Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A brief history of São Paulo

São Paulo in its early days
São Paulo is a city of immigrants, that much we all know. However, a lot of people, even those actually living in the city, don’t know too much about its foundation and how it came to be what it is today. So here’s a quick rundown on the history of São Paulo. It’s not comprehensive but, if a tourist during the world cup asks you for some historical information, it should get you out of trouble.

I know it sounds boring but it’s actually quite interesting:

Pre-São Paulo

How Ramalho may have looked like
We actually know the name of the first European to hit up on Sampa, a certain João Ramalho. Mr Ramalho was actually a shipwrecked sailor and that was not much around at the time so we can say that São Paulo did not have the most promising of starts. However human occupation as such was founded in a more formal way by Jesuit Missionaries, which is pretty much how most other Brazilian cities were founded.

16th Century

The original name back in 1554 was quite cool: São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga. It was essentially a mission to convert Guainás natives to Catholicism and was chosen for being between the ocean, potential farmlands inland and on the intersection of the Tietê river.

17th Century

Bandeirantes - not very nice people
Initially São Paulo’s main claim to fame was being a sort of headquarters for the bandeirantes, who were ruthless slavemasters, murderers and rapists but thanks to their expanision of Brazilian borders they are now preferred to be considered explorers and heroes (hence the memorial near the Ibirapuera park). 

Brazil sometimes feels lawless nowadays but back then it really was, so the bandeirantes pretty much took what they wanted, be it precious stones or native people, mostly by brute force. You have probably already heard of the Rapôso Tavares highway. Well, that’s named after Antonio Rapôso Tavares, one of the most savage Bandeirantes who would even steal and burn down Jesuit missions. Nice.

18th Century

After that São Paulo became a gateway to the gold which was being discovered in Minas Gerais. The 17th century gold boom led to investment sugarcane plantations drawing more wealth to São Paulo. In 1711 it got city status so we can say that São Paulo was officially “born”.

19th Century

A new drug is discovered
São Paulo soon became the commercial centre of a commodity crop, introduced in the previous century; Coffee. This was in many ways the turning point. Coffee became so huge foreign immigrants had to be imported mainly out of work Italians, Germans and Greeks.  

After that a second wave of immigrants joined the party: Japanese, Arabs, Chinese and Koreans. Slavery was abolished in 1888, but the city still needed workers and a large Jewish population sprung up. The city’s importance was clear and it was in fact here in São Paulo, that Brazil was declared independent in 1822

20th Century

Coffee was no longer booming but many other industries were already taking its place so it didn't matter too much. São Paulo was already the richest city and state in the country. Railroads were built to connect it to other cities, more immigrants piled in, this time from within the country as well as from abroad. This is when lots of low skilled workers from the North East came to grab a share of the riches, or at least try to.

Industrialisation kicked in under the Juscelino Kubitschek administration (yep, he got a street named after him too). And São Paulo continued to grow uncontrollably in almost all senses: population, wealth and influence.

21st Century

And so we ended up with this
Well, as you know, it is now the country (and arguably the continent’s) defacto capital of both art and commerce, the powerhouse of the Brazilian economy as well as the most multicultural city in the land. 


Oh and it’s the biggest city in Latin America, bigger than Mexico City by a couple million inhabitants.


So there you go. That’s São Paulo’s history in a nutshell; A shipwreck, Jesuits, Bandeirantes, Gold, Coffee, Cars and Immigration, lots of it.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The 360º Building AKA the ‘Jenga building’ by Isay Weinfeld



In its most basic form it is simply 62 "houses with yards", stacked on top of one another exactly like the blocks of a Jenga game. 

Wanting to avoid the seemingly inevitable problem of reduced outside space in traditional apartment block buildings, Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, created the 360º Building which offers yards rather than balconies.

The result is a stunning tower block high on the hills of Alto de Lapa which looks like it may fall over at any time. 

Check out the photos:





Saturday, 5 April 2014

Watch 200 years of São Paulo urbanisation in 30 seconds

São Paulo Growth

Not that long ago, São Paulo was a small outpost for trade and communications. Have you ever wondered how it became the megalopolis it is today and which parts grew first?

Wait no longer. The NYU Stern urbanisation Project has mapped out urban land expansion by year form 1880 to the turn of the 21st century. The resulting animation adopts a beautiful coloured ink format, each splash of colour corresponding to a different period of urbanisation.

São Paulo, shows subdued growth in the late nineteenth century followed by small expansions in the early years of last century. Then, in the 1930s, the centro region saw a sudden spurt of growth and 20 years later the incessant and massive spread of the city hit full speed, continuing to present day.

When you observe the final picture you can spot the darker colours relating to the oldest parts of the city and the lighter colours where recent construction has developed.




The data is from the Atlas of Urban Expansion, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Thursday, 27 March 2014

VIDEO: Dancing on a longboard

Today free style skater, Victor Freitas, shows us how to dance on a longboard in Villa Lobos Park, São Paulo.

I´m sure this is harder than it looks.

Check out the video:

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The tender nobody wants to touch: Why the Rio to São Paulo bullet train still isn’t built

What the train could look like (if it were built..)
Talk about a rail link between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is not new. And it’s not hard to see why people get excited about it. São Paulo– Rio de Janeiro is the busiest air route in the world with 1,130 commercial flights a week.

No two airports in the world has more aircraft movements and part of the reason is the lack of adequate alternatives. Taking a bus takes 6-7 hours if you are lucky enough to avoid heavy traffic and there is no train service, nevermind a bullet train.

Why then is not built already? The answer is not so much in the politic will, Dilma Rousseff actually went as far as promising it would be built in time for the 2014 world cup which is obviously not going to happen. The fact the project has vanished into thin air means she has actually been accused by some of using it only as an election tool.

The other reasons lie in cost, expertise and corruption. The cost of operating the line would be R$35.6bn (US$15.2bn) and the tender was already  launched back in 2010. The problem turned out to be that no capable company was interested in bidding for it. The submission date was moved from April 29th to July 29th 2011 in an effort to attract more companies but again not a single company showed any interest.

An infographic of the tender process
To attract more bids, it was decided the total cost would be split into two separate areas, operability and construction, which could receive individual bids. One tender would be for the actual construction and infrastructure project and the other for the operational and technological running of the line.

The phase 1 tender (construction) was set for December 2012 and again not a single construction company in the world found it attractive.

Alstom, the only bidder, is marred in accustions of corruption 

Finally in August last year Alstom, a company involved in other transport projects in Brazil (such as the metro in São Paulo), participated in the tender. However hopes were immediately dashed due to separate allegations of cartel forming. Until the investigation against Alstom has been resolved, there will presumably not be any further bids and therefore no further advancement in the much talked about Rio-São Paulo bullet train link.

Transport minister César Borges puts it the following deliberately vague way that only politicians truly manage: “In 2014, I do not expect a tender launch until after the October election. Otherwise, it should occur the following year,"


In Brazil there’s always tomorrow, if indeed the intention to build the bullet train is actually genuine..

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

VIDEO: Cars swept away by heavy rains in São Paulo


Anyone living in São Paulo will have noticed the sudden downpour of rain yesterday afternoon. Hopefully none of you were unlucky enough to park their cars in the Vila Madalena district.

Check out the video below of what happened to some cars that did.

Video of the rains on Rua Harmonia:

The moral of the story, park at the top of the hill next time! ;)

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