Live in Your City, Don’t Just Inhabit It

Henrietta Conrad - Brazil


September 15, 2011

A utopian city would be divided into equal blocks, the streets would be paved from north to south and east to west, and there would be sufficient parking, an efficient sewage system, and verdant public parks. Salvador is not a utopian city, but it feels like home; a place where you can put your feet on the coffee table.

There probably is some sort of system, but, to me, the roads resemble a plate of spaghetti. In other words, locals refer to the public bus transportation system as “the wildest rollercoaster ride in the world” and one time, as a group of gringos sitting in the back of a bus, we actually did put our hands up.

On the sidewalks, I’ve encountered what appear to be small hurdles. Using my extremely developed critical thinking skills, I’ve deemed these small hurdles to be an innovative way of preventing cars from parking on the sidewalks. Regardless of the hurdles, people still manage to park their cars into small nooks and peculiar crannies.

Using the potty is a must, so the good news is a sewage system exists. The bad news is we can’t throw toilet paper into the toilet. Instead, there is a small trashcan next to the toilet that is specifically for toiletpaper…used toiletpaper. Try not throwing your toilet paper in the toilet for a day. I’ll admit right now, old habits die hard.

Every morning people are jogging on the coastal sidewalk or exercising on what I call “playgrounds for adults,” which are wooden/metal structures designed for pulls-up, abs, and stretches.   But best of all are the beaches, and beaches are for playing. The beaches are open to everyone, and everyone makes the most of them. From soccer teams to sunbathers to vendors to surfers; the beach never sleeps.

But my favorite part of Salvador, what truly makes this place feel like a home and not just a house, is the graffitied walls. It isn’t vandalism, it’s art: captivating and limitless.  Local artists are famous for their graffiti around the city and each style is easily recognizable. There is a sort of “graffiti ethics” where permission is given to the artists to decorate certain walls. These unique murals are for the public to enjoy like a parent would enjoy their child’s art on the refrigerator.

Here in Salvador, people don’t only live in their homes, they live in their city; creating opportunities to use every little bit of space to make the city their home. The majority of people don’t have much space in their homes so getting out of a cramped room is extremely important for the sanity of everyone…even if the rest of the city is shared by 3 million other people.

Graffiti in the Pelourinho

Henrietta Conrad