As a Brazilian I’m very happy with the fact that Rio is hosting the next Olympics but I have a feeling that my hometown, São Paulo, is being forgotten.
Rio is wonderful, I mean, how can I say anything bad about a city where on your lunch break you can nip into Ipanema, have a coconut water and maybe go for a dip in the sea. But as a Paulistano, I’m noticing how São Paulo could do better.
It used to be that for fun and sun Rio was the best but in terms of restaurants, shopping and nightlife São Paulo had it all. To be honest, that’s still true but the city shouldn’t rest on its laurels, it is feeling a bit abandoned. We need new projects, an urgent solution for traffic and a way to stop the rising in violence, which despite dropping over the last 10 years, spiked again in 2011.
While Rio has a handsome and charismatic mayor, São Paulo has a man from a party with no relevance in Congress. He did some good things in the city, such as the Cidade Limpa project, where outdoor advertising was forbidden in the city. A nice touch that improved immensely the city’s visual pollution, but we need more things like that.
For the upcoming elections in October São Paulo is showing its provincial side again with a former TV host first in the polls. Slightly populist and with close connection to the evangelical church, I don’t think he would best represent the city. It’s too early to tell who will win but São Paulo would do well with a more internationalist mayor.
It’s funny how the biggest city in South America can sometimes be so provincial and conservative. This can be traced back in history; its middle classes were major supporters of the dictatorship in the 1960s. And in many ways, its inhabitants can be quite isolationist from the rest of the country.
A recent example of these reactionary views happened when the construction of a new metro station in leafy Higienópolis was halted because locals feared the region would become too busy. Or let me put it this way, they didn’t want to see the poor walking around their streets.
I just worry because it’s the city I love, where I grew up, where I used to go to the famous 24-hour bakeries after a good night out. I think it deserves a special spot as one of the great global cities. It is vibrant and sexy in its own way. As Caetano Veloso sings in his love note to the city, “When I arrived here, I understood nothing. From the harsh concrete poetry of your corners to the discreet inelegance of your girls.”
Whether it’s a new mayor or a change in the city’s sometimes closed mindset, São Paulo just needs some more love.