Viagem Brazil: Experiencing the World Cup from the other side of the divide
Women wear high heels and low-cut blouses and carry iPhones and Chanel purses. They reapply lipstick every few minutes, in between cheers. Men sport Jordan sneakers and Tag watches and designer jeans. They love the bro-hug, love the bullhorn. They are loud. So many sunglasses rest on the tables it seems like they’re having a sale, but really, obviously, it’s just dark.
It’s Monday. Brazil is deep into the second half of it’s final group stage World Cup contest, and after months of protests and outrage, especially here in Sao Paulo, it can be tempting to think of the host country as a place of favelas and poverty and widespread unrest. But not here. And definitely not in this neighborhood on Monday night.
The revelry started in the afternoon, in the neighborhood of Vila Madalena, on streets filled with art galleries and gastropubs, a neighborhood closer to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, than the Brazil in the brochures.
“At first, I was a bit scared,” Aramayo said of the World Cup. I was thinking people might paint an ugly face of Brazil. But once the ball gets rolling, everyone gets united and supports Brazil forever.”
He wanted to embrace the World Cup. He had been. He took us upstairs, into the motorcycle shop, the space filled with custom art and drums and several guitars and Harley Davidsons that date back to 1938. This was not the side of Brazil that comes up in the protests. This was the side of Brazil complete with flat-screen televisions, leather couches and pool tables. “I fear that Brazil will win the World Cup,” Diniz said. “If that happens, nothing will change.”
“I know people,” he continued, “that hope that Brazil will lose. If they win, everyone will forget everything that happened beforehand.”
The game drew closer. Brazilians, many clad in those ever-present No. 10 Neymar jerseys, snacked on salmon and huevos rancheros. They sipped white wine on ice. Women walked the streets in bedazzled green-and-yellow tank tops, or sipped champagne under Veuve Clicquot umbrellas. Men wore suit jackets, their hair clicked back. Condominiums towered in the background, dominating the skyline.
The streets were so packed the faithful could hardly move. It felt like Carnival, or what Carnival is said to feel like. Money was no object. A woman held up a beer can and a middle finger and some bills for a picture. Three men in the background cheered here on.
Those fans cheered the goal Brazil scored, jeered the one it allowed and stomped and screamed at each shot that went near the net. Goulart seemed particularly concerned about the goalkeeper – “when the ball goes near him, we get scared,” she said – and the locals seemed to think that Brazil, while it advanced to the knockout round, had not yet looked all that impressive.
That was how it went. The locals lamented. And then they did the wave.
As the second half continued, those who filled Che Barbaro tried to banish such concerns. They ordered more drinks, cheered louder, as Brazil took a commanding 4-1 lead. Here, no one mentioned the protests or what kind of impact the World Cup might have in the long term. Here, they just celebrated soccer and the World Cup and all the possibility that remained.
This is the fifteenth piece in a series throughout the opening weeks of the World Cup in which SI senior writer Greg Bishop and photographer Simon Bruty chronicle their travel to offer a taste of the cultural side of Brazil.