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Leaving Sao Paulo

February 15, 2009

It’s my last morning here in Sao Paulo. I have to say that, with the greatest respect to my friend and Sao Paulo native, Rodrigo, I am not going to be sorry to leave. A lot of what I thought when I arrived here hasn’t changed. This is big, dirty, noisy, exhilarating city with an unapologetic commercial drive, and all the divisions and human debris that this creates. In many ways, it reminds me of Osaka in Japan, but the extremes are greater. The problem is that the huge divisions can’t be ignored if you are in any way sensitive to human suffering, and the suffering here cries out from every raw-smelling homeless man sleeping on the street, from the ragged kids sorting through rubbish at night, from the women selling themselves in the parks, stations – well, everywhere. Certainly, these things are part of city life in many places in the world, and there are many far, far poorer places, but there is something profoundly saddening, depressing, about the gulf between the helicopter-chauffeured elite and the people on the street in O Centro, and especially in the ignorance and indifference – which I have not only been told about but have seen. By the end of just one week, during which I have tried to be as much a part of the place as I could, when I have spent time talking to everyone from human rights groups to people in ordinary bars, I feel like retreating, curling into a ball in the corner of my room.

So thank-you, Sampa, but I am not sorry to be leaving. Here are some pictures of the hundreds I took, of aspects booth good and bad…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2009 7:25 pm

    Hm… interesting to see how your comments changed from the first to the last impression of Sampa. The last is closer to my view as an insider (well, not quite as I am from the STATE of São Paulo, from a town called São Carlos, and not Sampa itself). You were spot on when talking about the huge sad contrasts, although there are lots of things we (insiders and quasi-insiders) still admire in and about this city. Its complexity (social, cultural above all) is one of them. But anyway, I still think a week is good to grab this I am calling love&hate feeling about São Paulo, but you would need much more to start understanding the intricate and complex relations AND feelings that shape São Paulo as a city and as an urban environment (considering “city” and “urban” as different concepts, of course).

    Cheers,
    Rodrigo.

  2. David permalink
    February 17, 2009 7:57 pm

    The strange thing is that now I am in Brasilia – which is, frankly, a dull place once you get past the architecture of the government buildings – I miss Sampa! I have been out in some of the residential districts, and it is safe and full of students, but not interesting. The only place with any life is the bus station – it has all the little places doing sucos and salgados and of course all the sad things too – but the whole point of it is to transport all the poorer workers away to and from the centre. Other than that there are the malls. And I hate malls!

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