Brazil’s Rolezinhos – The Kids Are All Right
Shopping Metrô Itaquera, a gleaming mall amid the favelas (shantytowns) of eastern São Paulo, gained notoriety on January 11th, when the police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a crowd of 3,000 youths. The youngsters were participating in a rolezinho, a gathering of tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of youngsters which is convened via social networks.
Mall owners and shopkeepers have reasons to be cautious. A few rolezinhos have led to muggings and robberies. But most do not end in Itaquera-like chaos: the word’s true meaning is closer to “little outing”. And theories that rolezeiros are class warriors or favela dwellers tired of the country’s veiled racism are not correct. “Their battle cry is not ‘Less oppression!’” says Renato Barreiros, who has directed a documentary about them. “It’s ‘More Adidas!’”
The point of a rolezinho is “to hang out, chill, buy nice things, meet people”, explains Vinicius Andrade, a 17-year-old from Capão Redondo, a favela in western São Paulo. He has taken part in 18 big rolezinhos and helped organise a few, drawing some of his 89,000 Facebook followers. His 15-year-old girlfriend, Yasmin Oliveira, a rolezeiro sweetheart with 94,000 fans of her own on the social network, says that shopping centres make good meeting places because they are safe – an important consideration in a crime-ridden city. There are few other public venues for kids, especially in poorer neighbourhoods.
As well as air conditioning, shopping centres also confer something no open-air space can: status. Rolezeiros enjoy walking around in a branded T-shirt and bermudas, with a pair of 400- reais ($170) shades perched on a baseball cap. Vinicius confesses to spending 800-1,000 reais a month on clothes and accessories, most of what he makes as a helper at a local Adventist church. Just 8% of Itaquera shoppers enjoy a monthly income in excess of 2,780 reais. Some rolezeiros support their flashy lifestyle by reselling outmoded attire to poorer neighbours.
Shopkeepers in the local malls have mixed feelings about the gatherings. On the one hand, the youngsters make ideal clients: they often pay cash and can spend 2,000-3,000 reais in one go. On the other, larger groups can scare away customers.
Adapted from http://www.economist.com
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