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How Birkenstocks Became Hip

They used to be the eco-shoe par excellence, footwear of choice for the 'No Nukes' crowd. But now that green has gone mainstream – so have Birkenstocks. The cork-rubber-and-leather German sandals known more for comfort than their good lo

Not just for the crunchy crowd (Meindert Arnold Jacob)
Not just for the crunchy crowd (Meindert Arnold Jacob)

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

BERLIN - "No smoke. No mirrors. No gizmos. You walk, the shoe molds to your foot. You feel good. We feel good. That's the deal," says the Birkenstock USA website, which pretty much sums up wearer experience of the iconic brand.

If the comfort factor remains unchanged, what has been evolving since the 1990s is the look and perception of the shoes. Although traditional Birkenstocks are still beloved by medical personnel and physiotherapists, ever trendier models have become the stuff of catwalks, grace the feet of celebs like actress Gwyneth Paltrow, and have even been included in goodie bags handed out at the Oscars.

The "Birkenstock styled by Heidi Klum" range designed by the German top model, which features bright patterns and colors decorated with rhinestones, contributes in no small measure to the sandals' newfound glamorous image.

The Birkenstock name goes back to Johann Adam Birkenstock who produced footwear in Germany as far back as 1774. But it wasn't until some 100 years later that the company he founded developed the orthopedic formula that made its name.

Read the full article in German by Caroline Turzer

photo - Meindert Arnold Jacob

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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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.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

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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