Sunday, 26 February 2012

São Paulo in Statistics: Prison Overpopulation

São Paulo prisons: 81% overbooked

The prisoner population of the state of São Paulo is 179,000. To put that in a context which can be understood by non-Brazilians it is equivalent to the prisoner population of all of England and Wales. It also represents a extremely high proportion of the 496,000 prisoners currently behind bars in Brazilian jails across the country. Said in a different way, more than 1 in every 3 Brazilian prisoners are being held in a São Paulo jail.

The statistics above already hint at a serious overpopulation problem. Add to that the fact that country level prison population has grown to such an extent it has almost doubled between 2000 and 2010 and that the judicial system is slow and  inefficient to the point of having 40% of all prisoners still awaiting trial and you will have some sense of the chronic overpopulation problem.

In São Paulo 15 additional prisons or provisional detention units are already under construction. Unfortunately unless there is a dramatic change in policing, criminality or judicial process that will simply not be enough. Recent studies have estimated that São Paulo would need an additional 93 units over and above the 15 under construction just to correct current place to prisoner deficit. Disturbing though it is, this of course doesn't take into account the projected increase in future prionser numbers.

There are currently 121 new prisoners detained for every 100 released in São Paulo. And the situation is already critical, São Paulo is the state with the highest prisoner to place ratio at 185,447 prisoners for 102,242 places, an 81% overcrowding rate.

The video below is an excerpt from the documentary Under The Brazilian Sun and gives us a more direct sense of what overcrowding means and feels like in practice. It directly contradicts the argument a Paulistano gave to me to last year in his support for the introduction of the death penalty; that life in Brazilian prisons was far too easy and comfortable.



The rest of the documentary is also on youtube and is quite an eye opener although be warned some sections such as the one on torture and violence are very graphic.

More statistics on São Paulo

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Which fruit is what fruit in Brazilian supermarkets


Having made a concerted effort to spend more time in Brazil and less time travelling this year I have recently been receiving compliments as to how good my Portuguese has become. This is very encouraging but there are still parts of the language that I find difficult to master.

Whether this is a common problem or whether it's just me, I'll never know, but in previous languages I have learned I have always found the names of plants especially difficult and in Brazil the vast diversity of different fruit complicates my vocabulary learning even further.

Here's an example from my local supermarket which has a plentiful but not exhaustive array of fruit in the fruit and vegetable department. I occasionally look at the labels just to memorise the names in the hope that having the fruit in front of me will provide a strong visual clue but I find that when I return I still get one fruit confused with another.

Here is an example. All the below fruit look very similar and yet they are all very different:


First up is the Atimoia fruit which is also known as the Pineapple sugar apple although it is related neither to the Sugar Apple nor to the Pineapple.  It is what is known in botanical circles as a hybrid fruit a cross between  the Annona Cherimola and the Annona squamosa. There are three types which are common in Brazil: The Gefner, The Thompson and the fantastically named Pink Mammoth

This one is a very common fruit called Graviola or Soursop in English. I started drinking the juice before knowing what the actual fruit looked like.  Originally from the Antilles islands, it's called Sape Sape in Angola and in Brazil it grows in the Amazon and the North Eastern states.
OK now it gets confusing. This one is Kino, or Cucumis Metuliferus and it's originally from Africa and rather than being related to either of the fruit above it is a close relative of the melon and the cucumber. It's referred to as the Horned Melon in English and apparently it tastes a bit like a kiwi, can't wait to try,

Yes, there's one more. This one is Pinha or Annona squamosa or Sugar Apple in English. It's popular in many tropical countries but not to be confused with the Pineapple Sugar Apple which is the first fruit mentioned above

Now are we all sure we know our Horned Melons from our Pink Mammoths?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Looking forward to 2012 Carnival in Sampa

Vai Vai performance in São Paulo in 2011
To anybody who is disappointed not to have got extortionately priced airplane tickets to Rio and a staggeringly overpriced accommodation package: Don't worry! Carnival in Sampa is going to be fun (even if it rains)!

