Dancing With the Devil in the City of God
By Juliana Barbassa
This is the forty-eighth book that I have read this year, towards my goal to average reading a book a week for the entire year, which I totally blew away last year.
Juliana Barbassa is a journalist that was born in Brazil but spent many years growing up in Iraq where her father worked for the Brazilian State Oil Company. They returned to Brazil but her father’s career would take her to Houston. After 20 years she moved back to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in 2010 to witness the city and the country as it prepared for the 2014 World Cup and ultimately the 2016 Olympic Games. Barbassa gives a great history of the city and country including the military dictatorship that ruled for 20 years and what has happened since so called democracy took over. She covers everything from politics, to the police, the gang wars, urban renewal, how it is to be a business owner in the country and the environment.
After reading this book those living in countries such as the United States should have a better appreciation for our quality of life compared to Brazil. That is not to say that Brazil does not have some wonderful people, some of whom I had to the opportunity to work with last year. However, it is clear after reading this book that the country, and especially Rio de Janeiro, has some serious problems it still needs to work on. Also, for all those that whine about how hard it is to be in business in the United States, read that book and appreciate how good it is here compared to there. While it may not be impossible to run a business in Rio it definitely is not for the faint of heart.
However, while you can take heart in how we are better off we still have skeletons in our closet, especially when it comes to Urban Renewal and how it was run from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, and in various cases the way some projects still happen.
Overall the book is an excellent read and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what Rio de Janeiro is doing to get ready for the Olympics, its history, and the current conditions that residents face in the city. It is also a great book to inspire some soul searching on the mistakes we have made in the past and how we can do better in the future.
This book gets an A.