Destination Florianópolis, capital of the state of Santa Catarina.
On our search for a mattress, we visited the hyper modern hyper shopping mall Iguatemi.
… When Vítor and I were about to leave the university campus, in order to buy a colchonete (a thin mattress), we were advised to walk in the direction to a shopping mall, thanks to a helpful local student. According to the student, we might encounter a small store, not too far from the campus, that sells such mattresses. We went for the walk, left the campus, and followed the direction indicated by the student. We had no idea at all about the route, we walked at a venture. Vítor regularly asked passers-by whether we were following the correct route, and every time their friendly answer was affirmative. About ten minutes later, I noticed the contours of a small shopping center. We approached the entrance, but soon we noticed that we had to search for an alternative. Because this center was closed. We forgot that it was already Friday night!
Fortunately, this is not Belgium where all stores close their doors at six PM, and where all supermarkets close at 8 PM. This is also not The Netherlands with late shopping nights on Thursdays or Fridays. This is Brazil, and often shopping malls stay open until ten, eleven PM. And with a bit more luck, you encounter a 24-hour hypermarket. This system, undoubtedly copied from the Americans with their famous 24-hours economics, is a relief for many working Brazilians. They do not need to carry sandwiches for their lunch at noon and do not end their working day at exactly 5 PM. They spend more time at noon, when having their hot meal, and often work until night. The lunch time is not two hours, as is common in the Southern European countries, but generally – with some exceptions – one hour at most.
Vítor asked another local resident where to find the shopping mall. This woman was also friendly and talkative, while she accompanied us. We quickly became acquainted with the latest news of the neighborhood. Very useful! We took a street parallel to an avenue and turned right. The woman said goodbye to us, while she introduced herself with her fist name. She gave us both a warm hug and wished us a pleasant stay in her city. We walked a few hundred meters more. It was dark, but the streets were well illuminated. It was obvious for me that the streets and pavements looked very clean, even cleaner than I was used to in The Netherlands. No chewed chewing gum, no candy wraps, no empty bottles, no crown corks, no plastic or paper bags, no straws, and above all no excrement from dogs.
Even at 9 PM, I felt safe there, in a for me still unknown city. There were no annoying scooters trying to hit you from the pavement, no loud motors almost touching you when passing by. No passers-by who do not give way to you, or force you, thereby demonstrating their ugliest face, to leave the pavement and walk on the road. It was very relaxed to walk there, a relief for my legs, after 24 hours without many possibilities to move, inside the bus. We approached a huge building at the other side of an avenue, that was full of traffic.
There was a so-called passarela (footbridge) over this avenue. We approached the passarela. There was a small chapel, recognizable with the cross on the rounded roof, at the base of the bridge. I proposed to visit this chapel, and Vítor agreed. Inside the chapel, religious ornaments were positioned behind an iron gate. A statue of Virgin Mary, A Cross with Jesus Christ, and some statues of certain saints. The walls were decorated with dozens of small notes attached on it. Little notes with personal messages and prayers. We crossed the bridge over the crowded avenue. To my big surprise, the name of this hyper shopping mall was very familiar to me: Iguatemi. Iguatemi is a large Brazilian company that exploits hyper shopping malls in various Brazilian cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belém, Fortaleza, and Florianópolis. Obviously enough, Belo Horizonte is not listed. But a number of hyper shopping malls – some of them belong to the largest in Southern America – in Belo Horizonte are exploited by another company, BH Shopping.
We decided to buy the colchonetes first, since we did not know at what time the hypermarket was about to close. We entered this hypermarket, that had a suitable name: ‘BIG’. This hypermarket was not that different as I was used to in Belo Horizonte, like Extra, ValBrasil, or Carrefour. Endless corridors with a very elaborate assortment. A kind of large Dutch supermarket square. We asked a roller skating employee where to find the mattresses. She quickly explained us the correct corridor and route. She was right, there were four small mattresses. Two with camouflage print, and two with blue-green fantasy print. The latter two were thicker and looked of a better quality. The prize ticket showed the amount of 13 reais, just 5 euros! Not that bad! We had no doubt at all, we grabbed the two blue-green fantasy mattresses.
There were long queues in front of more than twenty pay desks. On average, at least 15 persons in front of a pay desk. Even the queue in front of the pay desk for smaller quantities was very long: more than 50 persons, as I could quickly estimate. Vítor and I made use of a simple trick: each of us joined a different queue. This time, my queue was faster, and Vitor left his queue and joined me. I have no real idea how this simple trick would be received by Dutch shoppers. But I fear that at least some of the people waiting behind us would give us nasty remarks. Here in Brazil, it is quite common, no one who really cares about that. For me it was quite obvious that almost all cashiers were having a dark skin, while the shopping crowd was predominantly white to very white. Many of them had blond hair, painted or natural. Welcome in Southern Brazil!
The bar codes on the mattresses were moved along the code scanner. The display showed an amount of 24 reais. Vítor immediately complained: ‘They cost 13 reais?’ The cashier had clear instructions about what to do when there were complaints about the prices. She immediately called a roller skate girl. This girl was a fast skater, because she returned within one minute. And she confirmed our complaint. The manager was called in, and he used his especially authorized badge to undo the mutations. When we were thinking more about that, on our way back, it was possible that we were wrong. The price ticket was presumably linked to the camouflage mattresses of inferior quality. But why bother, we had our mattresses for a very cheap price…
We carried our mattresses, that were wrapped in plastic. At the exit of the hypermarket, they were marked with a large colored adhesive. The guards inside the shopping mall would then observe that we have paid for them. Vítor, who already was familiar with my eagerness to photograph everything, proposed to look further around in the shopping mall. We restricted ourselves to the galleries that surrounded the large open space in the center. We followed the crowd on their climb on the escalators, until the top floor. The sixth floor was a parking lot. We walked along hundred of parked cars. The vast majority was built in the recent years and, besides the common brands as Fiat, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen, we observed less common brands as Peugeot, the Japanese brands, Chrysler, Volvo and even a Porsche. It was clear: the people visiting this mall were not from the lower class, but from the upper middle class and the upper class.
The Shopping Iguatemi in Florianópolis contains no less than 330 shops. More than two times the amount in Hoog Catarijne, for many years the largest indoor shopping mall in The Netherlands. The parking lot has room for almost 1500 cars. The 18 restaurants inside the shopping have a joint capacity of 800 seats. This shopping, together with those in Porto Alegre and in São Paulo, is the largest of the company. The company states, with pride, that at least ten million people visit the shopping centers, per year. A respectable number. In December 2005, when I was in São Paulo (together with my friend Carol), I visited the shopping mall there. At that time, two weeks before Christmas, the mall was decorated with English and American-style Christmas decorations. A lot of money and time was spent to attract more customers.
Back in Floripa. There was an exhibition of photographs on the ground floor, met life-size posters of artistic nudity. The models covered their intimate parts, or they were posing in such a way that these parts were invisible. Not only female models, also male models. And indeed, the male models attracted many (young) feminine costumers. The female models could count on many (older) masculine and (younger) feminine customers. There was no atmosphere of shame or shyness, no one was laughing secretly. No obscene remarks or gestures, but – as far as I could understand them – short, polite remarks… About thirty minutes later, we crossed the avenue again and walked to the campus, with the mattresses dangling in our hands. It was already half past ten when we entered the campus, the students already made their introduction party. We quickly dropped our mattresses and joined the partying crowd. It was already 4 AM, when we were able to test our newly bought mattresses. For a very short night rest… More about that in the next episode…
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
Original text in Dutch, translation with help of Google Translator .