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The perils of 'car culture' in Brazil

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Here in Minas Gerais, mining trucks are believed to do considerable damage to public highways. Appropriate rail lines should have obviated the need for mining trucks altogether, but the rail lobby has not fared as well as the motor-vehicle lobby – as we who live in the Americas know all too well. I have never seen a weigh-station here in Brazil, a control mechanism that might prevent overweight trucks from wreaking havoc on roads and public safety more generally.

Finally, there are the drivers. As in North America, you have the truck drivers hopped-up on amphetamines for the long trips – always a source of danger. Here, you’ve also got a major problem with alcohol, as previously discussed. But especially prominent in Latin America – if not Latin countries more generally – is the sort of race-to-the-finish mentality on highways and even on city streets. People pass recklessly. They routinely break traffic rules. They want to show you up because they have a more expensive car. Or they want to show you down because they think they’re better, ballsier drivers. A lot of ego, a lot of risk, and a lot of accidents.

These are not just my own observations; renowned Brazilian anthropologist Roberto DaMatta recently released a book on Brazil’s car culture entitled, “Faith in God, and Foot to the Floor” in which he describes a driving culture in which even women act “masculine” to the extreme.

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