Sunday, May 30, 2010
Jesus...what a swindle
Every day the Carioca look up to the Corcovado and see the statue of Christ holding his arms outstretched to embrace his flock below, including the gang members who rob tourists by legal means.
Christ is the forgiver who grants grace and redemption to the sinners. He is also a brand of Rio de Janeiro. Millions of tourist trinkets, paintings, beach towels, ashtrays and photographs are sold in his name every year. And now he is becoming a Jesus Park, a comical blight that draws thousands of tourists, who are being taken advantage of by the very Shepard they seek to protect them.
Ever since the statue was named one of the most popular icons of the modern world there has been a transformation of the Jesus business in Rio.
This came to light soon after Carnival when the statue underwent its annual renovation. The symbol of Rio was cloaked in a web of steel as workmen built scaffolds so they could sandblast the exterior and reinforce the interior enough to withstand everything that nature can throw at it, including lightening strikes and winds.
Work on the statue was temporarily suspended, however, due to record April rains that closed the roads leading up the mountain. The cog train, whose tracks were under the threat of being washed away, had closed and new earth had to be trucked in to rebuild the various sections to the summit.
But something else also transpired during the closure: the road was re-opened to taxis and a private van service, which had evidently won the Christ conveyance concession. Now, to get to the statue you have to pay an exorbitant fare.
On two different ascents my companion drove me up the road as she had done on numerous occasions for visitors from abroad. And twice we were turned away by security, despite being assured by the tourist office that the road was open to private cars.
My companion, skilled in both English and Portuguese profanity, let her opinions be known, as we watched a parade of taxis, vans and “preferred” cars driving up with impunity. “Corruption. Robbery,’ my companion declared.
We made our way back down to the train station, determined to see the statue, but found the train was still closed. Only the ubiquitous white vans and taxis offered a ride and we soon saw that the price had risen rapidly from driver to driver, like brokers on the floor of a commodity exchange. One price may only take you to the foot of the statue, but not return you to the bottom. Another price may offer you a return trip, but not charge the entrance fee to the actual park. “Imagine what they do to tourists who cannot speak Portuguese,” my companion said.
In the end we opted for a evening view of the statue from our veranda and enjoyed a nice meal with the money we saved by not making the journey.
I had always enjoyed the view of the Redeemer morning, noon and night, rain or shine from our window. I marveled at a breathtaking monument that continues to stir the soul, but I decided against any further attempts to scale the Mount in a van or taxi. I didn’t want to despoil my feelings by getting fleeced at the feet of Jesus.
Posted by Michael Shandrick at 2:30 PM