Friday, 23 December 2011

Seen on the streets of São Paulo: Car carrying tree

I saw this scene the other day. On the one hand people complain there are too many accidents, on the other...

Ingenious or stupid?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Photos of São Paulo's Cracolândia past and present

Crack user in 2005

There is an infamous area in the historical centre of São Paulo which has become known as Cracolândia, the name being derived from the fact that since the nineties crack has been openly bought, sold and consumed in open air public spaces of this centro region.

Despite efforts by the authorities to "clean up" Cracolândia and gentrify the area, there has been little notable change. Agencia Luz has some powerful black and white photographs from 1995 to present day which illustrate this.

I wanted to share some of them here as most people would not contemplate going anywhere near this part of town and although there are plenty of snapshots professional photographs are rare. [Some photos are edited to protect the identities of those pictured]

Cracolandia 1995

A consumer of crack in Cracolândia 2008

Police crackdown on Cracolândia 2005

Cracolândia 2009

Friday, 16 December 2011

Homicide rate in São Paulo hits lowest levels in over 30 years

The Sangari Institute has just released a so called map of violence in Brazil covering data from 1980 to 2010 and the most interesting data is no doubt from São Paulo:

Above are comparative results from the last 10 years for Brazil, São Paulo state, São Paulo city and municipalities, and finally the interior of the state (excluding São Paulo city). The interesting data is how the city and its immediate surroundings has transformed from having 60,2 homicides per 100,000 people in 2000 right down to last year’s 15,6 per 100,000. For a population the size of São Paulo that is statistically significant and an incredible drop. Few would have predicted 10 years ago that São Paulo would have four times fewer murders. It has gone from practically twice the national average to nearly half the national average whilst continuing to grow in absolute population size.

Looking at the data more closely we can see it is a complete reversal of the trend up to that point. São Paulo started out in 1980 with a homicide rate similar to its current one but greatly outstripped the already increasing national average year on year until reaching its peak in 1999 reaching levels over 65% higher than the already high national average. Frightening statistics. Escalating lawlessness? An inevitable product of gross inequality? A side effect of the uncontrolled creation of a megalopolis? Either way, 1999 would have been a difficult time to predict any major reduction or even leveling off.

But the data doesn’t lie, here’s the year by year rate again by Brazil, São Paulo state, São Paulo city and municipalities, and finally the interior of the state (excluding São Paulo city):

And in more visual format (check out the purple line which is São Paulo city):

Paradoxically 10 years ago there were more municipalities which didn’t register any homicides at all which means there are now much fewer homicides but they are more dispersed. And counter-intuitively, although the more populous areas have higher rates in general at the top end the municipalities with 200-500,000 population now have a higher rate than ones with over 500,000:

Food for thought and definitely not what the tabloid media, human rights activists, or paranoid affluent Paulistanos would have you believe...

For more statistics on São Paulo: 

For the full report from the Instituto Sangari:

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Seen on the streets of São Paulo: Pro-caffeine graffiti

I saw this on the wall of my new favourite coffee hang out the wonderful Coffee Lab in Vila Madalena.

A great place for purists. If you ask them for Decaf they actually won't serve you! :)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Street Art in São Paulo Part 5

Here are a couple more of my favourite bits of street art, both located in the western part of central São Paulo:

Part of the 260m mural at Avenida Paulo VI (Metro Sumaré)

A frog looks out from Rua Inácio Pereira Rocha

More street art in São Paulo here

Street Art in São Paulo Part 4 - space invaders are here
Street Art in São Paulo Part 3 - vila madalena
Street Art in São Paulo Part 2 - painted lamp posts
Street Art in São Paulo Part 1

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The São Paulo state flag explained; what each element means

São Paulo state flag

The São Paulo state flag is actually a national flag reject (hence the pictorial representation of the country not the state). It was supposed to serve as the Republican flag in 1889 but a rival design, which is similar to the current Brazilian flag, was eventually chosen. The paulista flag then laid dormant until it was adopted by the state of São Paulo in 1946 by which time the prohibition of state symbols and flags had been lifted.

Although when proposed as a national flag the colours black, white and red were supposed to reflect the racial diversity of the country; European (white), African (black) and Indigeneous (red), as state flag the elements have the following meaning:

The 13 black and white stripes:  The nights (black) and days (white) during which the bandeirantes fought for the state.

