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Carnival in Brazil gone wrong

Salvador da Bahia: a Carnival tale with a not so happy ending

We’re in a taxi on our way to the airport in São Paulo. Next destination: Salvador da Bahia, for the biggest street Carnival in the World. Our friends Avinash and Dushi came from Dubai to meet us in Brazil and after a couple of uneventful days in São Paulo, we are all excited to hit Salvador and enjoy the next four days.

I ask the taxi driver to take us to Terminal 4, where our flight is departing from and the man tells me there is no such thing as Terminal 4! On the highway, we pass several luminous signs pointing towards the exits that lead to Webjet (our airline) but Mr. Taxi insists that he knows very well where we should go. Long story short, we end up in the wrong terminal and have to take a bus back to the place we were supposed to go.

Let’s face it: I have big communication problems with taxi drivers in Brazil. I am from Portugal and, quite obviously, that’s where the Portuguese language is originally from before Brazil started using it. Still, taxi drivers laugh at my way of talking and say things like “oh…. you even know how to talk Portuguese more or less”! One of them, after I said I’m from Portugal (he wanted to know, it’s not like I go around saying such things) even asked: “does that mean you understand all the words in Portuguese?!” I would like to see a British person being questioned about their ability to talk English! I don’t know if they enjoy messing with a girl here or if it’s just lack of exposure. Probably a bit of both…

We finally make it to the very clearly existing Terminal 4 and after a short flight, landed in Salvador at around midnight. We take an overpriced cab to town to meet a lady that rented us an apartment close to the historic center. During Carnival prices rise up to ridiculous heights and we were about to pay USD900 for 4 people/4 nights/ 4 walls! And this is not just an expression here. That’s pretty much what we got for our money: 4 walls, 4 cheap-ass mattresses on the floor that were deformed after the first night of half-sleep, super synthetic sheets (probably the cheapest ones from whatever might be the equivalent of a dollar shop in Brazil), 4 plastic chairs and 4 not so absorbent towels rolled nicely on top of our mattresses. It’s about 32C and there is no AC. Not even a fan. We sleep with all doors and windows open (the responsible thing to do in this kind of country) to allow some air circulation to come in and keep us alive.

We wake up covered in sweat but ready for Carnival. That’s what we came here for!

 

We shall party like it’s 1999, bitch!

 

Pelourinho's Afro-Brazilian parade at noon

Pelourinho's Afro-Brazilian parade at noon

By afternoon the streets of Salvador are already packed! The vibes are intense – all kinds of vibes. Massive trucks pass by with big bands playing on top and thousands of people follow their route dancing, singing and shaking everything like only Brazilians know how to. It’s extremely hot out there and looking at the ocean in the lower part of the city just makes you feel like leaving the parade and going for a swim. Although temperatures go up high here, there are not that many working ACs and fans in Brazil… locals have found a refreshing substitute for these in “cervejinha gelada” – ice cold beer ubiquitously sold, as cheap as water. 5 Reais (USD 3) can buy you 3 or 4 cans in the Carnival circuit, depending on the spot.

Beer street vendor. One in a million.

Beer street vendor. One in a million.

 

No wonder that at about mid afternoon the percentage of intoxicated people is probably higher than those that aren’t. The streets start smelling strongly of alcohol, sweat and piss. I start wondering if anyone eats during Carnival, as there is probably 1 hot dog being sold for every 3,000 beers! Oddly enough, the rare food stands available are placed on the same streets as the portable toilets, making it very unappealing to snack. I guess this could serve as one more good reason for people to dedicate their mouths and reais to beers…

Dushi... with his nose still in place.

Dushi… with his nose still in place.

 

All of the above is not a turn off when the music is loud, people are dancing and their energy is so contagious. So we mingle with everyone, dance a bit here and there, have fun with our badly coordinated samba moves and sing along “Nossa, nossa…. asssim voce me mata. Ai se eu te pego, ai se eu te pego!”, the only song we know and that locals seem to love almost as much as they love football and sex.

It's barely 2PM and Pelourinho is at full capacity!

It's barely 2PM and Pelourinho is at full capacity!

