Friday, 8 May 2015

Vila Zelina; the neighbourhood you should have heard of by now but haven't

Residents of Vila Zelina

São Paulo is known worldwide as one of the major destinations for immigrants during the early 20th century. It's said to be home to the largest population of Italian, Japanese and Lebanese ancestry out of each of these home countries.

But while Bixiga is well known for its cantinas and Liberdade is famous for its sushi and karaoke, a small neighborhood in South Eastern São Paulo called "Vila Zelina" gets very little attention.

For the last 80 years, it's been the home of Russian, Lithuanian, Ukranian and other Eastern European families that came to São Paulo to flee WWI and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Despite living in fear of repression during the Brazilian military dictatorship, the community is alive and well and making efforts to revive its home culture through popular dishes, music, costumes and festivities.

You would be excused for thinking this scene was far from São Paulo

Just as the large Jewish and Arab communities in São Paulo get on relatively well, despite recent conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, local residents in Vila Zelina get along very well. Visitors to the neighborhood can find peace and quiet is the middle of this bustling metropolis, shop for Matryoshkas (traditional Russian dolls) or even try Varenykys, smoked herring and other Eastern European dishes.

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