When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Vanessa Sarmiento

See more by Vanessa Sarmiento

Photo of Brazilian singer Nega Jaci
Society

The Brazilian Singer Trying To Shake The Sexism Out Of Samba

The Brazilian singer Nega Jaci has performed a new version of the well-known samba “Mulheres,” by Martinho da Vila, adapted by two Brazilian women to remove the sexist tone of the original lyrics.

LISBON — It's Saturday night in Lisbon, Portugal, and on stage at the bar Samambaia, in the Graça neighborhood, the beating of the tambourine and the strumming of the guitar signal the beginning of a hit by the carioca samba singer Martinho da Vila, which lists the various women who passed through the life of a man.

But this Saturday, the original version re-emerged as a new, liberating and empowered reinterpretatio, sung by Brazilian artist Nega Jaci.

Instead of "I've had women of all colors," Nega Jaci sings “We are women of all colors,” from an updated version created by Brazilian artists Doralyce and Silvia Duffrayer in 2018 – an adaptation that rewrites some stanzas of the original lyrics and which, since then, has become an anthem of female resistance in the “patriarchal” universe of samba.

The rewritten version by the Brazilian duo removes references to “unbalanced and confused” women in the lyrics, replacing them with feminist heroes in Brazil, including Chica da Silva and Elza Soares. Jaci also included a tribute to former Carioca councilwoman Marielle Franco, murdered in 2018.

The new lyrics reposition the woman's role, from being responsible for the man's happiness, finally concluding, in a liberated and independent tone, that the woman is everything that she one day dreamed to be.

Samba lyrics tend to be super sexist and prejudiced, looking at women either as objects to serve men or as someone who needs to be taken care of, without giving due value to female power,” explains Jaci, who was born in Bahia, Brazil as Jacilene Santos Barbosa and has been living in Lisbon for eight years.

The feminist version of the well-known samba is unmissable in her set, and the moment when Jaci sings it in the presentation is preceded by a call to the women in the audience. It is for them that the performance is dedicated.

“I sing in honor of the women, but the men end up listening and reflecting on the theme in their own way,” she says.

This reflection has led other musicians to also look for a way to reposition themselves. Jaci recalls that not even Chico Buarque himself, universally loved among Brazilian musicians and apparently incontestable, is immune to the slippage of lyrics written in other times and contexts, but which now seem to no longer find space in a repertoire governed by political correctness.

Watch VideoShow less
Image of people dancing, holding hands, in Lisbon, Portugal.
Society

Marchas Populares, A Great Lisbon Tradition Is Missing Men

The Marchas Populares, Lisbon's summertime carnival parades, are a spectacle of dancing and music — but a shortage of money, free time and men who want to dance are endangering this midsummer tradition.

LISBON — With evictions in the city's “soul” neighborhoods and the aging of residents who have carried on traditions, it sometimes seems that a basic sense of community in Lisbon is fading away.

Nine years shy of their 100th year, Lisbon's traditional Popular Marches — nighttime carnival parades through the city's neighborhoods — are having a hard time finding participants to join the march, especially men.

Meanwhile, just across the river from Lisbon, in nearby municipalities Setúbal and Charneca da Caparica, the solution is to take marchers from one bank to the other.

For many of the participants in this traditional choreography, it no longer matters whether they dance for the neighborhood São Domingos de Benfica, Bica or Campo de Ourique. What they want is to keep going every year, and to save the future of this tradition, which for years has been struggling with a lack of men.

Watch VideoShow less
Image of three road signs indicating different countries (Colombia, Brasil, Peru) outside in a street.
Society

Life Lessons In Portunhol, South America's Border Language

Portunhol is a hybrid language spoken on the borders of Portuguese-speaking Brazil and its Spanish-speaking neighbors. The author's time learning it was a reminder that language is so much more than just a means of communicating.

-Essay-

I had the opportunity to live in Brazil recently, and I arrived knowing no Portuguese. As a native Spanish speaker, I initially tried to communicate just by modifying Spanish words. I would change the accent and add a different ending to words to sound more Portuguese. It only worked sometimes, but at least my efforts amused the locals and were appreciated.

It turns out, I had no idea I was in fact speaking Portunhol, a Spanish-Portuguese hybrid that is spoken along the border between Brazil and many Spanish-speaking countries. It combines the two languages to create something unique and entertaining.

Portunhol — or Portuñol to Spanish speakers — is a potent symbol of Latin America's incredible diversity and richness of language and culture. The borders between Latin American countries look firmly set on maps, but in reality, they are frequently fluid. Languages spoken in one country can influence and blend with those spoken in neighboring ones.