 

It’s evening and we have been roaming the streets for hours…

 

The party has been going for long now but we know this is just the beginning. I have an intense craving for coffee – I truly need some caffeine to keep up with Carnival. While everyone out there has beer instead of blood flowing in their veins by now, all I care for is a cafezinho com leite. So we do a much needed stop at a 3 star hotel that, just to highlight how extortionately crazy things go,  is renting their double rooms at USD400/night. Ashray and I had coffee with a view and Avinash and Dushi got to try their first caipirinha(s).

Avinash and his caipirinha... posing Dubai style!

Avinash and his caipirinha… posing Dubai style!

 

The Carnival celebrations in Salvador da Bahia are divided in 3 circuits: Pelourinho (the historic center), Campo Grande and Barra, by the sea. By dinner time we make it to Barra – according to the lady that rented us the 4 walls “the safest place for Carnival at night”. And you know what? Barra is crazy!

The place is packed, the trucks pass by slowly, blasting music that almost feels like it’s meant to be heard on the other side of the Atlantic.

And there we go… following the Carnival route.

Ashray dancing with Pierrots.

Ashray dancing with Pierrots.

 

The 4 of us and a backpack that hides Dushi’s photo camera and my video camera – her name was Nanelma. Yes, WAS. Everybody knows Brazil is not the kind of country where you should be parading your valuables around and after too much debate with myself and making a backup copy of all my footage, I decided to take the camera out, in order to take some videos for our blog. I thought: “If it happens, it happens!“.

 

And, oh fuck, it happened!

 

Watching insanity passing by dowstrairs...

Watching insanity passing by dowstrairs…

 

As we are walking side-by-side with the parade 2 ladies dancing advise me to watch out for my camera. In that very same second I put the camera down towards my chest and tell Ashray to do the same with Dushi’s camera. “These ladies are telling us to be careful. Stop taking photos!”. Never underestimate the advice of a local – they probably know their shit better than any Wikitravel entry! I tell Ashray to be careful and this is the photo he clicked right after that:

Filhos da puta

Yeah, thanks for the heads up guys…

 

This is when a group of about 10 guys separates Ashray from myself, Avinash and Dushi. Some of them came dancing towards us, making it all look very happily confusing and all of a sudden suspiciously crowded in a place where instants ago we could walk with ease. And as I step to the side to let these people pass by, next thing I know I am being brutally hit in the head. There must have been at least 8 hands trying to reach for my camera and the rest are hitting Avinash and myself in the head and back. Not even Vishnu has seen these many arms moving around at once. I never thought I would resist if ever being robbed, specially in a place where the value of life is so little that you might get stabbed to death for holding something valuable, but I wouldn’t let go of the camera. I feel my dress being pulled up and as I lose both my sandals I am aware that I am also half naked in the street, but my hand is not opening up and allowing these motherfuckers to take my camera. We are surrounded by so many people, somebody would help… one would assume. But NO ONE did.

Margareth Meneze's truck passes by... and life goes on.

Margareth Meneze's truck passes by… and life goes on.

 

The group of around 18 year old’s, City of God style, start dispersing and I am one-on-one with this asshole that has his hand smashed against mine, inside the camera strap. I don’t want to let go but he starts running and as I am running with him by the strap union that couldn’t be filled with more rage than this, I eventually let go. I look back and see Avinash looking disoriented and Ashray that is asking “what happened?!” after some lady handed him my flip-flops. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even have time (or ability to react) and scream for help. Still, many people were around and they couldn’t care less. Blame it on the beer, blame it on the distraction of the band truck passing by… or, probably more accurately, blame it on the lack of compassion that some people have developed as a tool for survival.

The police is hardly 2 meters from us and I desperately ask one cop to help us. “A bunch of guys robbed my camera!!!”. This guy elbows his colleague lightly and says with a sarcastic smile “Somebody robbed her camera…”. Daily bread in Brazil, I guess. So I carry on “they also beat us up”. I don’t even have time to see the cop’s “couldn’t care less” face this time as Dushi appears from the crowd with his face dripping blood like an open tap. I can’t hold my tears and this is the moment when I get to know what hate really feels like.

These motherfuckers’ strategy is not to rob and run away, like in most places on Earth. To avoid any resistance, they come, beat you up, take your stuff and go. So much more effective, right? Dushi had been punched thrice by several guys and fell to the ground momentarily unconscious. Woke up with a local handing him his flip flops – apparently handing someone their shoes after an attack is as involved as people that night were bound to get. Poor guy was totally spaced out and we had to sit him on the floor. No sight of the police around anymore. They must have had better things to do…

So many people around and, yet, we were all by ourselves.

