Brazil takes its passion for kites to a whole new level
In the late afternoon in a working-class neighborhood in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, dozens of teenagers rush across a huge abandoned field, dragging seemingly endless ropes.
Far above them, their kites dance and leap across the sky, appearing as tiny butterflies, floating or sharks swimming back and forth against a setting sun.
The boys fight with a kite with the aim of cutting an opponent’s string first, using special glass powder on the strings to sharpen them. The last kite in the sky wins. Every time a kite falls, teens run to catch it.
The kite is not only a family activity in Brazil, it is a passionate fight. Today it is considered one of the most popular sports in Brazil, that is, after football. As the pandemic forced people to socially isolate themselves, schools were closed and unemployment rose. As a result, more children – and adults – have taken off.
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Raphael Felipe Teixeira grew up in the 1990s, flying and making kites in Vila Medeiros, a poor neighborhood in the north of Sāo Paulo.
“The pandemic aroused this interest that I still had. … Since I was at home and had some free time, I said, “I’m going to do a kite. I had no idea how big it would take. “
“The pandemic has aroused this interest that I still had,” he said. “Since I was at home and had some free time, I said, ‘I’m going to do a kite.’ I had no idea how big it would take, ”he said.
Today, he makes high-end custom kites, which he sells and promotes on his Instagram and YouTube channel. Some of his kites, he said, can even go up to $ 20. It’s a lot. Kites in Brazil, even now, typically cost between $ 0.07 and $ 2. They are made to be disposable – lost in competition.
The demand for premium kites is a sign of the changing times. The sport is old, but the increased interest is new.
An online video game known as “Pipa Combate” or “Kite Fight”, where players compete against a backdrop of iconic Rio de Janeiro destinations, has over 34 million downloads.
There is also a YouTube channel of the same name which has almost 2 million subscribers. The host travels to communities and participates in kite competitions across the country.
These kite competitions and teams are also new.
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Manoel Roberto Cucher has been manufacturing and selling kites in his São Paulo store, Moleza Pipas – Easy Kites – for 35 years. He sent The World a photo of a group of men in their 30s and 40s holding tiny trophies from a kite competition in São Paulo over the weekend.
“Look at the ages of the kids who fly kites today,” he joked in a voicemail message he sent over WhatsApp.
“With the pandemic, people started fighting kites in groups. Before, it was every man for himself. Someone on the street fighting the guy down the block. “
“With the pandemic, people started fighting kites in groups. Before, it was every man for himself. Someone on the street fighting the guy down the block, ”Cucher said.
But kite fighting comes with risks.
To cut each other’s ropes, kite fighters often use lines waxed with crushed glass or more expensive ropes produced industrially with quartz powder and aluminum oxide.
These are effective, but very dangerous. Dozens are injured or even killed every year when kites are cut and lines fall along the roads. In June 2019, a single hospital in the state of Minas Gerais treated 13 people for string cuts.
“The line cut in my helmet,” a motorcyclist told a TV reporter in 2018. He said he was almost blinded by the deep cut near his eyes.
These types of ropes are now banned in Brazil and police have taken action to crack down on their sale, but kite maker Cucher said they were still there.
“It is illegal to fly kites in Brazil with lines made with things that cut. You can’t produce them, transport them or house them, but you know how the laws are in Brazil, ”Cucher said. “In the middle of public places, guys are there to sell it. “
Some elected officials are now calling for designated areas for kites.
Meanwhile, kite enthusiasts grapple with this contradiction – as fierce competition takes on new meaning.