Cities are the future of our civilization; by 2050, 70 percent of us will live in cities. Their relentless expansion is unprecedented. Each year, the inconsolable growth of monstrous cities like São Paulo, greedily swallow the nearby villages, towns and communities. This was the story of boroughs such as Vila Madalena, Vila Mariana, Vila Matilde, which were all transformed from unique villages, full of plantations, into a part of the big city conglomeration, erasing the uniqueness of many of them.
To see all of this from above is magnificent. All this concrete shows how ambitious, how driven and how relentless people are. Many came here from villages all around the vast land of Brazil, in searching for new opportunities, better life and standard of living. From what I have noticed, however, is that not many of the newcomers manage to find any of that here. I was waiting for a high school friend of mine in front of the Theatro Municipal, a spectacular historical building suffocated by the tall skyscrapers of the downtown. As the darkness of the night was winning over the sun beaming from behind shallow clouds, the vibrant day environment of the square was slowly turning gloomy. Businessmen, advocates, clerks were throwing long shadows on the paved square as they were stressfully rushing to the next metro stop. Tourists, families and kids were slowly leaving the benches to go to eat a warm dinner at restaurants or their homes. At this hour, there was no way to overlook the ones that our eyes avoid as a PDA during the daylight. At this time, there was no escape from looking at the pitiful faces, tattered clothes and tired eyes of the homeless ones. I was sitting uneasy and still, on the wide staircase of the theatre, built for the affluent elite, thinking about how many people do not have a place in this big city. Many of those, are the ones, who were chased away by unemployment in their villages or driven to fulfil their dreams of affluence and stability in this city; people for whom this city meant a hope, a new beginning. But did they fail or the unsustainable way by which a city life is led is simply wrong?
In the middle of this contemplation, a group of young skaters enjoyed the empty square, making the murky atmosphere a bit more joyful. Meanwhile, the city policemen were kindly inviting the abundant homeless people to a van which was going to take them to a homeless centre. About half of them went. I was leaning against a historic ornamented lamp, carefully observing the square completely changing its face, when the policemen approached me and asked me whether I also wanted to go to the homeless shelter. I was half-smiling from the surprising question as I politely declined his invitation. ‘Do my vintage jeans make me look homeless, or why did he think I am homeless?’ I was asking myself. As I saw in a second, my definition of a homeless person was very limited. Right after me, the policeman approached a neatly dressed middle-aged man. This man had been talking on his phone, probably to his family, the whole two hours that I was standing there. To my surprise, this man with his furbished shoes and similar jeans to mine, said yes to the policeman’s offer.
Half of the people of the hostel I was staying at are looking for job, apartment or simply for their place in São Paulo. I hope they will make it, although it makes me sad that many of these great people might also not find manage in this type of dynamically changing globalized cities. Until this experience, I was drawn to the city life, I wanted to try how is the life in the middle of the economic richness, biggest cultural events, and vibrant life, however, now I became more hesitant. Especially if I think of a beautiful little town, called São Luiz do Paraitinga, where we spent a week of immersing into the community. The contrast between this little town and the huge metropolis, places only 200 km away from each other, is immense. But about this, I will talk in my next blog ;).