Kids like to go to the mall… Dressed in the latest cool fashion…Stroll around…Maybe buy something, maybe not… Look for friends. …Flirt a little… Take pictures with cell phones. Sound about right?
In SÃO PAULO Brazil, going to the (luxury) malls is not as easy as you would think. If you are young and not white, your fashionable hat or shoes won’t be the ticket to get you through the entrance. Security guards may block you, ask for your ID card, and enquire, “What are you doing here?”
Mall walking in Brazil is called ‘rolezinho’. It has the charming translation of ‘little strolling’. A rolezinho, however, is not little; it grows exponentially. Rolezinhos are publicized on Facebook.
- In early December 2013 some 6,000 young people turned out at the Metrô Itaquera mall.
- One week later, something similar happened at the Guarulhos International mall; 23 people were arrested (and later released without charges).
In response, the security around malls has increased:
- Tightening security zones at entrances
- Stopping ‘unaccompanied minors’
- Checking documents
- Stopping those ‘who looked suspicious though not underage’
From the beginning, the middle class has panicked. Shopkeepers have called 911. Restraining orders have been issued, even though there was no actual organized movement — nothing related to the political protests that swept across Brazilian cities in June. It is just kids connecting, walking around and singing.
Since the security crackdown, rolezinhos have been spreading fast: five more scheduled in São Paulo over the next two weeks, and other cities are planning solidarity events. On Tuesday, President Dilma Rousseff convened an emergency staff meeting on the issue.
So, how did this phenomenon come about? The poor suburbs where many young people live are roughly two hours by bus from downtown, and they offer few free opportunities for entertainment. São Paulo has 64 parks and squares for a population of 10.8 million; 13 of the 96 city districts don’t have any green spaces at all. There are 40 cultural centers, 41 recreation centers and 23 public pools. Number of shopping malls: 79.
Many of the teenagers are fans of a Brazilian funk music called “funk ostentação,” whose lyrics speak of expensive clothes, cars, watches, women and money. Wearing flashy baseball caps, colorful tennis shoes, soccer jerseys, sunglasses and rings, they aspire to be part of the very consumer society that excludes them.
Tensions are high in and around the malls.
Adapted and quoted from:
The author of this article Vanessa Barbara, is a novelist and columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. She edits the literary website A Hortaliça.
For more details on the uptick in tension, check out:
“Brazil’s Latest Clash With Its Urban Youth Takes Place at the Mall” SÃO Paulo Journal: Jan. 19, 2014