UN Special Panel on Creative Territories: "Leave no one behind" and Lima Barreto at FLIP 2017

Photo by UNDP/Brenda Hada

By Denise Silveira

The black insubordination of the Brazilian writer Lima Barreto, who addressed racial issues in Brazil in a period that few dared to approach, as well as the massive presence of female authors, made the International Literary Festival of Paraty (FLIP) in its 15th Edition, a favorable stage to the discussion of an agenda that is committed to “Leaving no one behind".

Be it in the confrontational literature of the son of freed slaves, or in the artistic resistance of the black participants who presented in the RIO+ Centre’s  UN Special Panel, the motto at FLIP was only one:  it is impossible to speak of a better and more inclusive world without freeing the human beings who inhabit it from the social tyrannies that persist until our present day, namely from- poverty, hunger and social exclusion.

People throughout the world in the 21st century are still victims of the cruelty of poverty and inequality. They suffer from social exclusion, either because they have nothing to eat, or do not have a basic level of education, lack health care, or simply because they were born as woman, black or indigenous. Added to these factors, shamefully, still today as in the time of the author honored at this year’s Festival, people suffer for living separate from city centres, in the periphery of big metropolitan areas.

In pragmatic terms, it is unthinkable to achieve the new model of development proposed for 2030 without resolving some of these human illnesses that never ceased to affect us. Without changing the reality of social exclusion that still, unfortunately, resembles the reality lived in the post-abolition period of slavery in Brazil, achieving the 2030 Agenda and leaving no one behind will be an immense challenge.

The journey of leading our world to a more inclusive and fair path begins by crossing the invisible curtain that divides the peripheral regions and the metropolis. It begins by abandoning the self-indulgence of perpetuating social exclusion based on remnants of a perverse institution, the slavery of humans, which has long shaped the way our society behaves. It consists in striving to ensure that skin color or gender are not determinants of which human beings may, or may not, enjoy a healthier and longer life.

The artistic and social resistance of the Baixada and its unprecedented presence, also sealed by the unprecedented presence of the United Nations in this International Literary Festival known to be elitist and white, marks a transformation of mentality: the appreciation and realization that periphery regions are more than mere dormitory cities of metropolitan regions, but also powerful “creative barns” capable of influencing the thinking elite of a nation.

Per an academic study, which reads the work of Lima Barreto, the peripheral regions, in this case the Brazilian peripheral regions, are extremely rich in culture but perish from a predetermined destination, namely: The precarious infrastructure of the suburbs and the economic dependence of the inhabitants of these regions in relation to the city demonstrate the condition of social marginality of this urban space historically perpetuated. (...) The advent of modernity in Brazil privileged the space of the ruling class, generating a collective unconsciousness that privileges the foreign matrix in detriment of the local memory".

Valuing only what pleases an intellectual and urban elite has always been a cultural loss that we have bittered since the days of our independence as a nation. From this moment, we amplify the voice of the periphery; by understanding their voice is the legitimate voice to tell the world what is really an inclusive agenda, we send a strong signal of social change. The participation of Baixada Fluminense in the International Literary Festival in Paraty is the best indication that the sustainability agenda is everyone's agenda. Listening to women, black women and suburban black artists who have long criticized for the reduction of inequalities and social inclusion is a factor that brings optimism to those who fight for the ethical imperative of Lima Barreto and the United Nations: "No one should be left behind".

If we listen to those who have long ago been left behind to see what should be changed, perhaps we will grasp, without the elitist and urban hypocrisy, what really is needed to transform our world into a truly better and more inclusive place. And what they are saying is that it is impossible to speak of a better world without the fight against poverty, human hunger and social exclusion. Thus, we will make these the essential requirements for building an effective and truly transformative agenda.

[1] Orrnell, Clara Ávila. O subúrbio como centro do mundo: Lima Barreto e João Antônio in http://revistaseletronicas.pucrs.br/ojs/index.php/navegacoes/article/view/7181