Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

"We are alone. We have been abandoned by the state," says Marilia Lima, cradling her 2 1/2-month-old son, Arthur, against her chest.

Arthur is one of some 3,500 babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect that has been linked to Zika virus, since the virus was identified in Brazil in May. Although a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, both Brazilian and international doctors believe there is indeed a connection.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

We're also tracking impeachment proceedings against the president of Latin America's biggest country. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports on Dilma Rousseff's fight for her political life.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's a place where girls can play volleyball. They can do ballet (of course).

But soccer is a no-no.

That's the way it goes in Brazil, the country that famously loves soccer. There was once a legal ban — from 1941 to 1979 — noting that "women will not be allowed to practice sports which are considered incompatible to their feminine nature."

That law is no longer on the books. So things have changed. Brazil has a women's national team (although there's only room for a few elite players). The Brazilian player Marta is an international superstar.

An enslaved woman is sitting with her white charge in her lap. She is well dressed in a pristine white headdress and an off-the-shoulder blouse, wearing bracelets and rings and necklaces. She stares straight at the camera, somberly.

The image was probably commissioned by the family as a memento, according to experts. It creates the illusion that nannies in the slavery period were held in affection and even esteem. But the reality was very different, says Maria Elena Machado, one of the foremost experts on slavery in Brazil.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, and it's expanding, if you look at waistlines. Almost half the country is now considered overweight. Compare that to 30 years ago when the rate was half that.

It's a common problem in the developing world, where rising prosperity often means greater access to processed food.

One woman in Brazil is trying to change the direction the country is going. But it hasn't been easy.

Bela Gil is the daughter of one of Brazil's most famous singers, Gilberto Gil. She's quick to say she has zero musical talent.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Brazil hosted the World Cup last year. Next year, it will host the Summer Olympics. On Sunday, though, the country played host to another international gathering of talented competitors: the Rubik's Cube World Championship.

This past weekend, hundreds of "speedcubers," as they're known, descended on Sao Paulo from over 40 countries, to take part in three days of intensive competition.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, an NPR international correspondent who covers South America:

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There is a joke among Brazilians that a Brazilian passport is the most coveted on the black market because no matter what your background — Asian, African or European — you can fit in here. But the reality is very different.

I'm sitting in café with two women who don't want their names used because of the sensitivity of the topic. One is from the Caribbean; her husband is an expat executive.

"I was expecting to be the average-looking Brazilian; Brazil as you see on the media is not what I experienced when I arrived," she tells me.

A typical Uruguayan asado, or barbecue, is made up of vast racks of prime cuts of beef, pork or chicken roasted on a grill next to — not on top of — a wood burning fire.

At parilla restaurants across the capitol Montevideo, the asados are pretty epic; the fatty cuts sizzle and then get slapped onto your plate, oozing with juice.

But if you want to grab a salt shaker and add a bit of extra salt to your meal these days in the Uruguayan capital, you can't.

It has been almost a year since the World Cup in Brazil. The party is long over, but the country is still dealing with the hangover — in the form of "white elephant" stadiums and unfinished infrastructure projects. They come at a time when the country faces economic woes and the prospect of another expensive mega event: next year's summer Olympics.

The most expensive World Cup stadium — located in the capital, Brasilia, and with a price tag of $550 million — is being used as a parking lot for buses.

For most disabled residents of Rio de Janeiro, every day is an Olympian struggle.

Pick almost any sidewalk, says Lilia Martins, who uses an electric wheelchair. She chooses one just outside her place of work. The location is relevant because Martins is an advocate for disabled people in Rio. Even here, we only manage to go a short way before the pavement becomes cracked and broken with huge roots popping up. There is literally no way a wheelchair can go on. It's like an obstacle course.

"Except there is no prize at the end," Martins quips.

This week, President Dilma Rousseff descended the famous ramp designed by Oscar Neiymeyer in the presidential palace of Planalto to a crowd of women chanting her name.

The carefully choreographed ceremony was intended to show Rousseff — who was signing into law a ban on femicide — as a leader who has broad support.

But the night before the scene was a very different one. While she was addressing the country on TV, people grabbed their pots and pans and banged on them in protest.

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Shortly before Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead with a bullet in his head, he accused Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez, and others in her government of covering up what he said was Iran's involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.

Nisman claimed that those involved in the cover-up included Foreign Minister Hector Timerman — a particularly sensitive accusation not only because of his position but because of his background.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

With January first marking the start of many people's self-improvement projects, Lourdes Garcia Navarro shares a story she reported earlier this year about plastic surgery in Brazil.

This story first aired on All Things Considered on Oct. 7, 2014.

Culinary superstars gathered in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo this month at an event organized by the Basque Culinary Center. But they weren't there to cook. Instead, the the famous chefs were talking about biodiversity.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been over a month since the World Cup ended in Brazil, but the shame of the country's blowout loss remains. Once, Brazilians were welcomed in other countries with talk of Brazil's soccer dominance; now, everyone merely speaks of their historic defeat against Germany.

The story of Lenira de Oliveira and her dead lover's letter is a tale of Brazil. It's a story of love, jealousy, forgiveness, life after death and the criminal court system. And it's true — though it sounds like fiction.

It sounds, in particular, like the work of the late Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now on to Sao Paulo, where NPR South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro caught the game at a bar. And, Lourdes, I assume there is collective anguish, albeit very loud anguish right now. What's the mood?

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Brazil faces Germany today in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Deep into the tournament, Brazilian fans have developed a game day routine.

INSKEEP: So we present to you now, with NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Sao Paulo, Brazil's World Cup ritual in four acts.

MONTAGNE: Act one - getting to the game.

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