Government hopes $20 Vale Cultura voucher will encourage poorest Brazilians to sample wider range of cultural pursuits.
Andrew Downie for the Washington Post, Guardian Weekly, 21 February 2014
Like millions of other Sao Paulo residents, Telma Rodrigues spends a large part of her day going to and from work. She hates the commute, and not just because public transport is packed, slow and inefficient. She finds it boring.
Now there is light at the end of the tunnel. As of last month, the Brazilian government is giving people such as Rodrigues a "cultural coupon" worth $20 a month - enough, the 26-year-old said, to buy a book to enliven her daily ride. The money, loaded on a magnetic card, is designated for purposes broadly termed cultural - though that could include dance lessons and visits to the circus in addition to books and movie tickets. In a country still battling high levels of poverty, the initiative has won widespread praise as a worthy and yet relatively cheap project. But it has still provoked questions. Is it the state's job to fund culture? How will poor Brazilians use the money? How do you, or even should you, convince people their money will be better spent on Jules Verne rather than Justin Bieber?
"What we'd really like is that they try new things," culture minister Marta Suplicy said in a telephone interview. "We want people to go to the theatre they wanted to go to, to the museum they wanted to go to, to buy the book they wanted to read."
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