The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

The Dark Side of Brazil
September 3, 2008, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Brazil
The Pelourinho in Salvador
The Pelourinho in Salvador

While Brazil is most likely the greatest country on this giant rock spinning uncontrollably through space, there are some things that aren’t quite as wonderful as one would hope.

For the first time on this trip, we encountered some of these issue when we arrived to Salvador, the third largest city in Brazil.  While Salvador is a beautiful colonial city with amazing architecture, and a strong African cultural vibe, there is an eerie aura that hovers over the town.  Stemming from Salvador’s dark past when it was the main port for the Portuguese slave trade, the legacy of these horrific centuries still lingers today.  The main tourist, cultural, and governmental center of the city, the Pelourinho, literally means “Whipping Post”.  Many stories abound in this area of hauntings of old buildings all around town.  However, the more disturbing legacy is that of the favelas, or a shanty towns, and the awful disparity between the huge majority of their inhabitants, unimaginably poor blacks, and the rest of the city.  There is no doubt that slavery over 400 years ago has led to this poverty and subsequent palpable danger within Salvador.
Upon arrival, we got our posada room in the Pelourinho, in the heart of the most touristy section of this colonial city.  However, while the sights were really beautiful, the area was located directly next to a favela, built haphazardly in the hills.  For the first time in Brazil, we were confronted with the serious inequality that is horribly apparent in this country.  Young children begging in the street with no shoes, homeless women with babies sleeping on streetcorners, people rummaging through every open garbage can, and obvious crack addicts (that wouldn’t share their crack) harrassing passersby for money were the norm in this area. 
Now, I understand that Latin America is rife with terrible poverty and inequality.  But, I’ve never seen such a direct contrast between the haves and have-nots like Brazil.  Directly next to this extreme poverty are massive, intricate governmental buildings, expensive tourist hotels, and luxurious homes.  And, while the situatino in the Pelournihno is definitely exacerbated by the fact that it is full of tourists and located right next to a favela, it is pretty shocking to see the dark side of Brazil.
The Elevator from the Lower Cidade to the Pelourinho

The Elevator from the Lower Cidade to the Pelourinho

And, while this was sad and disturbing to see, what was almost worse was the street vendors in the Pelourinho.  While walking down the street, it was impossible to avoid people handing out flyers for restaurants, stopping you to ask “Where you from? Come take this tour!” or trying to sell you some shitty trinkets such as a plastic statue of Jesus or a T-shirt emblazoned with “Brazil is neato” or some other crap.  The most irritating people, however, were the restaurant hawks.  These sons-of-bitches would get in your face as you walked by and say “Come to this restaurant.”  One time, and one time only, did we make the mistake of speaking to one of these fuckers.  It was a major lapse in judgment.
This dude walked us to one restaurant after another, until we finally said “We don’t really know what we want to eat, so we’ll just figure it out on our own, thanks.”  He didn’t get it, and continued following us around.  Finally, we said kindly “Go fire yourself off a cliff, or we shall do it for you.”  When we finally got to a restaurant, this shithead saw us, and had the nerve to yell at us for not letting him take us to this restaurant.  At this point I snapped, and picked him up like Darth Vader picking up the Emperor in “Return of the Jedi” and kept my promise and fired him off a cliff.
Eerie Salvador at Night

Eerie Salvador at Night

After a couple of days of dealing with this nightmare, we finally went to a bar with the crazy German guys we met, way outside of the Pelourinho.  This place was clean, full of Brazilians, no tourists, and had no sign of the plague of flyer-hander-outers anywhere.  It was nice, but was clearly a wealthy neighborhood that does a sadly efficient job of burying the unwanted side of Brazil.

So, although this city was really rough and sketchy, Salvador did a good job of showing that while Brazil is really far advanced of most developing countries in environmental protection, economy, and gorgeous women, it still has a lot of work to do to elimate some very serious problems.  And, it also brings to the present the horrible past of slavery and European conquest of the world.
Fucking Euros.
And, if Brazil wants help, I would be more than happy to throw multiple flyer people off cliffs for them.  Free of charge.  And, on the bright side, the beer in Salvador is still really, really cold.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

brazil definitely feels like a land of so many extreme contrasts, which often leads to extreme reactions – amazement and sadness, usually together. glad you got to see it all. being a blue haired, blonde-eyed tourist can’t always be wonderful, you gringo. fucking imperialists. (that’s right, i said blonde-eyed.)

Comment by jos

Hey- I was directed to your blog by a friend of mine. I lived/traveled in Brasil for quite sometime and I have enjoyed all of your stories. Words of wisdom though: You have seen the “paradise” part of Brasil (in your northern travels) and are about to get a wake up call of the real life that the majority of Brazillians face in the major cities(favelas/poverty/crime). Be safe and I look forward to following your journey!

Comment by kelli

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