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Holy Smokes, Batman, You're Protesting In Brazil!

Posted: September 29, 2013

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Protesters are dressing up as superheroes to demonstrate in Rio de Janeiro, but that's not the only place caped crusaders have taken to Latin American streets.

An anti-government demonstrator dressed as  Batman carries a Brazilian flag at a protest during Brazil's Independence Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month. The protesters called on the government to provide better security, education, health and public services.

An anti-government demonstrator dressed as Batman carries a Brazilian flag at a protest during Brazil's Independence Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month. The protesters called on the government to provide better security, education, health and public services. Ricardo Moraes

Costumed students protest against the government in Santiago, Chile, in July.

Costumed students protest against the government in Santiago, Chile, in July. Victor Ruiz Caballero

It's not Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but people are dressing up anyway.

A group of Brazilian protesters have been coming out in costume at demonstrations against Rio's governor, Sergio Cabral. There's the masked crusader Batman, of course, but also a motley assortment of other characters, including Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The well-loved figure in Brazilian folklore, Saci-pererê, has also put in an appearance. Normally depicted as a one-legged youth with a magic cap, he's known as a trickster who can grant wishes.

The costuming began when protesters started donning Guy Fawkes masks during demonstrations in Brazil as a symbol of resistance against the state. Masks were banned by the state government in Rio earlier this month, who said their use encouraged vandalism and made policing more difficult.

But even Batman was arrested at a protest earlier this week for refusing to take off his mask and disclose his real identity — something he claims is against his human rights.

"People have to come to the street and fight for their rights. We cannot be harmed by the government, and we need to change what is not beautiful in our country," the Batman told Globo News. "I've already participated in 10 events, and I will ensure my presence in how many more are needed."

Caped crusaders coming to the rescue aren't a new phenomenon in Latin America.

In Chile, during student protests this past year, some women dressed as Wonder Woman and men as Superman.

In Mexico, a masked and caped man calling himself Peatónito defends the rights of pedestrians in gridlocked Mexico City.

Some superheros aren't so benign, though. A woman wearing a blond wig killed two bus drivers in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

According to The Washington Post, "a day after the second killing, local reporters received a communique signed by 'Diana, huntress of bus drivers,' a name adopted from the Roman goddess whose statue towers over traffic in downtown Mexico City, her nude figure armed with bow and arrow."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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