Monday, December 04, 2006

A Starbucks in Every Favela?

Probably not. But, in the ongoing joke-that's-frighteningly-true, Starbucks opened its first stores in Brazil last week. Not surprisingly, they opened in Sao Paulo, the commercial capital of Brazil, and they opened in some of the most expensive parts of the city. Paulistas are known (not without reason) as thinking they are more "Brazilian" than Brazilians, and better than the rest of the country (and, not surprisingly, they are somewhat "whiter" than much of the country, leading to a not-surprisingly-significant level of racism, coded in the perjorative of "Bahianos," who are the African-based populations of Brazil's Northeast). As the ecoonomic elite of the country, the Paulisthas spend accordingly (though this is not to say that Sao Paulo lacks poverty - it, too, is dotted with favelas and indications of the gap in extreme wealth in Brazil). Thus, it comes as no surprise that, whereas you could normally get an espresso for about 80 cents or less anywhere else, Paulistas will probably begin hanging out at Starbucks as a claim of status. It will be interesting to see if the phenomenon spreads beyond Sao Paulo (I'm betting not, but stranger things have happened....)