Friday, August 26, 2011

"Gringoalisation" of Rio as a positive thing?

Q. Rachel, I would be really curious to know: as a long-term resident do you see this "gringoalisation" of Rio as a positive thing? and what about the Cariocas you know? Recently the BBC Uk broadcasted a report on Brazil's economic boom and took Rio as an example, saying that the city's real estate is becoming out of reach for its native/residents. This surely must have something to do with Rio's appeal to international crowds...sorry if sightly off topic... 

A.The first thing that comes to mind is "There goes the neighborhood!"

While development and international status is wonderful for a 3rd world country, there is a charm to my city that seems to get lost in it. The very things that need to be changed in order for Rio de Janeiro to be an international city are the things that make it what it is.

Of course I'm not talking about the streets that need fixed or the sewage that washes up onto the streets each time it rains. These aren't the things that are going to be fixed even though they should.

I'm talking about the coconut vendor who sits in front of Lojas Americanas and the man who sells possibly unsanitary tapioca in Largo do Machado. There are the popcorn and candy vendors who set up outside of schools at the time they let out and the strange smelling jewelry lady whom I buy all my random earrings from. Those some of the things that make this city wonderful, the people without permits just making a living.

What makes this city unique is the impromptu band that plays music on Saturday evenings in the plaza as people with styrofoam boxes of ice and beer sell to the people watching. It's these kind of things that flow with the culture of the people that could die if gringo type legislation takes place. 

While I look forward to having the buildings full of squatters cleaned out and turned into something productive, I loath the idea of the entire city turning into an Ipanema. We already have an Ipanema, do we really need another chic neighborhood full of over-priced shops and foreigners who don't buy there anyway?

I would love Catete to be cleaned up but in a way that brings it back to the glory days of Catete, not just somewhere that would be considered attractive to tourists. 

I worry about my neighborhood that once only had small hotels and is now becoming full of hostels. I don't want to live in the place where young Europeans/North Americans come to drink and sleep around.  And if English becomes the pronounced language in plaça São Salvador, I think I just may cry. Not to mention that I rarely see Capoeira groups practicing in plazas anymore. I wonder if it's a part of the new development or just something that phased out on its own.

And while they say real estate is "running high", that isn't necessarily true. Prices are high, and have been for a little while now, but locals are starting to take a step back. It's over-priced and most middle-class Cariocas don't like to buy homes on credit.

They save and, if need be, they take out a small loan. The banks still don't condone this North American idea of paying an outrageous price for your apartment for the rest of your life. They aren't going to just give Mrs. Maria Eduarda a loan for R$800,000 that she can pay back over 30+ years. The banks actually take into consideration the idea that this may be too much money for someone to not have issues paying it at some time or another. 

Rio de Janeiro is foreign investors' cash cow now but will it always stay that way? Sure, we have some great stuff happening down here, including oil, but what will happen once the World Cup and Olympics pass? Will they keep their stuff here for "investment" but physically go to whichever country becomes the newest cow? What will happen to my Rio then? 

Obviously I get a little pissed off by all this but only because I bought into this cow when it was slightly addicted to drugs and stealing from me. I fell in love with her for her personality! Now that Rio de janeiro is getting all dressed up and has filled out a bit, all you people want in. Look, it's my freaking cow! I loved it when you wouldn't and I will love it when another cow starts producing more milk. So if you are going to to come here for a ride on my cow let me give you a word of advice. Do what is best for her, not your pockets!

Your thoughts and feelings?

Thanks to @drian@ for the question!


  1. Speaking as an expat, the real estate is priced out of OUR reach too. I know several expats who are moving to "less prime" areas because of rising costs...and the wealthy Brazilians are buying or renting their old apartments. The issue is a bit more complicated than what it appears. It's not *just* the oil companies driving up costs...

    Agree with Rachel. Would be a travesty if Rio lost its Carioca-ness...

  2. Didn't mean to imply that it was just the oil companies or that all foreigners could afford this here. Rants just get way too long if you go into every detail ;)

    I know plenty of expats who have had a horrible time finding rentals within the range their company is willing to pay. Of course they are usually only looking around Ipanema/Leblon

