Shortly after the 9/11 attacks shook the world, a rumor quickly started spreading through Brazil: Osama Bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in São Paulo.
This was bad news for Ceará Francisco Helder Braga Fernandes, a bar owner in the city who, to Brazilians at least, happened to look at lot like the world’s most wanted terrorist.
“The people called the police, denouncing me,” Fernandes, told Brazilian TV network Globo in 2010. “I got to take pictures with police when they arrived and they realized the mistake.”
Before 9/11, Francisco ran a bar called the Galeria do Rock, which was a mainstay of the city’s goth and rock crowd. After receiving widespread publicity in the country for his uncanny resemblance to the international terrorist, Fernandes decided to embrace his newfound notoriety by changing his bar’s name into Bar do Bin Laden, or Bin Laden’s Bar.
The watering hole is back in the public spotlight thanks to the World Cup, which will take place in Brazil this June. Bar do Bin Laden is located in São Paolo's Anhangabau neighborhood, just down the street from where the official World Cup Fan Fest and watch parties will take place. Patrons who enter will be greeted by Fernandes, who dresses every day to play the part.
Inside the bar, the walls are cluttered with news clippings and other photos of the owner in the get up, according to Andrew Creelman, a Brit who runs the blog What About São Paolo.
“About three weeks ago me and my friends just walked in and saw hundreds of pictures of [Fernandes] dressed up as Osama Bin Laden with patrons of the bar, and there’s this one inexplicable picture of Jesus Christ in the middle of all of it,” he told Fusion. “It’s bizarre.”
To Americans and Europeans visiting Brazil for the World Cup, the bar’s theme and vibe will probably feel distasteful or insulting. But Creelman said that Brazilians don’t view Bin Laden the same way.
“It’s interesting because in Brazil, which has not really witnessed terrorism, they see Bin Laden as a funny kind of character rather than someone who is offensive,” he said. “Whereas in England and in the U.S., we have both experienced terrorism firsthand, so we take [the bar’s theme] differently.”
Since Creelman posted about the odd bar on his website, one commenter noted that there is a similar bar just north of Rio de Janeiro called the Caverna do Bin Laden, or Bin Laden’s Cave.
We reached out to Fernandes and we'll update you if we hear back.
Photo by Getty Images
Meanwhile, check out some photos of patrons posing with “Bin Laden” below. They are taken from the bar’s Tumblr page, aptly called BinLaden.Tumblr.com:
How to find Bin Laden's Bar in São Paolo:
And finally, a video of “Bin Laden” encouraging a woman to chug
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.