Tropic of violence | By Tommaso Protti

Violence has become a familiar facet of Brazil’s identity, a tragic routine that affects all layers of Latin America’s biggest country. According to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, Brazil is the country with the most homicides in the world, registering almost 50,000 in 2020, and some of its cities have homicide rates similar to those found in civil wars. As in other parts of Southern and Central America, a large part of this violence and criminality can be linked to organized crime groups participating in drug trafficking. The murder victims are frequently young black men from poor urban areas who are constantly recruited by drug gangs. At the same time, the Brazilian military police, the principal law enforcement units dealing with gangs, has one of the highest fatality rates in the world. But this violence can be found in all social, races, genders and ages layers of Brazilian society.

It is a complex behavioral phenomenon of aggressiveness that dates back to the historical bases of the country that it is oppressed by extreme levels of poverty. In fact, Brazil remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. Intense and rapid urbanization led to unplanned and haphazard expansions of cities, creating vulnerable areas lacking basic infrastructure, public goods, or an effective presence of the state. These favelas and periferias are epicenters of violence, with the highest numbers of homicides and other violent crimes in the country. This ongoing work documents violence around Brazil, focusing on its northern and northeastern regions where a culture of violence born through impunity, weak state institutions and centuries of savage inequality, exacerbated by drug trafficking networks, have expanded greatly throughout these places in recent years. While most commonly known in popular culture for beaches, carnival, samba and football, Brazil remains one of world’s most violent countries, a tropical paradise of blood and sorrow.


Tommaso Protti is an Italian photographer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He started his photographic career in 2011 after graduating in Political Science and International Relations in Rome. Since then, he has devoted himself to photography and journalism focusing on themes of conflict, violence, environment and inequality. He received awards from the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, Picture of the Year International and the Getty Images Reportage Grant. His work was published by The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time Magazine, National Geographic, Washington Post, Geo Magazine, Newsweek, Internazionale, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and other publications. He is a regular contributor for The Wall Street Journal and Le Monde.


Instagram: @tomprotti


Selection by Managing Editor Alejandra Martinez Moreno