A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Brazil's sex tourism boom
Young children are supplying an increasing demand from foreign tourists who travel to Brazil for sex holidays, according to a BBC investigation. Chris Rogers reports on how the country is overtaking Thailand as a destination for sex tourism and on attempts to curb the problem.
Her small bikini exposes her tiny frame. She looks no older than 13 - one of dozens of girls parading the street looking for clients in the blazing mid-afternoon sun. Most come from the surrounding favelas - or slums.
As I park my car, the young girl dances provocatively to catch my attention.
"Hello my name is Clemie - you want a programme?" she asks, programme being the code word they use for an hour of sex. Clemie asks for less than $5 (£3) for her services. An older woman standing nearby steps in and introduces herself as Clemie's mother.
I usually have more than 10 clients per night - they pay 10 reais each - enough for a rock of crack”
"You have the choice of another two girls, they are the same age as my daughter, the same price," she explains. "I can take you to a local motel where a room can be rented by the hour."
I make my excuses and head towards the bars and brothels of the nearby red-light district.
Despite assurances of a police crackdown, there appears to be little evidence of child prostitution disappearing from the streets of Recife. In four years' time, the country will be hosting the World Cup, which will fuel its booming economy.
Brazil has defied the global economic downturn thanks, in part, to its exotic, endless beaches attracting record numbers of tourists.
The country's erotic reputation has long been attracting an unwanted type of tourist. Every week specialist holiday operators bring in thousands of European singles on charted flights looking for cheap sex. Now Brazil is overtaking Thailand as the world's most popular sex-tourist destination.Underage
As night falls, the sex tourist's playground in Recife, in the state of Pernambuco, comes alive. Prostitutes mingle with tourists, dancing at their sides and eyeing up potential business. The legal age for prostitution is 18, but many look much younger.
Taxi drivers work with the girls who are too young to get into the bars. One offers me two for the price of one and a lift to a local motel.
"They are underage, so much cheaper than the older ones," he explains as he introduces me to Sara and Maria.
Neither has made any attempt to disguise their age. One clings to a bright pink Barbie bag, and they hold each other's hands looking terrified at the possibility of potential custom.
Recife's red-light area is now crammed with cars slowly crawling past groups of girls parading their bodies.
One of them, Pia, is dressed in a cropped pink top and mini skirt. The 13-year-old agrees to speak to me about her life as a child prostitute. She explains that she works from the same street corner every night until dawn to fund her and her mother's crack cocaine habit.
"I usually have more than 10 clients per night," she boasts. "They pay 10 reais (£3.50, $5.50)) each - enough for a rock of crack."
Eline MarquesSecretary of state for child protection, Fortaleza
Entire streets are now cleared of prostitution - my aim is to intensify these raids in time for the World Cup”
For safety, Pia works with a group of older girls who act as pimps, taking care of the money and watching over the younger ones.
"There's lots of girls working around here. I'm not the youngest, my sister is 12, and there's an 11-year-old." But Pia is worried about her sister: "Bianca hasn't been seen for two days since she left with a foreign guy," she says.
Pia first started working as a prostitute at the age of seven, and Unicef estimates there are 250,000 child prostitutes like her in Brazil.
"I've been doing it for so long now, I don't even think about the dangers," Pia tells me. "Foreign guys just show up here. I've been with lots of them. They just show up like you."Crackdown
Just a couple of streets away the pavement is lined with transvestites touting for clients. Among them 14-year-old Ronison and 12-year-old Ivan.
The cousins look convincing in their stilettos, mini skirts and blouses, and heavy make up.
"We need to earn money to buy rice and staple foods for our families," Ronison explains as he flicks back his long bobbed hair. "Our parents don't worry about us too much. We tell them when we are leaving and when we're coming back. And then we give the money to them to buy food. They know how we get the money, we just don't discuss it"
Most sex tourists used to head to the city of Fortaleza some 500 miles away.
But not anymore. For the past year, the state capital of Ceara - which also a World Cup host city - has been sending a clear message to sex tourists that they are not welcome. Every week a dozen armed cars and federal police armed with AK-47s sweep through the streets of the red-light district, breaking down the doors of motels and brothels, arresting offenders and taking underage girls into care.
Eline Marques, the city's secretary of state for child protection, claims her relentless raids are having an effect.
"We have shut down many establishments in Fortaleza. Entire streets are now cleared of prostitution. My aim is to intensify these raids in time for the World Cup, targeting the very tourism that encourages child prostitution," she says.
Other states have indicated that they are monitoring Ms Marques' campaign and, if deemed successful, could follow suit.'Terrified'
But for every sex establishment that is shut down, every sex tourist arrested, there are victims.
Many are taken to charity run homes. The Centro de Recuperacao Rosa De Saron near Recifi is full to capacity because many of the girls can't be returned home to the poverty that drove them into prostitution. They are sent there from all over Brazil.
Twelve-year-old Maria wants to live with her mother but she can't because her pimp, who forced her to work on the streets and in brothels, threatened to kill her if she tried to escape. She told me that she is still terrified for her life.