[ASIDE: The word bandeirantes derives from the portuguese word bandeira or flag. They are the guys who, organising themselves through a system of identifying flags, basically fought, robbed and enslaved indigeneous peoples despite being themselves descendents or partially descendent of indigenous tribes. So, although they were essentially land pirates and have a deservedly bad name elsewhere in South America, in Brazil and in São Paulo in particular they are revered for setting out from São Paulo de Piratininga (now São Paulo) and contributing to making Brazil stretch out way beyond the dividing lines the Portuguese and the Spanish had formally agreed. True heroes..]

The red triangle represents the blood spilt by the bandeirantes in their exploits

The colour blue is supposed to reflect the strength and vigour which was given to the state (and presumably country) by the bandeirantes.

And finally the 4 stars are supposed to be the four major stars of the constellation of the Southern Cross (Cruzeiro do Sul) under which Brazil, and therefore São Paulo, lies.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

VIDEO: Specialist school for blind ballet dancers in São Paulo

This is a report on a ballet school in São Paulo which has developed a method of "teaching by touch" in order to develop professional ballet dancers who are blind or visually impaired.

 Approximately 300 dancers have graduated from the school since it was founded in 1995..

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

VIDEO: How 10minutes of rain in São Paulo can turn a street into a river

São Paulo is pretty much bang on the Tropic of Capricorn and has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate meaning it’s very green or in less endearing terms: it’s a goddam rainy city!

In fact one of its nicknames is cidade da garoa (the city of drizzle) which is mostly inaccurate because the rain when it does come down tends to come down no in a drizzle but in spectacular fashion. There are quite often intense flash showers which rapidly pour vast amounts of water onto the city and then disappear.

Last Saturday at about midday we had one of these showers. It was all over very quickly but here is what Rua Augusta looked like after about 10mins of hard rain:

I’m told that this is quite common at this time of the year as we are entering the rainy season but bear in mind that this is a very central street and probably blessed with above average drainage than most…

Monday, 28 November 2011

VIDEO: Reaction of Corinthian fans in a local bar in São Paulo to Fluminense's equaliser against Vasco

This weekend there were two games to go in the Brasileirão, Corinthians were 2 points ahead of Vasco and winning against Figuerense. Anything but a win for Vasco and Corinthians would take the title. That's the background and here's how the guys in my neighbourhood reacted to Fluminense's equalising goal against Vasco:

Emotional stuff. However Vasco went on to win the game so the league will go down to the wire on the final match of the season which sees Corinthians up against local rival Palmeiras. Can't wait..

Friday, 25 November 2011

Today is Black Friday in Brazil, let's shop!

Everybody who’s lived here for more than 5 minutes knows that Brazilians love a bargain!

So it comes as no surprise to see that although there is no tradition or celebration of Thanksgiving Day, Brazil has still embraced the Black Friday concept and created one of its own. 

I made a similar post a few months ago about how Valentines day was adopted as a sales booster for the winter months an today I ound out Black Friday has also come to town:

The online shops have all gone “black” too:

Fnac has even stretched it out to the weekend and is calling it the “Black Edition”

I guess if they made all that effort it would simply be rude not to buy something…

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

São Paulo in Statistics: 2010 Census

Here are some facts and figures on São Paulo recently released as part of the 2010 census but not widely commented on:

Household Income
At R$2,853 average income per household is high compared to the national average of R$ 2,222. The states with the highest household incomes are:

Brasilia D.F (R$ 2,853) [somewhat of an exception as it is a new city and an administrative district]
São Paulo (R$ 2,853)
Santa Catarina (R$ 2,636)
Rio de Janeiro (R$ 2,630)
Rio Grande do Sul (R$ 2,403)
Paraná (R$ 2,364)

Infant Mortality
One of the amazing statistics revealed is infant mortality. In 1980 23,3% of all deaths were infants below the age of 12months. The national average in 2010 is now 3,4% and in São Paulo 2,7%  the 4th lowest in the whole country behind Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul.

Brazilians living abroad
Of the total number of Brazilians who are living abroad a massive 21,6% originate from São Paulo state. The top destinations at a national level are US, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Italy and England but in São Paulo´s case Japan is second placed.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Police car chases and crashes into plane suspected of illegal imports

I always tell my friends that watching the regional news in Brazil is far more exciting than it is back home.