  3. I disagree with Rachel: Rio needs to be less Carioca, the city is all too impromptu and unorganized. The only thing that worries me about this possible gringolisation of Rio is that these new arrivals are probably temporary and won't leave a lasting imprint of the positive new habits and attitudes which they could contribute (respect for individual space and all that comes with it such as adherence to noise control legislation, common courtesy in traffic and so forth). Of course when I refer to this positive Gringolisation I mean Americans and Northern Europeans and not Italians, Spanish, Portuguese or French which would probably worsen Rio's flaws.
    I know what I have written so far may be construed as harsh and perhaps unfair but I would ask certain expats this: how many positive changes have you ever thought of championing for Rio only to arrive at the conclusion that you alone could not do so and what was actually missing to reach a tipping point and implement such changes was a greater number of like minded individuals? If this power in numbers was the absent component in breaking the established cultural norm is it also not true that many things celebrated under the guise of being native and quirky actually suck and are sometimes even dangerous?
    Maybe all this raises a valid follow up question to the one which inspired this post: are established practices and cultural norms untouchable and beyond scrutiny? I personally think that the vendor selling questionable Tapioca should have her product inspected and it should be up to her to pay a fee for this service since it is her business and her profits to begin with, not the taxpayers. If she were to turn to me and say "you have not lived here long enough, you are not originally from here, ect" and try to dismiss the idea of responsibility for what she is selling by way of xenophobia disguised as cultural sovereignty I sure hope she wouldn't be successful.
    The irony of it all is that I bet I respect and appreciate her labor more than the average native Carioca does.

  4. Gritty, let me get this straight. You don't want to buy hot dogs out a an old VW van of some unregulated dude??

  5. Oh, Gritty, you sounded way beyond harsh,

    So, according to you Blond Blue Eyed Northern European and North Americans are civilized and all the rest is garbage, including the all Brazilians, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese?
    This is how your comment sounded anyway, not to mention that you couldn't be further from the truth.
    Rio de Janeiro was a first world class city in the beginning of the last century, it was clean, well urbanized, beautiful and super civilized and there were no Northern European or North Americans promoting all those great things. Rio was built by Brazilians, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian among many others.
    By the way, it's not the first time I read a comment from you putting down other people ( of darker complexion, from Mediterranean Europe ) and saying only North Americans and Northern European are worthy of any respect...or consideration.
    Am I wrong?


  6. WOW Gritty !! What a super racist comment!!

    I am northern european and I do not agree with you at all !! I am not better than any Italians, Spanish, Portuguese or French I know. And anybody who was born in the american continent is american!

  7. Rio de Janeiro, like many other great world cities, has it's ups and downs.
    Rio had the glamour era of the Royal Family when the city saw huge improvements in infra-structure, urbanization, sanitation, great architecture etc.
    Rio was the 2nd city in the WORLD to have telephone lines installed in a large scale, Alexander Grand Bell was a great friend of Dom Pedro II, the Brazilian Emperor of the time and helped him implement the telephone system all around the city.
    Rio also had underground gas lines to illuminate the city way before electricity was even available in a large scale in other cities around the world.
    The city had beautiful palaces, churches, Theaters, The Opera House, Libraries, you name it.
    Later into the last century the city was wealthy due to the fact that it was the capital of Brazil and had a strong industrial base plus a very important port.
    Rio has always had a bustling commerce that always kept the city lively and wealthy.
    When Sao Paulo was still a small provincial village, Rio was already wealthy, clean and well developed.
    Later around the 1940's, they had another wave of huge growth with the Casinos, lot's a luxury hotels and wealthy tourists from around the world.
    The city had a bad sequence of 3 decades where the Federal government was in opposite political parties with the local state and city government plus the city lost the status as Brazil's capital when Brasilia was built in the 1960's and that kept Rio lagging behind in many aspects, including many sectors of infra-structure in the outskirts areas of the city.
    It didn't help that many poor Brazilians from the North flooded the city in hopes of a better life and started building favelas on the hills when the city was more vulnerable financially and just couldn't control the flood of incoming desperate Brazilians from the Northeast.
    The Drug trade found a perfect nesting ground in the favelas where they could hide among civilians and profit from the Drug trade.
    Now the city is aligned politically with Brasilia, both state and city gov., Rio is getting a lot of support plus the Oil discoveries are a big help and the Olympics and Soccer World Cup are another good push.
    I believe Rio will be better than ever years after the entire Olympic Games and World Cup hype have gone away.
    The Expats moving into Rio, sorry, you won't change the city much, the city will change you...for the better, in my opinion!!!
    I also think the expats have a lot of good things to bring to Rio, the city will be even more cosmopolitan, but it will never loose it's charm, I think it's charm can only be enhanced.


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  9. Thanks for the post, Rachel. I asked you this question because this is kind of how I felt, but since I only visit Rio every couple of years, I thought my feeling might not be shared by the permanent residents. We all agree that infrastructures, safety and leaner policies ( the infamous and ubiquitous "processo") are a step forward, I just hope that the magical spirit of this city doesn't get lost in this smartenin' up. I love Rio's colonial remains, its slightly bohemian feeling, I love the illegal guys at the parkings, the street fairs, the delicious snacks that are a hazard to health and safety. I love it because of the freedom and sense of community that this colourful noise brings reminds me of an Italy that has desappeared (believe it or not, Gritty!) and the sense of being at ease which we all lost.

