They were young and relishing Brazil’s version of the American dream: buying a car, joining a church, starting a family.
With millions of others, they had climbed into the country’s expanding middle class. They had even moved into California, a neighborhood of strivers who had left the big, impoverished city nearby.
“It was that magical moment when everything seemed possible,” said Germana Soares, 24.
Then, in the sixth month of Ms. Soares’s pregnancy, the couple discovered how quickly their fortunes, like those of their nation, could change. A routine exam showed that their son weighed much less than he should. Doctors worried that he, like hundreds of other Brazilian babies born in recent months, had microcephaly, an incurable condition in which infants have abnormally small heads.