Vincent Catala - Photographe

Assignment for M le magazine du Monde focused on Copacabana and its ageing inhabitants in the time of Covid-19

... While the pandemic unfurls over Brazil, one wonders if the poet Vinicius de Moraes would recognize Copacabana, his beloved beach, this “arc of love”.

Today, Copacabana is the district of Rio de Janeiro most affected by the epidemic, with the highest death and contamination rates in the city. The reason for this: its aging population. One in three inhabitants is over sixty years of age, which makes it the oldest district in Brazil. Swept away by Covid 19, an entire generation is disappearing. Copacabana has been nicknamed “Copacorona”.

At one time, before the decline that began in the late 1970s, Copacabana was a symbol of luxury, glamour and modernity, and set the tone for the entire country.
Lying on the sands of this small bay, soaking up the sunshine, the Carioca (a resident of Rio) was as happy as Narcissus. He could observe and admire himself. Here, he was transformed into a super Brazilian, a “superman”, “supercool”, “superfun”, “superhot” as Caetano Veloso sang in 1968 in Superbacana.

But the “little princess of the sea” celebrated by Vinicius de Moraes has grown old and wrinkled. The former skyscrapers of its golden youth have become vertical dormitories filled with old gentlemen and nostalgic elderly ladies. The muscular Adonises and beauty queens from the 1950s and ‘60s have stayed but today they are octogenarians.

Perhaps this feeling of being downgraded, this wounded pride can explain why the residents of Copacabana threw themselves into the arms of Jair Bolsonaro. During the 2018 presidential election, he won the majority of votes here in the first round. Atlântica Avenue, once popular with leftist intellectuals, has now become the gathering point for far-right protesters who demand the lifting of lockdown restrictions and a return to a military dictatorship ...