Leaving Sao Paulo

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…

Oscar Niemeyer’s Brazilian Modernism (1)

As a fan of utopian urbanism, I couldn’t very well come to Brazil without checking out some of the great Oscar Niemeyer’s work. Next week I will be in Brasilia, but this week in Sao Paulo, I took a few hours out to visit the Memorial da America Latina, a cultural complex built on an old factory site. The overall plan is not that impressive and the whole complex looks a little worn out, but the it was the detail of Niemeyer’s individual buildings that fascinated me, and the external detail at that. The interiors are cool and compelling, but in some you are not allowed to take pictures, and most of the others are filled with ‘stuff’ that reduces the impact of the space.