On Wednesday, one of the five Sao Paulo soccer teams, Corinthians (pronounced cor-in-chi-as), played in the final of the Copa Libertadores against Boca Junior, an Argentinian team. This cup is the semi-equivalent to the Euro or World Cup but only in South America, and instead of countries playing against each other it is individual teams. This team had never before even reached the final so the fact that they made it this year was a HUGE deal for the city. We went with Fernanda, who is a diehard Corinthians fan, to Vila Madalena, what I understand to be a hip artsy area in Sao Paulo. We spent the evening on a cute street lined with bars about two blocks long. The streets were full of all of us who couldn’t fit inside the surrounding bars due to the massive amounts of people, but we were able to watch the game on a large screen with a projector above one of the bars on a side of a building. It was such a great environment, one large social gathering where everyone stood behind the same outcome, chanting of the Corinthians rally songs for hours and hours. Fireworks had been going off all day long, beginning in the afternoon and continuing through the evening and night into the next day, that, until the following afternoon even. You know you aren’t in Kansas anymore when the game doesn't start until 10pm…
Fernanda warned us that if it looked like Corinthians was not going to win, we needed to leave early and speed out of the game-watching area because, especially as tourists, such a loss would have been extremely dangerous, aided by the less-than-sober state of 99% of the people there. But luckily for us, Corinthians won 2 to 0, and the win only increased the frequency of the fireworks and sparked the emergence of even more black and white flags (the Corinthians colors), as well as a doll-type-thing being lit on fire while flung over a stoplight bar in the middle of the intersection. I could strongly feel the heat of the fire, and at one point pieces of fireworks were flying so haphazardly that I swear bits were hitting my face. Having experienced European soccer fans, I can say that Brazilian fans are almost as passionate. However, because this match included individual teams and not whole countries, the fan base behind this game was not quite as strong, therefore the rallying was intense but not quite up to European standards (but don’t get me wrong, crazy, fun, and dangerous at times all the same).
The next day we went on a tour of the manufacturing facilities and company headquarters of Natura, a Brazilian cosmetic company that has a customer base of over 100 million. None of us had heard of it previously, but being able to see their production facilities and learn about the inner workings of the company gave us a great point of view when we finally got to check out their wide range of products, from soaps and lotions to make up, perfume, shaving cream, anything really. I would love to have an American comparison after this experience, to see what the facilities of say, Dove, are like in comparison. We got to see the assembly lines, packaging, distribution, the raw materials warehouse, the tubes that send various materials from storage to the mixing facilities, the various benefits for the employees (free childcare, the restaurants, the transportation around the campus, the systems in place to ensure health and safety, such as periodic mandatory stretching for assembly line workers, and we learned that different colored hats/hair nets meant different things, red was fire-safety trained personnel, purple was first aid, green was quality control, etc), among other things. With my love of the TV show 24 and lots of action/FBI/CIA type movies, I relate parts of their facilities to something of a top-secret R&D facility…walking through I felt like I was walking the halls of a very sophisticated building that could be in any action movie.
This was our first of three company visits we are having as part of my classes here in Sao Paulo while learning about Brazil and its business environment and economy, and it was a fabulous start. It was also nice to get out of the city, the Natura offices were about an hour outside of Sao Paulo. They also own a large forest attached to their facilities, that is protected by the government (rumored to have snakes and monkeys! How cool.). The greenery is absolutely amazing. Granted it is winter here, so maybe there is less in the summer. But it is just the same as when I flew in, I saw rolling mountains of beautiful lush green-ness as far as the eyes could see. But it takes about an hour out of the city to reach this.