Category Archives: Lifestyle

Local Brazilian Funk DJ shot to death outside his home last night

(WARNING: Disturbing image in link at end of article)

A Funk DJ in Belo Horizonte was shot dead outside his house in Pampulha last night by two motorcyclists that rode past him, confirmed it was him and then circled back to open fire. He was shot ten times and died at the scene.

Although police say they don’t know the motive for the killing, rumours are that DJ Paulinho was mixed up with the wrong girl – a girl already attached to someone dangerous. His death could have been as petty as that – seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

The worst thing about it is that this motive has been seen before in the Brazilian music scene.

The rumours echo the murder of MC Daleste a few years back, a huge Funk star making $60,000 a night when he was murdered (reportedly by cops) live on stage. MC Daleste was supposed to have been fooling around with a girl attached to a big drug-trafficker. For that, he was killed.

DJ Paulinho wasn’t a mega-star DJ in Brazil, but he had enough sets that he would work the local Funk circuit in Belo Horizonte, and he’d toured in the US, Portugal and France. He had a song called “Vai Paulin Vai Paulin” which got pretty famous.

Below is a video of him doing a Funk mix at Conexão Rio. The crime-scene image for DJ Paulinho is here – don’t click the link if you don’t want to see a dead body or blood.

Rest in peace – descanse em paz.

 

 

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Cliff-top view of South America’s largest favela Rocinha from “Dois Irmaos” in Rio de Janeiro

Here’s a video looking over the edge down into Brazil and South America’s largest favela, Rocinha, from the “Dois Irmaos” mountain 500 metres above, in Rio de Janeiro.

It zooms right into the favela and across to the luxury beaches and apartments by the ocean, and then back out towards the mountains further along the Rio de Janeiro coastline.

The Rocinha favela is considered “pacified” by the police, and it’s true tourists can walk along the main road without fear of robbery. However, further into the favela the drug-trafficking regimes still rule the area, and crime is still ongoing for most of its 800,000 residents. As proof, I heard the sound of automatic gunfire echoing through the valley one morning as I hiked the Dois Irmaos mountain alone.

Access to the Dois Irmaos trail is through the Vidigal favela, itself a pretty difficult hike through steep, twisting favela streets. The neighbourhood’s really interesting, though, and there’s an Acai shop along the way.

The view from Dois Irmaos is better than the views from either Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf mountain, both of which you can see from Dois Irmaos.

Fear and loathing in Sao Paulo: citizens driving armoured cars in Brazil’s richest city

How do you spot an armoured car in Sao Paulo? Check out the distorted reflection from the windows. The toughened glass they use to protect the car from bullets is slightly wavy, and the glass has a thick black border. Also, look at how they sit a bit lower to the ground, and how the tyres have a plastic sheen rather than the matte finish of rubber.

When you know how to spot an armoured citizen’s car (um carro blindado) you’ll begin to see them everywhere. Sao Paulo residents love their armoured cars.

A single shot fired at the driver of a “carro blindado” or armoured car, in Sao Paulo.

But is Sao Paulo really that dangerous? And what happens when you get out of the car? You can’t wear an armoured vest for the rest of your life, so armoured cars are only really useful when you’re waiting at traffic lights.

It’s not exactly cheap to make a car blindado, either. Depending on the size of the vehicle it runs from 50,000 reais (£15,000 or $25,000) to 80,000 reais (£25,000 or $40,000) to reinforce the suspension, put armor-plating in the engine and door-panels, replace the glass with a toughened resin and change the tyres for run-flats.

The car has a shorter life-span carrying its extra shell, and depreciates quicker than a normal car. Engines are constantly strained and the chassis buckles under the extra weight. Armoured cars are good for scrap in a few years.

Totally-destroyed armoured car, although the glass never smashed through.

And probably a total waste of money, and for why I’ll give you an example. My Paulista friend told me a story about his friend that drove an armoured car around Sao Paulo. At the traffic lights a ladrão approached his friend and pointed a gun at the glass. He demanded his watch.

Now, the friend was in an armoured car, so the bullet wouldn’t go through the glass. But the friend remembered that replacing the bullet-proof glass would cost 5,000 reais, and his watch only cost 2,000 reais.

So the friend cracked open the window and handed over his watch, saving himself 3,000 reais in the process…

The perception of security is often used by car-manufacturers to sell expensive cars. SUVs like Humvees and Range-rovers (military vehicles) in the US and Europe offer a kind of sanctuary, where the outside world can’t get to you. As a result you feel safe, even though you can’t live in your car forever.