Watch VideoShow less
Ghost hunters photography a haunted ballroom in the hopes of catching a ghost in one of the photos at the Shining's Stanley Hotel in Colorado, USA.
Society

Caça Fantasmas: Brazil's Hi-Tech Ghost Hunters Turn Catholic Mysticism Inside Out

The rise in popular culture of ghost hunting has had a big but strange effect in Brazil. YouTubers and bloggers aim to create a bridge between Brazilian popular spiritism and American ghost-hunting.

Ghost hunting has become a popular activity around the world recently, riding the wave of successful TV shows like Ghost Hunters

Despite the lack of any conclusive evidence of the existence of ghosts, even after years of high-tech searching, many still find it an immersive and meaningful pastime — having helped launch crowded conventions of enthusiasts and specialty stores offering equipment and kits to go searching for ghosts.

In Brazil, this new popularity fits into a broader historic investigation and explanation of the apparent supernatural from the domain of religions — though it is increasingly focused on high-tech gear and the hope of achieving internet fame and glory.

On YouTube, two Brazilian channels stand out: Rosa Jaques and João Tocchetto, a pair from Rio Grande do Sul calling themselves the “Caça-Fantasmas Brasil” (Ghost-Hunters Brazil), and a group from Guaratinguetá (SP), called the “KBC Caçadores de Fantasmas” (KBC Ghost-Hunters).

Jaques and Tocchetto have been working together since the 1990s, and their YouTube channel dates back to 2008, with around 390,000 subscribers. Their work can be considered a bridge between Brazilian popular spiritism – which mixes the spiritist doctrine itself with Afro-Brazilian systems, Catholic mysticism and folkloric superstitions – and the American style of ghost-hunting.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of visit of Forest In The Middle Of Lisbon
Green

How Miyawaki "Pop Up" Forests Spread Across The Urban Jungle Of Lisbon

Two years ago, forests planted according to a method invented by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, began to spread across in urban spaces in the Portuguese capital. It's a way to bring real enclaves of nature to urban realities in record time.

LISBON — António Alexandre still remembers the the first lines that formed in front of the FCULresta forest, back in March 2021. Those were times of masks and disinfectant gel, with only one person entering at a time.

But many people were excited to visit the tiny forest, right in the center of Lisbon.

Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki created the concept, which involves native species planted in high density and allows the creation of new forests born in record time — just 20 or 30 years.

Watch VideoShow less
Image of rescuers helping victims of mudslides that had catastrophic consequences on both infrastructure and citizens.
Green Or Gone

“Who'll Stop The Rain?” Why Climate Anxiety Hits Harder In Brazil

Rain often brings deadly flooding and property damage to neighborhoods around Brazil, where people are organizing to address the worsening problem.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Cover the mirrors, turn off all the electrical appliances and call to find out where your child is. Listen to the sirens, the thunder, the roof swaying, and feel the fear of not knowing what to do.

These are familiar feelings for many in Brazil, who still remember rainy-day survival advice shared by parents and grandparents. In Rio de Janeiro, which has seen more than two-thirds of the deaths caused by environmental disasters in Brazil over the past decade, climate anxiety is very real.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of Rio's carnival 2015
Ideas

A Brazilian Plea For Science, Religious Freedom And The Right To Samba As You Wish

An evangelic group has threatened to take legal action against a samba school because of its mix of religious iconography at the 2023 Carnival festivities. A Brazilian secular institute has a response.

-OpEd-

SÃO PAULO — To celebrate religious diversity at 2023 carnival, the samba school Gaviões da Fiel in São Paolo combined Christian symbols with imagery from African religions — for example, Christ with Oxalá (a deity from Candomblé, an African diasporic religion).

Gaviões received a disclaimer note from the country's conservative Evangelical Parliamentary Front (FPE). In these politicians’ view, "one cannot compare Christ and Oxalá … under no circumstances", and there would only be one god, one Son, and one Holy Spirit.

Having interpreted this artistic syncretism as an immoral, vile act, the FPE is now threatening to take legal action against the samba school.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of Lula holding a religious icon
Society

On Lula's "Gay Kits," Marxist Plots And The Entire Brazilian Fake News Machine

Before Lula's re-election in Brazil, fake news spread widely online about "gay kits" in schools and Marxism in schools. Here's how Brazilians can use the moment to convince moderate voters of the dangers of disinformation.

-Analysis-

NATAL, Brazil — It’s been two months since the leftist Luiz Lula da Silva returned as president of Brazil. Despite what fake news and reports online said: No Christian church was closed. No religious leader was arrested or suffered. No public school received “gay kits” and no nursery received bottles with dick-shaped spouts.

In these first weeks , the Lula government also has not instituted any Communist dictatorship in the country and no one was forced to read books by Marx and Lenin.

No one was forced to marry a person of the same sex, and no “gay dictatorship” was installed. Likewise, no woman was forced to have an abortion.

