Savassi , an area of Belo Horizonte that has been the centre of street-drinking for tens of thousands of locals and tourists during this World Cup, was almost completely empty of fans just a few hours after Germany lifted the trophy. The party is definitely over here in Brazil.
It did not look like this last night, as it had done every other night during the 2014 World Cup:
Street vendors desperate to rid themselves of ice-boxes full of Brahma and Stella Artois were off-loading beers at three for 15 reais, then three for 12 reais, and finally three for 10. On what was a chilly night in Belo Horizonte the few fans left still partying in the street were huddled together, a few German and Argentinian flags scattered around, singing that Pele scored a 1,000 goals whilst Maradona only ever sniffed coke. Around them the big-screens that had shown all of the Brazilian games were being disassembled and trucked away.
With Brazil out in the semi-final so shamefully, and then losing again so pathetically in the third-place play-off, Brazilians had lost all enthusiasm for the World Cup they had held so brilliantly in their own back-yard. The bars weren’t packed for the third-place play-off like they were when Brazil was still in the Cup, and drinkers only half-heartedly kept an eye on the Cup final to make sure Argentina didn’t win.
And so, for a few more generations, there’ll be no more World Cup in Brazil. No more afternoons off, no more street-parties (until Carnaval, at least), and no more sea of yellow shirts.
Well done, Brazil, for hosting a brilliant World Cup. Now back to the real world.
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.
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.
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.
Across Brazil’s 10 biggest cities there were 71 major protests in the 12 days before the World Cup started. In the 12 days since the opening game there have been 43.
Sao Paulo’s Folha gathered data from police, transport bodies, trade unions and social movements to collect the data, which is probably still too vague to draw anything but broad generalisations about popular protests in Brazil. One sociologist said in the report: “Brazilians really like football.”
Folha reckons underlying motives for the protests are changing, too. Before the World Cup started protests were being held in support of pay-rises and improved work conditions. Trade unions knew that heightened pressure would be thrown onto the government to act in the unions’ favour quickly, as the government wouldn’t want tourists witnessing protests in the street.
At least for the teachers here in Belo Horizonte, it didn’t work. A 15 per cent pay-rise (after three years of 6-8 per cent inflation had seen their real wages eroded) was rejected, and the teachers went back to work days before the World Cup started.
Now the protests are more generally Anti-World Cup.
One of the problems with protests this year is that last year’s Confederation’s Cup protesters saw how their anti-corruption, pro-Brazil protests were “hijacked” by organised, extreme-right elements that wanted Dilma out and their people in.
Consequently a lot of citizens don’t want to protest for fear they’ll be portrayed as extreme-right antagonists. Such is the problem with popular protest; with so many problems in Brazil, it’s hard to be clear about what you’re protesting about.
You came for the World Cup, and now you want to stay in Brazil and live there forever. Your 90-day tourist visa runs out so you need to renew it, and fast. Your only option is to head to a Policia Federal.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how British, American Nationals and most other countries can get their 90-day tourist visa renewed in Belo Horizonte.
1) Fill in this online form. You want the “PEDIDO DE PRORROGACAO DE PRAZO DE ESTADA” option.
Print it off. This is an invoice you have to pay at a bank before they will process your visa at the Policia Federal. It costs 67 reais to renew your tourist visa.
If you don’t have a printer go to a “Lan House” or walk around your area until you see a shop with a “Xerox” sign. I brought my computer to the shop and emailed the document to the manager who printed it off for me. For this he charged me the princely sum of 1.50 reais, about 40p or 60 cents.
2) Take this document and 67 reais to any bank – Itau, Bradesco, Banco do Brasil, Santander… Go early in the morning because banks have a take-a-ticket system and they get incredibly busy (a friend and I once went to a bank which had a two-hour wait to see a cashier). Don’t do any of this at lunch-time, either, or you will wait an extra hour.
3) Pay the cashier 67 reais. She will stamp your document and tear off the slip you need to show to the official at the Policia Federal.
4) Go to the Policia Federal with your paid invoice, your passport and the entry document you got when you arrived in Brazil.
The address is Rua Francisco Deslandes, 900. Shopping Anchieta Plaza. Bairro Anchieta, Belo Horizonte. It’s in a nice shopping mall and the bank is opposite. It was already full of people when I arrived, most of whom were Brazilians getting their passports renewed.
There is a separate line for gringos/estrangeiros. Ask the attendant “Onde está a fila para os estrangeiros?” or look out for a sign. I did not do this, and I subsequently waited in the wrong queue for 40 minutes, only to reach the counter and be told the tourist visa line was actually a row of seats around the outskirts of the room.
