Opus 5

domingo, 8 de março de 2009

Is Brazil Safe For Tourist to Visit? My father, mother-in-law and brother decided to come to Brazil in 1986 while I was living in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro in the small yet historical town of Petropolis. I was working in Rio and Macaé as a ship chandler (basically a supplier of all deck, engine and food store supplies for working maritime vessels). The moment they arrived at “Galeão,” the International Airport for Rio de Janeiro...

Opus 5

...they went through the usual customs and federal police rigmarole and then where herded into a holding area with a large group of tourists who were on the same flight. Suddenly a short and stocky olive complexioned gentleman (wearing a white cotton, short sleeved shirt and tie replete with i.d. badge) addressed the curious group of impatient “gringo” tourists. (“Gringo” is by no means a derogatory reference. It simply means you’re not of Brazilian or Portuguese origins and even if you were and had a fair complexion, they might still call you “gringo” as a sort of official nickname.

The short speech was a sort of disclaimer so that Brazilian tourist agencies would not be responsible for any ill-fated occurrences while staying in Rio or other parts of this Latin paradise. They were told not to venture out by themselves, but rather stay in groups with other tourists or with excursion directors. Staying inside the Hotel is safe and should you venture out, don’t wear any jewelry or expensive watches for you will surely be a target for any thieves or perpetrators on the street or corner bars they might visit to soak up some local color.

They were told to always lock up their valuables in the hotel safe and don’t carry a lot of cash when venturing out. Men, don’t keep important documents on your person, but rather have Xeroxed copies of everything laminated so that should you have to surrender a wallet to a would-be thief, your originals are still in the safe back at the hotel. Have a few dollars in that wallet while you keep your real money in your socks. So, I guess that would mean, “Don’t wear shorts!”

They will tell you to not to pick up a taxi anywhere, but in front of your hotel. This way the doorman can instruct the driver of your desired destination.

Needles to say, my father and mother-in-law were scared to death of what they might have gotten into and it took a while to get them relaxed enough to go out and see the sights. My dad stayed at the Hotel Gloria which is one of the classiest old world hotels in Rio located in an area called the Gloria. It has great spacious overdone rooms with a separate sitting room to receive guests.

 My brother got himself hook up with a couple of American chicks he met in flight and stayed at a cheaper off the beach hotel in Ipanema. Dale wasn’t afraid of anything and he was in fighting form. He had been an ex-heavyweight champion wrestler and still is very friendly and jovial. He had the most fun of all except for the fact that he got himself hooked up with two lovely female tourists. That’s like taking snowballs to Alaska. What a dummy. With all of the really cute Brazilian girls waiting for a good looking gringo to show up, he had to settle for two girls on a plane. He was safe and was precautious, but still wasn’t afraid and displayed no fear in his body language.

Actually some of this advice given at the orientation is very good, but not just in Brazil. It’s good advice in any major city or hub anywhere in the world. Big cities carry with them street crime, drug trafficking, prostitution, drunks, derelicts, an occasional beggar and a nutcase or two for good measure. In fact in most Northern Hemisphere nations you will find more violent crime than one would find in southern nations.

I recall working as an insurance agent in 1973-84 in some very tough neighborhoods in the Tidewater Area of Virginia. Although race doesn’t enter into it, these areas where and are still low income ghetto styled predominantly Afro-American communities. I was too young and stupid to be afraid and I was never accosted or a victim of any wrong doings. I simply went to where I had to go and everyone assumed that I had to be there, sense most Caucasians would not chose to be there otherwise. I believe also that many would assume that I might be packing a firearm or maybe I knew martial arts. Actually I never felt afraid and so I didn’t give off any noticeable body language.

It worked the same way for me on the docks and nearby bars at Praça Moá in Rio where there were plenty of undesirable types. The fact that I speak Portuguese and had come to know many of the denizens that frequented these hangouts perfectly made for various assorted life forms, made it safer for me and the locals could always use an interpreter. I used to call one place the “Star Wars Bar” sense it seemed that every character from the galaxy would light there and a fight would break out at any moment. Brazilians always like the chance to display their ability with Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art) and it’s pretty hilarious to watch two drunken Cariocas (native Rio de Janeiroans) trying to give the impression that they are masters of that martial art form when everyone knew they were trying to fake each other out.

The owners of these places of business liked me even more than most gringos, as I would send business their way from ships and crews looking for a fast and exciting night out, but with a minimum amount of travel away from their vessels. Sometimes I felt like a “pimp” of sorts, but I never took a dime from anyone for these referrals. I just needed happy customers to keep buying their supplies from me.

Returning to the safety topic, if you are concerned about being safe, I would recommend never going outside your own front door.

I recommend all of the same things that the lecturer recommended earlier as most Brazilians would do likewise when visiting the big city. In fact it’s good advice for visiting any highly populated place where you might venture in any part of the world.

Now please note that Rio and São Paulo are very large and can be overwhelming, but I wouldn’t miss Sugarloaf or Corcovado while in Rio. You must see at least one of the “mulata shows” at the Plataforma and then get outta Dodge and go North to Vitoria, Porto Seguro, all of Bahia, Forteleza, Recife, and other points north as this is where most of the Europeans go to enjoy the beaches, drinks, music and cosine.


If you are a freemason then you have it made in the shade as Brazil has many lodges. Seek one out, my brother. They take this fraternity very seriously.

It’s always better to know someone in Brazil or to at least make friends with one or two citizens who will, in turn, guide you through some of the most interesting parts of their cities or neighborhoods. Brazilians value tourism as one of its greatest assets and yet throughout the years they have done a very poor job of public relations and advertising.

Instead of giving tourist friendly places to go they scare tie “bejesus” out of them and then they won’t spend their money in Brazil.

Taxi drivers can be very good alternatives to hiring a guide. They know all the hot spots and will drive you around and wait for you regardless of the hour. There’s always more money in tourists than driving a bunch of Brazilians around and “gringos” are better tippers.

Don’t get your taxi at the front door of the hotel, if you can avoid it. The fare is always more expensive, because the drivers have to pay the hotel, doorman and desk for letting them hangout in front to pickup fares. Get a driver you trust and get his phone number so that when you need him again, he will be there and will probably be happy to take you off the meter at a pre-negotiated price. He knows there will be good compensation and tips later. It’s a win/win situation for all.

Brazil has changed greatly over the last several years and has so the policing of cities and the honesty of customs officers. Even the highway patrolmen are less corrupt than ever and Brazilians are proud of their economic and cultural progress.

You would be well advised to look for a good fare and go south of the border to Brazil for at least three weeks or more. An “Airpass” is a great idea! Check it out by all means!


Autor: Dean Weston
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