Yes, the same Statue of Liberty as in New York City.
While I was on the bus from Floriánopolis to Balneário Camboriú, zoning in and out of sleep, we zoomed past a gigantic statue… wait, was that the Statue of Liberty? What the heck? Unfortunately I couldn’t confirm/disprove on the spot.
The next day, I was driving around Itajai with new Brazilian friends I made, when I saw IT again! “Stop the car!!” I yelled to my friends, and took this picture.
I posted this photo on Instagram, and my friend actually asked me how long I’m back in New York for in all seriousness … *FacePalm*.
My friends said these Statues are the symbol of the mega department store Havan, many of the stores have a huge Statue of Liberty in front of them. This chain is all around the Santa Catarina state, Paraná state, and is starting to expand to São Paulo state and Mata Grosso state. This statue in particular in Itajaí is 30 meters high. Why did they choose the Statue of Liberty to be their symbol?
I took to the internet to research this question, and it seems like many Brazilians have the same question. One web commentor says: “I never understood why they chose the Statue of LIberty as their symbol… by the products they sell, they should erect a statue of Mao Tze Tung.”
Not only do they use a Statue of Liberty, the facades of the stores are also modeled after the White House. I had to dig deep into news articles to find that the explanation is merely that the founder of the company, who has no American connection, realized in the 80s that he has to differentiate his chain in a special way. Thus was born the controversial marketing scheme of erecting American symbols on Brazilian soil; in fact the stores are nicknamed by the public as the “Brazilian White House”. According to Havan, the statues symbolize “The liberty of choice of Havan clients, who have the power to buy products of quality, with low prices.” Ha, nice spin!
Every time the chain expands to a new city, Havan generates considerate controversy in there – some people think the statues are pretty, while many others think it destroys the landscape of the town with a statue that has nothing to do with Brazil. I say this is an ingenious marketing strategy albeit in a tacky manner. The good thing (for me) is that it also has the unintended positive effect of helping soothe a bit of my homesickness 😉
Fun fact – The statue in Barra Velha, Santa Catarina, is 57 meters high, and comes with a free observation deck at the crown with the view of the ocean! It is said to be the largest statue in Brazil. By the way, Christ the Redeemer in Rio is 38 meters tall.