From prizewinning journalist and Brazilian native Juliana Barbassa comes a deeply reported and beautifully written account of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro as it struggles with poverty and corruption on the brink of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Juliana Barbassa moved a great deal throughout her life, but Rio was always home. After twenty-one years abroad, she returned to find her native city—once ravaged by inflation, drug wars, corrupt leaders, and dying neighborhoods—undergoing a major change.
Rio has always aspired to the pantheon of global capitals, and under the spotlight of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games it seems that its moment has come. But in order to prepare itself for the world stage, Rio must vanquish the entrenched problems that Barbassa recalls from her childhood. Turning this beautiful but deeply flawed place into a pristine showcase of the best that Brazil has to offer in just a few years is a tall order—and with the whole world watching, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Library Journal called Dancing with the Devil in the City of God “akin to Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit”—a book that “combines history and personal interviews in an informative and engaging work.” This kaleidoscopic portrait of Rio introduces the reader to the people who make up this city of extremes, revealing their aspirations and their grit, their violence, their hungers, and their splendor, and shedding light on the future of this city they are building together.
Dancing with the Devil in the City of God is an insider perspective from a native daughter and “a fascinating look at the people who live in and aspire to change one of the world’s most impressive cities” (Booklist, starred review).
After a two-decade absence, Barbassa returned to her native Brazil in 2010 as the Associated Press's Rio de Janeiro correspondent, providing the impetus for this overstuffed but fascinating urban chronicle. She arrived just in time for a confrontation between the Pacification Police Units and the Red Command gang, which ruled the favelas. Barbassa reports on the 2011 flood that claimed 1,000 lives; the 2012 closing of one of South America's largest landfills, the Gramacho; and the "world's largest gay wedding" in 2013. She speaks to "anyone who would speak to : taxi drivers, university researchers, cops who wouldn't give their names, local crime reporters," as well as politicians, government officials, gang members, environmentalists, restaurateurs, shipyard managers, notaries, and barbers. In between visiting favelas and gated communities, Barbassa touches on issues broad (taxes, immigration, prostitution, homosexuality) and narrow (her own housing problems). So many people and subjects move through the book's pages that the portrait of "this southern giant" becomes cluttered. Expert as Barbassa is with words, the book's breadth can feel like a liability. But even readers whose interest flags at times will come away with a sense of having been there.