Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

Bananas, bananas, who wants bananas?

Vegetables on display

Vegetables on display

My Brazilian Brasil is a blog about Brazil and everything in it. So, in this post, you’ll find something pretty typical from here. The urban open market of fish, fruits and vegetables.

Named “feira livre” (which means open market in english), this legal congregation of several fish, fruit and vegetables producers happens from sunday to monday in most of brazilian cities, in several neighborhoods at the same time. Vendors set up their tents from 7 a.m. ’till 3 p.m. in specific streets or squares determined by local city halls.

When I say streets, I really mean streets. Traffic is closed in the period of the open market, and only gets back to normal after everything is cleaned up. 

Fruits on display

Fruits on display

Normally, this is not a problem for cities traffic flow, because the open markets generally occurs in specific secondary streets, always leaving drivers an alternative way to get from A to B with no delay.

There’s an open market every monday on the street next to mine. It’s always something like a party with fruit and fish scent. Vendors shouting, fighting for the client, giving discounts; housewives and househusbands jumping from tent to tent, choosing the best looking tomato and the greener lettuce, sometimes with a little arguing about who caught the bigger papaya first; a traffic jam of small fruit carts taking food up and down the road; and the thing I like most: the visual sea of bright colors and kinds of people everywhere.

Bananas! Who wants bananas?!

Bananas! Who wants bananas?!

I’m 24 and I can remember open markets since I was a baby. It’s a true tradition. I’ve also been to fruit open markets in France and England, and I can tell you for sure: the brazilian ones have nothing to do with those. Ours are funnier and more colorful.

Other cool characteristic of these open markets is that you may not find only it’s regular products. I’ll take my neighbor market as an example once again: I’ve seen portable butchers (small frigo-carts with pieces of meat inside, like a hot dog cart), tents of fried food, like chips and “pastéis” (pastéis is the plural of pastel, in portuguese, which is a sort of brazilian tortilla, but well.. not a tortilla.. actually, I think there’s nothing like it anywhere, come here and taste it), and several other stuff, like even clothes tents (more rare, but I’ve seen).

Credit cards welcome

Credit cards welcome

Despite the visual aspect of the open market, it has, in fact, a positive impact on family’s income. According to Rio de Janeiro’s city hall, there are 182 legal open markets in this city nowadays. Together, they serve as employment for over 6.000 legal producers, helping to raise 30 thousand people indirectly.

For consumers, it’s always a good deal. You’ll pay cheaper for fresh fruits and vegetables than if you were buying in the supermarket. Because of that, open markets make more than 15 million Reais flow (something like US$ 8 million) monthly, with 12 thousand tons of food being sold.

Tip: when the open market day is coming to an end, prices go down. In a matter of minutes, you can save up to 70% in some items. Also, it’s a rule to bargain. Never accept the first price, throw an offer! For last, if you’re short on cash, relax: take your credit card: it’s welcome in some tents.

Eating fruits and vegetables is surely a great way of keeping up your health safe and your body fit – keep that in mind.

Church and State: secularism in politics

Sarkozy and Pope Benedict XVI in France

Sarkozy and Pope Benedict XVI in France

In the speech Pope Benedict XVI made in front of a huge crowd of 260 thousand people yesterday, in hist first visit to France as a Pope, as well as in interviews the Church’s leader gave, relations between Church and State were brought to attention when the message of religion and State being more open to each other was passed.

The french President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has a history of bringing religion to the spotlight, also spoke words about a new perspective in secularism, which he called “positive secularism”. Such declarations immediately got opposition responses from the french Socialist Party and from the Secular State Defense Association.

Discussions about the bonds between religion and government should be made more often. We brazilians could take a good dose of this subject with our cities mayoral elections coming up next month.

Rio de Janeiro has a particular interest in this subject, since the city has one of it’s two main candidates as an ex-bishop of the largest pentecostal churchs in Brazil, the Assembly of God.

A modern Assembly of God temple in Brazil

A modern Assembly of God temple in Brazil

Pentecostal churches, specially the Assembly of God, have reached an amazing power level in Brazil. They have large acceptance in lower class citizens, and their temples are spread throughout the country. These temples, most of them large and modern auditoriums, get packed to capacity when services are being held. Preachers “speak the language” of simple people, having an amazing power of argument and persuasion with their audience.

Just like the Catholic Church, Assembly of God has built it’s empire with the money of the poor. Money enough to buy the second largest TV network in Brazil, several radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishers, have their sessions transmitted nationally in other smaller TV networks, and so on. Politics, of course, are on their list of main objectives too.

danger zone.

Religious influence on people: danger zone.

Now, with the elections period nearing it’s peek, Rio de Janeiro citizens are facing a true possibility of having a pentecostal mayor next year.

Mixing religion with State affairs is a dangerous move. I feel it’s wrong to make decisions that will affect the entire society with the light of a determined religious concept shining over. Just as an example, issues like drugs, abortion, marriage, gay rights, medical procedures and freedom of speech and belief could be seriously in risk of not being treated with the true balanced and reasonable sence of fairness they deserve.