Watch VideoShow less
Image of Zombie in "The Last Of Us"
Future

The Last Of Us? How Climate Change Could Spawn A Deadly Zombie Fungus

The TV series “The Last of Us,” where a fungal infection creates a pandemic that turns people into violent zombies offers hints of what could become more possible as global warming creates the conditions for the spreading of killer fungi.

Let's face it: having just gone through a pandemic where denialist political discourse turned a significant part of the population into something resembling zombies, the prospect of a new pandemic where a microorganism itself devours the victims' brains is an unsettlingly real prospect.

The TV series, based on the video game of the same name, begins with an interview program from the 1960s, where a scientist argues that humans should be less concerned about viruses and bacteria, and more afraid of fungi, which can control the behavior of insects, and with global warming, could in theory adapt to a temperature closer to the human body and infect us.

With no current way to develop drugs or vaccines for such an infection, we would be lost.How much of this is a true story? There really are fungi that infect and alter the behavior of insects. One of these, the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, inspired the creator of the videogame "The Last of Us." Popularly known as Cordyceps, the fungus produces spores – reproductive cells – that infect ants and multiply in the haemolymph, an insect's blood. After a few days, ants begin to show changes in behavior.

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of a street in Masina, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Geopolitics

Africa's Real Risk For The Future: Brain Drain

The best and the brightest, those with real vision for the future, are more likely to leave their native African countries that continue to be mired in short-term fatalism, corruption and lack of development.

-Essay-

Sixty-six years after Ghana became the first independent country in Africa, the continent continues to struggle with the same problems. There is a lack of a development plan, and the way of life remains "living as you go" — a lifestyle with no plans, no goals and no legacy.

Live today, eat today, without looking at the long term — unless it is another United Nations program that aims to fulfill a Western agenda with no prior local understanding, analysis or context.

Several already well-known problems include lack of water, basic sanitation, lack of respect for individual and civil liberties, corruption and the uneven rule of law that exempts rulers and public administrators from criminal responsibility.

But the biggest problem is the loss of intellectuals and leaders. This brain drain is a result of the following factors: a lack of appreciation for local citizens, and their persecution when they respond and bring to the table discussions about specific problems.

Watch VideoShow less
Image of holographic bodies standing next to each other in an office
Society

Star Trek And The Journey From Science Fiction To Pseudoscience

Fans of Star Trek live in a Golden Age where old and new series are readily available. As one hardcore Trekkie points out, the franchise is a reminder of the similarities and differences between pseudoscience and science fiction.

-Essay-

For my Trekkie part, I'm still a fan of the old ones: I still remember the disappointment when a Brazilian TV channel stopped airing the original series, and then there was a wait (sometimes years) until someone else decided to show it.

Living deep in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1990s, it was also torturous for me when “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered on a station whose signal was very bad in my city.

I don't remember when I saw the original cast for the first time, but I remember that when Star Trek made the transition to the cinema in 1979, in Robert Wise's film, the protagonists James Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and the Starship Enterprise were already old acquaintances.

And I was only eight years old. Nowadays, given the scarcity of time and attention that are the hallmarks of the contemporary world, I limit myself to following spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds and reviewing films made for cinema, from time to time.

So, when a cinema close to my house decided to show the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan (originally released in 1982), I rushed to secure a ticket. And there in the middle of the film, I had a small epiphany: the Star Trek Universe is pseudoscientific!

This realization does not necessarily represent a problem: contrary to what many imagine, science fiction exists to make you think and have fun, not to prepare for a national test).

Yet in a franchise that has always made a lot of effort to maintain an aura of scientific bona fides (Isaac Asimov was a consultant on the first film, and the book The Physics of Star Trek has a preface by Stephen Hawking!), the finding was a bit of a shock.

And what made me jump out of the chair?

Watch VideoShow less
Photo of a Bolsonaro supporter holding a phone
Geopolitics

Meet Brazil's "WhatsApp Aunts And Uncles" — How Fake News Spreads With Seniors

Older demographics are particularly vulnerable (and regularly targeted) on the WhatsApp messaging platform. We've seen it before and after the presidential election.

-Analysis-

SAO PAULO — There's an interesting analysis by the educator and writer Rafael Parente, based on a piece by the international relations professor Oliver Stuenkel, who says: “Since Lula took the Brazilian presidency, several friends came to me to talk about family members over 70 who are terrified because they expect a Communist coup. The fact is that not all of them are Jair Bolsonaro supporters.”

And the educator gives examples: In one case, the father of a friend claims to have heard from the bank account manager that he should not keep money in his current account because there was some supposed great risk that the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would freeze the accounts.

The mother of another friend, a successful 72-year-old businesswoman who reads the newspaper and is by no means a radical, believes that everyone with a flat larger than 70 square meters will be forced to share it with other people."

Talking about these examples, a friend, law professor Gilmara Benevides has an explanation: “Elderly people are falling for fake news spread on WhatsApp."

Watch VideoShow less