Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sundays Bloody Sundays

I have seen muggings before, both at home and in South America, but the first time that I saw an armed mugging was one of the most frightening.

The Pelourinho on a Sunday morning
Salvador's streets on Sundays are certainly solitary. The air on this particular day was thick and muggy which is typical of north-east Brazil during the mid-year rainy season. The beach seemed like a good option for us, because of the hot weather. There were people around the Pelourinho - the old city and main tourist district - but none of the usual brigade of extravagant locals. It was, mostly, just us gringos.

 The bus stop had a few other tourists there waiting already. A big family of Japanese tourists had all their bags and their cameras out. A man came seemingly out of nowhere and ripped the hand bag off one of the tourists. When he was approached by one of the men he pulled out a knife. Well, it was more of a prison shank than anything else. A sharpened piece of triangular plastic, maybe even a broken piece of glass or a shard of metal. A beer vendor threw a can of beer at the junkie's head which narrowly missed while the thief waved his knife around and thrust it into mid-air so that no one would approach him. He looked fairly competent with the knife, though the scars on his bare torso indicated that he had lost a few knife fights in his time. His look was fierce. Wide-eyes, glowing white it was stunningly terrifying. The junkie sprinted down the street in broad daylight, to the slum areas of Salvador surrounding the Pelourinho.

The beach: we finally made it
It seemed that even the police went to church on Sunday as none of the dozens of heavily armed officers from the previous few days could be seen anywhere. It was shocking that there were none around, given that we were in the main tourist district of Brazil's third largest city during the World Cup.

Ironically, the godly hours of Sunday morning created the perfect conditions for sin and crime outside of the church.

"Gringo, gringo! Onje vai?", yells a cabbie. "Come with me, 20 Reias."

We got straight in the taxi. We didn't even bother bartering.


  1. Ooh, a chilling story narrated so well. I'm moving to Brazil in May and will remember your cautionary tale. Salvador sounds really charming by the way, Sunday muggers notwithstanding.

    1. You're right, Salvador is an incredible place. I think it's just a bit sketchy on Sundays like everywhere seems to be in South America.

      Good luck with the move - Brazil is amazing.