Brazil, Violence, & Danger: Where You Are!

After five continents and fifteen countries, I can say that I have never had more people tell me to “be careful” than when I told them I was moving to Brazil!

These are the same people who warned me “not to drink the water” when I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico

New Mexico is in the USA folks, that should tell you the level of quality information most people have about their own country, much less the rest of the world.

What I need to warn you about is that it’s as violent where you live if it’s in any other major cities of the world. New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, and all the others. However, it always depends on where you live in that city!  I’ve noticed, particularly among expats & expat families is that we have this notion that there are some places that are dangerous everywhere, all the time, period. A few days ago, I had a conversation with Greg / Mr. Flip Flops of the Flip Flop Sports Bar in the Dominican Republic. He’s spending every day doing the yeoman’s work dispelling myths and explaining that the people who know that The DR, as it’s known as by expats who talk about it with fondness, is actually not what you think it is.

Just like Brazil.

I’m going to try and give you a Brazilian perspective as someone who’s lived here for years and has the privilege of knowing what to expect, and still being able to give a balanced opinion of what the threat level is actually like.

When people say “Is Brazil dangerous?”, it’s the same as saying is New York dangerous. I was born in Niagara Falls New York, not New York City. One of those cities is more dangerous than the other one, yet they are both in New York State and if you are from another country you’d think my tiny hometown has a homicide every day!

I read that when you go to Brazil you’ll be shot and stabbed right after they get you your luggage at the airport because that’s the story sold when you go see the REAL BRAZIL!

(Insert sarcastic groan)

What they mean by the “real” is classist because they like to go someplace where there a lot of poor people in order to feel self-righteous by living among them. I didn’t grow up in poverty in America, I wasn’t rich but I didn’t grow up in the Housing Projects. I don’t know how to look out for gangs and gang affiliation nor could I tell if someone was carrying a gun. I didn’t grow up that way.  Yet, I have friends born into a much higher class than I did who move to Brazil, in order to live in a place where people are to shot by the police for no reason.

As in any big city in America, Brazil has certain areas where if you live there, odds are you’re going to be living in danger because poverty breeds violence.   We don’t have to like it, we don’t have to talk about, it but if you’re living in an area where there is a lot of economic turmoil and a lot of economic unrest then you have a real problem on your hands!

Unfortunately, a lot of people want to equate that with the entirety of the city. I live in a neighborhood called Bixiga, next to a neighborhood called Bella Vista. Not a rich neighborhood but I walk down the street talking on my cell phone with people pushing baby carriages and it’s a regular neighborhood.  Like any working-class but dignified neighborhood.  The trick is that my neighborhood exists in the United States, my neighborhood exists in different African countries, my neighborhood exists in the UK. Different languages, same people. 

Interestingly enough, in Brazil your middle-class income can give you some protection if you’re Black where is America being Black first here may not be enough for the Police to be  aggressive because if you’re in a certain neighborhood, and dressed like you belong there (#Classism), as unfair as this is, you stand a good chance of being someone who has options and should be left in peace.

Have you or anyone you know gone through this realization abroad?

Has anyone else understood that when they hear me say “You know I don’t want to go to that neighborhood, that neighborhood is known to be a bad one.  How do you live there why don’t you do your social justice work in another way instead of coming to a bad neighborhood, making a video about how terrible it is, complaining about it, and then convincing the rest of the world that all of Brazil is a Shanty Town. Side note, the poorest areas in Brazil are Favelas, that is not a Housing Project. It’s one step below in all meaningful terms. America has no equivalent.  You don’t find foreigners going to America, then going to the most poverty-stricken area of that city and saying “Wow American is terrible!” foreign visitors go to the safest most middle-class neighborhood they can afford and then talk about how brilliant America is to the rest of the world because that’s most of the country!

What I’m saying applies to a lot of places. If you have questions about Brazil, or anyplace else I have lived, I’m happy to answer those, and you’ve been in Brazil before or you’re in Brazil now send me a message I’ll add you to our Facebook group Black Expats in Brazil.

Let’s not ever forget even for an instant that if you’re depending on the same people who give you information.

So, stay with me on this because I know I’m going to lose some of you here.  If I lose you now I’m okay with that, just stay until the end. 

I’m going to play the race card!

Long before President Donald Trump effectively rebranded the phrase “fake news” I knew most news was fake.  As a Black American, I understood that the television shows that I watched, the news that came on every channel, every newspaper and magazine articles written about me, for the most part, is going to paint a picture of a malicious, lazy, white woman raping, monstrosity that even as a child has the strength of ten full grown men, and could only be dealt with through extra-violent means. I learned to be skeptical and suspicious!

I was taught by Black Americans older than I was that this was not true, and when I became a man that choose to see the world, I understood if I can’t trust any news outlet, going all the way back to the halcyon days of what some people call the Golden Age Of News ,  if even at that point in history I knew media can’t be trusted to be honest about Black Americans who can actually raise an alarm about what was being said about them then why would I listen to the media about what they say about people in any other country!?

Especially if that country was full of Black or Brown people, like any in Africa, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, or my new home in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

If what I shared here helps, send $5 in BitCoin to this address.

It’ll buy me coffee to fuel my mind while I write!




BitCoin: 1AAEBJW9gC1bt6U6UjBWS4g6A6zDLhKMCb

Litecoin: LaSfZW9EdmhNbzgeUNdQQ8o5nKyWqjGnWn

Ether / Ethereum: 0x0de9a17de1ce7f65df21d05307c2a07757572cb5

YusefWateef (at) Gmail (dot) com


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