No exaggeration: São Paulo holds more surprises than Batman’s utility belt. Just spent a few days in town that never rests, camera in hand.
First, bumped totally by chance into top model/billionaire Gisele Bündchen at an improvised catwalk at Iguatemy Mall. I have been around presidents, prime ministers and princesses, but few times I saw a similar security apparatus.
Brazil has at least 3,000 caves officially identified – and some of them are absolutely phenomenal. You will find here a selection of images found at Flickr. You should also visit Fotografia magazine’s website to check 20 years of underground photos by Alexandre Lobo.
In case you are wondering, the best source online of information about these geological formations is the Sociedade Brasileira de Espeleologia website (unfortunately, most of it only in Portuguese).
Azulejos, the very typical Portuguese white and blue tilework, can still be found in several Brazilian cities, generally remnant from the colonial years. They began to arrive in the country around 1630 and were used to adorn churches, monasteries, palaces and other mansions. Check this series of images of azulejos seen in the states of Bahia, Rio, São Paulo and Maranhão.
The city of Franca is famous for its huge shoe industry. Over 1.000 factories are responsible for the biggest shoe production of all Latin America. But this big city (330,000 people), on the border of the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, still keeps lots of its traditions, here shown by the amazing pictures by Tiago Brandão, a local photographic reporter.
São Paulo has one of the best carbon footprints and great weather – but also the highest criminality and the worst entrepreneurial environment. This is how the Brazilian mega city is portrayed by Cities of Opportunity, a study just published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the biggest accountancy companies in the world. It compares the economic/social/cultural performance of 26 metropolis for 10 major indicators, from innovation to climate, from cost to livability. It is pretty useful for those moving or doing business in one of these urban centers, having to figure what opportunities and challenges they will have to face.
One of the coolest features of the project is Model your City. It allows you to pick the cities and 66 indicators of your choice to build a comparative chart. You can also download the whole document. It is pretty simple to read: the higher the number of points a city has for a certain indicator (between 1 and 26), the better.
One of the divine experiences of traveling along the Brazilian lands is the surprise appearance of little waterfalls along the road. You stop the car, dive into the shower, fill your bottle and go back to the car, dripping, in bliss.
Check this incredible slide show of ex-banker Edemar Cid Ferreira’s house. This museum-like palace hosts a mural painted by Sol LeWitt and works by Frank Stella, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Di Cavalcanti, Franz Krajcberg, Amilcar de Castro, Tomie Ohtake, Oscar Niemeyer, Vik Muniz and Bruno Giorgi. And I could keep dropping names for ever. Ferreira was expelled last week from this mansion because he did not pay the (relatively low) 20,000 reais (around 11,800 dolars) monthly rent since 2004. In the past, before his Banco Santos broke, in the midst of a big financial scandal, he was a huge patron of Brazilian arts. When things blew up, he sent part of his collection abroad, but it was recovered by the FBI.
Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, a fast-growing native Brazilian Pentecostal church that is extremely popular, is inovating again. Last year, its founder, self-proclaimed bishop Edir Macedo, announced that he is going to build a replica of the Temple of King Salomon that will be able to accommodate 10,000 people in the city of São Paulo. Recently, Macedo also introduced the concept of “prayer drive-thru”. I have seen it in operation and that’s how it works: a couple of elegant man in suits and ties stay in front of the temple and wait for passing-by cars to stop. They enter the drive-thru area and are approached by one preacher, Bible in hand, for five minutes of prayer and, maybe, a donation.
Founded in 1977, Universal has today 5,000 churches around Brazil and a few others in two dozen countries. Despite its many controversies (a bishop kicked a statue of the Virgin Mary on a TV program, the church was involved in lawsuits concerning tax evasion and frauds against followers), it grows non-stop, in part because their many radio and TV channels and huge communication skills.
Brazilians have a somewhat disturbing tenderness for certain types of criminals. Let me drop some names that will prove my point: Meneghetti, Adhemar de Barros, Lampião and your generic malandro.
Take, for instance, the figure of Gino Meneghetti. Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1870, he became a huge celebrity in São Paulo, between 1914 and the sixties. He was known as the “good thief”, “the greatest criminal of Latin America” and the “roof cat”, due to his ability of jumping from one house to another to deceive the police. The public passion for Meneghetti florished thanks to the massive media coverage of his feats and the fact that he never hurt anybody, only stole from the rich and performed spectacular escapes.
The second name in our list: coffee producer and politician Adhemar de Barros, the very popular governor that ruled over São Paulo state during part of the forties, the fifties and the sixties. One of his mottos, of striking candor, is still remembered by those who distrust politicians: “Roubo, mas faço” (I steal, but I also build). Indeed, he was very hard working and left a legacy of power dams, roads, schools and hospitals. But his government was also marked by several corruption episodes. Till today you can find elder adhemaristas that still long for those days.