So many people around and, yet, we were all by ourselves.

 

It is clear that we needed to take Dushi to the hospital, he would need stitches on his face. One of the guys that punched him on the nose must have had a ring (stolen, perhaps?!) that opened up a rather deep cut. We take ice from a beer vending lady (finally all these cooler boxes with beers around are coming in handy!) but that wouldn’t just cut it to stop the bleeding.  Two ladies advised that we leave the place – Ashray still has the other camera hanging on the neck – and take Dushi to the hospital. They were the only 2 people in the middle of hundreds that cared. The Killers’ song stupid lyrics “are we human or are we dancer?” actually makes sense here. These people are “dancer”. This can’t be human…

Not counting on the first group of cops that couldn’t have been of less help in front on the famous Lighthouse of Salvador, we make our way through the crowd and head towards the beginning of the parade area, where we could eventually find the First Aid station. We see another group of Police and head towards them to ask where the First Aid station is. “I don’t know” was the answer. To be an honest answer it should have been followed by “… and I don’t care”. We keep on walking towards what looks like a Hospital. During Carnival, all buildings along the circuit are barricaded with wood to avoid the crowd’s destructive power. We go ahead to make sure this is the place for us and enter. The gate keeper resists saying we would need to pay 5000 Reais (about USD 3000) to admit someone to the emergency room. We say “That’s OK!” and go ahead. Anything to get in. Finally, in the emergency reception, the attendant confirms he needs to block the amount of 5000 Reais in our credit card to get Dushi into emergency. “Do you think I carry a credit card to Carnival?!!”. Obviously, I was not going to tell him that I was stupid enough to actually carry a USD2000 video camera.

Off we go from the Hospital that does not know the meaning of “emergency” and we see an Info booth where they finally point us towards the First Aid station, but not before they ask what country we come from – touristic statistics, I guess. No one seems to be distracted by the fact that Dushi is still bleeding quite heavily. Here, this must be as common as snow in American movies during Christmas.

At the First Aid they also don’t know the meaning of emergency. We must fill the paperwork and answer questions like “what band where you following when this happened?!” before they lay an eye on Dushi. The next hour was filled with a couple of anesthesia injections and 4 stitches on Dushi’s nose. That’s what you come half way around the world to get. It’s the FULL Brazilian movie-like experience my friends. You ain’t getting this shit not even in the most authentic tours, I’m telling you! Experiencing Brazil is more than just to sit in Copacabana sipping caipirinhas. We don’t like disaster , especially after reading in the news that someone got stabbed to death on the same spot we got mugged, on the very next day. The news also read that a total of 26 people had been killed during Carnival’s week this year – I could almost hear a sarcastically celebratory tone as I read the lines in my mind “this is a record low. Homicides during Carnival in Salvador have reduced in whatever percentage…”. Congrats guys, really! To save us from being depressed let’s just focus on the fact that all experiences, even the most fucked up ones, bring something with them that will become an integral part of you and build up your strength.

 

What’s up with Brazil?!

 

I can’t help but thinking its society is uncaring. The gap between the rich and the poor is so obvious that, how couldn’t this happen? Living here is very expensive and surviving is the next best thing to living. Still, this is no excuse. The moment I let go of my camera’s strap and that muleque took it away, that was the moment when Evil said: “The world has fucked up all over me, so fuck you. I am gonna fuck you too and it’s gonna be harder than how you fucked me!”. I seek an odd kind of comfort in the fact that probably these 10 dudes ended up fighting amongst themselves to decide who gets to keep the profits of selling Nanelma. One of the great things about this camera is that it looks like a regular handycam but it’s a semi-pro HD piece of candy, and it annoys me that they probably would end up selling it for peanuts, when it’s new and so valuable. Now, I am stuck with a bag of camera accessories. They go for cheap…. anybody interested?

Carnival is a great example of how Brazilian society works. In Salvador, the rich are in a “camarote” (private sitting area) admiring the parade from up high. The middle class dances around the trucks but still in between ropes that divide them from the common mortals standing in the remaining area of the streets and, mostly, sidewalks, where they see the rich world pass by and, conveniently, assault the other rich that dare to mix up on this side of the party.

