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.
If you’re not getting maimed in a traffic accident, you’re probably sitting in traffic. Exaggerations aside, Time magazine did distinguish São Paulo as the traffic-jam capital of the world in a 2008 article. The piece notes that Paulistas do everything in their cars – shave, create powerpoint presentations, apply makeup – not because they love their cars, but because they have to: traffic jams are a fact of life for those who cannot afford or are unwilling to reside close to work.