Where Chile is perhaps the most European of Latin American countries, Brazil is probably the most African. One consequence of the five million slaves that were shipped to Brazil is the strong African presence in Salvador and its province, but also the strong influence on Brazilian cuisine.
Another, more subtle way in which Brazil conjures up memories of Africa is the fluidity of its rules and regulations, and the carelessness, or perhaps carefreeness, with which they are enforced, or not. In many African countries, this isn't much of an issue as, by design, there, implementation and the enforcing of rules and regulations is continuously fluid. The right words, a smile and a laugh, or simply greasing the right palms, can circumvent possibly any rule. Terrible, in itself, but also the only real way to deal with an inconsistent and inconsistently applied framework of rules and regulations, much of which still dates back to colonial times.
Brazilians also tend to fudge the rules, the current Petrobras scandal being a prime example, but, when push comes to shove, there tends to be a belief that Brazil's collection of rules and regulations is a sound framework that's solid and reliable.
My spat with Brazilian immigration, followed by an unceremonious deportation has proven this to be quite untrue.
The basic principle, at least in relation to nationals from the Schengen zone, is to be allowed in Brazil as a tourist for 180 days out of the year. But, what that actually means in practice depends on which federal agent or immigration officer you ask. Add to that their unreliable computer systems and you've got a recipe for disaster, particularly if you look for the fringes of what is allowed.
Last May, I was looking to extend my stay in Brazil by a few weeks. I managed, and was also told that, after leaving in late June, I could only return after August 18. Playing it safe, I booked my return for the third of September. Only to be deported back to Chile, with an explanation that was so convoluted, it was impossible to make sense of. And, more importantly, completely different from what I had been told back in May. Then, to add insult to injury, requesting additional explanations from other immigration officials during my 8 hour stay in Brazil, I was given different variations of how the rules applied to my situation, with different dates as to when I would be able to travel back to Brazil. All of hem believing to be right, but none of them actually getting into the details.
"So, when will I be allowed to return?" I would ask.
"Well, you will have to do the calculation. I will not do that for you."
One would think the law is clear enough. Brazil sees plenty of tourists continuously enter the country. But, as it stands, I have no idea whether I will be allowed into the country on a future visit.
Back in Chile, the Kafkaesque experience became more absurd. I visited the Brazilian embassy, to find a construction site. An overseer gave me the current address of the embassy, 10 metro stops away. There, I was told I had to go to the consulate, another three metro stops away. There, no one was really willing to help me.
"I need to know when I will be able to enter Brazil."
"You will have to ask the federal police."
"How can I ask the federal police?"
"You will have to go to Brazil."
A week later, I did get a clearer answer. With yet other details and another return date.