SÃO PAULO— This summer, $12 billion will be spent on the Brazilian World Cup preparations. New stadiums, road construction, increased security and more efficient public transportation, among other things, will contribute to this tab for Brazil.
In the midst of the preparations for the tournament, São Paulo, the host city, is experiencing severe homelessness and poverty. In just the city alone, there is estimated to be a shortage of one million dwellings, leaving a large portion of the population living in favelas (Brazilian slums) and “tent cities” consisting of groups of people using plastic sheets, tarps, wood and any other suitable materials as houses.
The biggest “tent city” seen in São Paulo is called New Palestine, and is organized by the Landless Workers’ Movement (MTST). Prior to 2012, the movement consisted of about 2,000 families. When the housing crisis became an even bigger problem in 2012, families were unable to afford to live in houses. Their only option was to join the New Palestine. Within one month, the housing community increased to about 8,000 families. The group created the “tent city” along a main road to ensure that they did not go unseen. They also conduct formal protests in São Paulo.
These housing problems in the city are being put on the back burner while São Paulo makes World Cup preparations this June. With the amount of money that the Brazilian government is putting into the preparations, citizens, especially those living in poverty and in these “tent cities,” are becoming angry about the priorities of their leaders.
The feelings of neglect are spreading throughout the city, and as the tournament gets closer, these feelings will be demonstrated. The first evidence of frustration came in the form of street art. A man named Paulo Ito painted a mural on the doors of a schoolhouse in the Pompeia district of São Paulo consisting of a crying Brazilian child sitting at a table with a soccer ball on his plate.
The image is a very powerful one, emphasizing that soccer and the World Cup are being prioritized over the well-being of Brazilian citizens. When asked about the motivation behind his painting, Ito claims that the “image condensed this feeling” of frustration with the government.
Ito’s image clearly depicts what many people are experiencing. A photo of the painting was posted on social media and has received over 40,000 likes and shares on Facebook.
As the tournament approaches, the Brazilian government will be faced with even more demonstrations like Ito’s mural. The people of São Paulo want to see the attention of the World Cup preparations switch gears and move toward improving living conditions for the citizens of the city. When there are people living in tents just miles from a brand new stadium, it is difficult to support the decisions of Brazilian leaders.
Simon Kuper, a blogger for ESPN FC, said it best: “The Brazilian World Cup is best understood as a party. You don’t host a party to get rich. You do it to have fun, and Brazilians will have fun. Yet there’s something obscene about hosting an extravagant party in a country where millions of people need houses, electricity, doctors.”