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Over the past few days my social media avenues have been bottlenecked with news and commentary on the protests in Brazil calling for an impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, even for a military overthrow of the current administration. Much of the commentary expressing frustration with the PT and with President Rousseff is coming in the form of derisive language pointed at PT supporters, Petistas, they call them. Commentors, and even a news outlet or two, have suggested in varying levels of vehemence, disrespect, and slander that Petistas only support the Workers Party because they are lazy and complacent on the government dole, they block streets with their protest on workdays making it harder for the honest working people to get to work, they are bribed to come to their demonstration with bread and money. If there is a take away from this cycle of protests it is that the PT did not invent corruption–in fact the brazilian government does little better than enrich the already powerful–but it is becoming more difficult for corrupt politicians to hide and evade consequences. I’m certain the battle is not won, corruption and graft will take decades to route out. But progress is being made, that much is evident. Another lesson here is that crippling inequality by race and income–and this comes much more from the commentary than the news–is still alive and well. Those citizens who live in the comfort and security of mainstream society, of the middle and upper classes, have a difficult time understanding and sympathizing with the many who live at the margins.

One can go nearly nowhere in Rio without seeing a favela, but to those who don't live there, the realities of being working poor may be hard to imagine.

One can go nearly nowhere in Rio without seeing a favela, but to those who don’t live there, the realities of being working poor may be hard if not impossible to imagine.

As always when I run into evidence of this disconnection, I recall the faces and hands of the working poor that I’ve met and loved over the years–people who in no way fit the lazy, shiftless stereotypes perpetuated in these media comments, in the media itself, and perhaps in mass consciousness. The following are images that I feel express the hardworking nature of the people reviled as government saps.

About 2 am, a catador gathers recyclable cardboard from the street side waste in Copacabana.

About 2 am, a catador gathers recyclable cardboard from the street side waste in Copacabana.

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A salon in Rocinha open still doing pedicures and hairstyles at nearly midnight.

Motorcycle Shop still open for business, at 10 pm.

Motorcycle Shop still open for business, at 10 pm.

A vendor of sweets takes her cart along the steeop streets and becos of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.

A vendor of sweets takes his cart along the steep streets and becos of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.

 

If you've never done laundry this way, it may be difficult to imagine the time consuming nature of the task.

If you’ve never done laundry this way, it may be difficult to imagine the time consuming nature of the task.

A child sweeps her stoop in Cachopa, Rio de Janeiro.

A child sweeps her stoop in Cachopa, Rio de Janeiro.

Construction is a consistent presence in any favela, especially autoconstrucion such as this home addition in Vila Verde, Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.

Construction is a consistent presence in any favela, especially autoconstrucion such as this home addition in Vila Verde, Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro.

This home owner is preparing to open a lunch counter in the first floor of his home.

This home owner is preparing to open a lunch counter in the first floor of his home.

This bar in Largo do Boiadeiro turns into an impromptu music venue on weekend nights. Here a sertanejo band plays for the crowd.

This bar in Largo do Boiadeiro turns into an impromptu music venue on weekend nights. Here a sertanejo band plays for the crowd.

This guy carries a new stove up the steep, narrow becos above Rua Um in Rocinha.

A resident carries his new stove up the steep, narrow becos above Rua Um in Rocinha.

On the side of Estrada da Gâvea in Rio, a man carefully dismantles appliances to sort and salvage the various metals.

On the side of Estrada da Gâvea in Rio, a man carefully dismantles appliances to sort and salvage the various metals.

Shoe repair is not unique to favelas, but it is certainly a more prevalent where thrift is valued.

Shoe repair is not unique to favelas, but it is certainly a more prevalent where thrift is valued.

The immense backlog of work just inside this seamstress's door was a testament to her reason for being open long after the 9-5 crowd had gone home for the day.

The immense backlog of work just inside this seamstress’s door was a testament to her reason for being open long after the 9-5 crowd had gone home for the day.

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