5) Sit in the row of seats, shuffling over to the next seat as it’s vacated by the foreigner ahead of you. Wait maybe an hour. Bring a book or watch Brazilian daytime TV. Talk to your fellow gringo.
6) You’ll be called in to the room when it’s your turn. Here is my interaction with the official as I remember it:
Official: “Did you fill in the document?”
He hands me a piece of paper and I fill in the top-half. Name, age, marriage status, address and contact in Brazil.
Official: “Are you sad England played badly in the World Cup?”
We get to talking about Brazil’s chances, how good the Netherlands team is, Manchester United, Van Persie. During this five minutes the visa application isn’t progressed in any way. It’s all very relaxed.
Another official comes by with a huge box of fruit. He asks if I want something. I take an orange and he tells me an estrangeiro brought it in. I’m presuming handing tourists oranges isn’t normal protocol at the Policia Federal but it’s a nice gesture.
7) He fills in the lower half of the form. He ticks that I have a return ticket and I have sufficient funds, although he doesn’t ask me to prove any of this. He taps at the computer and uses no less than seven stamps to certify my passport and entry paper.
8) We shake hands and I leave. I wish Brazil well in its future sporting endeavors.
A few points:
1) Get your tourist visa renewed as close to the end of your 90 days as possible, because the new 90-day allowance starts when your application is processed (so if you renew your visa at 80 days you can only stay a total of 170 days).
2) Most nationalities, and definitely the case for Americans and British, can only renew the visa once in a one-year period (so you can stay as a tourist here for 180 days out of 365 days).
3) Have a contingency plan if you’re rejected, although I reckon it unlikely you will be unless you’re doing something particularly nefarious here.
Although the advertising machine around Neymar works hard to make him appear a pretty nice guy, here’s six reasons why the footballer – rightly or wrongly – represents everything wrong with Brazil’s wealthy, corrupt elite and the crushing inequality these powerful figures create.
Brazilian politicians are famously corrupt. One politician was elected to Brazil’s Congress while under investigation for murder after having an adversary killed with a chain saw. Another is wanted by Interpol after being found guilty of diverting more than $10 million from a public road project to offshore bank accounts. I can’t find the source but I read recently that 60 per cent of Brazilian politicians are currently under police investigation.
2) He’s rich: Neymar was making 1.5 million reais a year at just 16 years old. He makes 9 million euros a year now playing for Barcelona.
And in the world of business the 15 Richest Families In Brazil are worth an estimated $122 billion — or about 5% of the country’s total GDP. Out of 65 Brazilian billionaires listed by FORBES in its World’s Billionaires list, 25 are blood relatives.
3) He’ll sell himself to the highest bidder: Neymar has sponsorship deals with Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic and an 11 year boot deal with Nike worth at least $1 million per year. There’s nothing wrong with footballers making hay while the sun shines, though.
Brazilian politicians see nothing wrong using the same “sponsorship” tactics, however. Municipal and state officials are close to the mega-corporations that run Brazil’s construction, beverage, transport, energy and food industries. The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, for example, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing.
4) He’s light-skinned: Neymar’s dying his hair blonde might seem insignificant, but it takes on huge cultural significance in a country that has a legacy of slavery and inequality. It’s known as “Branqueamento”, (“Whitening”) and can lead to a prosperous shift from the darker-skinned underclass to the lighter-skinned Brazilian elite.
Over 70 per cent of Brazilian politicians are light-skinned.
There’s nothing against a football player wanting to play for one of the biggest teams in the world, and those teams are in Europe. But it is a familiar desire amongst the wealthy Brazilian elite to leave the country (they have the power to change, rather than rob from) and in which they have made their fortune to hide their money in Cayman Islands bank accounts or spend it on handbags, iPhones and suits in New York and Europe.
6) He’s not afraid of backing out on a promise: Neymar promised his youth club Santos he wouldn’t leave them until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos consequently doubled his wages to raise him to European footballer salary levels.
If you only do one thing during your visit to the 2014 Brazil World Cup in Belo Horizonte, visit Inhotim Art Gallery.
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).
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.
This huge tree-hugger truck sits forever tipping over in a glass dome structure in the middle of the jungle.
Paths lead through thousands of different types of flowers and trees as you look for each of the hidden installations.
The art installations are really, really cool. Photography inside the galleries is banned but I managed to snap the Cildo Meireles installation below.
Another installation has you walking across broken glass (you’re wearing shoes).
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.
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).
News articles, videos and images looking at life and living in modern Brazil.