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food / travel

Massive Crowds And Crumbling Monuments, Has Venice Reached A Breaking Point?

Venice is falling apart at the seams – quite literally in some of its best-known places. Critics say unregulated tourism is destroying Italy’s beautiful and fragile lagoon city.

Venice locals complain that tourists have taken over the city
Venice locals complain that tourists have taken over the city

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

VENICE -- The most recent warning sign came Monday, July 25, when the Venice police department announced that the city was officially closed to cars. The reason? There's simply no more room. The bridge leading in to Venice was jam packed. All of the city's parking lots were sold out.

People were instead encouraged to use the train, which is ironic. Just the day before, a train accident in Rome snarled up Italy's entire rail network. In Venice, the delays meant long waits for hundreds of tourists. Adding to the city's woes is that fact that for some strange reason, construction has begun in Piazzale Roma – in the middle of summer of all times.

A troubling and very real feeling is starting to sink in. Venice, by all accounts, is at a breaking point. There's no room to fit any more people. And on an island without escape routes, the overcrowding is dangerous.

Who is to blame? With no planning or foresight, the city has greedily tried to squeeze in as many tourists as possible. That, in turn, has caused tensions with locals, who can no longer stand the waves of visitors who invade the tiny streets and squares, making it almost impossible to walk.

The island seems to be falling apart physically as well. Last weekend, a chunk of the venerable old Rialto Bridge came loose, crashing on to the busy pathway below, where it left a large crater. Fortunately no one was hurt. The city might not be so lucky next time, especially now that the car ban is putting even more pedestrians onto Venice's already overcrowded sidewalks.

Read the full article in Italian by Anna Sandri

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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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