To get you in the mood below is a video of last year's champions Vai Vai:

After being proclaimed the 2011 winner I am told the streets of Bixiga, home of the Vai Vai samba school, gave way to amazing street parties.

As for this year below is one of the warm up events to the 2012 carnival that has already happened this week. Acadêmicos do Baixo do Baixo Augusta in action:


So enjoy the days off and get involved!

Monday, 13 February 2012

VIDEO: Parkour in the city of São Paulo


Parkour originated in France and is a solo pursuit so I was quite surprised to see a Parkour Academy in my neighboorhood. The training centre is called Tracer and offers classes to would be Parkour athletes. In retrospect it's a perfect fit with São Paulo's inescapably urban nature, its segregated public areas and limited open spaces.

The video below from the guys over at Canvas 24 P provides a powerful portrait of the city of São Paulo as seen from the perspective of Parkour. Well worth a watch:


SAMPARKOUR from Wiland Pinsdorf on Vimeo.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Seen on the streets of São Paulo: surfing the summer floods in Vila Madalena

Sometimes surfing is the only way to travel in São Paulo ;)

I should say upfront that I can't certify the authenticity of this photo but having witnessed the torential rainfall a couple of afternoons ago and knowing the hilly terrain of Vila Madalena I can quite believe that this is a genuine photo!

The alley above is called the "Beco de Batman" or simply "O Beco" and is a grafitti filed alleyway near Inacio Pereira Rocha and Fradique Countinho streets. The area is very hilly and when it rains hard, temporary urban rivers are formed.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

VIDEO: Marco Aslan's 3 horas em São Paulo




This is Marco Aslan's beautiful video of life of the streets of São Paulo which condenses 3 hours of Sunday life into a 3 minute video.



To me it has a sort of dreamy quality to it. I think it manages to capture the loneliness and fragility of the centro region but retains an uplifting portrait of the human spirit.




It's called 3 horas em São Paulo and the music is by Ludovico Einaudi. Enjoy.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Seen on the streets of São Paulo: Penalty fines for not finishing your lunch

There is a R$3 fine for wasting food at this restaurant in Carapicuiba, São Paulo

A popular way to have lunch in São Paulo, and indeed in Brazil in general, is to eat at a buffet style restaurant. These vary wildly in quality and price but the format is usually standard. You are required to choose to pay either a per kilo price (you weigh your plate and the more it weighs the more you pay in line with the price per kilo of that particular restaurant) or a fixed fee which enables you not to worry about weight (known in some countries as All You Can Eat)

What I found amusing when I started to get to know more buffet restaurants is that a lot of them threaten to apply a penalty fine to you if you choose the all you can eat option (comida a vontade) and don't finish your meal. It is called a taxa de desperdicio, literally a wastage fee, and brings back childhood memories although I don't recall my parents applying a monetary punishment back then!

From a business point of view it makes complete sense of course and means you can offer more competitive rates by keeping wastage to a minimum. Everyone's a winner except the guy who overestimates what he is able to eat - optimistic consumption is a crime!!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Relative distances of Brazilian state capitals from São Paulo


When friends visit they often have to curtail their travel plans when they realise the sheer size of Brazil and the fact that São Paulo is not actually in the centre of the country or anywhere near it.

Below is the distance in kilometres of each state capital from São Paulo. These are only the capital cities so obviously there are places within the boundaries of the country which are even more remote but nevertheless it gives you an appreciation of how much we São Paulo dwellers depend on increasingly costly air travel:


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Vintage video of São Paulo in 1954




Here is some more archive footage of São Paulo. Again there is some propaganda behind it and this time it is a little more recent, from the year 1954:




Probably the most surprising part of this video is that the city looks pretty much the same as it does now..

See also: Vintage video of São Paulo from 1943

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