Party spirit was over for us at this stage. We spent the next couple of days in Salvador literally sweating off the stress of this night and cursing over our land lady for not giving us a fan. How cheap and heartless can that witch be?! We made it to Itaparica Island one day (nothing great) and rented a car on our last day to hit the beaches. We found a lovely place where the river meets the sea that I would love to show you a video off but… oh, that’s right… I don’t have a camera anymore.

Salvador's ocean views from the historic center

Salvador's ocean views from the historic center

 

Before leaving this city we still had one more amusing episode with a taxi driver – sort of a tradition by now! We caught a cab from Pelourinho to our house not because it was far but because you don’t want to walk around certain streets at night. The driver said he would charge us 10 Reais but I insisted he put on the meter. Then we realized that we only had 8 Reais left with us, but that should be fine. I told the taxi driver that’s all the money we had so leave us when the meter reaches this amount. We made it exactly to the beginning of our road and as we walk towards our gate the taxi driver lowers his windows and starts shouting “you are poor! POOR!! You should have more money… Poor people!” Apparently, calling someone poor is an insult. Go figure once again why society works the way it does in this country… Absolutely messed up!

Grandpa. After a kiddo sprayed him with fake snow.

Grandpa. After a kiddo sprayed him with fake snow.

 

I am not looking forward to come back to Salvador that soon. Independently of our bad luck which, let’s admit it, was my fault for using my camera in a “forbidden” place, this city didn’t offer anything that special. People were not friendly, prices were high and, on an unrelated note, I am still not over the amount of posters that we saw advertising a hot-line for support for female and teenage victims of sexual abuse. During Carnival, it’s apparently customary to kiss random girls, but the amount of guys that I saw throwing themselves quite disgustingly upon girls while the females were saying NO and still getting someone else’s tongue on their mouths made me sick. Carnival, the feast of the flesh. For some, it’s liberation, for others, abuse.

So, we happily get on a plane to Rio de Janeiro after a subway sandwich in the airport. It’s almost silly how sometimes, little familiar things like this give you a bit of comfort when a place feels so unfamiliar and the people living there make it clear that you are on your own.

 

Rio de Janeiro. Keeping in mind how many nice songs have been inspired in this city, I believe better days are ahead of us.


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41 Comments

  • Martinho - Civic Says

    Muito bem escrito Zara.

  • Grande merda…pelos vistos as primeiras impressões são para tomar muito e sempre em conta. De certa maneira o Taxista no Rio De Janeiro já vos estava a dizer que não eram bem vindos, mais tarde que vos alugou o “buraco” confirmou e acrescentou que “só” o vosso dinheiro era Bem vindo.
    Lamentável…
    Toma as coisas pelo lado positivo, pelo menos ninguém (de vocês) morreu (o que podia muito bem ter acontecido) e so o Dushi é que ficou ferido. Camaras há muitas…e a escreveres da maneira como o estás a fazer de certeza que vais arranjar rápidamente fanfa para comprares outra.
    Bjs e espero que aproveitem bem o fim de verão aí no Brazil para compensar (se possivel) ;)

    • Zara Says

      Cunha, o taxista foi em Sao Paulo. Devo dizer que, no geral, as pessoas em Rio parecem bem mais simpáticas. O que nao quer dizer que nao haja merda suficiente a acontecer por aqui… nao e um problema simples. E nao e so culpa dos pobres e criminosos, mas de toda a sociedade que favorece uns em detrimento de outros e, obviamente, isto cria animosidade. Nos próprios, os Portugueses, temos historicamente culpa do que por ca acontece…

  • Ufa, what an ordeal, man!

  • Caroline Coredoni Says

    Tem que se informar onde se hospedar, como andar, onde ir… agir de acordo com o local, o Brasil tem lugares maravilhoso, eu sou brasileira, AMO o Brasil, acho ele lindo e maravilhoso, mas tem q saber andar, usar bom senso e ter informação antecipada do local.Não sou fã de Salvador, prefiro outros lugares que ao meu ver são perfeitos, como Natal – Rio Grande do Norte. Lógico que em Salvador e no Carnaval o melhor é o camarote, vc como estrangeiro deveria ter se informado melhor e ter uma estadia mais confortável por aqui. Apenas lamento a má impressão que ficou do Brasil. Boa Sorte em próximas viagens.

