Stephen Moss (Guardian staff writer), The Guardian
The residents of Rio have had enough. Fed up with high inflation and rip-off prices ahead of this year’s World Cup and the Olympics in 2016, they have set up a Facebook page called “Rio $urreal – Don’t Pay” dedicated to “exposing and boycotting the extortionate prices being charged by bars, restaurants and shops”. It has quickly gathered close on 150,000 supporters, and is growing fast.
The page uses the term $urreal because that’s what locals think prices in Rio have become – £5 for a toasted sandwich, £10 for a green salad, £6 for a burger that “comes with a minuscule pickle, dried meat, a handful of chips, and a watery blue-cheese sauce”, according to Leonardo Mazeron Tubino, who posts a photograph to prove his point. Inflation in property prices is a particular concern, with house prices having risen at 15-20% annually over the past two years. Cariocas (Rio denizens) reckon it is time to fight back, and Facebook is their chosen battleground.
The $urreal itself is a mock banknote – Brazil’s currency is the real – emblazoned with the face of Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. O Globo, Rio’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, joked that the city needed its own currency, and some media-savvy Cariocas decided to create one, with Dalí’s face on the front in place of the usual Brazilian national heroes. “We can’t just act like typical Brazilians and agree something is wrong, make a joke, then swallow it,” TV editor Andrea Cals told the Bloomberg news agency. “We have to stop this, because it’s getting serious. It’s no joke when I’m spending much more than I earn.”
The Facebook page is full of tips on cutting costs: taking your own chair to the beach instead of hiring one; naming and shaming taxi drivers; refusing to frequent expensive bars. $urreal has also spawned the Isorporzinho (icebox) movement, which emerged after a group of friends took their own icebox to Leme beach – one of the most expensive in Rio – rather than buy food and drink on the beach or at a bar. Other “iceboxers” turned up and it was soon a flashmob, which, this being Rio in summer, quickly turned into a party with live music.
“I only hope that [what we're doing] is not just another summer fad,” posts Anderson da Silva Almeida. “The issue of high prices is serious, and it has to be taken seriously until this disgraceful practice comes to an end. We can’t let it fizzle out after carnival [in early March]. We must carry our iceboxes all year.”
The movement has spread beyond Rio, with $urreal Facebook groups in São Paulo, Brasilia and even Belém in the Amazon. The Icebox revolution has begun.