    Note to Gritty: I am Italian and while yor comments kinda hurt me personally, I am relieved to see that I wasn't the only one to find your comment sounded v. stereotypical and, sorry, slightly ignorant. I cannot speak for Spain and Portugal, but if you travel accross Italy, from the very top of the Alps to the tip of the hill of the boot you will me amazed at the variety of its people, its dialects, its culinary and culturally traditions. Which by the way have influeced, together with other the Mediterranean countries, Brazil and Rio. All kinds of them, not only the noisy, mandolino playing, tomatoe sauce eaters that you might have seen somewhere on TV. Sorry if you missed that part of history, maybe you got distracted a bit.

  10. hi Adriana

    "the illegal guys at the parkings" are like a mafia , if u dont give them money they could scratch your car!!!

    "the delicious snacks that are a hazard to health and safety" to be honest they aren't dirtier than most restaurants anyway ( or maybe even cleaner ?)....even some 5* restaurants kitchen are dirty :(

  11. This was one of the most interesting posts on this blog, I liked seeing the different points of view. I liked it that Rachel wrote:

    " What makes this city unique is the impromptu band that plays music on Saturday evenings in the plaza as people with styrofoam boxes of ice and beer sell to the people watching."

    This really is the face of Brazil, and reminded me of James Monroe's speech, which defended the "America for Americans", Rachel made ​​me think how it would be nice if here it kept a "Brazil for Brazilians," but of course, always foreigners by tapping the local culture in a positive way.


  12. Plugadao,

    The "Monroe Deal" policies did not meant "America for Americans" as in the United States, but America for Americans meaning also for Brazilians, Mexicans, Argentinians etc, all countries in the Americas, opposed to America for the Portuguese, the Spanish and the British like it had been in the past.
    It was a deal among American countries to keep united and defend ourselves against tyranny from European powers of the time.


  13. My bad, I ll refrase: I love not having to drive around in circles to find a designated parking spot(which is hardly ever free anyway)...

  14. Well it looks like I have finally earned my Good Will Ambassador credentials.

    Anyway people this post raised the question of possible impacts of a steady stream of foreigners on the city of Rio de Janeiro. Some said they don't welcome this because the city would lose some character and quirks and become more expensive while not really gaining anything beneficial (better public works, improved public schools, hospitals etc). I merely stated that some of the quirks are actually detrimental and a different outlook on many issues and possible solutions from outsiders could be positive. I also said that for influence to be exerted by any group of people a certain number of them is required (power in numbers) and they would have to be long term or permanent residents so to have a lasting impact. I then stated the kind of MINDSET I think said group should have to best address THE FLAWS I FEEL HURT RIO concluding that an American and/or Northern European one would be best suited. I don't see how this could be seen as racist since I am merely arguing that what is lacking for Rio are things best carried out in these societies as oppossed to the ones of other large expat groups in Rio and Brazil (Italians, Spanish Portuguese, French).
    What is the big deal here? Why do people read things into this that don´t apply, to the point of mentioning skin color? It is absurd.
    I honestly ask those who have commented if they have experienced life and/or dealt with (buisiness, getting things done, work environment, etc) with the societies whose modus operandi I argued would be suitable in alleviating Rio´s maladies and those which I argued would not. If so if they honestly think that I am wrong in saying that Rio or Brazil would be better served by being influenced and then leaning towards say a more Swiss way of doing things as oppossed to a Spanish one?
    I think many of the reactions to this argumentation so far have been much ado over nothing, nothing that pertains to the point being made that is.

  15. what a lotta crap Gritty you wrote : Of course when I refer to this positive Gringolisation I mean Americans and Northern Europeans and not Italians, Spanish, Portuguese or French which would probably worsen Rio's flaws.