Not a Constitution

Not a Constitution

And religious fanatism, of course, should never be forgotten as one of the ugly faces of any religion.

Religion is and will always be a part of political campaigns. For a strange reason beyond my actual comprehension, it’s still important for people to know if a candidate believes in God or not, which God, and stuff like that. But we must pay attention in order to not let a Devil in disguise run our lives preaching the Lord’s word.

Wikipedia has an interesting article about pentecostalism. Click here to read.
The New York Times story about the Pope in France, click here.

The list: 10 points over Brazil

WordPress has an interesting stats engine that allows bloggers to see not only how many visitors have read their blogs, but how these readers got there. When it comes to this blog, I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people searching the web for “brazilian lifestyle” and ending up here.

Even though this is the exact idea of my writtings, my concept of transmitting characteristics of brazilian lifestyle is not resumed to a single post. The entire blog is about brazilian lifestyle. Even my style of writting reveals a part of brazilian lifestyle. Everything depends on how readers face what they are reading.

But, as we live in the fast-food, fast-cars, fast-web and fast-sex world, I would be an alien to think everybody has patience and feeling to absorb things in an analytical and critical way.

SO, I’ve decided to cut-the-crap on this post and give to you, dear reader, a small, but essential, list of THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT BRAZIL BEFORE COMING HERE:

1 – We DO NOT speak spanish. Our mother language is portuguese, that has little or nothing to do with spanish.

2 – Our capital IS NOT Buenos Aires. This is Argentina’s capital city. Ours is Brasília, D.F. The letters D.F. stands for Distrito Federal, which in english means Federal District.

3 – São Paulo is written like this. It is wrong to write São Paolo or San Paolo. We are not in Spain or in Italy. If you want to translate the name of a city, which I find wrong to do, please, translate it right. São Paulo, in english, would be Saint Paul. But please, swear you’ll never translate Rio de Janeiro as “January River”!

4 – Our coin is called Real. It’s worth something like US$ 1,70 and 2,5 Euro today.

5 – We don’t dance samba around every corner, nor we drink caipirinhas in breakfast. You can easily find samba houses and official samba organizations that allows you to go in their club to samba yourself out. Samba on the streets only happens in Carnival time, generally in February. Something like Mardi Gras, but way, way funnier and happier. About caipirinhas… well, those you can find almost everywhere. But remember: the true caipirinha is made with cachaça, not with vodka.

6 – Yes, there is violence here. Despite our incredible natural beauties, we are still a third world country. So, please, don’t act like a tourist. But I must say: the image that if you step here a bullet will cross in front if you is false. Just pay attention, as you would pay in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris…

7 – We are nice and kind people, more than you can imagine. Keep that in mind if someone starts up a conversation or extend their hands in order to get a handshake. It’s not necessary to call the police!

8 – You will find several beggars and abandoned children in the streets. Feel free to feel shocked and sad with it. I feel everyday.

9 – You will find several incredibly beautiful men and women in the streets. Feel free to feel shocked and amazed with it. I feel everyday.

10 – Going out to a bar at night, or to a disco, is a nice way to feel the brazilian vibe. But, please, stay away from these whorehouses-specially-made-to-drain-tourist-money. Brazil is not just sex and liberation. The industry of sexual tourism makes me feel ill.

Hope that’s helpful. I’ll write a better post about brazilian lifestyle in the near future.

Ps: If you check this blog, you’ll find a different way of viewing sexual tourism, specially in Brazil. Written by “Rio Joe”, he says he’s addicted to sexual tourism since 2003. Interesting reading!

Barack Obama in Brazil

It seems that Mr. Barack Obama’s campaign crew has reached a superb, and humorous, ability to spread the presidential candidate image around the world.

Meet Mr. Cláudio Henrique dos Anjos, 39 years old, the brazilian Barack Obama, as he presents himself, in his campaign running for Belford Roxo city hall.

Who's the real deal?

Who is the real deal?

Belford Roxo is a poor city near Rio de Janeiro, and has never been governed by a black man or woman.

Mr. Obama (the brazilian one) is one of the six candidates in Brazil that uses Mr. Obama (the original) name in order to catch a hike along publicity between voters.

I could write something about how diminishing this is for a serious candidate and for brazilian electoral process. But I’ll leave it to you. This time, this post will stay with the funny part of it.

Campaigns under siege

Supreme Electoral Court discussing army forces in Rio de Janeiro

Supreme Electoral Court discuss
sending army forces to Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court has authorized today the use of army forces in Rio de Janeiro, in order to guarantee a free-of-violence campaign period for the city’s candidates for mayor. Union forces are now waited to act togheter with local police and Federal Police.

Since the campaigns period started, a couple of months ago, several candidates have been prohibited by drug dealers to enter some favelas (slums). This outlaw force has also prohibited journalists to cover campaigns in those places. Only candidates supported by drug dealers are welcome in certain poor communities, leaving democracy and free will of choice for inhabitants behind.

