Thursday, July 7, 2011

Post in which I say Cartório a lot, and get really frustrated

Today was not my favorite day. In fact, this week has been a bit exhausting and exasperating. As I mentioned, we're moving. We were all prepared to turn in the contract and get the keys on Tuesday. But, it turns out that we had to get all the signatures verified at Cartórios. From what I've heard (please correct me if I'm wrong, fellow bloggers) Cartórios came into existence due to some political shenanigans. If I remember correctly, some friend of someone in power had a kind of notary business and did a favor for said person in power. To return the favor a law was passed that made it necessary to register signatures to make sure that they are valid. And thus the Cartório business was created. It seems as if any time you have an official document, you have to take it to the Cartório where the signature is registered, and they compare the two signatures to make sure they are the same. Essentially it's just another step in the bureaucracy that exists here. I'm sure these kinds of things exist in the states (I'm having flashbacks to signing our mortgage documents, and how inconvenient it was and how we had to do it in a certain time period, and so on and so forth). But wherever in the world you have to deal with these kind of extra steps, dare I say, unnecessary silly official procedures, it is a big pain.

My hubby went to go get the keys on Tuesday, and found out that we had to check 5 signatures. Great. Thankfully he was able to get 3 of the signatures done on Wednesday, even though he had to work two shifts for a recording session (not the normal schedule, nor the normal demands). My job was to figure out how to check the other two signatures, belonging to a couple, some friends of ours. I called the husband first at about 10 am, and he couldn't really tell me where the cartório was located, just in Nova Lima, close the hospital. He made it sound like it was really obvious where it was, and I should have no problems finding it. He was going to look up the info and get back to me. Meanwhile, I did probably 20 different google searches and I found 4 different places, but I couldn't figure out which one it was. He never called me back, so I called him (no answer). I called his home (not there). Then I called his wife, who did answer but she was driving (it's illegal to drive and talk on the cell phone) and rushing to the hospital because of an emergency!!


Thankfully, the emergency room visit was short and everybody came out okay. But while they were at the hospital, I spent another hour searching the internet for the possible location of this Cartório, and “looked” around using Google street view. The next morning I called the husband yet again to ask if he could pick between the 2 options that I thought I had narrowed it down to. Was it by Mangabeiras Pizza? Yes! Finally, an address. It only took me 22 hours.

Meanwhile, we had to go the Policia Federal. I think I will save this saga for another post. Because there’s only so much Brazil craziness you can handle at a time. Trust me.

Between visits to the Policia Federal on Thursday, I made a trip to the Cartório. Found it, no problem. Took my number, waited my turn, went to pay. But hold on just a minute, it can’t be that easy. They could only find the signature for the husband, but not the wife. I call the wife, and it turns out her ID number (CPF) was missing a digit. I go back to the counter and ask them to look her up under the correct ID number, and making sure they were spelling her name correctly. No luck. I call the wife back again. She was certain that she was registered there, but if not, she was also registered someplace in central on Rua Bahia and at another place on a street that began with the letter “G.”

Do you see the theme here?

I am not a happy camper. I ask her if she can talk to the lady at the counter at the current cartório. I go back in and hold up the cell phone, but the lady holds up her hands in the universal sign for “get that thing away from me.” She’s not allowed to talk to anyone on the phone. I ask to speak to the manager. Several times. The manager appears. He can’t talk to the owner of the signature on the cell phone because it’s not allowed (no phone calls). I ask him what happened to my friend’s signature, did they lose it? He is insulted that I would even suggest that, and says that she is not registered there. But she says she is. We go back and forth. He looks again. It’s not there.

Then, my friend (still waiting on the cell phone) says that maybe she didn’t register there.


So I ask here where she is registered, and she tells me that it’s someplace off of so and so street and so and so street. “Do you know the address?”


“Can you remember the name of the street?"


But you could go to that area and ask around.

Really??!! Me, a foreigner, with a horrible accent and lousy Portuguese, walking around downtown Belo Horizonte looking for some location about which she really has only a vague idea.

I call my husband, who works in the area she is talking about, and he tells me that there are at least 3 cartórios in this area.


I went home, found the name of the street that starts with a “G.” I call her back and ask for ANYTHING to help me find the cartório on Rua Goías, landmarks, stores. ANYTHING. “It’s by a newspaper stand, a banco do journais.” Just like every other store in downtown. “And there is a bookstore on the corner.” Great.

