It doesn't seem fair to judge one of the biggest cities on the planet from a mere three hours walking its streets. Tired and jet lagged, at that. But first impressions are about impressions, not fairness.
Sao Paulo, familiarly known (although I've been here less than a day), as Sampa:
First, it's tough to breathe, and I don't think it's only because I'm asthmatic. Gray air from the moving rivers of cars and trucks. At least today.
Second, I don't think I'll have to go to the favelas to see the rich-poor divide, again one of the biggest on the planet, and growing as Brazil itself grows in wealth. Near streets with shop windows sparkling with clothing and lingerie, for instance, by global designers at jaw-dropping prices, are other streets where life looks very tough. On those you don't walk at night, even at dusk, I am advised, for fear of being mugged. Having forgotten it's approaching mid-winter here, caught by the short day, I found myself on a couple of those very no-go streets briefly, suddenly almost alone. Sampenos know where to walk, when.
Which brings me to the Third first impression: Residents of this town may be among the kindest, most outgoing and patient I've met. Busy as everyone is, from airport arrival to now, I never had to lift my own suitcase, never lost someone's attention with my truly rotten Portuguese. Every one of the several individuals I asked for directions insisted on walking part or all the way with me to make sure I understood.
Oh, and the streets are peppered with art movie houses and live theatre.
Can't wait for tomorrow.
Mary Jo McConahay's GlobeWatch
"Dramatic life-and-death experiences in a clear prose style that flows with immediacy -- a profoundly moving document"
--Jon Lee Anderson, Staff Writer for The New Yorker and Author, Che Guevara, a Revolutionary Life
I'll be "In Conversation with William Carlsen, Author of Jungles of Stone," the great new book about Maya world explorers John L. Stephens and William Catherwood at Litquake, Mechanics' Institute, San Francisco, Oct. 8, 2016, 11:00 a.m. Free!
And coming: Tango War, about the WWII struggle for hearts, minds and strategic resources in Latin America. From Macmillan, 2018
Writer and journalist Mary Jo McConahay watches the globe, near and far. She is author of the award-winning Maya Roads: One Woman's Journey Among the People of the Rainforest (Chicago Review Press), and Ricochet, Two Women War Reporters and a Friendship under Fire (Shebooks). Mary Jo is the current Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year. Her reporting has appeared in Time, Newsweek, Vogue, Rolling Stone, Ms., Salon, Sierra, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Parenting, The Progressive, National Catholic Reporter, and many others.
As a documentary filmmaker, she co-produced and co-directed Crimebuster, A Son's Search for His Father, and the award-winning PBS documentary, Discovering Dominga, writing its original story. She is producing a new half-hour documentary: Father Bill, Revolutionary Priest, about the late Fr. Bill O'Donnell, who was arrested 245 times for nonviolent resistance to incidents in which "my government misbehaves."
GlobeWatch continues the column by the same name, formerly published by Pacific News Service and New America Media.