Though there hasn't been a major rolezinho in over a week, the debate about these mass teen gatherings continues to rage in Brazil. Over the weekend, several protests in favor of rolezinhos took place in at least five cities, and more are planned throughout the country in coming weeks.
So what's the latest on the rolezinho front?
Hearing from rolezinho participants: First, with a media firestorm, some outlets have made an effort to give a voice to the rolezinho participants themselves. G1 did a nice roundup of perspectives from teens in São Paulo, and many echoed the idea that the rolezinhos are meant to be a social gathering, one in which members of the opposite sex can meet. Some also highlighted them as opportunities to show off clothes, to eat at McDonalds (which is still seen as a cool luxury for the new middle class), and the lack of other places to go.
International coverage from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal also included quotes from rolezinho participants. To its credit, VEJA São Paulo did an interesting report and talked to some of the organizers.
The Brazilian debate: Rolezinhos have inspired a fierce public debate about race, class, and Brazil's evolving socioeconomic reality. The media has been continually spinning stories about the phenomenon. Sociologists continue claiming these acts are political protests versus opponents of rolezinhos, who argue the kids are hoodlums. In a popular interview in which she argued with finance reporters about the health of the Brazilian economy, Luiza Trajano of retail giant Magazine Luiza essentially defended the rolezinhos, saying youth didn't have other places to go and compared them to the June protests.
Plus, people are still talking about them on social media. A widely circulated video revealed that some people really do deny the rolezinho debate stems from racism. It features a supposedly wealthy Carioca arguing with a protester dressed as Batman during the rolezinho protest outside Rio's upscale Leblon mall on Sunday. Piauí Herald, akin to the Onion, published a funny satirical piece in which the city of Miami banned Brazilian socialites, nouveau riche, TV personalities, and liberal bloggers from gathering at its malls.
Meanwhile, there's been an effort to defend rolezinho participants beyond the sociological angle. New middle class guru Renato Meireilles pointed out that across Brazil, youth from Brazil's C class, or new middle class, have an estimated $54.4 billion in purchasing power, which is more than the purchasing power of the A, B, and D classes combined.
Finally, some have pointed out that rolezinhos are not necessarily a "new" phenomenon, but have been happening on a small scale for years. In 2000, there was even a case of a group of protesters "occupying" a Rio mall (there's a short documentary about it.)
What's next: Rolezinhos have left policymakers very worried, all the way up to President Dilma Rousseff. The Brazilian Association of Mall Store Owners has confirmed a meeting with the president next week, and said it would to help organize entertainment events for youth in São Paulo in order to prevent rolezinhos from happening. Meanwhile, the association also announced this week that mall traffic has fallen 25 percent due to the rolezinhos. Shopping Itaquera, the site of two major rolezinhos, has spent over $126,000 on security, training, and legal fees due to the rolezinhos. Clearly, the malls want to make this a business case, but there are bigger issues at play.
In São Paulo, the rolezinhos have inspired talk of providing free entertainment and leisure activities for youth from the city outskirts. At the same time, the São Paulo government wants to keep these same kids from hanging out on the streets and listening to loud music in their own neighborhoods. São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad is advocating for these same teens to go to so-called "community clubs" where they can listen to funk music and hang out, instead of listening to loud music, particularly funk, in their cars and on the street. This comes after the mayor signed a law which will fine people R$1,000 for listening to loud music on the street and on sidewalks.
The World Cup: The rolezinhos have nothing to do with the World Cup. Really, they don't. The most likely impact they could have is in the international media itself, making a big deal out of something that is not related to the games at all. The only possible connection they could have is if large-scale rolezinhos happen beginning in May or June, which is really hard to tell at this point. During those months, street protests specifically aimed at the Cup seem more likely. The rolezinhos are an entirely different story.
Image: A mall in São Paulo. Hermes Nunes/Flickr.