Security: it's the topic of political speeches in both South and North America, and also the name of a great Otis Redding song.
I'm spending this week in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and so far have seen and heard three curious instances of folks seeking security:
1) The Cop-Killing Police Brutality protestors
The big news story last night was a police brutality scandal. The news channel had obtained raw video footage of five policemen rounding up a man in his suburban home (in Sao Paolo, the outer, poorer areas are referred to as the suburbs), prentending to put him in a police car, and then shooting him at point blank range.
The police then drove to the hospital, and dropped the dead man off.
This is a weird story of security: the footage wasn't taken by a journalist, it was taken by a witness and leaked to the press. This video shows a new chapter of the war between the police and the PCC, a criminal organization that calls themselves Primeiro Comando da Capital (the Capital's First Command). They've declared war against the Sao Paulo's police from inside Brazil's prisons. This year alone, they have killed almost a hundred police officers, many of them being executed on their free time, mostly at dawn.
Ironically enough, the release of this video on one of Brazil's most important TV channels has sparked national outrage about police brutality against the citizenry and shows how the police have been executing their own trial on the streets.
2) The (Businesswoman) Housewife
I talked with a woman who worked cleaning houses who, ostensibly, is part of what is often hailed as the slow but sure rise of women and the (lower) middle class in Latin America. She had been a housewife while raising her three children, but now that they are grown, she has the time to work.
Her name is Elena, and she is evangelical, soft-spoken, and very sweet. She explains that she likes to work, and earn her own money. She says that people ask her what exactly she needs money for, if her basic needs like food and shelter are accounted for.
"I just want it for me," she explains.
She also wants to add on two new rooms to her and her husband's house, but she doesn't tell him that how much she earns. She says that if she told him she had it, he'd ask to borrow it. So she keeps it hidden, she explains with a light chuckle.
This doesn't phase her: she goes on about how great her husband is, and how blessed she is to have someone to share a household with. He had a debilitating work injury four years ago which makes it impossible for him to work, but he makes up for it by cooking and cleaning at home so she never has to.
She shrugs her shoulders, but smiles. "He can't work, but I can. We have a nice life, one where things are taken care of."
"I mean, accidents happen, but that's life, right?"
"Gotta button up the loose ends."
3) The Illegal (American) Immigrant
While in the hour and a half long Customs line at the airport, I struck up a conversation with the person behind me, who, like me, also happened to be Californian. He explained that since he couldn't find architectural work in San Diego, and was in a relationship with a Brazilian woman, he decided to try his luck in Brazil.
By (illegally) overstaying his tourist visa.
He had packed up his entire life, and had had all of his worldly goods with him in the Customs line. He had a (relative) plan - he would get a Google voice number so his friends could call him, get international health insurance, and hope for the best.
I wished him the best, given that Brazil'st protectionist economy makes it difficult to immigrate into. Their benefits - insurance, work visas, bank accounts, even apartments - are by and for Brazilians.
What a 21st century security story - the American from the U.S. side of the US/Mexico border was reverse migrating into Latin America, led by the promise of greater opportunity.
Eventually, the customers officer called his number. As he scrambled to pull his bags along with him, he signaled to his Brazilian girlfriend (who had finished the Brazilian customs line an hour prior) to come accompany him. He yelled to compete with the loudspeaker, "Hey, can you come translate for me?!?"