• Gustavo Driau

The pandemic threatens the lives of vulnerable people in Espirito Santo, Brazil

Updated: Jun 14

Espirito Santo is one of the twenty-six states of Brazil. Its capital is Vitória. It was founded in 1535 by Portuguese colonists in what is now known as Villa Vieja. In the second half of the XIX century, Espirito Santo was the destination of thousands and thousands of migrants, Italian and German, mostly.

Germanic immigrants, mostly from the extinct region of Pomerania, came with the mission of occupying extensive portions of the Espirito Santo lands until then, inhabited by native nations. The first settlement was in 1847, in the colony of Santa Isabel. In 1857 the second group of migrants was destined to the settlement of Santa Leopoldina, which was the destination of most German immigrants arriving in the state.

45.000 migrants arrived in Espirito Santo between 1812 and 1900, 4.000 were Germans, around 2.500 migrated from the Pomerania region, mainly between the years 1872 and 1873.

To get an idea of what that day was like in Pomerania: the feuds were made up of a vast rural extension, usually divided into two parts. One of the lord, the overlord, cultivated for him by the servants, the vassals. The other part divided into narrow bands for the servants to be able to grow something for themselves. They could only work two days a week on their strips of land. In the others, they worked for the feudal lord. This economic logic resulted in miserable populations since productivity was very low. This mass would later seek to move away from their homelands in search of other lands. Their agricultural production did not even allow their families to be properly supported. Inclement winters compound this. Overcoming misery moved these peasant masses (Raízes da Imigração Alemã HELMAR RÖLKE, 2016).

But Espirito Santo has a majority of black population or black descendant population is due, as in the rest of the country to the slave past. The salves were predominantly on the coast, where the slave holding landowners were located to cultivate sugar cane and coffee. European immigrants developed small properties inland.

COVID-19

In May 2020, Espirito Santo is facing COVID-19; but still not under a general lock down. Strategies are already discussed, including several sectors of society, looking for a minimized the pandemic impact in Espirito Santo.

There is no municipality in Espirito Santo, today, classified with extreme risk up.

The new corona-virus also sheds light on a sensitive issue in Brazil since before the pandemic: social, racial, and gender inequalities. In Espirito Santo, statistics show that the black population that lives on the outskirts, women, and those who live in some aspect of vulnerability are the most affected by the disease, such as homeless people.

Inequality, when characterized in the form of racism, has become an increasingly sensitive issue and cause for protests in the United States, Europe, and Brazil. The climate of dissatisfaction ignited the alert in Brazil.

In Espirito Santo, blacks are the main victims of violence and have less access to jobs and the most affected group by the pandemic.

Black people are the ones who most die in Espirito Santo, 41.4% of deaths; meanwhile, white people represent 27.2% of deaths. The pandemic makes inequalities more explicit. The society has a racial logic that organizes how the black population is vulnerable to social ills. The death rate of the black people and the white population shows that imbalance. This inequality has been present in society for a long time, but the pandemic opened this up.

The virus does not choose by color, social class, or gender; it infects whites and blacks in the same way, but the percentage of deaths of black people is higher is due to structural racism.

Espirito Santo is the second state in Brazil with the highest number of shared housing in comparison to the number of houses which several problems, 22% of self-declared people of color, and 6.11% of white people living in the state live in inadequate housing.

Government programs and nonprofits organizations are helping families living on the outskirts, where the largest number of black people are. They received basic food baskets and kits for hygiene and cleaning, in addition to guidance on preventive measures, such as correct hand hygiene and the proper use of masks.

Health experts point out that social inequality is one of the main fuels for the spread of the new corona-virus. To avoid contagion, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends social distance, the use of masks, and the adoption of various measures of body hygiene, especially hand cleaning. However, these issues are more complicated in Espirito Santo because 30% of families lives in an area considered precarious and more conducive to the spread of the new corona-virus.

The social relationships are very cruel. The same people who live in inadequate conditions are under pressure to break social isolation. It turns out that if they don't go out to produce, they don't eat.

For some people, the greatest risk in this time of social distancing is exposure to the virus outside the home.

For many women, the danger lives inside their homes.

The federal government registered a 35% increase in complaints of violence against women in April, compared to the same month in 2019. The increase in the number is an indirect reflection of the crisis of the new corona-virus since with the measures of social isolation, victims and aggressors spend more time at home.

The health and economic emergency caused by the corona-virus, which led millions of people to confinement, "intensified" gender-based violence, as many women are forced to share the same roof with their attackers.

There is a common factor between the pandemic and violence against women, which is fear. Fear is paralyzing; it jeopardizes individuality. In times of COVID-19, for there women, staying at home became "much more dangerous" than going out. A place that should be welcoming became very dangerous because they are under the gaze and control of the aggressor. 87% of the cases of gender violence against women were at home, and close people, most of them partners or ex-partners were the assaulter. Confinement at home was never a safe place for many women.

Congregations in the Espirito Santo a Belem Synod, has been donating and distributing basic food baskets to assist homeless and vulnerable people. Food supplies come from donations of non-perishable products, such as rice, beans, pasta, cornmeal, manioc flour, wheat flour, sugar, powdered milk, biscuit, coffee powder and oil. Supplies such as soap, bleach, bathroom, and kitchen cleaning products are also distributed.

The Espirito Santo a Belem Synod is one of the eighteen synods of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil.

Espirito Santo to Belem Synod has a long term relationship with the Southern Ohio Synod of ELCA.

Sources: https://www.agazeta.com.br/es/cotidiano/como-o-coronavirus-ameaca-a-vida-de-mulheres-e-negros-no-es-0620. Isaac Ribeiro. Fotos Vitor Jubini


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About Me

I'm Gustavo Driau, ELCA Global Mission regional representative for Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia and Peru, since December 2016.
 

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