Monday, August 11, 2008

The Most Obnoxious Time of the Year

My poor blog. It's getting neglected again. And things have been happening- I've printed t-shirts and new stickers, sent stickers to international sticker events, tried to give away the hamster, and more! I started this post weeks ago and only now got around to finishing it.

These are dark days for Graffiteiros.

Thousands of dollars of top-quality imported spray paint is disappearing beneath thin layers of cheapo latex paint, almost entirely in broad swaths of red, white, and blue. Twenty foot banners with letters up to four feet high are destroying dozens of wildstyles, characters, and burners: 'trampos,' 'personagems,' and 'letras' as they are known here. The intended lifespan of these hideous monstrosities? Three months.

What is this horrible plague, leading to the insane destruction of the city’s public artworks?

It’s called an ELECTION.

Aside from the premature demise of too many fine street paintings, election time is quite unpleasant here in Salvador. Worse than the drab ubiquitous names of the candidates everywhere you turn are the dozens of cars with large speakers strapped to their roofs, blasting political jingles to further inundate us with candidate’s names, parties, and numbers. A friend of ours, visiting from Brazilia, saw one of these mobile aural advertisements and said they are prohibited in Brazilia, presumably a public nuisance. Man do I wish that was the case here as well.

The other thing that happens, which is not all bad, is a pre-election surge in public works in an attempt to save the incumbent's asses. This is completely transparently re-election-ly motivated, as everyone knows it and says so. Work on the Metro, stalled for months, has suddenly picked up again, and this year lots of drainage canals along principal routes through the city are being enlarged. Lots of the principal roads are getting repaved, which they needed desperately. This work will stop immediately after the election.

An amusing joke made the rounds by email a while ago- I found a version here, using our esteemed president Lula as the subject- if you speak Portuguese, have a look.

A politician dies and Saint Peter tells him that, being the first politician to be granted entry into Heaven, he is going to be given the choice of going to Heaven or Hell. He’ll have a day to spend in each place and afterwards he can decide where he will spend the rest of eternity.

First he goes to Hell, where he is met by all his old earthly politician buddies, who are having a big barbecue. They all have a fantastic time eating and drinking and swimming in the pool and doing all that stuff that politicians love to do.

Heaven is nice enough but kind of bland. Harps, clouds, Angels, peace and quiet.

When the guy gets back to St. Peter, not surprisingly he chooses Hell over Heaven.

When he gets back to Hell, the pool is gone, as is the barbecue and all the rest. In their place are the conventional fires, chains, and eternal torment.

“What happened??” he asks Satan.

Satan replies: “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today we got elected.”

Last election I witnessed a couple ‘amusing’ things. One was one of these local politicians who’s name is literally everywhere in parts of the city at election time make a visit to Evani’s family’s neighborhood in Paripe. He came in, shook some hands, shot the shit, and the only thing I remember him saying was that it was time to get the folks there a neighborhood football (soccer) team. This was met with some fanfare from the people who were gathered around. Do they have the football team today? Do you need to ask? Did he say anything about jobs, or clean water, or laying sewage lines, or housing, or food or anything?? No, of course he didn’t. Is he still in office? Of course he is. Will he be voted out this year? Of course he won’t.

The other thing they did that year for her neighborhood was what they call a cala boca, which translates as ‘shut your mouth.’ The idea is that the local government makes an improvement to get the people to stop complaining. As you can see from it’s popular name, it is recognized for what it is and treated cynically. They came in and laid down a thin layer of asphalt over the broken and twisted dirt road that leads into the neighborhood, doing nothing to prepare the surface beforehand, and sticking in three or four steep speed bumps as they went. Predictably, this cala boca is mostly destroyed now.

I've been following the American election pretty closely from afar (closely from afar?), and I suppose I've gotten a bit more cynical as a result of watching the mess they make of it here. I like Obama, I like him alot, but anyone who can run for national office and have a shot at the presidency is not the warm, fuzzy (or stern and Presidential) he or she tries to come off as on TV. There's a lot more going on there, and it ain't all pretty.

I actually heard a PSA on the only radio station worth listening to here a couple days ago that really surprised me- it said, in very plain terms, that you have to use your vote carefully because if you elect a corrupt politician then everyone suffers as a result.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the end of the election, when we'll have a bunch of new and or old morons running the show, and all this cheap political paint gets whitewashed again- presenting many thousands of square feet of blank canvas for the graffiteiros.

Myself included.


Pedra said...

I guess one good thing is that the last time I rode by your snakes piece by the medical school, it was still there! Of course that could have changed as there are all sorts of election signs up all around it, but here´s hoping it will survive. I hate the ugly election signs and miss the creative beauty that is hiding underneath.

markuza said...

Yeah, I hesitate to say this, to not jinx myself, but that piece and my other existing big piece have still not been victimized- lucky me! I think it's only a matter of time. All the others are dropping like flies.