Today's evening news highlight came from Ribeirão Preto, inner state of São Paulo. It's basically a dramatic showdown between the "Policia Federal" and suspected smugglers of electronic goods originating from neighbouring Paraguay which culminates in the police agents driving their car at speed into a suspect airplane in order to immobilise it.

Video is below courtesy of Estadão TV:

Straight out of a movie scene!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Vintage video of São Paulo in 1943

Yesterday I came across this footage of São Paulo in 1943. It's full of clichés but nontheless quite entertaining to watch from the vantage point of the "future" and an interesting way of appreciating the scale of the change that the city has experienced in less than 70 years:

The film sponsored by the U.S. Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to promote friendly relations with South American countries

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Seen on the streets of São Paulo: Playing video games whilst you get your hair cut

This is going to be a really short post because the picture says it all:

Peeping through the window at a customer playing as the barber works..

A personal TV screen and console to play with whilst you get your hair cut. How cool is that?!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dual-function tooth pick discovered in São Paulo's best "pastel" café

“Pasteis” or “Wind pasties” as the bad ones are called are a sort of pastry envelope with some sort of filling (and air) inside.  Love them or hate them they are a local favourite and believe it or not there are serious  competitions as to who does them best. 

I had heard for a while now that Pastel da Maria on Fradique Coutinho has the best pasteis in town and in the official competitions Maria always seems to make the finals. Here’s her with her certificates in case you don’t believe me:

And here she is with one of her "pasteis":

Anyway, today seemed like a good day to try them…

..And they were good. But the real surprise was the tooth pick on the table. At first it seemed like a normal toothpick. Here it is:

Apparently normal tooth pick

But then! Then I discovered that it had special powers:

Special tooth pick

The green tip is a mint coated spike so that your mouth feels fresh (after picking out stubborn bits of “pasteis”) and as far as I’m concerned that’s the first ever high-tech dual-function tooth pick I’ve seen. For that alone Maria Pasteis is the one for me..

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Cute Words in Portuguese Part 4

 A hyper-distorted portuguese anglicism AKA a cheeseburger

There are a number of anglicisms which have been adopted and integrated into Brazilian Portuguese. A lot of them have been distorted or morphed along the way which makes for some interesting and amusing reading for those lucky enough to be bilingual.

Here are some examples:

"Picape" (pick-up truck).
"Bife" (whiche derives from "beef" but actually is closer to "steak" in meaning)

and my personal favourite "X-burger"

The letter "x", in Brazilian Portuguese makes a "ch" sound and is spelt "xis"  So a cheeseburger is written X-burger and as "tudo" is "all" you can be sure that if you order a X-tudo you will get a mighty big burger as in the menu below:

Burger brazil sao paulo
Add caption

See also:
Cute words in Portuguese Part 3
Cute words in Portuguese Part 2
Cute words in Portuguese Part 1

Monday, 17 October 2011

São Paulo in Statistics: Most common vehicles

In São Paulo you quite often seen members of the CET, a municipal road traffic organisation which motorists love to hate for its application of traffic penalties and fines. Quite often they're not applying fines but collecting traffic data.

Here is some of that data summed up in a nice interactive infographic courtesy of the Folha de São Paulo.

It is interesting to see the high density of motorbikes on the roads (a probable consequence of the traffic congestion), the concentration of lorries and trucks in the East of the city and the high number of buses operating close to the centro zone.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

São Paulo in Statistics: where are we from?

The IPEA (Institute for Applied Economic Research) just pulled demographic data from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). It shows where adult residents of different cities were born by federal state.

It shows that barring Brasilia, which is a new city and has a huge migrant population, São Paulo is the city with the highest proportion of adults born outside the state, 46% in total. Bahía, in the North East, is the state which contributes the most to São Paulo city's population followed by Minas Gerais and another North Eastern state Pernambuco. Interestingly, although central São Paulo feels quite multicultural, people born in foreign countries such as myself still only contribute 1% of the city's adults.

Of the remaining 54% we can assume from population growth figures that a large part were not born in the city itself either but in the surrounding towns of the state of São Paulo.

See more statistics on São Paulo here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Surprising item in São Paulo toilets No.2

Fruit and ice is what I normally find in my cocktail glass. Occasionally it appears on my dinner plate but never before have I seen it in a toilet! You can therefore imagine my surprise on finding lime and ice toilet freshener in the urinals at the male toilets of a local restaurant.

