Issue 14.1, February 1999

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Essay Excerpt

From "The Theft of Carnaval: National Spectacle and Racial Politics in Rio de Janeiro," Robin E. Sheriff

Rio de Janeiro, many Brazilians and foreigners agree, is a monumental city. The capital of Brazil until 1960, Rio has both an illustrious history and natural splen- dor. Steep granite hills, some of them populated by the city's poor, share space with modern high-rise buildings. The crescent-shaped beaches of the wealthy South Zone continue to draw tourists from as far away as Europe and the United States, despite international reports of violent street crime. When I arrived there in the last weeks of 1990,1 felt a tingling sense of achievement. Even poor mi- grants, whose reasons for leaving the impoverished countryside are anything but abstract, are drawn to Rio partly by its glamour.