Southwestern Prof. Raquel Moreira speaks on racial mobility in “Girl from Rio” music video


Illustration by Gemma DeCetra

Professor Raquel Moreira explained how singer Anitta’s “Girl from Rio” music video reflects her own position within Brazil’s heavily racialized society during an event Thursday.

Kaavya Butaney, Assistant Campus Editor

Southwestern University Communication Studies Prof. Raquel Moreira spoke about Anitta’s “Girl from Rio” music video and explored the complex racial mobility behind the singer’s portrayal of Rio de Janeiro during an online event Thursday.

The event was hosted by the Center for Latinx Digital Media as part of a series of weekly seminars, each given by a professor from a different university. 

“Anitta’s music video for ‘Girl from Rio’ realizes a series of symbolic dichotomies that authenticates a particular construction of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, one that sanctions peaceful racial mixing, or miscegenation, while exposing — perhaps unintentionally — the serious anti-Black racial spatiality,” second year Communication PhD student and moderator Thayane Henriques said.

Moreira researches how class and race intersect with femininity in Brazil and the United States. She’s the author of “Bitches Unleashed: Performance and Embodied Politics in Favela Funk,” which was awarded the Bonnie Ritter Outstanding Feminist Book Award in 2021.

She described how Anitta’s portrayal of Rio, both “authentic” and “fake,” speaks to Anitta’s privilege and perspective on the city. 

In her career, Anitta initially distanced herself from the predominantly Black favelas and favela funk, Rio working class communities and their music, to separate herself from the Brazilian classist stigma toward these neighborhoods. 

However, when she moved to the American market, she re-embraced the favela identity and sang of how she was raised “in the streets.”

The video does not escape clichés about Blackness, Moreira said, as it portrays Black people as cool and joyful. She also sees Anitta’s vision of Brazil as a “racial paradise” that perpetuates Latinidad in a way that disregards an anti-Indigenous and anti-Black foundation. 

Racist apparatuses are maintained in Brazil, notably in how the racial hierarchy encouraged racial mixing to lighten the population, she said.

“The ideological construction of the country’s miscegenated Brazilian is grounded on concepts of non-race or of a diversity of shades that one, erases the violence of miscegenation — especially of enslaved Black women — and two, leads to the belief that the racially mixed Brazil is free from anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” Moreira said.

She added that racial spatiality is the idea that racialized bodies must occupy certain spaces and be excluded from others. Anitta is a person who can pass from the whiter, upper class communities to Black, working class communities in Rio, exemplifying the mestizaje privilege.

At the end of the talk, Moreira posed a question.

“What would happen if communication scholars of racial rhetorical criticism studied Latinidad and mestizaje vis-à-vis Blackness, instead of whiteness?” Moreira asked. “How would this shift in focus impact our most foundational concepts of these concepts’ limitations and potentials?”

The way Anitta depicts mestizaje, Latinidad and Brazil, Moreira said, was designed to attract the American music market, which the song did. 

Moreira also contrasted the way Latin identity is portrayed in the U.S. versus the way it functions in Latin America, which she describes as a form of whiteness.

“It’s really hard watching U.S. scholars apply the same frameworks to study minoritarian subjects locally and transnationally over and over again,” San Francisco State University Prof. Fatima Alaoui wrote in the chat after the talk. “I think it’s time to listen to transnational scholars and meet communities in their complex localities.”

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Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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