    • Zara Says

      Caroline, muito obrigado pelo seu comentario. E bem verdade que, ao ir para o meio da confusao, nos pusemos em risco ao saber que estas coisas acontecem frequentemente em Salvador. Temos ma impressao do Brasil por um lado mas e obvio que tambem levamos coisas boas do seu pais! :) Gostamos bem do Rio e agora mesmo estamos na Foz do Iguazu, que tambem e um lugar muito bonito. Sabemos que nem tudo e feio por aqui, nao se preocupe! :) Ja interagi com muita gente brasileira, mesmo antes em Portugal, e obviamente ha muito boa gente por aqui tambem. Mas fico triste que haja tanto crime e que os proprios brasileiros, independentemente dos turistas, tenham que sofrer desse constante estado de alerta. Cumprimentos!

  • Loira Says

    You are a fool. Accept the consequences and stop crying and blaming elverybody else.

    • Zara Says

      This post isn’t about blame. It’s about telling a story as it happened and the feelings triggered by it. As simple s that. There is really no wrong or right in it, it’s not for people to agree or disagree as such. It’s just what happened and how that made us feel.

  • Daniel Says

    Hi, I’m a brazilian and I’d rather write it in portughese, but since you’ve posted your tourist drama in english language I’ll join for the sake of a more universal understanding. Well, at first yours is a really awful story that happens here not just with foreigns, but with brazilians too. Unfortunately, problems is that Brazil is not for every kind of tourists, or travellers as you call it – just because as you’ve witnessed, safety is a major issue. One must know there are some places in the world you just cannot expect to find all those security levels you’re used to. That’s a fact and proceed accordingly should be highly consider. Sure, you cannot prevent all possibilities of a bad experience like yours. That said, Brazil ranks between the most unequal and contradictory societies in the world, and lots of brazilians are awared of it. So your story and your perceptions aren’t new at all, even those ones about national conformism and alienation. But then again, I guess there are places and situations like that, in a less spreaded degree for sure, in some very developed countries in whole Europe or North America, places where I’ve been and where I’ve also been exposed to some critical moments. It is statics and it can happen. Here in Brazil one are most up to get into it. So far, I see your revolt and angry because I know what it feels to be a foreign victim like that as I’ve notice myself around Lisbon. But there’s one little thing, actually not that small, you cannot take for granted and since you haven’t mentioned it I going to tell you: this is that such big countries like mine, like USA, China or France are not just one uniformed solid unchanged shape and body all along its territories. After what I’ve read I suppose, and that’s my point, you’ve never been in south or north Brazil and maybe you know little about how much different each brazilian state is in this continental nation. Even if major tourist attention and merchandising go to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, here in Brazil you have almost 200 millions people living the big thrill of a brazilian life, and you bet we’re not doing so in the same fashion. Yet, you bet some of them are struggling right now for a better society. Hope you’re doing so at your place, hope your next trip is going to be cool.
    Um abraço!
    Daniel
    Porto Alegre

    • Zara Says

      Hey Daniel,
      Thanks for your comment and for writing in English. I understand that, as you say, the points I wrote about in my post are nothing new or that people are not aware of. This is a personal story, describing what happened to us and how that made me feel. I do know Brazil is very large and that there is a lot of variety around the country. That’s why after Salvador we weren’t turned off to the point of leaving, but spent some time in Rio, Sao Paulo, Foz do Iguazo and Floripa. We have been here for almost 4 weeks now and keep learning as we go. It is true that the first week or so in your country we were very unlucky with the people we met (acommodation wise, of course the carnaval incident, etc) but we do understand that putting everyone in the same category makes no sense. Here or anywhere else. As you mentioned, Brazil has “one of the most contradictory societies in the world” and I don’t claim to understand it or judge it. Things are obviously complex and solutions to problems or even to the social alienation that you mention aren’t that simple, ’cause if they were, problems would be easily solved. I know that some people do strive for a better society, as you mention, and others just go with the flow… Here and all over the world. What I do hope is that more and more people join that struggle for a better society and leave apathy aside as much as possible. Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Um abraco para voce tambem!

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  • Mike Says

    Hi Zara,

    I’m really sorry that happened to you, that sounds awful. I’m heading to Rio in a few weeks, it will be my first time in Brazil. This is a very helpful reminder of how careful I have to be.

