NPR

Brazilians Turn To Evangelical Church In Rural Town Wracked By Drugs And Poverty

"Churches are taking over the leadership role which was supposed to be in the hands of the political powers," says a Catholic youth group member in the Brazilian town of Central do Maranhão.
The town of Central do Maranhão, in northeast Brazil's sugar cane belt, is one of the country's poorest. These rice fields line one of the town's long, narrow dirt streets. Source: Catherine Osborn/NPR

To the outsider, there is a beguiling charm and tranquility about the farming town of Central do Maranhão in northeast Brazil. It's tucked amid the palm groves, mango trees and rice fields that cover the landscape rolling gently toward the Atlantic Ocean, some 30 miles to the north.

Yet beneath the surface lies a troubled world, where drug and alcohol abuse are corroding the lives of many, especially young Brazilians. It is one of the poorest farming towns in Brazil, a community in the doldrums, where the only other social pursuit that appears to be truly flourishing — apart from booze and narcotics — is religion.

Although it has a population of fewer than 9,000 people, Central do Maranhão has 18 places of worship, of

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR10 min read
Your Guide To The Massive (And Massively Complex) Opioid Litigation
The largest-ever federal action related to the U.S. opioid crisis is on the cusp of its first trial next week — and it's complicated. So here's a brief(ish) explainer breaking it all down.
NPR8 min read
After Dorian's Wrath: Little Miracles Amid A Painful Recovery
Just over a month after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the northern Bahamas, parts of the island nation are still in ruins, thousands remain displaced and rebuilding efforts have only just begun.
NPR5 min readPolitics
Exclusive: Turf War Blocked CFPB From Helping Fix Student Loan Forgiveness Program
The Trump administration blocked the nation's top consumer protection agency from digging into problems with a program designed to help police, firefighters and other public service workers.