In São Paulo, Brazil not much has changed. The sun still fades colorfully aged favela shanties, drugs still pulse through the veins of youths scaling building ledges, and the women remain beautifully elusive. The unreasonably rich still live next to the impossibly poor, and they still walk by in disgust.
In 1997 when Raven (Allen Benedikt) and Sonik (Caleb Neelon) took an exploratory mission south, they found a similar Brazil. Back then social networks were built on handshakes and hand written addresses, and far fewer back home were hip to what was going on outside their neighborhoods. It meant that countless compelling stories went untold, but the one’s that were helped shape cultures and consciousness.
Brazil in the early 1990s was ravaged by widespread corruption. Officials at every level of the government, from the President to police officers, had the ethical convictions of conmen, preaching reform while sucking money and power from wherever it could be found. By 1997 rhetorical steps had been taken to curb these misgivings, but little was done to provide actual solutions to your average brazilian.
The ideas and efforts put forth by Brazil’s leadership were image based solutions, if not outright lies and scams; not all that different from present day Brazil. The 2014 World cup and the 2016 Olympic games, both major wins publicly for the country, have turned out to be two of the most devastating events to the country’s economic and urban development in recent memory.
Money for stadiums disappeared, contracts were awarded without merit and today stadiums built only years ago lay in ruin. It’s come as no surprise to anyone when the deep corruption consuming FIFA and the International Olympic Committee was revealed. The aristocracy thrived while the people continued to find themselves out of place and forgotten in their own country.
So again, not much has changed. In the two decades since we published 12ozProphet issue 6 and first introduced Os Gemeos to the world outside, what remains most striking is still the juxtaposition of poverty and corruption against the natural beauty of the people, art and culture that Brazil has to offer. Despite the manchurian politics, vice and turbulent development, brazilians have remained resolute in what defines them most: A passion for making the most of life.
It’s the same passion we saw in Os Gemeos, our friends and tour guides for what would be a life changing trip. Its why we find it fitting all these years later to again allow Os Gemeos to describe the country from which they hail. This excerpt, first used as the intro to Issue 6 of 12ozProphet, and in turn the initial introduction of Os Gemeos to the world, rings as true today as it did when it was published in 1997:
“São Paulo, Brazil, is where we live. It is so crazy and so huge, anything that you would ever want to see can be seen in the streets. We don’t know if São Paulo is the only city like this, there must be other hidden cities like this.
In São Paulo, if you wish to see someone starving, walk around the block. If you wish to see a millionaire, walk around the same block again. You will see men dragging carts around filled with cardboard, writing small poems on the boxes in which they live, the reality of the streets is not something that can be escaped.”
The people who have the means to end it do not do anything about it because they are more concerned with their own situation. People here are too concerned here with day-to-day survival to think about other things. People aren’t concerned with the future because they must survive today. Because of this, everything falls to shit.
São Paulo is a place where it is very difficult to notice the good things in the street, we only notice the bad things because there are so many of them. Everywhere you look you see kids huffing glue, people begging, people who are deformed.
We can stand there painting a wall and a man will come up to us out of the garbage and start explaining his life story to us. Everywhere you look are the homeless, little kids and babies living on the street. The things that we paint are often a result of seeing that type of thing in the street.
We often paint simply for the people in the streets and if it makes their life a little easier knowing that we paint just for them, and bring a little color to the streets just for them, it is a means of escaping the reality of the harsh world. These people are able to see these big murals and know that they are not excluded from the rest of the world. We want them to know that they are thought about.
Explaining to people outside of São Paulo what goes on there is very difficult because the people who live there don’t know themselves what’s going on. We suspect that a lot of major cities are like that, that people’s main concern is for money and survival.
Everything that exists must coexist, and São Paulo is a land of coexistence. There are police who don’t get paid shit and because of that they don’t care about what they’re doing. Because of that everything else follows in a vicious circle. The cops get frustrated and steal from people.
There are things in Brazil that are difficult to explain. There are people who are even poorer than those in shantytowns, because at least people there can scrounge food from the garbage. There are people who are so poor that they cannot even find edible garbage, so they find chunks of cardboard and tear it up and boil it, making soup from cardboard.
These people are so poor they cannot even live in a shantytown, they just get soaked every time it rains. They figure that anything must be better than where they are, any city, anything. They pick up and move to shantytowns and sometimes do a great deal better. That’s why there are so many shantytowns, because once there, nobody can go higher. Kids who are born into that life don’t have the resources to go any higher. They live their entire lives that way.
We paint because it creates a portal into another world that other people hopefully can peer into in order to see another life and world that exists.”
– Os Gemeos, 1997 – 12ozProphet Magazine Issue 6