Ohana Sailing Adventure

Automatic Gunfire

When kiddos hear loud popping noises in the distance, they should be innocent enough for their first thought to be “Fireworks!”. When we were woken at 5am in Paraty by loud pops across the bay, our immediate thought was gunfire, and only after we watched for a while longer did we determine that someone was actually setting off small fireworks.

Why would we think gunfire instead of fireworks? For all of the warnings about traveling in certain parts of Brazil and particularly in Rio de Janeiro, we were expecting our time in Porto Frade to be safe. Thankfully, the marina that was recommended to us is located in a large gated and guarded community and has been safe. Just outside the walls of this haven, however, is a different story. Apparently recently, the police force of Rio de Janeiro focused their attention on Rio proper, driving out gangs and drug-related violence. And apparently a lot of them made their way to Frade and other outlying towns instead. This happened at about the same time we arrived – talk about timing!

So that meant a few things for us:

  1. Our girls can now recognize the sound of gunfire in the distance (and differentiate between automatic and semiautomatic!), as the bay and surrounding mountains where we were located funneled the sounds from the favelas in town and made them incredibly loud.
  2. We were advised in no uncertain terms not to step foot outside of the gated community, not even to run to the nearby market. Which is why we would motor an hour to Piratas Mall to go grocery shopping, and our exploring of the immediate area was limited.
  3. Our family was given the opportunity to have a lot of frank discussions about gangs, violence, and the disparity of wealth around us.
  4. We had the perfect setting to talk about the difference between being aware of generalities (the concerns for violence around us in general) and avoiding generalizing about everyone in a particular place. We have met amazingly kind and wonderful people during our time here.
  5. Our girls were shown another side of life, and learned that there are kiddos who live with this fear, much closer, every day.

Some scary statistics?

  1. Brazilians account for 1 in 10 homicide victims worldwide.
  2. Most of the 60,000 Brazilians who are victims of violent death annually, are killed by gunshot wounds.
  3. In 2015, there were more violent deaths in Brazil than in war-torn Syria. 

When we planned our trip up the coast of South America with Ohana, we knew there were issues in some parts of Brazil and were planning on staying away from those places. Without the shift in violence prior to us arriving, we probably would have had a different experience. But once we started to hear gunfire, we made plans to leave as soon as possible.

We have been told that the predominant issue is drug and gang related. Particularly in the favelas, because they have no unique addresses and are built on top of each other, so that the police have a very hard time getting into them to arrest suspects. But something else that we noticed here was the poverty. According to World Bank statistics for 2018, outside of 7 African nations that top the chart, Brazil is the next leading country in the world with regard to income inequality. The juxtaposition of the huge yachts against the favelas on the hillside, and the constant buzz of private helicopters flying into this area over broken down buildings, again provided a lot of discussion for our family.

Scenes along the road to Rio de Janeiro

And for those of you who have made it through the whole post – rest assured that we are on our way north and hope not to further the girls’ education about how different weapons sound in the distance!

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