“Were the FIFA games good or bad for Brazil?” The question was asked of me because my wife Doris and I had spent 10 years there. So I answered, “Both! Yes and no. Yes for 500,000 tourist came to the city of Sao Paulo leaving one billion in cash. The same happened in many other major cities across the country.
No, because an estimated 40 billion was spent on infrastructure–mostly arenas. The new one in Itaquera, Sao Paulo seats 46 thousands with temporary seats making up 75,000. Imagine the cost all across the country for new arenas. The “no” is the reason for the riots in Sao Paulo streets. The poor who live crowded onto the steep hillsides often suffer with lack of water mains, electricty and a sewage system. Surely this vast amount of money was not well spent.
Here’s a story that I experienced that says it all. Emilia took me to a slum in Sao Paulo named the Hill of Springs. Emilia knew the area for she heads up a program called “International Child Care,” and she wanted me to see the homes and people they were helping. On the way she stopped at a grocery store and filled the trunk of her vehicle with food. I kept wondering, “Why now?” I learned that food was her own contribution to a family verging on starvation. What a wonderful caring woman. After unloading the groceries she guided me down a steep dirt hill that at one time had steps cut into the red earth. The worn steps were little help for they turned to mud with a recent rain.
At the bottom we carefully–very carefully crossed a stinking creek doing our best not to slip off stones into what looked like sewage. We visited a couple of poor shacks where children received help. We knew that as a result of ICC they attended school with the necessary books and uniforms. Then on the way back I saw something I had never seen before. I heard the excitement before I saw them; boys were sliding down a smooth area of the muddy hill using bits of cardboard to keep them out of the mud. Still every boy had gobs mud dabbed on what little clothing they wore. Although there was tumbles and accidents yet they avoided falling into the creek at the bottom of the hill.
I’ll never forget the laughter of that scene nor the sorrow I felt knowing they had no other place to play but in the mud. That picture stayed in my mind till I wrote up a manuscript with the title of a common saying from the slums: “A Stray Bullet Has No Address.” However I doubt I shall ever publish the story.
When about 20% of Brazilians live in these sub-standard conditions, you may well guess that I’ll have lots of posts that tell of the lives of these people–these Brazilians who became our friends and family.