What now Santa Maria?

In the aftermath of one of the worst and most senseless tragedies in the history of Brazil, I woke up this morning asking myself, “will anything change?” After scanning the latest news and all the thoughts of several journalists and supposed actions to make sure “this never happens again”, and after watching the inspectors suddenly doing their job on the evening news, I sincerely believe nothing will change.

 Why? On the evening news, there was a scene that, to me, made everything very clear. It´s the same scene when someone is caught drinking and driving or breaking any other essential law. An inspector was inspecting a bar that had been “interditado” (whatever that means, because they just open it again as soon as the inspectors leave) more than 4 times because it did not have a license or permission to function as a music bar (they apparently insisted on hiring bands). The bar was full of people and there was a band playing. The owner blatantly said to the inspector that “they were just friends having a party” and that it was not open to the public, although people were walking in and out like in any normal bar.  The inspector didn´t believe him and “interditou” the bar again. Great work.

When a person is caught drinking and driving the reaction is the same. They just stare the police officer in the face and say they are doing nothing wrong, that they did not drink, that they refuse to blow into the bloody “bafometro” and then get offended when no one believes them, usually followed by an actual tantrum, death threats… which, ok, happens in any crime reality show.

Brazilians in general have a very childlike attitude when caught red handed. They deny it and lie in the face of anyone that accuses them, actually believing they will and should be believed regardless of all the overwhelming evidence that proves the contrary. Like a child trying to convince his mother that he did not eat the cookies and then having a tantrum when he is not believed. This is frighteningly common here and I see it on a daily basis almost everywhere.

So my conclusion is based on the fact that Brazilians (I don´t know about other countries because I have not experienced this anywhere else) are extremely subjective when it comes to following laws. They will do almost anything not to follow them but expect other´s to follow them when it´s convenient. That is one of the reasons why we have governors. They are supposed to make sure that people follow the rules. But as in most Latin American countries, being an authority or a politician is mostly for people who have other interests, which are mostly the high salaries without much accountability or work involved (in most cases, not all). That accountability, on the other hand, should be demanded by the public, by Brazilians in general.

Here is an example: A person decides to open a bar. He has family, kids, all that. The fire department never comes to inspect the place for fire risk and the inspectors never appear for all the other permissions he needs (this actually happened to me, but I decided not to open the business), so he just continues working in his bar for as long as possible (or until something like Santa Maria occurs). It is his responsibility to ask the fire department to come and do their job. That is what “we” pay them for. He should take that responsibility because he supposedly wants to believe that his kids will be safe when they go to someone else´s bar, right? Wrong. And THAT is the problem.

As long as it does not affect him he is fine with having an unlicensed bar. As long as it´s not HIS kids who are dying in someone else´s bar, he´s cool with the absolute lack of responsibility. As long as it´s not HIS kid who was run over by a drunk driver, he´s fine with drinking and driving. Hey, he even allows his under-aged kids to use his car and drive and drink sometimes.

So my message here is, if Brazilians wants things to work, they have to assume the responsibility for the things they do, be accountable for the consequences of not doing them and make sure that everyone who is on their payroll does their job.

But until then, the path is long, very, very long.


3 thoughts on “What now Santa Maria?

  1. Hi Cipriana
    I am English and have lived here in Fortaleza for 6 years, and your point about Brasilians acting like children when they are caught out is exactly what I realised shortly after coming here, and it’s a whole attitude to life unfortunately, right down to little things, like the workman who is already half an hour late in arriving at your house, and when you phone, tells you that he is “chegando”. After a while you know this means- “I forgot our appointment, your call woke me up, but I shall get up, take a shower, and I’ll be there sometime.”
    In short, just like a 4 year old child, they tell you what they think you would like to hear, so as not to upset you.
    I love your blog and I am going to read it all !


    • Thanks for your comment. The case of builders in Brazil definitely deserves its own post. I don´t know if they tell you what you would like to hear. I think it´s more like telling you just anything and actually thinking you will believe it. If you say that you do not, they get really offended. Like a child that tells lies that his mother believes, but does not consider he will not be believed in the outside world. If you watch Brazilians closely (yes, I generalize), you will see that their behaviour inside their homes is very similar to how they act outside. They think people will genuinely have the same patience and understanding that their family members have.


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