MAY 2005: Five Days in Megacity São Paulo
Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
May 2005: Spending five days in Guarulhos and São Paulo.
After two quiet months without traveling, I made a bus trip to São Paulo at the end of May. I was invited by Dayane and her family. I know Dayane since 2002; we still have good contact with each other. She is a journalist and at that time, she was working in a small independent company that organized and assisted small events. Part of her family and friends worked it with her. Dayane lives with her family in a big house in Guarulhos, a suburb of the metropolis of São Paulo. This city itself counts over one million inhabitants, and is best known for the international airport bearing the same name.
The bus trip from Belo Horizonte to Sao Paulo takes more than eight hours, over a distance of over six hundred kilometers. Every day, dozens of buses depart from both cities at scheduled times. It takes about six hours until the border of Minas Gerais with the state of São Paulo is reached. The landscape is varied, in this time of year (autumn), the hills and mountain slopes are covered with lush green. I traveled with Gontijo: one of the largest bus companies of Brazil, with hundreds of buses on the roads every day. The poltrona (seat) at the window was very comfortable; the air-conditioning blew fresh air through the bus. The bus was well occupied; a number of passengers were chatting with each other, others seemed to be dozing away or snored even. Most passengers to São Paulo prefer to leave in the evening, spending the night sleeping in the bus, and to awake in the morning at the arrival in São Paulo.
I chose for a travel at day, to be able to watch the landscape of Minas and São Paulo. I arrived at the big bus station of Tietê at half past eight. This station is fully covered and occupied by dozens of shops and eating corners. The station gives passengers a seamless connection to the subway, and to buses to other cities and states in the country. Dayane picked me up thirty minutes later; she experienced delays due to road traffic. We greeted each other cordially; it had been more than one year ago that I met her and her younger sister at the Guarulhos airport, before I flew back to the Netherlands. Not much later I met her family. Her parents received me warmly and welcomed me in their house. At that time my Portuguese was still very poor, so Dayane often had to translate for us.
Dayane had a day off the following day. She would take me to an exhibition, she told me. We went to the MAM, the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. There was an exhibition in a pavilion, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, which would interest me, Dayane told me. She was right: the exhibition ‘Corpos Pintados’ was a huge collection of photographs and life-size statues of body art, the English translation for the title. This exhibition was well attended, people sometimes looked shy and were giggling when observing the nude portraits, and others made funny comments. Unfortunately, I could not understand all these jokes.
The museum area also houses a sculpture garden, with creations of contemporary artists. This sculpture garden was also visited by us. There were creations, which you could not figure out, even with the most vivid imagination, what the artist wants to portray with it; other creations showed less abstract forms. Nearby is the huge Ibirapuera Park, with its half a square kilometer approximately seven times as large as the Amsterdam Vondel Park. The park (designed by Burle Marx, and buildings designed by Niemeyer) was opened over fifty years earlier to mark the fourth centenary of the city. The park is really worth visiting: walking through the green and along the large ponds, which are crowded with fish.
A tax meter in São Paulo: Some idea for any
Day three was spent in the historic center of town. We entered the Se, the large cathedral. In the Museu Anchieta, we learned about the origins and development of the city. Dayane followed interestingly in the detailed history, told by a guide, of the foundations of the city. Dayane guided me through the busy city, along sunny and crowded shopping areas. The highlight of this day was the visit to the Pinacoteca, where a large collection of sculptures by major artists can be admired. We could just do a quick round before the gates were closed.
Day four was a trip to the coast of São Paulo: to São Vicente, the oldest Portuguese settlement of the Americas. A remarkably shaped arch stood on a view point. This monument, which marks the fifth centenary of the discovery of Brazil in 2000, was designed by Niemeyer. At that point I could enjoy a magnificent view over the beach flanked by tall buildings. São Vicente is known as one of the whale observation stations in the country. The Aqua Mundo, with huge aquariums, was also visited by us. We saw the interesting sea life of the South Atlantic Ocean, and some penguins in this Aquarium.
The final day was a very special day. Dayane and her family and friends were working along the Avenida Paulista. They organized a workshop where interested people themselves could make masks. They could wear these colorful masks during the Gay Parade, which started later in the afternoon. In the morning I was walking along the Avenida Paulista, and visited the famous MASP, the Museum with works by famous masters like Cézanne, Picasso, Gaugin, Van Gogh. A collection that I really enjoyed. Also very interesting for me were the impressive skyscrapers along the avenida, all of them were architectural marvels.
I returned to the location where Dayane was working, and from there I could see the Gay Parade passing by. Mega Sound trucks with boxes that made the streets tremble at the beats of disco and dance music. The eccentricity of participants dressed up half naked on the colorful decorated floats fanatically danced along on the different rhythms. It was a huge, colorful parade. There was a casual, relaxed, high atmosphere. Interested people followed the crazy parade from the exuberant and less crowded side streets of the avenida. The large numbers of police officers, with their arms crossed, seemed to amuse themselves. Chatting with their colleagues on motorcycles, or with passers by. They seemed to have a peaceful Sunday.
Balloons with the colors and the shape
of a rainbow
For me Sunday was not over. I was invited by Fred, the brother of Dayane, to attend a match of his favorite soccer club, Palmeiras, in the classic against the famous Santos, the club of soccer legend Pelé. Fred borrowed me a green Palmeiras shirt. We went to the Palestra Itália stadium, the home of Palmeiras. This small stadium (the big stadium in Sao Paulo is Morumbi) was located in a middle-class residential district, and was flanked by tall buildings. The exciting match was one of the Brazilian league, and Palmeiras defeated Santos by two to zero. We were celebrating the victory. Also this party came to an end, I had to return to Belo Horizonte at night, and spend my night in the bus when being driven through the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais.
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom