Welcome to the jungle

“You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die…”  -W. Axl Rose

I’ll admit, based on the online community’s chatter on Brazilian travel, I had reservations about going there. Reading about the high crime rate, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, along with statements like “always keep a few reais in your pocket for the muggers so they won’t kill you” and common reports of car-jacking and kidnapping for ransom, obviously elevates ones concerns.

But when the opportunity to visit the granite capital of the world with a few members of the Stone Fabricators Alliance, escorted by local Brazilians in the trade, I jumped at the chance. There’s safety in numbers, especially with a rather large ex-marine among the group.

As suspected, the public perception is largely blown out of proportion. I found most places I visited to be perfectly safe. Contrary to my concerns about theft, I wish now that I would have brought along my good camera, instead of my inexpensive and easy to conceal point and shoot. Who knew I would run into adorable little monkeys that would of certainly benefited from more megapixels and a good lens.

Getting down to business, our first several days were spent visiting granite processors around the city of Vitória, followed by a two hour bumpy ride to the environs around Cacheiro.

What Carrara Italy is to marble is what Cacheiro is to granite. In other words, and entire region devoted to the production of stone. Our buying trip included access to ten factories, and concluded with a tour of the Azul Cielo quarry.

Before flying home, we spent a few days on the mean streets of Rio. Here the violence is very real, but mostly contained within the numerous favelas (slums) that occupy the city. Driving past the most notorious favelas near the airport, with nearly eight hundred thousand inhabitants, my industry friend Chris Garten (the previously mentioned ex-marine) commented “this looks like Fallujah after the war.” According to our Brazilian host Fernando, the sound of gunfire is common, and the week prior to our visit, there were reports of not one, but two incidents of tourist’s GPS misdirecting them into the favelas, with both cases resulting in murder.

(Favela photo- Robyn Pennacchia)

You would think it would be a little more peaceful under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer, or maybe he’s a little too preoccupied watching the girl from Ipanema.

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