The first time I was robbed I was about 10 years old. My younger brother and I were about two blocks from home, walking to a store to buy bread and milk. From then on, I was robbed many more times, at all possible situations: at day and night, waiting for the bus, inside the bus, at work (with a gun pointed to my head), etc. Sometimes I reacted and got to escape; other times I was not that lucky and got hurt; but most of the times I was overwhelmed by the situation and had no option but to give out whatever I had on me, and go on with my life.
Many people assume I left Brazil because of monetary reasons. That is not true. Some of the people who I worked with and that still live there are successful today, and when accounting for differences in currency rates, they make as much money as I do here.
The biggest reason that made me leave was the chaos.
When I tell these stories about what I went through some people say I had back luck. “I’ve been living here for years and I’ve never been robbed!”
Well, first I would say that I actually consider myself lucky considering the number of people who die in that country due to all sorts of violence. Second, the reason I went through all of that might be because I was in possibly the worst position to be in Brazil in regards to violence: the real middle class. I was not poor enough to live in the slums, and therefore was not “part of the community”, but not rich enough to live in a gated condominium and have someone driving me anywhere I needed.
Another fact that did not help was the color of my skin. The perpetrators (“favela” kids) clearly targeted us. They even said so to our faces. We looked like the kids who were rich (“german” as they say) and it really didn’t matter to them if we did not actually have much money. Other kids from the exact same neighborhood in similar economic situation that had darker skin suffered much less. “Reverse” racism at its best.
For the Marxist aficionados you can say that I was a real cross fire casualty of the “class warfare”. To people like me who don’t believe in this crap, you can say that I was just another collateral of the incredibly corrupt and incompetent Brazilian system.
Of course that was just one aspect of the chaos. The government stole (there is no other word) my father’s life savings exactly one month after he lost his job. They returned it a few years later, its actual value cut in half. Also around that time, my mother got sick and it took the government more than 6 months to start paying the disability money. You can imagine if they adjusted the money for inflation or not.
Some forget about these things and stay there. People who could actually leave at any moment, but think the weather, soccer and girls in bikinis are reason enough to compromise. Not me. I had to leave and as soon as possible. The US was a dream but had that not worked out I would have gone anywhere. I don’t think I could have survived much longer living that way.
So you can see that I only left Brazil because, really, Brazil had left me long before.