    Hope the rest of your trip goes well :)

    • Zara Says

      Hey Mike!

      Just be careful and everything should be OK! The one thing you will always read about (on wikitravel, etc..) and that I can’t stress strongly enough is: do not show any signs of wealth! No cameras, mobile phones, jewelry, etc.. And everything shall be fine. We did carry cameras in very touristic sights in Rio, such us Cristo, Sugar Loaf and the likes, and there it seemed OK as everyone else is also clicking photos.

      Rio is a very beautiful place! Just the topography of the city is unlike any other I have ever been too. I hope you like it too and enjoy your time there! :)

  • Ed Says

    Hi

    Just to add a few comments about your terrible ordeal:

    1) what were you doing with a camera around your neck in Carnaval? It was just asking for trouble! I dont even take my phone in my pocket…
    2) Why did you resist? The reason that no one helped you is because they were afraid of reprisals. Many times people have been shot resisting robbery.

    I live in Sao Paulo and have never been robbed but you really have to take care and remember how many months minimum salary in Brazil your camera is worth.

    • Zara Says

      Hi Ed! Thanks for your comment.

      “What were you doing with a camera around your neck in Carnaval?” Well, I was trying to capture images in order to create content for this website. This is a website about traveling and about sharing our experiences and that includes videos, photos, etc.. I did know the risk I was undertaking. Funny enough, by the time this all happened I must say I was very confortable with the camara, as we had been shooting for the past 10 hrs with no problems. But, of course, it has a huge risk and, as you say, somehow “asking for trouble”.

      I know people tend not to interfere because it wouldn’t be worth it for them to suffer possible consequences. The main cause of my disappointment here was that people didn’t help us after the events, after the guys who robbed us were long gone and we were looking for a 1st aid booth. And this includes the police! About resisting during the robbery, it’s funny that I always thought that I wouldn’t resist if ever in this situation – not worth it to get hurt because of a camera. So not worth it! But what to say… some things aren’t rational and , during an unexpected situation, one doesn’t always react the best one could.

      One should really take care and don’t carry much stuff around. Only this way you can feel carefree and enjoy this kind of events!

  • Wayne Says

    Hey Zara,

    First off – I’m glad you and your friends are alive :) After all, in the big picture of things, what’s more important than that, am I right?

    However, what happened to you does make me very upset. If it were simply a case of violent robbery – there were no people around and you were beaten up and robbed, then I would say I’m really really sorry and that it’s unfortunate, bad luck (not saying that violent robbery is acceptable in any way). But that wasn’t the case at all, you were violently assaulted in front of thousands of people, including police – and people just stood by and watched! I find that so disgusting, so sickening! And then afterwards instead of seeing if you needed help, they handed you back your shoes?!
    How did the morals of these people become so distorted that in their society it’s completely acceptable to just stand there and watch while people get robbed and beat up? And what if someone was actually severly injured? Would they just watch the person die? Would the hospital emergency room turn you away because you can’t pay up front? As human beings how do you even justify this to yourself? It’s just plain disgusting.

    Hopefully, Brazil will be lucky enough to have someone brave who will actually stand up and say “you know what, this is not right and something needs to be done about it.” Until then, all I can say is I pity those people.

    Oh an ignore all the people who respond negatively with stuff like “Well why did you have your camera there then, you were asking for it” etc. It’s already in the past, nothing can change it and your experience will only make you smarter and stronger than all those people who wish they could be traveling like you :)

    Thank you a ton for sharing this story. If I do go to Brazil I’ll keep it in mind and it might help me have a better trip because of it. Keep writing and keep sharing! :) There’s at least 1 person in the world who’s enjoying it immensely!

    • Zara Says

      Hey Wayne!

      Thanks a lot for your comment and solidarity! :)

      As you say, ultimately, it’s a good thing we’re all OK. I actually don’t know what would have happened if my friend would have gotten injured more seriously – after this experience I wouldn’t be positive to say we would have had help, from police or “regular” people. It is very messed up that this kind of event is starting to become “normal” or at least accepted and that just because is something frequent and people should be aware of it, if it happens, then let’s just blame the victims. When did this all become OK? How can a society accept that life has to include robberies, assaults and deaths and “that’s the way it is so… what to do?”. As you say, someone needs to make a stand, shout out this is NOT OK and help push things forward. But if only things were that simple..

