Se, Republica, Liberdade and Mercado Municipal

December 6, 2009

We started yesterday at a great Cartier-Bresson exhibit at SESC (sort of like the Pinheiros Y).  Since I’m in this traveling, noticing, consuming frame of mind, seeing his perfect moments of capture are even more impressive than I had thought when I first encountered his pictures in college.  His eye for composition is unreal.  Seeing the prints through Scott’s photographic eye was also super cool, since I don’t have any photography training.

From Pinheiros we took the subway up to the centro and headed to the Mercado Municipal.  Emerging from the Sao Bento subway station, the streets were completely packed, in every direction.  After trying to find a parallel to something we knew, we realized it was more like an over-jammed Canal Street than anything else we could think of.  The Mercado is housed in a huge, beautiful old building in the middle of a lot of ugliness and crazy energy.  Inside, there were were rows of stalls, mostly clustered by what they were selling.  Fruit stalls had mangoes, citrus, melons, juicy things I had never seen before.  They had mangosteens, which I haven’t had since I was in Vietnam.  The small purple fruits were just as delicious as I remembered. Italian stalls sold cheeses and salamis, prociutto and parma ham, olives and dried fruits and nuts.  There were sweets, and whole sections of seafood and fish stalls.  Opposite the fish, vendor after vendor sold every cut of meat imaginable, from whole pigs and lambs hanging on meat hooks to steaks to unidentifiable offal.  Scott thought it felt like what we imagine the Essex Street Market or the Fulton Street market must have felt like in the early twentieth century.

We walked back up to Sao Bento through throngs of people. Tarps and tables lined the streets, where people sold everything from cell phone holders to scarves to tupperware to cheap shoes, towels, jewelry.  Up the hill we reached the Bovespa–Brazil’s Stock Exchange.  Cobbled pedestrian lanes led to big, old buildings, and the tables from outdoor cafes spread out on the sidewalk.

Walking around Buenos Aires, Scott and I wondered why Sao Paulo didn’t have the same beautiful old buildings.  It turns out that they’re here, of course, but they haven’t been preserved or restored in the same way.  Many of them have been assaulted by graffiti–both the cool, mural kind, and the more aggressive, less artistic variety.  We walked though Anhangabau, the Praca de Se and the Praca Republica, looking at the Teatro Municipal de Sao Paulo and the Biblioteca.

We wound our way through the pedestrian streets with their Wall Street-ish feel and wound up in Liberdade in time for dinner, where we had Chinese food, and wandered through the Asian markets of their little Japan.

This city is incredibly complex, dense and varied.  I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it, but each of these explorations on foot helps with the orientation, the understanding.

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