In Brazil, crime is a serious problem. But armouring a car still seems like overkill. I’m not sure it really offers either security or safety. If they want you, they will follow you and either force you from the vehicle or wait until you get out.

If you’re coming to see England in Belo Horizonte, make sure you visit the nearby Inhotim Art Gallery

If you only do one thing during your visit to the 2014 Brazil World Cup in Belo Horizonte, visit Inhotim Art Gallery.

Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.
Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.

It’s about a two-hour drive out of the city (it’s only 70km away but traffic takes care of the rest) but it’s definitely worth it. The art gallery/botanical gardens is built within the huge grounds of the former English mining magnate Senor Tim (pronounced “In-yo-cheem” in old Brazilian, hence the name).

The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.
The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.

Dotted around Inhotim are modern art installations of glass, mirror, water, brick and sound buried deep in lush Brazilian forest. It’s a really beautiful place to walk around on a sunny day.

Multi-coloured walls in Inhotim by Helio Oiticica

This huge tree-hugger truck sits forever tipping over in a glass dome structure in the middle of the jungle.

Brazilian tree-hugger truck  tipping over inside a glass dome at Inhotim, Minas Gerais

Paths lead through thousands of different types of flowers and trees as you look for each of the hidden installations.

A tree held up by four others.
A tree held up by four others.

The art installations are really, really cool. Photography inside the galleries is banned but I managed to snap the Cildo Meireles installation below.

Looks like the moon's surface.
Looks like the moon’s surface.

Another installation has you walking across broken glass (you’re wearing shoes).

The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it's dancing on its roots.
The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it’s dancing on its roots.

A spectacular sound installation called The Murder of Crows has you sat facing fifty different speakers in a dark warehouse as a girl recounts a dream beginning in the warehouse and moving through jungle to a beach.

There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this blue tiger-print flower.
There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this one with blue tiger-print petals.

Another has you in a pitch-black room as a strobe-light illuminates a fountain, making the water look like molten glass.  In another you enter a room with a mirror, but you can’t see your reflection. You can literally step through the mirror, as crazy as that sounds.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s a really cool place.

A few tips: wear a good pair of walking shoes, tickets are 30 reais to enter and the best place to eat is the Oiticica self-service restaurant (where they weigh your plate; it’ll cost about 40 reais for a really nice meal and a drink).

Behind-the-scenes video tour of Brazil’s $270-an-hour Love Motel “Le Monde”, in Belo Horizonte

Last Friday I visited Belo Horizonte’s most expensive and luxurious “love motel” Le Monde for a behind-the-scenes tour. It’s absolutely not what I expected from a motel, or even a five-star hotel. The level of luxury is astounding.

This drive-in motel on the outskirts of the city is a place where, for just £160 ($270) an hour(!), clients have access to their own private pool and jacuzzi, as well as beds with mirrored ceilings, steam-rooms and sex-furniture. Of the more interesting aspects, the motel offers sex-toy room-service, private underground nightclubs (available for a mere 5,000 reais a night) and retractable roofs (to bathe under the stars).

Above all, it offers absolute discretion for you and your girlfriend, wife, mistress or prostitute.

Have look at the video:

Now, although it may seem seedy to visit a motel for a few hours to have sex, this is an entirely normal act in a country in which one in four Brazilians live with their parents long into their 30’s. Young lovers go there to celebrate their one-year anniversaries, for example.

All of my friends I asked about the motels said they had visited them, often regularly in the case of those with girlfriends and boyfriends. Having a motel to take your lover is crucial when your parents sleep in the bedroom next to you.

The "Japan" themed room at Le Monde love motel.
The “Japan” themed room at the “Le Monde” love motel.

Motels are also legally required to offer the utmost privacy for their clients. Garbage from the room is kept in a closed garage until it’s disposed of in an unmarked truck. Staff deliver food and drink through a network of hidden corridors that run behind the rooms, and revolving cupboards mean staff never even see the client.

The whole transaction, from parking up and entering the room from the garage, to ordering food and then settling the bill, can all be done without any face-to-face interaction.

You could do it completely naked and no-one would know.

The entrance to Le Monde's most luxurious and expensive room.
The entrance to Le Monde’s most luxurious and expensive room.

What’s more, overseas tourists visiting Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are set to be staying, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these love motels. Ricardo, Le Monde‘s General Manager, confirmed 500 tourists from China, Finland, the UK, the US and Arabic states have all made reservations at his love motel. 

