Lessons from Brazil – Cornering the Market


I live near a semi-main street in my neighborhood which is also near the foot of a favela. The corner where these two facts meet up is the most active street corner I’ve ever seen. Going out at any time of day, there are at least 40 people on the corner and an estimated 150 in the near vicinity. The only time this isn’t so is after midnight when the local dealers come out to sell their wares (“blow”) to their prefered customers (taxi drivers and “playboys”). What’s crazy to me is I’ve left the house at 6AM on a weekday and 7AM on a Sunday and there are still 40-or-so people chatting up a storm. Not to make a socio-economic judgement, but the corner is effectively their Facebook. The drunks, the dealers, the vendors and the passersby spend hours there “shooting the breeze”.

There’s the corner bar, the next-to-the-corner corner bar, the bakery/overpriced market, the supermarket, the pharmacy, the pet shop, the barber, the salon, the movie rental place, the other salon, and a few other things. When considering what businesses surround the oh-so-famous corner, it’s little surprise that people would pass by there (…I just never thought so many would stay and hang out!).


I’ve lived in and/or near poor areas in the States and while such corners do attract locals, the most I’ve ever seen together might be 5 people at one time. Considering the fact that 95% of the people on this particular corner here in Brazil aren’t drinking alcohol, I can’t really compare it to a US bar scene…so I’ll return to the Facebook analogy. The only place I see people wasting so much time twiddling their thumbs in the US is on Facebook. One difference being there’s no vanity on the corner while FB is full of people trying to compete to be the most interesting. While we navel-gaze, the corner-dwellers are actually socializing. Frankly, I don’t understand either but perhaps that’s just because I’m not normal.

As you can see, both places have their market cornered. And yes, I realize my comparison could be considered apples and oranges but it’s what I came up with on the spot.


4 thoughts on “Lessons from Brazil – Cornering the Market

  1. I wonder if you gave all of those people a mobile device or computer of some sort for a month if the patterns would change. I think its unfortunate how mobile addicted we have become, its nice to see a busy social gathering like that. Even though I imagine there is still some vanity about it, it just isn’t quite so obvious.

    • I think the word “social” has been misused by Americans because since when did social mean “being alone while interacting with a computer screen”? With it being said that over 90% of all communication is non-verbal, it seems we lose out by being social online. While I think anyone can be conditioned to do anything, favela residents might just be the “hold out”, for lack of a better term, against getting social online. Being social in real life is highly prized here and in a sense it is very much tied to the part of Brazilian culture that says “it’s not what you know but who you know that counts”. I guess you could say socialness is a currency here. In any event, the trickle down effect will make iPhones and such cheap here at some point and everyone will have one.

      I once had a smarterphone, not a dumb phone, not a smartphone but somewhere in the middle. That’s about as far as I want to go. I don’t want to be one of those people glued to their phone for every reason except actually calling people. Technology scares me as much as it has me in awe.

  2. Pingback: Between Two Favelas | Eyes On Brazil

  3. Pingback: Between Two Favelas | Adam Arch

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