Then we go back to the Policia federal, but of course we don’t get done until HOURS after we start. We rush the kids to school (they were super late), rush home to get some paperwork, rush downtown to the general area of the cartório, and by a miracle, I find it. But of course there is a line of 15 people, and there is no way that we are going to get out of there before the rental agency closes. So, I wait in line, finally get her signature verified and almost cry with joy because this whole drama is over. Oh, but then I remember that I still have to get the keys.

Thankfully I had no problems this morning getting to the rental agency, paying the fire insurance, and getting the keys. And I even did it with 2 kids in tow.

Only 4 days after we were supposed to. Now, to make the new apartment habitable...


  1. I feel you. You survived.

    Luiz and I went to renew his bus pass yesterday. First the building looks like it should be condemned and is unsafe to enter, but Luiz had been there several times before so he assured me it was the right place (plus he recognized all the staff outside smoking). Then they wanted copies of multiple documents (this was for a renewal, Luiz has already provided copies for each of the previous three times he has gotten the card renewed. He has to prove he STILL lives at the residence he has documented three times already. And for some arcain reason he needed his mother's signature on one document (he is 58 years old).

    And what really drives me batty is that for a place that basically collects copies of documents all day -- they DO NOT have a copy machine. You have to walk 1.5 blocks to the nearby university to get your copies made.

    Ah Brazil...

  2. I'm sorry you had to experience all that! Yes, there's a lot of craziness going on here, especially with this Cartorio stuff, sometimes neither we Brazilians understand it. I'm looking foward to hearing about the Policia Federal story tought.

  3. Dear Shelley,

    The person who told you about the origin of the "Cartorios" is clearly misinformed or just made the story up.
    "Cartorios" are nothing but a "Notary Public", nothing new, not at all a Brazilian invention, it dates back to Rome and Old Greece.
    The Portuguese Royal family brought the system to Brazil when they colonized the country. They would "grand" the "Notary Public" license to families from Portugal friends with the royal family that were "supposed" to be "trustworthy" people and they were, and they were very proud of the privilege to be trusted by the royal family and have the power to officialize documents and verify their authenticity.
    Cartorios in Brazil are still passed down by family line, still, from the same original families entrusted from the Portuguese royal family over 300 years ago. So they are very traditional Brazilian families.
    I have to agree that most of them are not efficient, accumulate too much work and responsibility and I also think the system should be changed.
    The difference in the US is that any private person who proves to the state he or she is "trustworthy" ( no criminal history ), can pay a small fee and obtain a government official seal or stamp to "notarize" documents.
    In the US is much easier to notarize documents because any Bank manager, Lawyer, Town Hall clerk can hold the notary status and verify the authenticity of your signature.
    Americans are way more practical, which has it's advantages and disadvantages, you can notarized signatures very easy but that also opens up the doors for a ton of fraud. A lot of these fraudulent signatures and fake documents surfaced during the current housing bubble crisis, this would have never been possible in Brazil.
    On the good side, you have to agree with me that after your frustrating ordeal you are an EXPERT in Brazilian document notarization :)
    It sounds like the worse part of your whole ordeal was the lady who didn't remember where she had her signature registered and wouldn't even help you find the place.
    I would like to share one tip with you, Banca de Jornais or Taxi Stops are excellent places to ask for directions or even help to locate the closest "Cartorio". You can always buy some gum or some candy to start a friendly conversation with the person at the Banca DE Jornal. I am sure they would be glad to help. If you go ask at the Taxi stop, you can always ask them to take you to the Cartorio, taxis are not that expensive and it could be worth to spend R$4,00 on a cab fare to get you to the Cartorio faster and save you precious time.

    Brazilians value a lot the "asking for directions" system. People rely on it and are glad to help when they know what you are asking.
    Sorry to hear you had such a hard time with these signatures.
    Glad to hear you accomplished such a hard task.


  4. Thanks Ray for the info! I knew I could count on you :-) I will update the post when I get a chance...

  5. Wow! That sounds like a huge headache! You're making me second guess our move to BH!

    We'll be in BH at the end of this month to look for housing. I'm really not looking forward to the trip after reading your post! :) Can you recommend an English speaking relator? My husband speaks Spanish so he understands some Portuguese, but I only speak English. What areas would you recommend living in? My husband will have a car, but I won't. I'd like to be in a central area with shopping and parks (if possible) within walking distance since I'll be dragging a two and four year old along everywhere I go. Life was much easier when I roamed the world with just me and my two suitcases!