On a busy avenue in Olinda, in northeastern Brazil, two men in wigs, big red noses and full clown makeup are squeaking horns and making a good-natured ruckus.
"Where's your helmet?" shouts one as a motorcyclist whizzes by. "Fasten your seat belt!" calls out the other.
Uncle Honk and Fom Fom are traffic clowns, or palhacos, hired by the city to make the roads a bit safer. They lean into traffic, making exaggerated gestures, like the sweep of the arm to mimic fastening a seat belt, and a mimed reminder to never drink and drive.
Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 6:06 pm
The budget battles in Washington have inspired the need for some verbal gymnastics that have challenged even the most adept doublespeakers at the Pentagon. As one member of the House pointed out today, some Pentagonians have insisted that Congress cannot cut a single additional dollar from defense, without endangering the national defense strategy.
Roberto de Carvalho (left), who maintains a truck fleet in Recife, Brazil, is shown here with his daughter Sandra, 22, wife Enilda and daughter Susana, 16. The family makes just enough to belong the rapidly expanding ranks of the country's middle class, though they still can't afford a house or even a car.
Tens of millions of Brazilians have risen out of poverty over the past decade in one of the world's great economic success stories. The reasons are many: strong overall economic growth, fueled by exports. A rise in the minimum wage. A more educated workforce. And big government spending programs, including direct payments to extremely poor families.
But becoming middle class in Brazil means a better life, not an easy one. The new, lowest rung of the middle class is what in the U.S. would be called the working poor, with monthly incomes of between $500 and $2,000.