Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Road - Salvador - Pt. 3 - The FIFA/McDonald's Scandal

It's hard to overstate the cultural value of the humble acarajé to the citizens of the Brazilian state of Bahia. This unprepossessing, fist-sized black-eyed-pea fritter has become the icon of Salvador in much the same way that the Eiffel Tower represents Paris, or Guiness represents Ireland. When tourists and returning locals exit the Salvador airport terminal on the arrivals level, they are immediately greeted by the unmistakable aroma of acarajé frying in a pot of dendê oil - the sidewalk in front of the terminal is home to several stands of baianas selling acarajé. That haunting aroma, the marvelous taste of the fritter and the traditional and ritualistic way in which it is sold are cultural touchstones of Salvador, and have been recognized by all levels of Brazilian government as important cultural patrimony worthy of protection.

So what does acarajé have to do with FIFA, McDonald's and the scandal referred to in the title of this post? As the governing organization for the 2014 World Cup of Football/Soccer, which will be held in Brazil, FIFA has control over many aspects of the Cup. Things like stadium capacity and required facilities, transportion of players and sponsorship of the Cup. Because the McDonald's corporation is one of the largest corporate sponsors of the World Cup, FIFA wants to prohibit the sale of acarajé within 2 km (1.2 miles) of Salvador's Fonte Nova stadium during the World Cup, in order to protect the interests (and hamburger sales) of McDonald's.
Could this....

become this???
This potential disruption of acarajé sales has created an uproar in Salvador. Rita Maria Ventura dos Santos, the president of Associação das Baianas de Acarajé e Vendedoras de Mingau (Abam), the official association of acarajé vendors, calls prohibiting sales of acarajé "absurd." She notes that at present there are eight acarajé stands within 2 km. of the stadium, and wonders what will happen to the women who own these stands when the Cup comes around. Community groups in Salvador are calling for a boycott of McDonald's to protest the move, and news of the prohibition and the boycott is spreading rapidly across all the Internet social networks.

The FIFA/McDonald's prohibition has not been confirmed yet by the Brazilian organizing committee or by Salvador's municipal authorities. The Bahia state Secretary in charge of World Cup arrangements has been quoted as saying no decision has yet been made, but will only confirm that the role of baianas and of acarajé in the World Cup is "under consideration."


  1. Disgusting! And I'm not just talking about McDonald's products.

    One of the major 'selling factors' of hosting an event like this is that it brings revenue to local communities and small businesses.

    Now nutritionally dubious and culturally bankrupt McDonald's wants to monopolise the food market *outside* of the stadium?

    Typically despicable behaviour from both FIFA and McDonald's.

  2. That is absolutely appalling! FIFA = mafia!

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