      On this subject, let me recommend you a Brazilian movie we saw recently: Elite Squad (and Elite Squad 2 – even better than the 1st one!). They are AWESOME films and a very good (and brave) insight into the Brazilian society, with focus on the violence and politics behind it. If you watch them, please do let me know what you think!

      Thanks for reading! Hope you keep on enjoying it and keep in touch! :)

  • Um soteropolitano Says

    You are an idiot. The thing with tourists who come to Brazil is that they often lack common sense. Instead of blending in, you do everything in your power to stand out like a sore thumb. Yes, Brazil is not a safe country, but then again you had already known that before you came, so it was your choice, you came of your own free will. And one thing that might seem obvious, but that maybe your dumb Portuguese mind hasn’t really come to realize: Carnaval was not created for the tourists, it is and has always been for the locals, YOU must adapt, not the contrary. I’ve lived in Salvador my entire life and I’ve never went to Carnaval, as I find it disgusting.

    Oh, and the reason why people did not help you is because they are there to have fun, not babysit a bunch of clueless stupid tourists.

    You and your friends actually took $2000 cameras to Carnaval? Haha. And I actually laughed when you wrote about the police ignoring you, you thought they were gonna leave their posts because you are a dumb tourist who took a camera to Carnaval? You deserved everything that happened.

    Idiots.

    • Zara Says

      “You MUST adapt”.

      Yeah, sure, I must adapt. Next year I am coming back to Salvador and I’ll steal something from a tourist myself. Maybe that way I manage to “blend in” as you are urging me to do.

      Thanks for the awesome tip!

      • Salete Says

        I would not say it the way he did but, at least partially, I agree with soteropolitano’s comment. I think that you came to see Brazil and Carnaval expecting to find a “for European tourist to see” show. And reality literally punched you on face.

        What you have seen is the result of many (512 might be meaningful for you) years of exploration of that people. You have seen lack of education, opportunity, hope and a lot of angry. They understand that you see them as a bunch of animals, they probably feel like animals near to you. Those fingers in your picture do mean more than you think. That is a very young guy trying to find self acceptance the way he knows. When you go back to protest against the euro or for less taxes that guy will stay there, and your camera alone costs more than a worker earns in 6 months in Brazil.

        I do feel lack of respect in your text. You were in very hostile environment, not meant for you to be. You simply did not take the needed precautions, you exposed yourself to high danger. You have been very irresponsible and everybody around you realized it at the moment they saw you. They have seen a bunch of arrogant people taking pictures and talking about “this kind of country”. That is why they avoided or ignored you. You just did not show respect.

        To say that you should steal to blend shows the way you actually think. Next time you should either take the “for European tourist to see” show (in the camarotes) or take appropriate care. Don’t come here to judge what you simply don’t know.

        By the way, portuguese is our language now. Just count the number of people speaking it in Brazil and you will see it. The orthographic reform, as you probably have noticed, was about putting you to write the real modern portuguese, the one that is spoken in Brazil. We have a lot more writers, readers, musicians, etc. The best and the worse of portuguese is in Brazil. You should deal with it.

        • Zara Says

          I truly don’t get why taking pictures is seen (at least by you) as an arrogant thing to do?!?

          I didn’t expect a “show for Europeans” – for that I would have stayed in Europe. I don’t even think you have enough material here to judge me or my expectations.

          I do get what you say about the anger of the people who attacked us. It’s very clear that history has introduced ridiculous amounts of disparity in Brazilian society. And YES, I am aware that Portuguese people, and white people are responsible. But just because I am Portuguese or white myself, that doesn’t make me responsible as an individual. I am sympathize with the anger up to a certain extent, that doesn’t mean that I find this kind of violence to be justified.

          And oh please, we SHARE Portuguese language. But don’t say that now Portuguese is yours. It’s like saying English “belongs” to the USA and ignore it’s origins in the UK. That’s just a silly discussion to have – it’s just a language, who cares?! Let’s not play “reserve colonialism”, even if it is some sort of “cultural colonialism”. Let’s learn from the shirt of the past and move on in harmony, not otherwise. Please!