São Paulo never ceases to surprise me but I'm sure the next caipirinha is not going to taste the same...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Microchip operated gun shoots only from owner's hands

Mario Gazzio holding a micro chip operated gun
Mario Gazziro, shooting a prototype of his gun  (image from Folha de São Paulo)

In the film District 9 the alien “prawns” shoot weapons that work only with alien biology rendering them useless in the hands of humans. It’s a somewhat bizarre science fiction film but is apparently the inspiration for the latest research of Mario Gazzira of the Universidade de São Paulo (USP). He has developed a gun which fires only in the hands of its owner thanks to a radio detection feature similar to that used for example on the São Paulo subway system to scan passenger travel passes.

The aim is to reduce accidental and non-accidental deaths by reducing the use of guns by third parties. Here’s how it works:

(image from Folha de São Paulo)
The gun will only fire when it detects a specific and unique chip which muct be embedded in the user's finger.

 The gun has a built in sensor which enables or disables the gun depending on whether or not te radio identification is successful similar to how turnstiles work on the underground system.

For the process to work the gun owner has to undergo microsurgery, something Mario Gazzira already did approximately one year ago in order to prove the technology works.

Not sure this will significantly reduce gun crime in São Paulo but from a technological point of view it's an interesting invention.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

São Paulo hosts the Philosophy Olympics

São Paulo today hosted the Philosophy Olympics for the first time ever which reminds me of that classic Monty Python sketch.

In fact this one is real, there was pre-Olympic training in which assignments have to be prepared and the qualifiers went through to the Olympics proper. The philsopher "athletes" are all students and represent their respective schools in the competition.

Except, it's not a competition. According to the official website, "As Olimpíadas buscam um clima que pretende ser não de competição, mas de colaboração e de estímulo para o pensamento" which roughly translates as: "The Olympics aim not to create an atmosphere of competiveness rather one of collaboration and thought stimulation"

Rio must be really jealous it only got the non-cerebral international version...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My cheapest meal so far

Whilst much is said of the high prices in São Paulo, it's also true that there are many places to get cheap food. The cheapest place I have eaten in so far is a local restaurant on Fradique Countinho recommended by a student friend of mine who lives a few blocks away from my house.

It's a fairly discreet place with a small bar and restaurant sign on the façade. On the last page of the menu there's a R$5 (just over 2 euros/dollars) meal deal which is basically a plateful of food known locally as a "prato feito":

Here's a more visual description (the aerial shot doesn't do justice do the volume of food):

And if you don't speak portuguese here's an anatomical breakdown of the meal:


Friday, 16 September 2011

Via Quatro: São Paulo's newest metro line

The new Line 4 metro announced this week extended opening hours (04:40 to 00:00) plus a weekend service as well as some additional stations. Here are some interesting facts about the newest metro line in São Paulo:

The trains are not Brazilian
It was built by Rotem which is a South Korean company owned by the Hyundai Group. Believe it or not the trains were built in South Korea and transported by sea to Santos where they were towed to São Paulo. So whilst they are now confined to travelling 12km East or West across São Paulo ad back again they are actually well travelled trains.

It has taken over 7 years to get this far
Building had been in progress since 2004 and although operational operational there are still stations yet to be opened.

Maximum capacity is staggeringly high
It is expected to carry up to 970,000 different passengers daily once it is running at full capacity. The trains carry 25% more passengers than any of the other trains on the other metro lines.

Engineering accidents have characterized the building work
There were no less than 10 major engineering accidents during construction, the most severe being the collapse of the site at Pinheiros causing an 80m crater. The consortium in charge denied there were any casualties and this is why despite the insistence of the families whose houses and cars fell into the crater it took 4 days to find the first victim and 13 days the last one. 7 people died. The Consortium later denied any engineering malpractice and attributed the accident to “fortes chuvas” (heavy rainfall)

The trains have no drivers
Line 4 users driverless technology meaning the trains are operated remotely from a control station and there is no human being onboard the train who can control its movement. These are the first driverless trains in Latin America.

And here is the official ad for the new line:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Brazilian football referees using temporary spray paint

Those of you who are football fans will appreciate how frustrating it is to watch opposition players move the ball closer to goal or at a better angle the second the referee turns his back on a free kick given against your team. And yet the solution is simple and over here it is already being used to great success. It goes like this:

The referee is given a lightweight can of temporary spray paint. When a free kick is awarded within range of goal he marks the exact spot by spraying the grass with paint. He can then walk away knowing the players can´t change the free kick position. After a few minutes the paint disappears and the game continues.

