This is a little story about my first super nintendo console, and how I became a smuggler (of videogames) just to get what I wanted.
I wanted to share this fun and short story to let members of the group know a bit more about myself, my family, and my love for computers and videogames.
When I was 7 years old in 1992, I had a simple dream: I wanted a Super Nintendo console for my birthday. All I wanted was to play Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter with my cousin. Even Mortal Kombat, if I could get my hands on it.
For kids nowadays, getting a new videogame console is kind of straightforward: be a good kid, convince your parents to go on BestBuy and order a Nintendo Switch or a Playstation for you.
But back then, my friends, things were very, very different. Specially for a kid living in Sao Paulo.
Not just because videogames were super expensive (they were!). Even if you were rich, you just couldn’t buy games at all. Or printers. Or desktop computers. No one could buy a piece of high-tech equipment, because these kinds of imports were heavily restricted.
You could only buy computers made in Brazil.
Well, let’s see… Sega is from Japan. Nintendo is from Japan. Sony is from Japan. Have you ever heard of a videogame console made by a brazilian company? Me neither.
You’re probably thinking: “well, too bad then… No super-nintendos for that little guy!” Well, no kid would ever accept that fate, right?
But I had the perfect solution… Let me tell you something about my father: my father was a smuggler… of computers.
This is a picture of my father from that time.
Just kidding, this is Lando Calrissian, from Star Wars. I couldn’t find an old picture of my father. But he’s kinda like Lando: they are both retired smugglers, and super awesome.
My father looks just like Lando Calrissian from Star Wars, who is a retired smuggler that went around the galaxy transporting contraband. Just like my father.
But instead of disobeying the laws of the Galactic Republic, my father (and my mother) were violating the laws of the Republic of Brazil.
They would bring contraband from Paraguay, a small country close to Brazil and Argentina. Now, when I say contraband, it sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?
But it wasn’t: it was mostly computer parts, printers, things like that… They used to sell desktop computers.
When I asked for a Super Nintendo for my birthday, my father said: “okay, I’ll give you your birthday gift, but you have to come with me and bring it yourself.”
And that’s what happened. I got on a bus on friday night with dozens of other so-called smugglers.
We arrived at the border early in the morning. There’s a river that divides the two countries, and a bridge called “The Friendship Bridge”.
You could see thousands and thousands of merchants crossing that same bridge. They carried all sorts of goods from the other side of the border on giant bags and boxes.
After we crossed the bridge, we went to this commercial neighborhood that was kind of dreamlike. An endless labyrinth of stores and street merchants speaking all sorts of different languages.
You could buy all kinds of goods: clothing, perfume, whisky, fake Disney toys and counterfeit Gucci handbags. But I wasn’t interested in any of that.
On one of the stores, my father talked to this guy who was probably an old friend. This guy reached behind the counter for something… And there it was: a large box, wrapped in brown paper.
I knew exactly what was inside, even though I’ve never seen that box before. I took the box and wrapped my arm around it. I can’t really explain to you all the excitement I’ve felt in that moment.
We went back, and I’ve got to tell you: it was super scary. A mix of fear and excitement. I was scared that if we went trough customs, right at the border, they would confiscate my box or take it away from me.
But in the end, all went well. We got back to our bus. Twelve more hours to go, but I knew that tomorrow, on Sunday morning, I’d be playing Mario at home on my brand new Super Nintendo. I could not wait and I could not sleep.
And this is how, my friends, I became a contrabandist for a day when I was 7 years old and smuggled a Super Nintendo for my birthday.