"I had no choice but to do what he said. I felt I was losing my childhood, I was only nine years old," she says. "I was scared. Sometimes if I came back without money for him he'd hit me."
Jane Sueli Silva, who founded the centre, says most of the girls are between 12 and 14 when they arrive.
"Many of them arrive here with serious problems like cervical cancer," she says. "As the cancer is normally at only early stage, we can help them and thank God the cure is normally always successful."
Some girls also turn up pregnant, their child fathered by a sex tourist.Hopes
The British charity Happy Child International plans to build more centres to house a growing number of child prostitutes.
"The crisis for these children turning to prostitution has increased significantly in the north-east of Brazil over the last few years, fuelled by increasing numbers of foreign tourists who travel to Brazil for sex holidays," says Sarah de Carvalho of Happy Child International.
"It is so important to take the children away from the lure of the streets and break the cycle and give them a safe place to live and receive help."
But charities and police crackdowns have yet to reach children like Pia, the 13-year-old prostitute whom I met on the streets of Recife.
Every day I ask God to take me out of this life”
Her home is a small shack she shares with her mother, two brothers and 12-year-old sister, who had still failed to return home. It was nothing more than a crumbling shed with two sofas acting as a bed and a plastic bucket to wash clothes and plates.
When I asked Casa if her daughters' work in prostitution breaks her heart, she appeared more concerned that they fail to bring home money. "If they make money they don't bring it home. No - they don't bring any money home," she said.
Pia told me that one day she hopes to break out of prostitution. She said she had heard of charities that provide a home for girls like her.
"Every day I ask God to take me out of this life. Sometimes I do stop, but then I go back to the streets looking for men. The drug is bad, the drug is my weakness and the clients are always there willing to pay."
Friday, July 30, 2010
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.
The train leaves a line of breath.
Horse the colour of rust,
Hooves, dolorous bells -
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,
A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.
With $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti, one can buy a slave. This was just one of the difficult lessons writer Benjamin Skinner learned while researching his book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery.
Skinner met with slaves and traffickers in 12 different countries, filling in the substance around a startling fact: there are more slaves on the planet today than at any time in human history. Skinner speaks with Anthony Brooks about his experience researching slavery.
Though now illegal throughout the world, slavery is more or less the same as it was hundreds of years ago, Skinner explains. Slaves are still "those that are forced to work under threat of violence for no pay beyond sustenance."
Something disturbing has changed however — the price of a human. After adjusting for inflation, Skinner found that, "In 1850, a slave would cost roughly $30,000 to $40,000 — in other words it was like investing in a Mercedes. Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl to use as a sexual and domestic slave for $50. The devaluation of human life is incredibly pronounced."
Skinner obtained this specific figure through a very hands-on process. In the fall of 2005, he visited Haiti, which has one of the highest concentrations of slaves anywhere in the world.
"I pulled up in a car and rolled down the window," he recalls. "Someone said, 'Do you want to get a person?'"
Though the country was in a time of political chaos, the street where he met the trafficker was clean and relatively quiet. A tape of the conversation reveals a calm, concise transaction. He was initially told he could get a 9-year-old sex partner/house slave for $100, but he bargained it down to $50.
"The thing that struck me more than anything afterwards was how incredibly banal the transaction was. It was as if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo."
In the end, he agreed on the price, but told the trader not to make any moves.
"When I was talking to traffickers, I had a principle that I wouldn't pay for human life," he says.
This principle enabled him to keep a certain distance from the system, but not giving in to the temptation to free a suffering human being was an emotionally taxing struggle, he says.
"It's one thing when you are planning an effort like this, this is a work of journalism — I'm not going to interfere with my subjects. It's another thing when you are in an underground brothel in Bucharest, who has this girl with Down Syndrome, who you know is undergoing rape several times a day. When this girl is offered to me in trade for a used car ... I walk away ... it's not an easy thing to do," he says.
At one point, he did violate his principal — helping a mother free her daughter from slavery. He says he does not regret his decision, however, and continues to track her progress through a local NGO in Haiti. She's now in school, he says, and wrote him a letter over Christmas.
Slavery consumes Skinner, he says.
"When I come back to a nice loft in Brooklyn and I have to think about writing this thing — that drove me. I knew that I had to write as compelling a book as possible. This is a life-long commitment for me."
Excerpt: 'A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery'
Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. Perhaps you assumed that there was meaning behind the dozen international conventions banning the slave trade, or that the deaths of 30 million people in world wars had spread freedom across the globe.
But you're in luck. By our mere definition, you are living at a time when there are more slaves than at any point in history. If -you're going to buy one in five hours, however, you've really got to stop navel—gazing over things like law and the moral advance of humanity. Get a move on.
First, hail a taxi to JFK International Airport. If you choose the Queensboro Bridge to the Brooklyn—Queens Expressway, the drive should take under an hour. With no baggage, you'll speed through security in time to make a direct flight to Port au Prince, Haiti. Flying time: three hours.
