Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Another one of my neighbors met his untimely demise early this morning.

They called him Cabeção, which means 'big head.' I knew him well, or should say knew of him well, because the apartment where he lived is directly across from our bedroom window. He used to spend hours in his window, as well as on the street in front of our house, talking loudly in his unusually deep voice. At one point he became obsessed with Pavarotti, and extremely loud opera got mixed into the musical soup that is otherwise dominated by Bahian Pagode and Seresta. I've never been a big fan of opera, but it was a welcome break from the tedium.

Cabeção always ignored me when I'd pass him on the street, until quite recently, when he started to acknowledge me. I don't know why, and now I never will. We are friendly with his mother, who once bought a stuffed bunny for Lucas, and one of his sisters, who came to Evani's last caruru. They're all a bit odd and his mother has admitted as much to Evani. There were rumors that he was a pedophile, and rumors he was using drugs. Beyond that I know nothing about him.

According to my neighbor Mario, last night Cabeção was drinking at a bar a few streets over from ours. At some point in the early morning, something happened, and he was beaten to death. I don't know any details. As is the custom here, he has already been buried.

Whenever something like this happens, conversation inevitably turns to stories of other violent deaths- the news is full of them. "We are like birds," Evani said today, apparently in reference to the fragility of our lives. Then she recounted a road rage incident that happened the other day here in Salvador where one guy followed another into a gas station and killed him because of something that happened in traffic. I interrupted the conversation at one point to say that eventually it's going to reach the point where I'm going to say enough is enough. What is so great about this place that I should live here in fear of my life, or the lives of the ones I love? There are plenty of great and beautiful places on this planet where you don't need to fear random and deadly violence on a daily basis. She replied that what is so great about Salvador (jokingly) is that she is here. I replied that she is also portable, and can be relocated to a less dangerous locale.

Personally, I don't think she'd ever move. But I left behind everything that was familiar to me to live here, and at some point I will have to decide if it's still worth it.


Corinne said...

the deaths you decribe in your neighborhood don´t seem random, which is similar to what I would here about people killed in the favela, things like "he was already blacklisted" or "he asked for it". That type of violence is less worrisome than the road rage you describe or latrocínio. Wherever we are, we want to feel safe, and in your neighborhood you are constantly reminded that you are not. Could you live elsewhere in Salvador? People make a big deal about the violence in Rio (and hey, I study violence for a living, so I am not saying there is none), but most places are not "war zones".

I totally hear you about making sacrifices. If our partners have never lived in another country, they really have no idea what it is like for us. I moved my husband from Rio to Belo Horizonte and I will never hear the end of it, and he is not dealing with a new language or culture (well, sort of).

michelle said...

I can hear how you are struggling and I imagine that, even if your family is not in direct danger, you worry about what kind of effect being so close to all of this will have on your sons. Like the previous commenter, I wonder if you could move elsewhere in Salvador...or if living in the US for part of the year and Brazil for the other part could ever be an option? (My parents know a few Brazilian Ex-pats who do this, especially to dodge new-england winters...)
We're thinking of you guys. Take care!

.polyana. said...

hi! i just stumbled across your blog and found this post interesting and i've just recently moved to brazil from new england myself - the difference is, i'm brazilian... which i guess is a biggie, huh? i left my entire family (i.e., my parents and brother) and all of my friends to move to são paulo earlier this year and have often asked myself the same question... the numbers of times i ask myself if it's "worth it" though have begun to fade, however. i think for the most part, it's because i haven't faced some of the struggles i had imagined when i first came, but mostly because i have weighed the good things i have encountered and the wonderful experiences and adventures i've had that i could never dream of having in the u.s... simply BECAUSE it's brazil. anyway - that's my advice. think of the good and see if it outweighs the bad (granted violence has a bigger weight than a lot of things, but still!).

hope this helps and be safe!


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