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Being Black in Brazil

At left, Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari with star Neymar
At right, Brazilian fans at a FIFA World Cup 2014 match
Photo Credit: Black Women of Brazil


In my Poetry Corner July 2014, I feature the poem “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) by Waldo Motta: a gay, black, contemporary Brazilian poet, actor, and mystic from the Southeast State of Espírito Santo. Some literary critics consider him one of the most important Brazilian poets of the first decade of the twentieth century.

“Círculo dos Horrores” is one of his lyrical, protest poems from his poetry collection, Bunda e Outras Poemas (The Negro and Other Poems), published in 1996. (The word bunda originates from the Angolan Bantu language, meaning Angolan Negro.) In this collection, Motta explores the themes of blackness and social exclusion. Little has changed since 1996.

As shown in the captioned photos, although blacks or mixed-race players, like football star Neymar, predominate in Brazil’s World Cup 2014 team, they don’t occupy the coaching position and very few could afford to attend the World Cup matches.

Motta laments that we allow our human feelings to prevent us from taking collective action to save ourselves from self-inflicted wounds. The poet repeats the question raised in the opening lines:

How many more humanities
Will we let pass by again?

In translating Motta’s “Circle of Horrors,” I failed in preserving his beautiful lyricism. In maintaining his use of the word “humanities,” not used in this context in English, I sought to capture the essence of the poet’s lamentation of the plight of blacks in Brazil. Our failure to correct this wrong against blacks, not only in Brazil but also here in the United States and worldwide, is a task for all of humanity.

The circle of horrors facing humanity goes far beyond racism. It also speaks to the inequality we face worldwide. As Motta notes, the “stupidity of the demon in us” leads us to our ruin.

Inspired by Waldo Motta’s poem, my Haiku poem “Humanity” focuses on the effects of unfettered capitalism on humanity.

You can learn more about Waldo Motta and read his poem, “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Writer’s Website.