Brazil is the country of the future! is an old saying to which many immediately add, ...and it always will be!
Brazil sees itself as a country poised on the edge of a high cliff, like a majestic eagle about to take flight. This nation's history is marked by such moments of emergence onto the world stage; a country that will finally have a seat at the table; a serious nation. The most recent example of this can be found in the preparation for the Big Games, when Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and Rio de Janeiro welcomed the 2016 Summer Olympics. The eyes of the world were on us and we cared very much what they saw.
The material language of this national dream is written in the quest for modernity: We are on par with "1st World" standards because we drive cars on highways; take the subway to downtown glass towers; live in air-conditioned condos and shop in palatial malls. We don't live in trees, drive donkeys, or wrestle wild boars for dinner!
As you move through the city today, I want you to think about all the ways in which modernity is an anti-Black project. This quest for "The Future" necessitates the romanticization of an African past side-by-side with the active erasure of any African present.
Urban renewal. Gentrification. Progress. These are all schemes perpetrated on the Black cityscapes, the Black communities, the Black families, and the Black bodies of Rio de Janeiro.
Use the gallery of images below to orient yourself in Largo da Carioca. Find the unmarked "Slave and Indian" cemetery at the base of the exterior wall of the St. Antônio convent. Then realize that the subway line was built right through it!
When modernity is gift-wrapped in Eurocentrism, urban projects become inherently, and casually, anti-Black.