Sao Paulo travel notes

by darribas

All of a sudden, I was leaving customs at Sao Paulo’s international airport. My friend Ana was waiting at the other side and the smoothness that had accompanied me over the 12h flight and the airport controls just continued. She drove me to the hostel (yes I’m going backpacker this time until I enter work mode) and after check in we went for dinner. We ate Moroccan and you’d be mistaken to think it’s something you shouldn’t do here. “The most typical food Sao Paulo is known for is its international cuisine”, I was told. And food it’s only a good metaphor of the bigger picture. I used to think globalization was an invention of the West. Cathedrals of this religion were New York, London and even Tokyo. World hubs that act as collectors of different realities, cultures and personal stories that cross, usually with the hope of improving life conditions. In this naive picture, the “periphery” had the only role of supplier. Boy how mistaken was I. Sao paulo’s 17 million people make it not only the largest metropolis of Latin America but one of the most diverse places I’ve been to. Start with the already hard to define Brazilian character (an amazing mix of indians, Europeans and Africans). Add the Japanese largest community outside Japan, and so many other layers of identities that have been added and mixed over its relatively short history. And the West here is not even a supplier any more.

Today we’ve been walking most of the day, eating and talking about the city, the country and what involves to be a Brazilian today. It is an exciting time to visit this country because I’m sure if I come in a few years I’ll be seeing such a different place. The picture I’m drawing reminds a lot to the Spain of the sixties and seventies I learnt at school and through my grandparents. Ana’s generation, like my parent’s, is the first one to have access in (relative) mass to many things we take for granted (although maybe not for too longer) in the Welfare Europe, and the sense of out of control most of the development in the city has is clear sign of the speed at which things are changing here. The feeling is similar in that regard to what it was to visit Mumbai or Bangkok: monsters that grow as a collective effort of millions of people but where no one really nows exactly what the effects of his actions will be. And sure enough, not everything is Perfectland: inequality is soaring and all you have to do to get a sense of the extent of pollution is to look at the color of “white” buildings downtown, to give a couple of examples. One thing is sure: this is not a stopping point but a snapshot in the middle of continuous change. And I’m happy I was lucky enough to be able to “have my camera at hand” to shoot it.