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Useful Notes / São Paulo

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One of the city with the most high-rises in the world; a sea of buildings.

From the oppressed people in queues, villages, and slums
From the strength of the money that builds and destroys beautiful things
From the ugly smoke that rises and blots out the stars
I see your poets appear from fields and spaces
Your workshops in forests, your gods of rain
Caetano Veloso, "Sampa" (freely translated to English)

First of all, it isn't Sao Paolo or San Pablo.note  It's São Paulo (literally Saint Paul,note  because it was founded on January 25). By population, the largest city in Brazil and in the Americas. The city proper is the sixth largest municipality in the world by population, and the largest in the Western hemisphere. The metro area is the seventh largest in the world, and competes with Mexico City for the position of largest in Latin America. São Paulo is capital of the state of São Paulo, and the two are often confused even in Brazil — being as over half the population of the state lives in it. (Not unlike New York City and New York State.) People from the state are properly called Paulistas, and people from the city are called Paulistanos, but only Paulistanos who were born in the city proper and care about it will insist on that distinction. People from other parts of the country will largely ignore it.

The metropolitan area alone is responsible for around 20% of Brazil's GDP, but it is under-represented in media, even Brazilian media. This is largely due to its significant cultural differences from the rest of the country, the fact that the Brazilian media industry mostly developed in Rio de Janeiro, and the perceived "ugliness" of São Paulo. It is mostly famous for:

  • Its high proportion of immigrants. Nearly everyone in São Paulo has some sort of immigrant ancestry, and almost half of that from Italy. It has the largest community of expat Japanese and descendants in the world, and the largest Jewish community in Latin America. It also has sizeable Turkish, Lebanese, Chinese, Korean, Greek, Bolivian, and Polish communities. The Italian influence is responsible for a great deal of the cultural differences with the rest of the country, and to the particular accent that Paulistanos have. "Brazilian" culture, being largely an amalgam of regional cultures from other parts of the country, is ever-so-subtly foreign to Paulistanos.
  • Its terrific traffic. São Paulo has some of the worst traffic jams on the planet. It counts with eight million cars and a street network that is not great. Although the pothole problem is slowly coming under control, the street layout in São Paulo is maddening, with streets that turn corners, bizarre five-way crossings, and various other things that make the Magic Roundabout look like the bumper car ride at a fairground. Only locals can understand it or hope to navigate it. The city does count with a high-quality subway system, which doesn't reach nearly enough places in the city and seems to be perpetually expanding at a very slow pace. Because of this, Paulistanos expand the Brazilian disregard for punctuality. Nobody bats an eye at being twenty minutes late for something, and "traffic was bad" is always an excuse.
    • As a direct result, São Paulo has more heliports than any other city in the world (roughly a hundred), and has the largest fleet of helicopters of any single city on Earth (approx. 500), clocking in at about 700 helicopter flights a day. It's pretty-much the only way to ensure punctuality. Any Paulistano who possesses a helicopter pilot's license is guaranteed to never be unemployed.
  • Its hard-working, industrious people. In Brazilian media this is alternately portrayed as a virtue or as a vice; Paulistanos are perceived as dull workaholics — something akin to a Brazilian salaryman. São Paulo working culture is workaholic — meetings extend well past work hours and people expect you to always pick up the phone to talk about work.
  • Its gentle and sunny weather. São Paulo is euphemistically nicknamed Cidade da Garoa by older Brazilians (Lit. "city of drizzle"). In reality, the characteristic drizzle, if it was ever this common, now mostly gives way to violent, sudden thunderstorms. Most days in São Paulo will see a mixture of sunlight and clouds, with amenable temperatures. Sudden, heavy, but short-lived rains are always a possibility, especially around 4-6PM. These are referred to as "pancadas de chuva", or a "pounding of rain", for lack of a better translation. Strong winds are not uncommon, and sudden, unpredictable temperature shifts are considered the norm. The monsoons during the summer cause floods — usually tragic, thanks to insufficient drainage. Most if not all small streams in the city have been paved over, leaving underground galleries that can't accommodate the water flow during heavy rain, and both major rivers are surrounded by multi-lane highways.
  • It's food. With so many ethnic groups put together, and such a great Italian population (Nearly 40% of S. Paulo's population was Italian at one point) the city has great restaurants. São Paulo has something of a gourmet culture. Sushi bars are ubiquitous, as is the more drinking-oriented kind of bar — and a bar in São Paulo is only truly successful if it also serves good food. In particular, Paulistanos, much like New Yorkers, believe their city to be the only place on Earth to get a decent pizza and will scoff at pale imitations produced in other parts of the country. Their pizza is fairly different from the American or Italian variations on the dish, but no less loved and delicious for it. Just don't put ketchup on it.note 
  • Its night life. People in Rio go to the beach; people in São Paulo go clubbing, or on pub crawls. There's too much variety to properly describe this in the article.

In other words, if you need a comparison: São Paulo=New York with Los Angeles' traffic, Boston's street plan, and Seattle's rain,note  at the same latitude as Miami.note  And they wonder why the tourists go to Rio...

São Paulo has two main airports serving it. One of which, São Paulo–Guarulhos (GRU), is the second-biggest airport in the Southern Hemisphere and is São Paulo's main international airport. The other, São Paulo–Congonhas (CGH), is mainly domestic flights, and is surrounded by dense neighbourhoods... which has led to at least two crashes with casualties on the ground.

São Paulo in fiction

  • Linha De Passe
  • Carandiru
  • Pixote
  • Coffin Joe's (Zé do Caixão) horror trilogy: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and Embodiment Of Evil.
  • Blindness, the 2008 film based on the José Saramago novel of the same name
  • The Year My Parents Went On Vacation
  • Monica's Gang takes place mainly in São Paulo, although this is rarely referenced. (Chuck Billy in particular is in the rural part of São Paulo state)
  • Max Payne 3 takes place there. Which makes a whole lot of sense: if any Brazilian city can be portrayed as noir, it's definitely Sao Paulo. As things turned out, the game starts in the rich quarters and moves into the favelas and lower-class areas partway through.
  • Nodame Cantabile: The manga has a short trip to São Paulo.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man (the story where he finds out about the movie they're making of him), Doctor Octopus knocks Spidey unconscious and puts him in a plane. They wind up at the Congonhas Airport in São Paulo after Peter manages to parachute out, and there, with a little help of the police, he manages to beat Ock. He's immediately heads back to New York so he can be home before Aunt May comes back from her vacation.