Next to the live feed cameras for BigBrotherBrasil, a lame reality show that is all the rage, every night, you can also watch Falcão: Meninos de Tráfico. Too bad there aren't English subtitles. Not yet. This was one of the times I wished I had a television set, because everyone, and I mean everyone, was talking about how good this documentary was. But it will come out on DVD, eventually.
I forget you guys don't speak Portuguese. The documentary is about kids involved in the drug business. "Falcão" is a slang that refers to the kids, from what I'm hearing on the soundtrack...they're predatory birds that don't sleep at night...and a direct translation goes something like "Big Bird." Ironic.
(It's harder than I thought to pay attention to the feed in Portuguese and type in English...sometimes I'm amazed at how NOT a superwoman I am.)
Last night I hit a new low: I saw my first bandito that I knew from pre-criminal days. He can't be more than fifteen, a sweet faced youth named Nando. I have, obviously, changed the name to protect his privacy and my skin in case any dealers:
a. read English
b. read English-language blogs
c. find this site!
He was out on the streets last night, learning to handle a motorcycle, his speed slow and wobbly, like a kid on a tricycle. It’s sad. A year ago, he was a curious card playing neighbor who asked a million and one questions. Today he’s part of the mafia. Today he’s a contributing part of a social scheme that will keep his children and their children in perpetual poverty and violence, in spite of what he might think with his new steady income, nice clothes, motorcycle, and attempts at gangster attitude. Learning the ropes around here will eventually get you killed...and he doesn’t strike me as the kind who is in it for the short haul. There are people who get involved just long enough to make enough money to leave, to buy a place out of the favela, get a nice, middle-class existence going. It’s the only way you’re going to get out, to be quite frank. The scales are tilted against the young, the poor, the black. But it’s like prostitution. The people who start and leave while still young and healthy and without serious problems are the minority. Famous, perhaps, and used as recruitment examples, but the minority.
But I can see the attraction.
Play with guns, earn a good salary, have lots of women and nice clothes *or* work long, hot hours hauling bricks or fixing sewers or sweeping trash, make a pittance salary that barely pays the rent, never have mad money, and never see an option out because you couldn't even finish high school, let alone think about college when you started working at 15...
Brazil has to come up with something that's more appealing than the video game shoot-em-up lifestyle. And they've got to do something about their police. The SUV that drove by with a gun hanging out the window today actually caused me to turn around on the bus and stare; I have never in my life seen a gun that large. You could have put a grapefruit in the barrel. I was glad I went home the back way and avoided even the thought of running into them. The afternoon shootout was unpleasantly loud...though right on time...
I'm beginning to figure out what area of Manguinhos the shots are coming from, just from the sound. Is this unnerving to anyone else? And just a little bit cool? It's like, "Hey look, I live in a war zone and we don't have to interrupt dinner to hide, because those shots you hear are a good three hundred feet away!"