for the creation of the Carcará tarot school, which has trained hundreds of people to read cards in Pernambuco.

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food / travel
Anne-Charlotte De Langhe

Cachaça To Cabernet: A New Generation Of Winemakers Puts Brazil On The Map

Surprising as it may seem, Brazil is also seeking a future in wine. Driven by legendary families and ambitious new winemakers as ambassadors, the country is eager to play in the same league as its famous South American neighbors.

SERRA GAÚCHA — At the dawn of each new year, Brazilians like to follow a few traditions: wearing white, riding seven waves, eating lentils and making three wishes in a row while sipping sparkling wine.

The wine is one of the famous espumantes that have made the reputation of the local vineyards, based on a savoir-faire that, while well-known in the region, dreams of making a name of itself in Europe and elsewhere.

Now, a young generation of winemakers are trying to meet this challenge in a country inevitably associated with soccer stars, creamy coffee and the intoxicating aromas of the alcohol cachaça.

Established in the Vale dos Vinhedos region (Serra Gaúcha), at the head of one of the country’s most important vineyards, Juarez Valduga recalls the arrival of Italian immigrants in Brazil in the late 19th century. “At the time, the State would give some land to any foreigners settling here,” he says, while walking through a labyrinthine wine cellar, dug right in the basalt. “My grandfather, Luiz, was able to cultivate 12 hectares, where he started planting his own grape varieties. Then, he moved on to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.”
A hard worker encouraged by the innovative spirit of his children and his tenacious wife Maria, the patriarch quickly understood that fine Brazilian wines would have their place here in the sun. His favorite saying: “Before making two bottles of wine, make one, but make it well.”
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Estela Aguiar, Ingrid Fernandes

The New Generation of Brazilian Women Revitalizing Funk Music

Funk is a music genre that originated in Rio and is inspired by social consciousness. Women have been overlooked in the genre, but a new generation of women funk artists are changing that.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Women made and continue to make history in Brazilian funk, a hip hop-influenced music style from Rio de Janeiro that blends funk with Miami bass and rap.

“They contribute not only as interpreters, but there are more and more women debating academically [the style], and being composers, producers [who are] inserted in the music ecosystem,” says Tamiris Coutinho, 31, from Rio de Janeiro, author of the book I Fell Face-first into My Pussy: Funk as a Power of Female Empowerment (“Cai de boca no meu b*c3t@o”).

A music and business graduate from PUC (Pontifical Catholic University) in Rio de Janeiro, Coutinho warns that, despite this growth, the situation is not an even playing field, saying, "Women don't get as many opportunities as men do."

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Claire Bargelès

A BRICS Common Currency? The New Plans To Challenge U.S. Dollar Hegemony

The creation of a new common currency will be one of the main questions on the agenda at the BRICS summit in South Africa in August. But there are still many obstacles to overcome before breaking free from the almighty dollar.


PARIS — Faced with the dollar's continuing hegemony, the BRICS bloc of non-Western nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — have been loudly calling for an alternative in recent months.

First, it was Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in April, after the appointment of Brazil's former president Dilma Rousseff to head of the New Development Bank (NDB): "I ask myself every night why all countries are obliged to trade according to the dollar," Lula said.

A month later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that "'de-dollarization' has begun." It is hardly a new idea, but it has been bolstered by plans to create a common currency.

The group of five countries accounts for over 40% of the world's population, nearly a quarter of global GDP and 18% of global trade. This drives their monetary ambitions, which align with their vision for a multi-polar world no longer dominated solely by American power.

After World War II, the dollar replaced the pound sterling as the world's standard currency, and today it accounts for 58% of the world's foreign exchange reserves. Russia in particular welcomes this proposal, as American sanctions following the war in Ukraine have demonstrated the dollar's political power.

Yet, "it's not really a case of wanting to dethrone the dollar," says Zongyuan Zoe Liu, a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of the study "Can BRICS De-dollarize the Global Financial System?"

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food / travel
Sara Kahn

Gùsto! How · What · Where Locals Eat (And Drink) In Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a city known for many things, but food is usually not one of them. Nonetheless, Rio's food scene is not to be ignored. From açaí to steak, Rio has it all.

Rio de Janeiro, famous for its beaches and nightlife, is a city that is not often appreciated for its dynamic food scene. But its weakness for the good life, and its rich history and culture, means that Rio has plenty to offer on the cuisine front.

With a newfound appreciation for its own history, Rio’s culinary experiences are now more focused on local ingredients and traditions, while also embracing other flavors from across the world. These must-try restaurants combine creative cuisine with traditional Brazilian flavors to create a comprehensive understanding of Rio de Janeiro’s culinary offerings.

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Matheus Souza

How Black Communities Redefined São Paulo, Facing Down Racism And Poverty

São Paulo is 400 years old, but the outlaying areas beyond the historic center are relatively new. They were born out of poverty and have given rise to resistance and culture, especially through music.

SÃO PAULO — Despite being 400 years old, a considerable part of São Paulo was created in the last 70 years, especially the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the Brazilian city. But what was the process of building these neighborhoods?

When talking about “peripheries” in Brazil, many people have an idea of what the term represents — even without saying the city, it is already possible to imagine the so-called places and people, the level of income, skin color and even the neighborhood infrastructure. And in general, this picture is not far from reality.

Thousands of huddled houses, dirt streets
This is the hill, my area awaits me
Screaming at the fair (We're coming!)
Trust me, I like that, more human warmth
- Translation of Racionais MC’s, in “Fim de Semana no Parque”

However, a few decades ago, the "periphery" did not represent anything much beyond the obvious — that is, places far from the central region. It was from the 1980s onwards that this began to change and the term acquired meanings beyond geography.

Social, racial and identity factors were incorporated largely because of cultural movements that translated the common feelings of those who lived in these spaces into art. One of these movements is rap.

On the periphery, joy is the same
It's almost noon, the euphoria is general
That's where my brothers, my friends live
And most around here look like me
- Translation of Racionais MC's, in “Fim de Semana no Parque”

Brazilian peripheries, as we understand them today, have among their origins the city of São Paulo. Although 400 years old, the city only became an economic power in the middle of the 20th century, which was also when the population started to grow until it became the largest in the country.

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This Happened

This Happened — June 29: Brazil's First World Cup Victory

Brazil won their first World Cup on this day in 1958 which was hosted by Sweden with the final match held at the Rasunda Stadium in Solna.

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