In a certain way, I’m surely in favor of the army in my city. We live today a situation of civil war that hasn’t been treated like a civil war so far by no one in power. Of course. With a vast majority of voters living in poor areas, actions to stop drug dealers would certainly affect people living there. By consequence, mayors and governors would have their votes affected too.

But, in other way, I feel awfully ashamed of this. It’s a sad, sad feeling for cariocas (how Rio de Janeiro born citizens are named) to live in such a beautiful place, but without any sort of freedom.

I keep asking myself why politicians have led Rio de Janeiro to the actual situation of total abandon. Maybe the answer is written above in the third paragraph. But I believe it’s more, it’s got to be more. I can’t accept that my dear city is abandoned and thrown into it’s own luck because of one or two men greed. I can’t accept that, as years go by, as elections go by, things continue to be the same.

The presence of army forces, as “comfortable” as it seems, just serve to tell us one more time in the face: Rio de Janeiro is gone.

We have had army support several times in the past, but we must remember that their presence should be seen as band-aid, something that must be removed after the cut stops bleeding. The problem is that our blood never stops to drop.

I hope at least that, from now ’till the day of voting, people, wherever they live, rich or poor, are able to see, listen and choose any candidates they want. Democracy is the main pillar for hope in every place. If we lose this, than you can consider us officially dead.

Speaking of hope, I hope the next mayor will be more serious, more efficient, more fair and more in love with Rio de Janeiro than the actual one. Let’s see.

Going underground

I’ve been to the States a few times and have just come back from Europe, where I visited several west-bank countries. When it comes to public facilities and conservation, comparing Brazil to these countries is like throwing a rat in a snake pit. No competition.

But one thing that actually surprised me was the fact that here, in Rio de Janeiro, we do have a much more well preserved subway than Paris, London, Lisbon or Madrid. I’m not talking about the quantity of lines or their length, nor electronic devices available in these first-world subway systems. I’m just referring to cleanliness.

It may seem a little unnecessary to write about this, but I saw in this comparison an interesting subject to be analysed.

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and the main tourist port of the country. But the city is a huge mess. As a native, I feel around every corner the lack of public conservation and care. Sometimes I feel there’s no State looking for us. But when I go underground, it’s like a new world.

Here, and I imagine in the rest of the world also, subways are used mainly by lower classes men and women. People that live far from the city centre, sometimes in favelas (slums, ghettos), and have little school education. In rush hours, subways get packed with workers, and people travel inside the trains like they were matches in a box. A true chaotic scenario.

But once the storm passes by, you can easily see that there’s no consequences left behind. No trash on the floor, no windows or benches broken, no bad smells, no graffiti. This last item specially was the one that surely popped in my eyes when I traveled first-world subways. In Paris and in New York, I’ve seen graffiti not only on the station’s walls, but on the trains bodies!

That surely is something that I can’t understand. I’m not saying here that brazilians are concerned about keeping everything clean, because sadly, we aren’t. As I said, it just take a simple walk on the streets and dirt will come around sometime. But the metro seems like an outsider. Something that crosses under a city that has nothing to do with it.

Some may say that our subway system is public service run by a private company, but that’s no demerit for saying in a loud voice: we have a clean subway. The same partnership between government and private happens with our bus system, but the vehicles and drivers are terrible, and I’ve already seen cockroaches inside.

It’s hard to find a reason for this subway-care-phenomena. Maybe it’s because the system is new (opened in1979) and was a huge improvement in people’s lives; maybe because it’s a very, very popular mass transit system that works fine, unlike buses. Or, the reason could be simple: rich or poor, people can treat well things that are public and useful to them. Too bad this last sentence can’t be said when it comes to the aboveground city.

Where the streets have no name

Something new is happening around the corners of Rio de Janeiro. Some street name signs are being updated with information about the person who gave name to it. As you may not know, here in Rio de Janeiro and throughout the entire country (except Brasília, the capital), all streets have names. They can be baptized in honor to someone important, like a general, politician, musician, journalist, etc. Also, names are taken from historical references, like dates or important events.

The funny, or sad, thing about that, is that the absolute majority of inhabitants don’t have a clue of who was the person honoured at the signs. Neither what happened in a certain date remembered as an important city address.

To try to make this a little less embarrassing, as I said, some signs are having information added to them. For example: John Kennedy Street (American president), and so on. But I’ve noticed that even with this sort of information, street names are still an enigma.

That lead my crazy thinking to what? To the lack of education we suffer around here. People have very few ways to run after information in Brazil. You may say “and the Internet?”. Well, only who have money can afford a computer and Internet, even though lots of community LAN houses are being opened nowadays in poor neighborhoods. But that’s not enough.

There’s a lack of culture, also. You may give a computer and Internet to someone, but it will be as dull as nothing if they use it only to access WordPress, talk absolutely nothing for hours via Messenger, or view funny videos in YouTube.

And what does that has to do with street signs names and information? Actually, I don’t know. All I know is that we can’t just be satisfied with small stuff, while there’s a world out there to be known.