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How Buenos Aires Tries To Keep The Peace Between Neighbors

Close living quarters in Buenos Aires
Close living quarters in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES — City living often means getting to know your neighbors well, though not necessarily by choice. Whether its late-night partying or that leak from their floor through your ceiling, apartment dwellers often find themselves face-to-face with very tangible conflicts with their fellow citizens. Buenos Aires, a city where people increasingly live in tight quarters, wants to help its residents to avoid winding up in court — or coming to blows.

Alejandro Amor, the city ombudsman, has launched a new Buenos Aires guide that explains the various mediation services available in the Argentine capital. "Arguments ... are very frequent in big cities, and more so if we don't know our neighbors and only have distant relations with them," says Amor.

The Basic Guide to Rights: Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration is being distributed on street corners and in kiosks, with information for people about how to talk to neighbors, approach a mediator, as well as broader questions such as consumer rights and complaints about city services.

Buenos Aires reports that the most frequent problems in residential buildings are actually administrative (more than 40% of cases), then leaks (30%), followed by disputes among neighbors (7.9%) and noise (5.1%). The ombudsman office recounts some of the more memorable conflicts resolved by city mediators: the man who took an axe to a neighbor's Honda that was blocking his garage, the family cut off from their bathroom because a neighbor had somehow broken in and "annexed" it into his own flat, or the family forced to build a coop for their cockerel to help it sleep a little longer so others in the building could too.

Viva the peacemakers!

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How 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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