City of God

The film, “Cidade de Deus,” shows how violence in our world tends to follow a cyclical path. The movie starts out with young boys like Li’l Dice, Benny, and Carrot taking control of the various drug and criminal activities within the city. By the end of the movie another group of young boys can be seen rising up and taking over the illegal industries. It is interesting that regardless of the place, Brazil, the U.S. or anywhere, the ghettos like this seem to constantly pan out to a similar story. The poor and underprivileged of the larger cities are constantly looking to take advantage of these criminal activities, as most seem to have trouble finding another way of life.

As Julio Cesar Pino explains in his article, “Labor in the Favelas of Rio De Janerio, 1940- 1969,” the Brazilian favelas began to grow out of the mass immigration from rural to urban setting in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the country began to industrialize. Pino explains the problem with Brazilian urbanization was the lack of rights for Brazilian workers. The Brazilian ruling class was able to take advantage of this as they consumed a mass amount of good that the lower class produced at a cheap cost. The country had established a minimum wage, but that was only for full time workers. Businesses were able to constantly lay off workers and restrict their rights even more. Pino cites the fact that in any single year between 1940 and 1960 that 40% of the favela population would have been unemployed.  This sub-proletariat class was not paid minimum wage, were not protected by a union, and simply did not have the means to provide a decent standard of living for themselves and their families because of the elite’s manipulation of the working class. When reading about how poor these people would have been, it is not surprising that children like Li’l Dice and Carrot were able to perform horrendous crimes at a young age. They understood what kind of life they were likely to have to live and saw the selling of drugs as a way to control their own lives.

Ney dos Santos Oliviera writes about the similarities and differences between the Brazilian favelas and the ghettos of New York City. She explains that only 12% of the American population is black, compared to the roughly 43% black population in Brazil, with about 5 million people inhabiting the favelas. She explains that even with such a large black population in the country, few blacks have achieved any sort of political office. In the U.S. there may still be a disproportional number, especially at the national level, but the numbers are much better and for a smaller portion of the population. The author contributes this to a lack of political organization within the Brazilian favelas. This is not surprising, as in the U.S, large groups of poor people are disconnected from political activity even though they may have the most to gain from political involvement. These facts also help explain why kids growing up in these poor environments may see this illegal activity as their only way out.

 It is rather stunning to see little children like Li’l Dice able to commit murder and sell and use drugs. However, it is a part of the society that has been created. As long as these underprivileged children view this activity as their only way out of a poor, troubled life then it will always occur throughout the world. It happens in the major cities of America, maybe not as prevalent as in a poor South American country, but these troubled kids tend to come from the same poor, undereducated, and impoverished backgrounds. The kids in these situations need to know there is a way out besides dealing drugs. That is easy to see in a place like the U.S, it is not so easy to see in a place with larger amounts of poverty.