An Yankee’s bad trip

Having left his passport at home and not being a blue-eyed
blonde took a Brazil-loving American to a Bahia’s dirty prison cell with
only a hole in the floor for bathroom where he spent a Saturday night and
a Sunday. He was roughed up to confess he was not an American. No hurt
feelings though. He wants to go back.

Carolina Moraes Liu

I spent last Carnaval at my mother’s house in Salvador (in the northeastern
state of Bahia) with my husband, my daughter and some American friends,
one of whom was Adrian. Well, Adrian is an American with a degree in International
Relations from Berkeley, who did not know about Brazil and little by little
fell in love with our land. Last year he had spent a few months traveling
between Rio and Salvador and he learned some Portuguese at that time.

A week before Carnaval there was a lavagem (washing of a church
followed by a street party) in Santo Amaro da Purificação,
the town where renowned composer and singer Caetano Veloso was born. I
love Caetano and since for the finale of the lavagem there was going
to be a show with Caetano, Gilberto Gil, Elba Ramalho, Timbalada, and others,
we — my husband, Adrian and myself — decided to go to Santo Amaro.

What a confusão (mess)! We couldn’t find any vacant hotel,
and in the end, after walking around the city for many hours, the man from
the store at the corner of the main stage offered us a place at the heart
of the party. We didn’t care that the place was being painted, and we didn’t
complain that our only amenity was two mattresses on the floor, after all,
all we cared about was the show.

We went to eat some muqueca (regional spicy dish) in one of the
food shacks, and since we were talking in English, two girls from São
Paulo decided to approach us. They worked in movies. We talked for a while
and they were coming on to Adrian, but they had leave to find Rodrigo,
Caetano’s brother. According to them, they were supposed to spend the night
at Dona Canô (Ceatano’s mother) house. They came back a little later
and took Adrian with them to see the show closer. That’s when we got separated.
The show was wonderful!

My husband and I slept on the mattress. We were supposed to return very
early in the morning to Salvador, since my 9-month-old daughter needed
my care as soon as possible. Adrian did not come back to share the mattress,
so we assumed he had spent the night at the Veloso’s home with the Paulista
girls. We went there and talked to Dona Canô who told us that
there were lots of people sleeping there, but she was not sure if there
was an American guy among them.

At that time, 8 A.M., she was the only one awake. We decided to have
some breakfast and come back later. The only place open was the bus station.
Over breakfast we started wondering what might have happened to Adrian.
“Should we look for him at the hospital or police station,” I
asked my husband. “No, he must be sleeping with the Paulistas,”
was his answer.

By the way, Adrian is a dark-skinned American who had darkened his skin
even more after a week at the beach. While we were talking about what to
do, a policeman came in for coffee and more for peace of mind’s sake I
started talking with him about my American friend. To my utter surprise,
he told us that there was a guy in jail, a liar, who insisted that he was
an American. We ran to the police station, but it was Sunday, and the only
person there was a sleeping man. We woke him up, but he could neither solve
nor inform anything.

We ended up finding out that Adrian was really in jail. There was some
kind of mêlée during the show and they arrested him, the Paulista

girls, and others. Everyone was taken to the police station and released,
but Adrian didn’t have any document. He explained that he was an American,
and that he was without his passport because he was afraid of losing it,
and that he had left his documents in Salvador. The delegado (police
chief) did not believe that he was American, because he doesn’t have blond
hair and blue eyes. Since he speaks Portuguese, though haltingly, they
thought that he might be pretending and could even be a wanted criminal.

According to Adrian, the delegado even asked him some questions
about the United States, like who was the President, and details about
the constitution. In spite of all his right answers the delegado
said that he had everything wrong, and ordered him taken from the police
module directly to the police station. All of this I only found out later.
At the time nobody informed me of anything. I had to walk around the city
looking for the delegado‘s house since he doesn’t work on Sundays.

It was very hard to convince the delegado to come to the window,
but we succeeded, but despite our explanation he still wouldn’t believe
that the guy was American. Well, Adrian spent a night and a day in a cell
like a true criminal. The cell only had cardboard on the floor and a hole
to answer the call of nature. Insects were all over. He was also roughed
up to tell the truth, since he stuck with the story that he was American.
Another thing: the delegado didn’t let him make the phone call that
every person arrested has the right to make. He could have called Salvador,
and someone could have brought the documents immediately. Salvador is less
than an hour away from Santo Amaro.

Despite the crazy experience, which gave him a file at the Brazilian
police, Adrian loved Bahia, and went to see Gil on July 22, in San Francisco,
California. As for going back to Brazil he seems ready and willing as soon
as there is another chance to jump on a south-bound plane.

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