Soy el Gaucho al galope por las Pampas,
Soy Charrua, Soy Jíbaro, Utumano,
Soy Chapín, Esquimal, príncipe Maya,
Soy Guajiro, soy Charro Mexicano
…De América, yo soy.
-Los Tigres del Norte, “América”
São Paulo is home to the Memorial da América Latina, an 84 thousand square meter “permanent invitation to the artistic and scientific Latin American manifestations.” (Memorial) In other words, it serves to celebrate the rich histories and cultures of Latin America and foster learning and expression of a Latin American identity.
The Memorial houses exhibits and events, including the recent Bolivian Independence Day festival, as well as the eighth annual Latin American São Paulo film festival. There are also workshops and lectures, as well as a vast library.
It is a wide space with beautiful architecture, designed by Oscar Neimeyer, the legendary Brazilian architect who designed Brasília. Neimeyer said, “Sweat, blood and poverty marked the history of this disjointed and oppressed Latin America. Now it’s imperative to readjust her into an untouchable bloc, capable of making her independent and happy.” For the memorial, he created Mão, an open hand with Latin America appearing to bleed from it — the open veins, if you will.
Inside the Salão de Atos Tiradentes, or “profane cathedral,” there are panels of concrete etched by the artists Caribé and Poty. They are simply stunning.
There’s also the Painel Tiradentes by Cândido Portinari, which stretches 18,00 x 3,00 meters.
The Pavilhão da Criatividade, or Pavillion of Creativity, features popular art from all over Latin America. There’s a huge replica of Latin America underneath the floor, which was amazing with its attention to detail. It was still a little scary to step on the shaky glass.
A few of my favorite examples of Brazilian popular art on display:
I was excited to see for Mexico a Día de los Muertos altar honoring Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, who passed away last year. One of his novels was included alongside the bread, tequila and calaveras.
The nearly 4 thousand pieces were collected by photographers Jacques e Maureen Bisillia in 1988. Anthropologist and one of the memorial’s creators Darcy Ribeiro selected Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Ecuador for them to travel to because of their great pre-hispanic histories. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t art from every Latin country given the fact this is the Latin American Memorial. At the end, though, there is a display of the patron saints of Latin America. I like seeing the different interpretations of devotion to the Virgin Mary.
As a Mexican American who grew up with family friends from all over Latin America and is now living in Brazil, a pan-Latin American identity makes sense to me. Every day as I learn about my new home here, I smile at the similarities and remark on the differences I note between Brazil and Mexico. The Memorial da América Latina is comforting to me, and I look forward to coming back to experience more events and exhibits. One day is not enough.