The crowd scene might be the gay pride march which is the city's biggest event; bringing up to three million people to the streets. Its the largest event of its kind in the world. And it is a mark of the city's fire and energy and innovation that it is only about ten years old; from zero to three million in ten years!
A few more questions, please -- what's the general background of the population, and does it reflect that of the rest of Brazil? Do the "new natives" as mentioned in the song simply blend in, or do they form enclaves and introduce some of their own culture? Finally, would you ever go back?
According to wikipedia the demographics of Sao Paulo are:
6 million Italians (including descendants). 3 million Portuguese (including descendants). 3 million Africans (including descendants). 1 million Arabs (including descendants). 465,000 Japanese (including descendants). 400,000 Germans (including descendants). 120,000 Chinese (including descendants). 70,000 Jews (including descendants). 60,000 Bolivians (only the immigrants). 50,000 Greeks (including descendants). 50,000 French (including descendants). 50,000 Koreans (including descendants).
The interesting thing about it is that unlike other great immigrant cities, New York or LA or Toronto or London or Sydney, immigration from other countries has - mostly - dried up. You see this incredible melange of different cultures one or two generations down the line from their countries of origins, gently simmering into a kind of single, specifically Sao Paulo culture, that is quite identifiable within Brazil.
The Japanese community for example, is not present in such large numbers anywhere else in the country (and indeed its the largest overseas Japanese community in the world). They are the descendants of labourers who left Japan to work in the coffee fields one hundred years ago.
There are still trickles of Koreans, Bolivians and Angolans but the days of the great, million-strong waves of immigrants from Europe or Asia or the Middle East are over. Now, there is a new wave - Brazilians from the impoverished Northeast flocking to the city's favelas for work; each with their own distinctive regional accent, cooking, and music. In some ways this internal immigration is even more dramatic; adding another layer of immigrants over the city, on an even larger scale.
And to answer your question - yes, I'd defintitely go back. Its simply one of the most exciting cities in the world.
My best friend is having a love affair with someone in Joao de Pessoa at the moment (the easternmost point of the country, so very easy to spot on a map), so I have been fed a steady stream of fascinating Brazilian information in recent months.
People should pay attention to all of the things happening in this country. If they don't, they will be left behind.
Thanks a million, ilbonito, for this fantastic report. I bet you can't imagine, though, the main point of convergence that I saw with Paris in your photos -- the graffiti on upper floors of buildings. The latest fad is to place graffiti as high as possible, and in Paris this mostly means walking on roofs and "decorating" chimneys and separation walls -- or balconies, if that is all you can reach.
You say, "... it [gay pride parade] is a mark of the city's fire and energy and innovation that it is only about ten years old; from zero to three million in ten years!"
That's it, that's what really comes through in all the pictures and narrative here -- that forging ahead confidence, which seems to be so much more than mere brashness or hubris. It rather explains the sequential building and abandonment of areas of the city. (you can tell I'm hung up on that) Oddly, it is a way to acknowledge history in a most modern way ....... everything has its day, then withers away, so lets keep moving forward.
The demographics are pretty surprising, with the population of Italian descent outnumbering those of Portuguese or African heritage. That's a mild confusion for me as well, as I'd thought the original Portuguese and original Africans who came to Brazil were so thoroughly mixed that they were simply considered Brazilians.
The internal influx you describe is indeed dramatic and a huge 21st century manifestation of similar country-to-city waves throughout history.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers in addition to the rest of this eye-opening report. I love, love, love reading something like this that makes me say, "I had no idea!"
As early as the 19th century half the population was Italian. One of the city's unofficial symbols is the pizza. But I left out one of the most intriguing ethnic groups: Confederates. They arrived as refugees from the Confederate South of the USA after the Civil War, keen to uphold their "traditional" (slaveholding) way of life and set up towns outside Sao Paulo with names like Americana, and cotton farms. Although today their descendants have mostly blended with wider society, they left a legacy of Protestantism and Anglo names. An interesting case of Brazil (which was, after all, euphemistically nicknamed by immigrants "the other America" ) giving shelter to huddled masses (of Americans) yearning to not let their slaves breathe free.
Sao Paulo's monster gay pride event over the last weekend drew 3.2 million people. 3.2 million!! Th event is now so successful Sao Paulo has started to export gay pride to Russia; it has been signed on as a strategic consultant for the Russian capital's pride party to help it grow. Here are some of the pics I googleimaged from last Saturday in Sao Paulo:
One of the world's largest and most controversial Pentecostal churches has been given permission to build a $200m (£130m) replica of Solomon's Temple in Brazil's economic capital, São Paulo.
The 10,000 capacity "mega-church", which is the brainchild of Brazil's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, will also house a replica of the Ark of the Covenant and be built according to "biblical orientations".
The 55-metre high temple, the equivalent of an 18-storey building, would tower over central São Paulo and be "twice the height of [Rio's] Christ the Redeemer statue", the blog said.
Founded in Brazil in 1977, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God claims an estimated 8 million followers in 180 countries worldwide, with a TV channel and a free newspaper, the Folha Universal, which it says has a weekly print run of 2.5m. The church claims its leader's blog receives up to 4m hits a month.
The church supports so-called "prosperity theology" – by which acts of faith including donations are rewarded with material wealth.
In 2009, São Paulo's public prosecutor accused 10 senior members of the church, including Macedo, of siphoning off billions of dollars of donations to buy cars and property. Macedo, who denied the charges, owns a $45m private jet.
Talking of 80s film references, Sao Paulo already has a tacky, shiny, aluminium-clad 1980s "postmodern" tower. With a biting sense of humour, the locals refer to it as "Robocop", eg "Where is the nearest convenience store? Oh cross the street and turn left at Robocop".... Love it.