South America | Brazil | Southern Brazil – car culture
I haven’t written any thing about this town, and I’ve been here for a month, so I have lots to say but don’t really know where to begin.
Santa Cruz is small (about 100 thousand) and fairly prosperous. It has a strong German influence, as does a lot of the south. This translates to a certain closed demeanor, an unwillingness to smile at strangers on the street (so different than Rio!) and in general a feeling of coldness. This is not to say that people aren’t nice – they are! – but they just take their time warming up to you.
Most everyone dresses the same. They kind of look like Abercrombie kids. Or Ann Taylor. Preppy clothes – sweaters tied around the shoulders, penny loafers. Like they were deeply inspired by Ryan O’Neal in Love Story. Very strange.
The streets are all cobblestone and very pretty. It has often been commented that it is an art form (albeit a tortutous one) for a lady to walk in heels. Moreso for a gent, probably. Well it is an absolute trick to see these girls stroll along these uneven cobblestone streets in their three inch heels and not look down… I can’t even walk straight in tennis shoes.
I think that people don’t have a lot to do here. Everyone just drives around and looks at eachother. It’s one of the weirdest things I have ever seen.
There is a main drag called Avenida Immigrantes. People just cruise up and down Immigrantes for hours. All along the sides of Immigrantes, other people have pulled their cars over. Once you have parked along the side of the road, you get out of the car, lean against the car, and drink wine or beer and look at the people driving by looking at you leaning against your car.
The crowds are also big around the gas stations, which are super hot spots. People just come and hang out at the gas stations.
It’s so weird. I don’t know what to make of it.
There are quite a few clubs, most of which play hip hop music. Oh I forgot to mention: everyone is blasting their American hip-hop out of the window of their little Fiat or VW, as they drive by. WTF? Though I have heard Brasilian rap music and it is hard for me to take it seriously. (I know that comment is going to come back and bite me in the ass one day. Ah well.)
So that’s the scene in Santa Cruz do Sul. Rich kids driving around, drinking, and hanging out at the gas station. It’s really a strange way to spend an evening if you ask me.
The other strange thing is that there isn’t really any culture to speak of. There is a university in town, but that doesn’t make it a ‘college town’ as we know the term. There are no theaters in the whole town, except at the university. No dance studios, no art studios or music schools. I have see a few guitar shops, so that’s encouraging. And I believe that at the high schools, there are drama and band programs and all. Incredibly odd. Sort of Stepford-y. I mean, there’s live music, there are lots of young people around, who appear to have lots of free time. If I lived here I’d start an independent theater company, right away.
The second or third week I was here, I saw The Music Man on TV, translated into Portuguese. This town could use a little Harold Hill.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice enough town. But it’s a bit off. Luckily I have some nice friends, and there are a few good pubs and a great hip-hop class at the local gym, complete with two disco balls and a strobe light.