I guarantee they will enjoy their stay there.

This is a high-end luxury motel, and its cleanliness and professionalism reflect that. For my next trip I’ll try and visit the cheapest one I can find and report back on my findings. Love motels get as low as 20 reais an hour here (about £5, $8), so it could get pretty seedy.

An English school in Belo Horizonte really HAS been teaching prostitutes English

I have to admit I was really skeptical when I heard about Brazilian prostitutes taking English classes in order to better haggle in English with foreign tourists during the World Cup.

Seeing these images I’m still fairly skeptical.  The teacher is called Igor Fuchs (for Fuchs sake!).

A prostitute in Belo Horizonte, Brazil attending an English class

I’m all for prostitutes being supported and cared for in what is a difficult and dangerous profession, but realistically, how many words are they going to need to know? It’s not like they’re going to be explaining the entire plot of The Lord of the Rings. The Brazilian prostitutes need to know about six words and a few numbers. All of which can be communicated with hand-gestures.

A Brazilian prostitute learning English in preparation for the 2014 Brazil World Cup

I wrote yesterday about how foreign media should be focusing on real issues, not titillating nonsense that probably isn’t true. Thousands of trafficked children are set to be at-risk during the 2014 World Cup and beyond.

Remember, prostitution is a totally-legal, trade union-certified profession in Brazil. It involves consenting adults. Pimping is illegal, as it should be.

Child prostitution is a huge issue in Brazil. Let’s bring shameful images like the one below to the forefront of the international media and help make sure more work is done to help children in danger.

Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.

If you’d like to know more or donate to a good cause please check out Meninadanca.org, a charity running a school that protects and cares for street-children that have been forced into prostitution.

Also, look out for my short video documentary behind the scenes of Belo Horizonte’s most expensive and luxurious “love motel”, a pay-by-the-hour favourite amongst wealthy Brazilians, and where a huge number of foreign tourists will be staying during their time here at the 2014 World Cup.

Child sex-trafficking in Brazil a problem foreign journalists could report. Prostitution, a legal, trade union-certified profession involving consenting adults , is not.

If there were really one million prostitutes in Brazil, as this Independent article suggests, that would mean one in every 200 Brazilians was a prostitute.

More than that, considering half of that 200 are men, and  assuming most prostitutes are women, it would mean one in every hundred women in Brazil was a prostitute.

Thousands of journalists are set to arrive in Brazil to cover the 2014 World Cup. Hopefully these journalists will dig deep into the country and leave aside the antiquated, colonial image of Brazil as a hyper-sexualised third-world country where everyone lives in a favela and sells drugs in between Samba and Carnaval.

What journalists and visiting tourists will actually find is that Brazil is a modern, technologically-advanced country full of entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors and hard-working Brazilians working 14-hour-days to provide for their families and loved ones.

Brazil has its own Silicon Valley, super-fast broadband, some of the best (free) universities in the world and more progressive social policies than most western nations on issues such as obesity (a wave of public health education and stringent controls on fast-food and candy companies), workers’ rights (successfully lobbying corporate giant McDonalds to provide better working standards) and advertising (food and drink adverts aimed at kids labelled an “abusive practise”, and all outdoor advertising billboards banned).

Brazilian prostitutes  on Avenida Alfonso Pena, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Brazilian prostitutes on Avenida Alfonso Pena, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

So no, there probably aren’t a million prostitutes in Brazil. Prostitution is, however, legal, and always has been in Brazil, which protects sex-workers and allows them access to trade unions as well as mental and sexual health services. Pimping is – quite rightly – illegal in Brazil. It is hugely progressive to see a country take such a progressive approach to one of the “oldest professions” rather than hiding behind phony puritanism and snobbery.

If we’re talking about real problems in Brazil, let’s take a look at child prostitution.

Agencies such as Meninadanca operate in the poorer northern areas of the country where poverty is high and families sell their children to passing truckers and sex-tourists. The Sun wrote a story about a 15-year-old selling herself to tourists in Rio de Janeiro for £26 a time. She was rescued a few weeks before the World Cup starts. Thousands of children won’t be.

This photo was taken outside the World Cup stadium at Fortaleza a few weeks ago:

Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Meninadanca.

The sex-trafficking of thousands of Brazilian children is a real problem foreign journalists could be spending their time reporting. A completely-legal, trade union-certified profession involving adults old enough to make their own decisions, is not.