Colours in dispute: the streets of Fortaleza, from politics to football

Wandering through the streets of Fortaleza (CE-BR) on three different days of last November, colours like red, green and yellow stood out and vibrated with different messages: whether in support of candidates and antagonistic projects of the country, or the (almost) unison love for the “spectacle of the ball” – to use a jargon of journalism sports.

The imaginary dimension of the city, as sociologist Armando Silva (2001) argues, is shaped by the aesthetic-activist expression of its inhabitants. The symbolism of the colours stamped on balconies, flags, car stickers and clothes fill the streets. These are everyday strategies of occupation and dispute for urban space, but also of political affirmation and engagement, in a process of persuading the other.

In the election to choose the president of Brazil, on 30 October last, the people in red won. The project of a progressive Brazil, leaning to the left and led by Lula was elected. On the streets, what we saw during the month of November was the hangover from this process and the arrival of a new time: that of football.

The polyphonic choir that drives our experience of the city (Canevacci, 1997) is dynamic. It transforms itself in the short space of days, among dissonant and confused voices of everyday life. It mixes politics and sport, activism and fun, hate speech and party, in an overlapping of events and positions that intertwine the calendar.

The first day of these photographic routes took place on November 11, still with the marks of the political campaign alive and evident (Images 01 to 04). The route chosen was around the community of Campo do América, one of the many islands of low-income housing wedged between middle-class buildings in the Meirelles neighbourhood. As the name suggests, football has a prominent place in the community’s history. The streets were beginning to be ornamented and the shops were already thematizing the World Cup in their advertising campaigns (Image 05 and 06).

In the following days’ wanderings, a piece of car sticker with the Brazilian flag (Image 07) illustrates the echoes of the campaign, which faded away as the effervescence of the partisan dispute dissipated. A second visit to Campo do América, on the 24th, date of Brazil’s World Cup debut, showed even more colourful streets and a more forceful change in the use of these colours.

Red appeared by itself: first in a towel with the face of the elected president (Image 12), which insisted on being exposed on the balcony of a house; then, in the shirt of a Portuguese fan (Image 13), who, like the Brazilians, was waiting for the debut of his team.

On the other hand, the green and yellow colors arrived with redoubled strength. Since the campaign that elected Bolsonaro, in 2018 (or before that!), until a few days ago, his supporters used to parade with the uniform of the football team, flashing a green and yellow with neo-fascist reflexes. They appealed to a “patriotic” ufanism that caused many others to repulse these clothes and the national colours.

As the World Cup went on, these far-right sympathisers lost the primacy of official dress (Image 08 to 11). On the third day of the photographic incursion, it is clear that the Bolsonarist message, previously inseparable from the national team’s shirt, was diluted or already undone. It is football that starts to dictate the colours.

In the streets of the city centre, the route of the 28 November walk, you couldn’t walk without bumping into someone wearing the colours of football. Street vendors, clothing shops and even the Central Market of Fortaleza, dedicated to handicrafts, sold football (Images 15 to 19). It was the day of Brazil’s second game.

Bolsonarism even stubbornly displayed the green and yellow of the extreme right, crowding in front of the barracks of Fortaleza’s 10th Military Region, which is also in the Centre (Image 21). The use of the national team’s uniform and the national colours to mark the group’s ideas, however, proved to be empty and ineffective. In the press, it has already been reported that, in other Brazilian cities, some protest organisers ask to avoid using those colours, as can be seen here and there.

In the short space of this essay, it is worth noting a scene from this latest outing that illustrates the fugacity of the senses that inhabit our daily lives. In traffic, on a motorbike, a fan wearing the national team jersey stopped at the traffic light observes the green-yellow Bolsonarist occupation (Image 14). For the same shirt-symbol, two distant sets of meanings. On one side, a man wears football, the “people’s sport”, “the national passion” – considering  some more jargon. They are waiting for the ball that would run later in the afternoon. On the other, noisy bad losers clamour for the bullets of a coup d’état. They wear the uniform of a supposed moral superiority, the mark of the select “guardians of the fatherland” and the “traditional family”.

On the pavement, from where I photograph, I note the following remark, made by a peddler of shirts similar to the official one: “Is this shit going to make Brazil any better? This is a lot of shamelessness. That is why Brazil is not moving forward”. The bustle of the streets is interspersed with ads for “There’s coconuts and ice water, only 2 reals!” and football slogans like “Get out of here, Taffarel”, of those who are waiting for the game to come. Who wears the green and yellow, definitely, talks, exhibits, incorporates football (20).

At least in this temporal window of the World Cup, a new shade of green and yellow slowly took over the facades, shop windows and the chest of passers-by. The Bolsonarist groups no longer dictate the message that is being read on the Brazilian jersey. They are defeated again. This time, by football.

Text and photos: Fábio F. Marques, Fortaleza, 01/12/2022

Published on 06-12-2022


Canevacci, M. (1997). A cidade polifônica – Ensaio sobre a antropologia da comunicação urbana. Studio Nobel.

Silva, A. (2001). Imaginários urbanos. Perspectiva.




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