The final hour is the strangest. After disembarking, you will cross the tarmac to the terminal where drummers in vodou getup and a dancing midget greet you with song. Based on Transportation Security Administration warnings posted in the departure terminal at JFK, you might expect abject chaos at Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport. Instead, you find orderly lines leading to the visa stamp, no bribes asked, a short wait for your bag, then a breeze through customs. Outside the airport, the cabbies and porters will be aggressive, but not threatening. Assuming you speak no Creole, find an English—speaking porter and offer him $20 to translate for the day.
Ask your translator to hail the most common form of transport, a tap-tap, a flatbed pickup retrofitted with benches and a brightly colored canopy. You will have to take a couple of these, but they only cost 10 gourdes (25 cents) each. Usually handpainted with signs in broken English or Creole, tap-taps often include the words my god or jesus. my god -it's my life reads one; another announces welcome to jesus. Many are ornate, featuring windshields covered in frill, doodads, and homages to such figures as Che Guevara, Ronaldinho, or reggae legend Gregory Isaacs. The -driver's navigation is based on memory, instinct. There will be no air conditioning. Earplugs are useful, as the sound system, which cost more than the rig itself, will make your chest vibrate with the beats of Haitian pop and American hip-hop. Up to twenty people may accompany you: five square inches on a wooden bench will miraculously accommodate a woman with a posterior the size of a tractor tire. Prepare your spine.
You'll want to head up Route de Delmas toward the suburb of Pétionville, where many of the -countr''s wealthiest thirty families—who control the -nat'on's economy—maintain a—ied—à-terre. As you drive southeast away from the sea, the smells change from rotting fish to rotting vegetables. Exhaust fumes fill the ai'. You'll pass a billboard featuring a smiling girl in pigtails and the words: Give me your hand. Give me tomorrow. Down with Child Servitude. Chances are, like the majority of Haitians, yo' -can't read French or Creole. Like them, you ignore the sign.
Heading out of the airport, -you'll pass two UN peacekeepers, one with a Brazilian patch, the other with an Argentine flag. As you pass the blue helmets, smile, wave, and receive dumbfounded stares in return. The United Nations also has Jordanians and Peruvians here, parked in APVs fifteen minutes northwest, along the edge of the hyperviolent Cité Soleil slum, the poorest and most densely populated six square miles in the poorest and most densely populated country in the hemisphere. The peacekeepers -do''t go in much, neither do the national police. If they do, the gangsters that run the place start shooting.
Best to steer clear, although yo''d get a cheap price on children there. You might even get offered a child gratis.
You'll notice the streets of the Haitian capital are, like the tap—taps, overstuffed, banged up, yet colorful. The road surfaces range from bad to terrible, and grind even the toughest SUVs down to the chassis. Parts of Delmas are so steep that the truck may sputter and die under the exertion.
Port au Prince was built to accommodate about 150,000 people, and hasn't seen too many centrally planned upgrades since 1804. Over the last fifty years, some 2 million people, a quarter of the nation's population, have arrived from the countryside. They've brought their animals. Chickens scratch on side streets, and boys lead prizefighting cocks on string leashes. Monstrously fat black pigs root in sooty, putrid garbage piled eight feet high on street corners or even higher in enormous pits that drop off sidewalks and wind behind houses.
A crowd swells out of a Catholic church broadcasting a fervent mass. Most Haitians are Catholic. Despite the efforts of Catholic priests, most also practice vodou. In the countryside, vodou is often all they practice.
Watch this: http://vimeo.com/3231129
Thursday, July 29, 2010
She died in my arms saying, "I don't want to die." That is what death is like. It doesn't matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn't matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we could never have war anymore. -J.S.F.
"Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulations of a lifetime gather there. In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like Braille. I like to keep my body rolled up away from prying eyes, never unfold too much, or tell the whole story. I didn't know that he would have reading hands. He has translated me into his own book." -Winterson
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
"On more than one occasion I have been ready to abandon my whole life for love. To alter everything that makes sense to me and to move into a different world where the only known will be the beloved. Such a sacrifice must be the result of love... or is it that the life itself was already worn out? I had finished with that life, perhaps, and could not admit it, being stubborn or afraid, or perhaps did not know it, habit being a great binder. I think it is often so that those most in need of change choose to fall in love and then throw up their hands and blame it all on fate. But it is not fate, at least, not if fate is something outside of us; it is a choice made in secret after nights of longing.
... I may be cynical when I say that very rarely is the beloved more than a shaping spirit for the lover's dreams... To be a muse may be enough. The pain is when the dreams change, as they do, as they must. Suddenly the enchanted city fades and you are left alone again in the windy desert. As for your beloved, she didn't understand you.
The truth is, you never understood yourself."
It feels like a moment I've lived a thousand times before, as if everything is familiar, right up to the moment of my death, that it will happen again an infinite number of times, that we will meet, marry, have our children, succeed in the ways we have, fail in the ways we have, all exactly the same, always unable to change a thing. I am again at the bottom of an unstoppable wheel, and when I feel my eyes close for death, as they have and will a thousand times, I awake. -J.S.F.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
"...is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude. And stretch towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks. And nod to and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sigh unto the other... And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And overhead, with a rustling loud noise, the gray clouds rush westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon..." -Edgar Allan Poe