    FYI: According to the World Health Organization France has the best health care system in the world. Italy comes in second. Spain is #7 and Portugal is #12. So I guess they should copy Italians, Spanish, Portuguese or French health system :)

  16. Gritty,

    With all the respect, you must have skipped some History and or Geography in school and must have watched a crap load of Nazi Germany movies about the superior races of Northern Europe. Just as a FYI, Germany lost the war, the NAZIS got their asses kicked big time, they were as wrong as you are, not to mention they got their butts kicked largely in part by the USA, a people who is nothing like Northern European and who couldn't disagree more with what you are trying to explain. Americans are nothing like Northern European, US is a big melting pot of people from all over, heavy Portuguese and Italian in California, New England and the Northeast, French in Louisiana, Germans in Pennsylvania, African Americans and Native Americans all over, you just can't make a statement that Americans are alike Northern European and so forth they are superior, that is plain wrong, that is Nazi era mentality and yes, that is very racist and narrow minded.
    Not to mention, different regions of the world are developed in different time periods, depending on their Historical and Geographical advantages or disadvantages.
    Romans and Greeks for example were way more superior than Northern European in a certain period of time. Romans and Greeks had sophisticated societies with a Law system that is followed and used up to this day in many modern societies while Northern Europeans were living in primitive huts and eating berries, hanging on for survivor, they were called "Barbarians" for a reason.
    You probably skipped that part of History, but you must have Google to help you catch up.
    So, again, you are so wrong is not even funny.
    Wrong and racist, and you seem to be the only one who can't see that.


  17. wow. I didn't know people still made those comments out load.

  18. @ Anom

    Concerning corruption see how countries score below.

    Human Development Index

    Average Earning per Inhabitant (Gdp per Capita)

    Patents Granted per Nation.

    Above are the measurements for things that I think are Brazil´s and Rio´s biggest chalenges. They are

    1. Corruption
    2. Human Development
    3. Disposable Capital per Inhabitant
    4. Inovation

    Notice how the societies I mentioned as being positive influences outperform the others in all charts with one exception: France fares well in inovation.

  19. @ Ray

    The subject of the post is the influence of gringolisation over Rio. Please remember that.
    I said that Americans and Nothern Europeans are the correct influences for Rio´s current ailments.
    You went off on a rant that just doesn´t pertain to what was written and hence arrive at conclusions that are, well, silly. Some of it though may help bring clarity to this thread.

    You wrote:

    "Not to mention, different regions of the world are developed in different time periods,"

    You then went on to say:

    "Romans and Greeks for example were way more superior than Northern European in a certain period of time. Romans and Greeks had sophisticated societies with a Law system that is followed and used up to this day in many modern societies while Northern Europeans were living in primitive huts and eating berries,"

    I agree and if you stick to the topic of discussion: the effects of gringolisation TODAY over Rio´s CURRENT state to then observe who does well with dealing with these issues then you would notice that in the present the societies I mentioned are the most effective in solving these problems and creating prosperity. Perhaps if you paid attention to what is actually written rather than what YOU INFER is being said then you could avoid going around and slandering others by calling them this or that, in this case racist.

    I´m sorry if I come across a bit agressive in this message but you are, I repeat, slandering me.

    I think this could help you. Why not, in good spirit, see what the book is about and perhaps study it.

  20. Gritty: I appreciate your point of view that the regulations of commerce like the U.S. might improve the condition of Rio. However, I emphatically propose that the current conditions in Rio give Rio its unique "flavor" that is a main component to its nature. If Rio adopts the restrictive commercial restraints which you propose, the results would be to just create a country that is like the US. - not a good thing. I mean, if you want the regulations and restrictions of the U.S. - go live in the U.S.

    I find the open and unrestrictive commercial climate of Rio refreshing. If a vendor sells an inferior product, the consumers will no longer buy from them. It is a realistic free market economy - much more than the U.S.

    Government regulation is what kills a market sector. Look at any industry in the U.S. that is regulated vs. the tech industry (unregulated) - which has grown the fastest?

    I love the Brazilian free market with all the street vendors selling their snacks or little doo-dads in an unregulated fashion. It is a free market advocate's dream.

  21. greg-
    brasil is not a free market. how much does a toyota corrola cost in brasil? how much does an ihpone cost? how much does anything imported cost? the answer is about twice as much as in the US because the brasilian government throws a nasty tax on imports to promote domestic goods. that is NOT free market.

  22. @ Greg

    I love the free market as well. I don't want to lose it so I ask myself questions like how Tapioca, Açai and Caldo de Cana can continue to thrive on the streets without the risk of Chagas Disease for example. I actually had an acquantance that died from this disease last year. The challenge seems to be how to regulate only what really needs scrutiny and so keep permits affordable and entrepeneurship strong. The problem is that the state always seems to want to line their pockets with these fees and strangle the informal sector in the same fashion they do the those who follow the rules.
    Anyway as much as I find economics fascinating I am not specialised in the field so perhaps you could help with a doubt: I have observed that black market merchandise while cheaper than what is sold in proper stores is still more expensive than the price in the U.S. so could it be argued that these highly taxed items in proper stores actually become a kind of price reference for the items sold in the rest of the economy? If this is the case then wouldn't across the board tax relief be the only solution to make these items affordable for most of the Brazilian population?

