Blue Heron in flight

Monday, August 12, 2013

Animal Zoo

I got booth number 22 for this show. I don't pay a lot of attention to numerology but in a strange coincidence, the i ching application on my android phone offered up a hexagram changing into No. 22, Grace. Confucius was said to be very worried when he drew this hexagram because it celebrates the superficial beauty of form. Then again, it is right down your average antique or art dealer's wheelhouse.

My friend Steve helped me set up for the show. When he saw the number 22, he was relieved. "At least you didn't get 24,"he tells me. You see, Steve lived for many years in Brazil. In Brazil, the number 24 is associated with homosexuality. Soccer players and other athletes avoid the jersey number like the plague. People born on the 24th of the month are ridiculed.

I had a brazilian man who happens to be in a long term gay partnership come into my booth and asked him to explain. The 24 is gay thing comes from a popular game called Jogo do Bicho. The number represents the deer in the gambling game. The word viado (a misspelling of veado, deer in Portuguese) is a slang for a homosexual.

So what is this game, Jogo Do Bicho? From Wikipedia:
Jogo do Bicho ("the animal game") is an illegal gambling game in Brazil, prohibited by federal law since 1946. Very popular throughout the country, the "game" is actually a lottery-type drawing operated on a regional basis by mobsters known as contraventores (who commit misdemeanors), bicheiros or banqueiros ("bankers"). Unlike most state-operated lotteries, in Jogo do Bicho you can bet any amount of money, even a cent. Despite its popularity (and being more or less tolerated, especially in Rio de Janeiro), it is still illegal in 25 of the 26 states of Brazil and those involved may be prosecuted. Paraíba is the only state where the game is legal and regulated by the state, even though according to a federal law this activity is prohibited. In other northeastern states the game is tolerated by the government.
Here are the rest of the numbers in the game and their associated animals:

Certain animals have come to represent certain omens in Brazilian culture. The horse, 11, represents a naked woman, the elephant, death. The zebra augers an upset.

The game is actually fairly old. In 1888 João Batista, the Baron of Drummond, opened a zoo in Rio de Janeiro. In order to encourage business he printed the likeness of animals on the tickets and hoisted a flag displaying one at the end of each day. A ticket printed with the right beast paid out 20 times its price. Locals soon started to place side bets without bothering to visit the zoo. By the mid-1890s jogo do bicho aka the animal game had "escaped from the zoo."

A silly superstition. By the way, my favorite number is Urso, the bear.


island guy said...

Prime numbers - gotta love them! Nice that you get urso, the state symbol.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, my 15 seconds of fame has finally come-I made The Blast ! And had a blast. Forgot I wanted to tell you about the Jogo do Bicho. Yes, 24 is the number of the deer (viado). This is a common derogatory cheer aimed at a soccer ref who makes a bad call against the home team, with the fans shouting a repetitive "vi-A-do" in unison. And when listening to a game on the radio, they chime in with the results of games figuring in the sports lottery, where one must predict the results of 13 games. A little musical jingle will come on, and it will be announced that "in Sao Paulo, it was a zebra...XV Piracicaba defeated Corintians 1-0" Zebras usually make a mess of your lottery. I correctly picked 12 games once; the game I missed, I attended, in Rio. Flamengo 2-Fluminense 1. I picked Flu to win. Game ended early, with a brawl.