Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now, a trip to Rio's famed Copacabana. Just the name conjures up images of crashing surf, beachgoers wearing not very much.

But as NPR's Julie McCarthy reports, the Copacabana also produces dozens of small dramas that provide a unique glimpse into the day to day life of Rio.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The newspaper said flags are flying on Copacabana in mourning. Intrigued, I ventured out to the promenade of Rio's fabled beach and find rippling from the roofs of the kiosks that line the shore square, black banners.

I order coconut water at one of the grieving concessions and watch Carlos Alvis(ph) deftly whack the top off the fruit and stuff a straw down the middle. Carlos tells me he's worked here six years, but that this stand, that's been here for 20, is closing.

Mr. CARLOS ALVIS: (Through translator) I'm going to be unemployed and so is the owner of the kiosk.

MCCARTHY: An ocean breeze rustles the flyer on a white table, explaining that these locally owned stalls which lend the Copacabana a Ricky Ricardo 1960s, look are being replaced by more up to date eateries sponsored by Nestle's and Rio's ritziest cafes, the better to attract tourists who can watch bronzed bodies lunge for volleyballs while sipping local libations.

Rio beaches traditionally have been where all the social classes mix. Carlos says Copacabana's facelift jeopardizes that because the pricier new places are beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.

(Soundbite of music)

The impromptu band merrily plays, as if to say no more doom and gloom. Brazilian hospitality vies with poverty. A girl whose head barely clears the tabletop stops to hawk Chiclets. She patiently waits as I finish an interview to clinch her sale. Moments later, two dripping boys shiver up, asking for lunch.

Shadows lengthen from the high rise apartments across the street, and suddenly a policeman pins a young man on the ground. What's he done? I ask. None of your business, comes back the reply. A squad car pulls up and bundles the terrified looking teenager into the backseat.

Rosario Pereira de Cruz sits like an oracle at the kiosk, picking coconut from a shell. He did nothing, she declares. The police are always picking up poor black kids, she says. I ask her what she makes of all the changes on her beach.

Ms. ROSARIO PEREIRA DE CRUZ: (Speaking foreign language)

MCCARTHY: Insignificant in contrast to the real problems in Brazil, she says, citing poor hospitals and police violence.

I looked down the avenue to see a massive wall hiding the construction of the new kiosks. It blocks the ocean from view.

Several new kiosks, all alike, have already popped up. The Luis Café allows me into their kitchen. Dug beneath the sand, out of public view, cook Paolo Robert Vendosilva(ph) sees nothing but progress in Copacabana's makeover.

Mr. PAOLO ROBERT VENDOSILVA: (Speaking foreign language)

MCCARTHY: This'll open new doors for me and everybody here, he says.

Any local color lost, once the old kiosks go, I ask.

Mr. VENDOSILVA: (Speaking foreign language)

MCCARTHY: That's the past, he says. This is the future, an evolution of Rio. A future a little less welcoming for boys looking for lunch, perhaps, but where the musicians say they expect to keep passing their tambourines for tips and play on.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.