  23. Everything got quite political so I stayed out of it but I must say that things are already changing. Beers in the plaza got a bit more complicated when we had to go find the beer lady hiding behind the truck so she wouldn't get shit from the police. Obviously we didn't help things because we went and found her and bought anyway ;)

    You can inform health services. I know of many cases of that happening and places being closed until they improve their cleanliness. Of course, how long it lasts...

  24. Greg,

    I really like your argument, I am with you.


    I am trying to be as respectfull as possible when trying to understand the absurd and arrogant argument you are trying to make.
    Sorry, no matter how you try to sugar coated, your argument is indeed racist and arrogant to the extreme, and judging by the several comments that are strongly against your arguments, my opinion is not alone.


  25. Exactly Rachel, how long it lasts... I've seen noticable improvements with Cabral and Paes and the current political allignments(things are much different than what went on during the Rosinha & Garotinho terms)...from lei seca, to towing cars parked illegally, to trying to deal with the crack problem, UPPs, attracting international investments, improving roads and signage, designated bus lanes and natural gas buses, the Olympics, regulating the barracas at the beach, regulating farmacias, seat belt laws/car seat laws, vast improvements...but they don't always stick. I haven't seen the tow trucks for a while now, I can go to the pharmacy with an expired prescription and can get the medication because no one checks the dates, I can buy an agua de coco fresh on the beach (and queijo coalho, shrimp...) there are changes, but it's still Rio, it's still Brasil. Maybe more international than other parts of Brasil, but it's still Rio. My husband always says..."just wait 6 months..." and he's often right. But bottom line, it's better than it was 7 years ago in terms of being more organized, cleaner and safer. It's never gonna be the U.S., I'm really not worried about that.

  26. hi Rachel and Stephanie... is there a law prohibiting vendors of selling coconut water? I am not being ironic or judgmental , just asking really.

    I think a lot of things have changed and will change for the world cup , olympics , oil discover. The government is corrupted but at least is doing a little bit of the needed infrastructure and social reforms.

    Also Eike Batista is doing a lot for the city: depolluting the lagoon , remodelling hotels and buildings , building an art museum / center , etc.

  27. A year or so ago they prohibited the sale of fresh aqua de coco, in the shell, hacked in front of you, I'm not sure if it was hygiene or if it was due to litter on the beach...but it only lasted a few months. These new laws/restrictions usually are serious in the beginning but taper off to some degree. Last spring/summer, many of the barracas that conformed to new position rules and standards were harrassed because they were like 3 meters off of where the barraca should have been placed, like they were measuring with rulers. I saw this hassle many times...but after a few months, no issue. Maybe it's just going to be a high summer thing...but the coconuts are back, and all of the vendors, it's business as usual, as I think it always will be, they crack down and then all is forgotten for some time. And Anon, you're right, Eike has bought up a ton of real estate here, I think nearly all of beachfront Gloria for starters...and supports the Lagoa, which unfortunately, last time I was there was filled with dead fish...but sometimes these occurances are natural. Anyone who is older school will remember Help...that will someday soon be a Museum of Sound and Tech...remember when it was the magnet prositute club? It's still a vacant lot but recently it looks like they are actually doing something. I think the biggest improvement for Rio is going to be the expansion of the metro, to Barra and beyond...that's going to be huge. To end, things are changing, whether or permanent or not, mostly good and maybe raising the bar of the consciouness of the general public. Expect more, you pay for it.

  28. Did some research on the whole açai associated with Chagas Disease topic. Found this. Good thing to read I think.,acai-mal-lavado-mesmo-congelado-pode-transmitir-doenca-de-chagas,550481,0.htm

  29. "Expect more, you pay for it."

    Stephanie nailed it on the head. I'm willing to put up with some third world stuff (violence, street vendors etc) as long as I am paying third world prices. Back in 2002 I went to town on Rio with the real at 4:1 and prices the same or cheaper nominally as in the US. As cheap as Rio was then the pendulum has now overshot by as much or more to the other side. if I could sell short Rio I would. I just cant believe how fast it happened...

  30. Flanelhinha and sense of community in the same sentence, really?!!! That made me laugh for a good half hour.
    Does too much civilization and organization makes everything boring?
    Can't tell, my city is not that organized and my citizens can't be quite described as civilized (drive a car around here and the jungle will never scare you again, promise, we have the wildest, fearless animals on wheels ever!).
    But, boy, do we have fun!!! It's never a boring day when you're in a carioca day.
    So I can only hope we get the good influence (hint-driving like humans) and keep the good intact.