Vanishing spray being applied

It’s been around for years and I’m told across the border in Argentina they even use it to stop the wall moving forwards on freekicks (also a very annoying practice) and it works well so the question is: why do we not have this in European leagues?!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Extreme traffic congestion in São Paulo

I recently missed a flight from São Paulo to Madrid despite setting out for the airport three and a half hours ahead of time. This is what my Google Maps Navigation app was telling me as I tried to guide the taxi through the least congested routes:

You can see that Marginal Tietê (horizontal road at the top of the screencap) was not the best place to be at that time (neither was Avenida Veinte Tres de Maio or any of the main traffic arteries for that matter). This is quite normal though and at 18:50 on a weekday it's especially bad.

The fact that it's so normalised is interesting because it starts to change drivers' behaviours. Veja Magazine recently asked Paulistanos to tweet what they do in their cars when sitting out the traffic and the responses included:

I read books
I cut my nails
I kiss my partner
I sing
and of course quite a few people said they tweeted

But the one that stole the show for me was a girl who said that there was no single answer and that she did whatever she would normally be doing at the time, her example was that if it was lunch time, then so be it, lunch it was, and she would eat in the car.

It reminds me of the answer I always give to Brazilian friends when they ask what we do back home in the UK where it rains so often. Well we do whatever we were planning to do, I tell them. Perhaps human ability to accept and adapt depends on the extremity and permanence of the situation which might be why Brits have a thing called road rage and Brazilians stay at home when it rains...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Over the counter hangover pills

With brand names as hedonistic sounding as "Enjoy" and warnings of "For adult use only" you could be forgiven for being suprised that these sachets only contain regular white pills to be taken with a glass of water. "Why the name and the adult warning?", I hear you ask. Well the symptom "ressaca" which is written on the packet is portuguese for hangover and these are actually hangover pills to be consumed before and/or after excessive alcohol intake.

Personally I think they're a great invention and I'm surprised I haven't seen them elsewhere in other countries. You take one pill before going out and one after. This does entail some practical difficulties in that you need to be able to a) predict your excesses before they actually occur and b) not be in too precarious a state so as not to affect you remembering you need to take the second pill when you get back home!

Still, it's a great invention and it's available over the counter at any pharmacy. The leading brand is Engov although I prefer the more descriptive brand names such as enjoy (above) or Posdrink (below)

The name changes but the pills all have the same composition:

maleato de mepiramina (DCB 5652) ............................ 15,0 mg
hidróxido de alumínio (DCB 4694) .............................. 150,0 mg
ácido acetilsalicílico (DCB 0089) ................................. 150,0 mg
cafeína (DCB 1642) ..................................................... 50,0 mg

So correct meif I'm wrong all you chemists / medics but you are basically being given an analgesic, a anti-histamine and a shot of caffeine (in exchange for a hangover)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Make sure the elevator is there before you get in aka State Law 9502/97

The Federal states system means each Brazilian state, in this case the São Paulo state government, has specific laws and regulations. Often they're very specific, in fact there seems to be a state law to cover just about everything.

My favourite is State Law Nº 9502/97 on elevators. It basically says that all elevators installed in buildings in São Paulo must warn the user to check that the elevator is actually there before getting in:

I would have thought this would be common sense and by in large unnecessary but perhaps they got wind of the winner of the 2010 Darwin award and decided to legislate...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cute Words in Brazilian Portuguese Part 3

"Para inglês ver" means for the English, or Englishman to see and it's used, quite frequently, in Brazilian Portuguese to describe something that is just for show. I found this quite a funny expression and was curious to find out if there was an interesting etymology behind it, and indeed there is:

Back in 1831 the Brazilian goverment came under pressure from England to abolish slavery. At the time England exerted influence on Brazil due to manufacturing, trade and financial dependence. Bowing to the pressure then, a new law was introduced which would severly fine importers of slaves and which made slaves free upon arrival on Brazilian shores. 

However most people including the deputies in parliament did not believe the law was enforceable and didn't think it would be effective and it would be only for the English, or Englishman to see. Therein was born the expression para o inglês ver.

In fact as predicted Brazilian slavery continued despite the change and until a new law was passed some twenty years later in 1852. 
See other cute words entries here:
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