A Different Face of São Paulo

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Awhile ago, I wrote about attending the Bolivian Independence Day celebration at the Memorial da América Latina, my introduction to the Bolivian community in São Paulo. I got the opportunity to further explore the community in a piece for the South American gastronomy site Como Sur entitled Bolivian Gastronomy in São Paulo: Why It’s More Than Just Food.

I didn’t realize just how many Bolivians are in the city, an estimated 100,000. São Paulo likes to celebrate its immigrant heritage, highlighting the contributions made by Italians, Japanese, Arabs, Jews, etc., and I wondered : why are Bolivians being left out of the conversation when they have such a strong presence here?

So I made it my mission to find out through the angle of food given it’s the most popular way to share culture and because well, I’m writing for a gastronomy site. As I discovered different networks and spaces, I ended up seeing a side of São Paulo I hadn’t seen before. It confirmed my belief that there are many cities within a city. Case in point: I took the metro one Sunday to go to Praça Kantuta, the square that holds a weekly Bolivian fair. At the station, I asked several Brazilians how to get there. They weren’t sure. A group of Bolivian teenagers passed by and I asked them. Without missing a beat, they pointed me to the square, only a few blocks away.

I interviewed a number of Bolivians in the food industry and while their experiences were rather diverse due to age, generation or personality, they were all extremely passionate individuals working to provide a pleasurable experience on a plate. With the number of labels thrown at Bolivians (poor, dirty, primitive, strange, seedy) they’re determined to defy expectations and put forth a positive image of their culture.

It was an extremely interesting experience putting together this piece. It took me awhile, longer than any other piece I had done in the past, because I really wanted to be accurate and do the topic justice. My hope is that people, particularly Paulistanos, will become a little more aware of a community that is very much a part of São Paulo.

Check out my piece Bolivian Gastronomy in São Paulo: Why It’s More Than Just Food at Como Sur.

 

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Water: We Have None

My photo challenge today is themed water, which is ironic since São Paulo is experiencing a maddening drought. People around the city have had their water cut off, some have mud coming out of their tap, and protesters have taken to the streets to demand government action. I’ve been lucky so far as to still have water, but I know it’s just a matter of time until I’ll have to buy bottled water to take a shower, like so many others have done. The most frustrating part is that we’ve been hearing about it for awhile now, with an update every so often on how low the reserves are, but nothing seems to have been done about it. A number of NGOs have recently partnered together to create Aliança Pela Água (Alliance For Water) in order to join resources to look for solutions, but no real action has been taken by the government, where the real change needs to take place.

On that note, I present my photo of a fountain, taken at one of the million mini-shopping malls on Paulista. It’s beautiful, but not functioning.

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Histórias

Exposição Histórias Mestiças, Instituto Tomie Ohtake

The Instituto Tomie Ohtake recently opened their newest exhibition Histórias Mestiças, or Mestizo Histories. While the word history in English mostly refers to past, factual events, in Portuguese história has a more broad meaning to include both factual and fictional, public or personal accounts.

This exhibit is based on the notion that there are multiple histories that occur, not just a singular narrative. These histórias are shown through a variety of paintings, textiles, photographs, sculptures, historical documents and other objects. The organization of these objects is key: instead of being grouped by culture or time period, they are grouped by theme. There are seven in total: trails and maps, encounters and dis-encounters, masks and portraits, cosmologies and national emblems, rites and religions, work, weavings and graphic inscriptions. The result is seeing, for example, the myriad of ways work has occurred in Brazil, with torture devices used on slaves displayed next to indigenous peoples’ hunting tools.

Histórias Mestiças are marginal and subaltern, anthropophagic and post-colonial, multiple and inconstant, fractured and transversal histories; they are histories of flow and reflux, full of segregation, prejudice and discrimination. As we reestablish connections with other matrices, we rewrite histories of the past and propose new ones for the future.

-Adriano Pedrosa, curator

The exhibition runs from August 16 to October 5.

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Cosmologies and National Emblems

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Rites and Religions

Olodumaré; not a textile but actually an acrylic painting!

Oxumaré by Caetano de Almeida; not a textile but actually an acrylic painting!

Tanga or loincloth

Tanga or loincloth in Weavings

Slaves' shackles; presented in the Work section

Slaves’ shackles; presented in Work

Indigenous spatulas, used to flip over manioc cake.

Indigenous spatulas, used to flip over manioc cake.

Nego Bom (literally "Good Black") is a banana candy. With each numbered worker here, you learned their monthly salary, how many people were in their family and other info.

Nego Bom (literally “Good Black”) is a banana candy. With each numbered worker here, you learned their monthly salary, how many people were in their family and other info.

Each tube is labeled with a skin color.

Each tube is labeled with a skin color.

Retrato Silenciado (Silenced Portrait) by Dalton Paula. Notice their eyes are closed.

Retrato Silenciado (Silenced Portrait) by Dalton Paula. Notice their eyes are closed.

Part of the Masks and Portraits section.

Part of Masks and Portraits.

Slave's passport

Slave’s passport

Map of Brazil from 1565. The Rio de la Plata (which is southwest of Brazil, between Argentina and Uruguay) is labeled on the northwest part. The top portion is labeled Terra Non Descoberta, or Undiscovered Territory.

Map of Brazil from 1565. The Rio de la Plata (which is southwest of Brazil, between Argentina and Uruguay) is labeled on the northwest part. The top portion is labeled Terra Non Descoberta, or Undiscovered Territory.

Encounters and Dis-encounters section. The top row is a series of drawings by an indigenous artist. The second row is a series of paintings done by a European artist of indigenous Brazilians during colonial times. The last row is a series of photographs taken by a Swiss- Brazilian photographer during the 1980s when Brazil was taking measures to distribute vaccines. Because this particular tribe do not have any known names, they were given numbers for government records.

Encounters and Dis-encounters. The top row is a series of drawings by an indigenous artist. The second row is a series of paintings done by a European artist of indigenous Brazilians during colonial times. The last row is a series of photographs taken by a Swiss- Brazilian photographer during the 1980s when Brazil was taking measures to distribute vaccines. Because this particular tribe do not have any known names, they were given numbers for government records.