Brazil Today

Fear Is Moving In

Even in those parts of Brazilian everyday-life, where things still seem to be in order, the repressive rhetoric of Jair Bolsonaro is taking hold. Report by Elisabeth Wellershaus from the São Paulo art scene.

The discomfort is mounting – for everyone

The next day I ride my rental bike through a pretty artist district to visit another exhibition. Vila Madalena seems to be another refuge, only slowly catching up with the new reality. Until a few years ago, the colorful little houses in the district constituted a focal point for alternative and creative people. Now, they also represent the wealthier São Paulo, shielded from the social ailings of the urban outskirts. There are more and more incidents where mobs of Bolsonaro supporters threaten critical off-theater, galleries or gay bars. But the real enemy seems to be the ultra-conservative precariat of the outskirts.

“Here, we live in an perfect bubble,” says a political scientist from the neighborhood. In his neighborhood, cuts in social services, educational programs or affirmative action initiatives will likely have a limited impact. Seemingly least, life between organic supermarkets and hipster cafés is surprisingly similar to my German environment. In conversations with artists, curators and LGBT activists, I nod my head in agreement to comments about the New Right, invasive observation practices in schools and alienation between the city center and the outskirts.. I try to understand what it feels like when your own environment is in acute danger. And wonder how long my homely safe haven, Germany, might be spared.

Elisabeth Wellershaus, born 1974, lives in Berlin. She is a journalist and works among other things as an editor at Contemporary And (C&). She is a member of the “10 nach 8” (ZEIT Online) editorial staff.

Translation from Spanish by Zarifa Mohamad Petersen