Ode to the Paulista

June 14, 2007 | By More

Avenida Paulista, São Paulo

To the Paulista Avenue, that is. The announcement made by São Paulo City Council that intends to reform the pavement [sidewalk] of the Avenida Paulista (more than 3 kilometres each side of the avenue) gives me the chance to write a few lines on the thoroughfare that, above any other place, best simbolizes the city of São Paulo. Incidentally, the proposal is to substitute the delicate pavement of Portuguese mosaic by blocks of harsh concrete.

In any case, the Paulista was one of my first contacts with Brazil. In spite of the concrete, the carbon dioxide, the traffic jams, the crowds, it was an inexplicable case of love at first sight. Walking along the Paulista from one end to another every day (after my Portuguese lessons I would take the underground back home and get off the train three stations early so I could walk along the Paulista) I had the feeling that I had plunged into Brazil at its purest. No baianas on their white clothes, capoeira dancers or any other cultural manifestations from other latitudes. No wildlife as such – unless you count it the urban wildlife. Here I was rubbing shoulders with Brazil “à la paulista”. The hustle and bustle of the city, people coming and going, work, counterfeit goods. With features shared with other parts of Brazil: the lively conversation, the smile, the look, the distrust, the lack of worries. The Paulista never failed to impress me, at lunch time in particular, when the offices send hordes of coats away for a quick lunch.

A moving experience. Who hasn’t felt the freshness coming out from the parque Trianon, surviving fearless among the skyscrappers? Who hasn’t walked in front of one of the mansions belonging to the coffee barons from the beginning of the century, and felt the walls trembling, aware that sooner or later the mason’s pick will make room for a new skyscrapper?

Last Sunday the Paulista was the setting for the biggest gay parade in the world. The local authorities might leave the avenue uglier with their concrete blocks. But the spirit of tolerance and integration that from time to time prevails over violence, intolerance and superstition will continue to make of the Avenida Paulista an unmissable rendezvous for anyone visiting the city.

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Category: Destination: São Paulo

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