The Prince and the Pauper

After a fancy dinner with hedge fund / management consulting crowd in Leblon past Friday, I felt the need to cleanse myself through stepping down the social classes ladder. On Sunday, after getting lost and dropping off at the wrong metro station that was more shady than not, I finally found my way to the Quinta da Boa Vista park, located in the North Zone of Rio.  The park’s main attraction is the Paço de São Cristóvão that used to be the imperial palace that now houses the National History museum. The park also has a zoo, but the main zoo was the one I encountered on the park  grounds. Smell of sewage mixed with barbecue and cotton candy, running children everywhere, hoards of teenagers (goths vs. prostitutes), all accompanied by a cacophony of screams and laughs.

In front of the museum, I found a very long queue of folks hungry for culture (or for stealing something), which gave me a good half an hour to observe the behaviors of my fellow Homo sapiens. One particular scene especially struck me:

Two little boys ( about 5 years old), one from middle-upper class family and one from a lower-income family (older parents), were playing soccer with an empty coke bottle. At some point, the wealthier kid got tired, reached into to his pocket, took out some figurines and a colorful piece of paper that had the explanation about each, and started showing off to the poor kid which ones he owns. The poor kid ran to his parents and asked if he can get the same toys as well. “Sure”, said his mother, “I will buy you each and one of them.” “Why did you tell him you will get these for him?” said the father to the mother when the kid ran along. “It was just easier. He will forget about this soon enough, don’t worry” she answered with a sad smile. I was just in the line behind them and felt like crying.

On the steps of the National Museum