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  • Frank Says

    Hi Zara – read your post with interest and the comments with more than a bit of shock at the responses. So it’s your fault for taking photos and for sticking out as a tourist? That’s like blaming the girl for getting raped. As you know we also had a negative experience in Brazil and I’ve wondered why: we were polite, friendly, and respectful of local culture. Yes, my blue eyes and blond hair often make me stick out as a tourist when I go somewhere (sorry, I can’t help that) – but in most places the effect is the reverse; people try even harder to be welcoming and helpful.

    A few people above seemed sympathetic with what happened but I’m shocked by the general attitude, I don’t know if that’s indicative of people who troll the internet with hate in their hearts or if it truly reflects the opinion of the average Brazilian. If so I’m truly sorry for Brazil.

    Oh, and Zara – your Portuguese sucks and you should learn to speak and write the Brazilian way. I’m just kidding :) You know, I hear the same thing in France about how Quebeckers talk and the same in Quebec about how the French talk (and how they justify in Quebec that the French language has evolved into a better version of French here). That’s like comparing the English vs Americans vs Aussie…it’s all ignorant BS and the people who make those arguments are either ignorant, insecure, or intolerant. Again, I’m sorry you’re receiving nasty comments – if this was my site I’d either delete comments like that or edit them to make the sender look like an idiot.

    Thank you for sharing your travel experience. I too sometimes get crap for negative criticism – but as I always say, it is my blog and I’m writing my experience to help others learn from our mistakes.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Zara! The post is almost one year old. but, I am quite sure, not much has changed in Brazilian society since your visit. I have never been to Brazil and would love to visit it. By reading other travelers’ posts I find mostly negative reviews… Definitely, your experience wasn’t unique.

  • Tamara Santana Says

    I am deeply sorry for what you guys experienced. Seriously, I only live here because I would be illegal elsewhere. I feel extremely ashamed of having been born in this crappy piece of s*** place.
    Run from here, guys!! This country SUCKS!

  • Helen Says

    Sorry about your experience! I’m English and have travelled and lived in Brazil. In the 90′s I always spent carnival in Salvador but have very few photos as I knew the dangers. Have just been to Salvador again the week before carnival and had a fantastic time. Spent £200 on a flight and hotel in Rio Vermelho for 5 nights in a promotion.Met Caetano Veloso in a chemist’s! Found people very friendly. Always agreed on a price before getting in a taxi. Like anywhere you need to be aware and research carefully! Good luck next time!

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for reading, Helen!
      I think we’ve learnt our lesson and if we do go back to Salvador one day (and we shall!) we will definitely be more careful. Nothing like traveling off-season to have a better experience. This goes for this city in Brazil or many others around the world. People tend to be more chill when things aren’t so hectic.
      Cool that you got to meet Caetano just like that, by the way!! :)

  • Alfredo Rosger Says

    I live inn the Southeast of Brazil and have never been in Bahia. Hopefully I will never go there.

    Eu vivo na Região Sudeste e nunca fui à Bahia, sabem quando vou para lá: NUNCA !!!

    Ich lebe im Südosten Brasliliens und war noch nie in Bahia. Dorthin werde ich nie freiwillig hinreisen.

  • Andre Says

    Hi Zara,

    I’m really sorry for your awful experience.
    I was born in Rio de Janeiro and have lived there for many, many hears, though I have double Portuguese and Brazilian citizenship.
    I’ve witnessed a lot of similar situations and also have plenty of similar stories to tell. I can’t even count them as their number is endless. And I mean it.
    I have to agree with you for the most part: the Brazilian culture is a very, very fucked up one.
    I classify it as a ” suicidal society”, since there’s no sense of community , unless in case of a tragedy. They learn and reproduce this mechanism under the hush conditions of Life in Brazil, through the sense that is more valuable to take advantage on others and that caring is not important – not because they’re evil, but because it’s pointless as it’s cyclic. The concept of what’s public does not mach what it should be and it’s replaced by what is for the individual’s benefit only, even though the State does have strong hands on everything, including the way of how people think and several populistic subsidies. At the end of the day, it’s a very unfair society, and trying to change it is an impossible mission… Whether you adapt and you act the same way, or you stop caring, to keep your mental health integrity. The other only option is to move away from the country, or to try to spend most of the time abroad, and this is exactly what I do in order to keep my mental integrity.
    Cheers,
    Andre

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