Beatriz is a recent graduate of architecture and urbanism at Escola da Cidade in São Paulo, where she completed her thesis “Mobility in the Metropolis consolidation: The Pendulum movement and the Deterritorialization” in 2013. She studied architecture for one year at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Marseille in France. She is now a student at Escola da Cidade in the Architecture, Education and Society post-graduate program. Beatriz is currently working at Oksman AA, a firm that specializes in heritage intervention, with experience also in urban planning. She is also an assistant professor at Escola da Cidade in the urbanism program, with Professor Dr. Pedro M R Sales and Professor Newton Massafumi. Read more about Beatriz here.
Beatriz Vicino on Arrival City Chapter 9: Arrival’s end: Mud floor to middle class
Among the countless interesting points Saunders introduced to us in this chapter, I chose two to emphasize: the first for its importance as public policy and to enhance urban awareness of citizenship, and the second as an economic conflict some colleagues and I have shared and discussed during our studies, which still continues to incite good debates.
Chapter 9 starts by telling us the story of the Magalhães, a family that just entered the middle class in the metropolitan area of São Paulo. The neighbourhood is Jardim Angela, once the most dangerous neighborhood in the world, with 116 homicides per 100.000 inhabitants (1996). This neighborhood, as is the case with most of the São Paulo suburbs, is a northeast-migrant neighbourhood of the arrival city. But Jardim Angela is distinguished by the violence it experienced in the 90’s and the fact that it was built in a preserved area, due to its proximity to the Guarapiranga Reservoir (one of the main water subsistence systems in the city).
This condition of this illegal settlement in an environmental protected zone exacerbated its abandonment by public institutions. During the 1970’s, with the introduction of bus lines, suburban areas could be reached more easily and the urban developments started to pop up almost everywhere on the boundaries of the city and beyond — on the west, developments for rich suburban residents, on the north and east for the poor ones, and on the extreme east and south (where Jardim Angela is located), clandestine subdivisions developed over the preserved areas and created the most marginal periphery of the city.
We can read in the very first pages of Arrival City’s 9th chapter and learn about the specific case of Jardim Angela and the sad drama that the first migrants endured there: not only the poverty, but the violence that dominated the inhabitants’ everyday life, that did not choose specific victims. Anyone could’ve been next. They lived years in coexistence with drugs, murders, and precarious conditions of basic urban infrastructure, such as water, lighting, sewerage, transportation, and state institutions.
The fact that will makes Jardim Angela an exception is that its people couldn’t live in fear any longer. People started to organize, independently of the public authorities, and from a social work organized by an Irish priest – Father Jaime Crowe. The community began to materialize the idea of an institution managed by the community itself: the “Forum for the defense of life”. The meetings were held in the school. “The school became the first really neutral territory, the first public space, says Jucileide Mauger” (Saunders, p. 270).
With the help of a more human attitude from the police, these community organizations were the key to winning the war against crime and marginalization. After they were formalized, they could establish different relationships with the city and advocate to the municipality for more attention and for the presence of public institutions. The presence of public institutions can articulate urban dynamics and give an identity to residents, making them feel part of something and included in society. That was the main triumph of this community: to understand that the presence of these institutions would help the community develop a notion of citizenship, and also to reclaim their rights as citizens of the city of São Paulo.
I think this was the key to this chapter about the urban transformation Jardim Angela, as experienced over the past 20 years. For us, in the 3rd world developing universe, it is very difficult to understand, as a society, that public government presence is not necessarily a bad thing; on the contrary, its absence is very dangerous and exclusionary. As a culture that, from the start of colonization, prioritized private over public interests, we are now experiencing a reversal in public policies, where the “paulistas” – and not only the grassroots social movements – are beginning to demand quality public spaces and public transportation, and to understand that we can ask for more attention from the municipality, as opposed to the interests of the few that hold the power in the big cities.
We watched this unfold at the June 2013 Riots. The movement started with the transportation fare hike. But the way the state responded to that – through the police, with a lot of violence and oppression, as usual, combined with all the lack of infrastructure in a country that was hosting the next world cup – forced everyone to finally react and join in. Looking at all the main reasons why people were protesting, they all led to one point: the right to the city. We also saw this in Turkey, in the same year. The people want a decent structure of health, education, transportation, culture, and space. We won’t accept our space in the margins of politics and of the city itself any longer. People want the state to invite everyone into the city in a more inclusive way, and they want to be able to live in it as the citizens that we all are!
At the end of 2014, São Paulo completed the new city Master Plan, which would govern the city’s development over the next 12 years. The new Master Plan not only contained a new participatory policy that invited interested individuals and groups to participate, but also a implemented a counseling structure of participation, inviting citizens to collaborate with the new plan and its implementation. The State, as an institution, is listening the people’s will and really trying to integrate these ideas. It is trying to build a better and more collective city, even passing over some of the market rules. It is finally prioritizing the city.
With that pointed out I would like to come back to the arrival city and pose a question I have, more related to the urban economy, about the emerging middle class in the peripheral areas. For this question, we can also consider the Parab family in Mumbai.
Like the Magalhães in Jardim Angela, the Parab family is also an member of the emerging middle class. The Magalhães are members of the small sector of the community that have been able to operate a small family business. They have access to the technology that all classes began to consume, thanks in part to the credit given by the big retailers first in the form of financing for furniture and household and electronic appliances; and second to supply local business that would provide support to these new consumers through technical assistance, internet provision, and then to finance public and private housing.
The Parab family could also use credit to buy a new house. With difficult access to credit, they had to plan a very strict budget and to use the housing market inside the slums to get them the credit they needed for a new house.
I acknowledge that we have a new class with different standards of consumption, and that property is a crucial good for the social development in 3rd world cities, especially among the lowest classes for whom owning a home, rather than paying rent, can be an opening door to private education, health, and leisure. However, I keep asking myself, is this process really occurring, in general?
The Brazilian sociologist Jessé de Souza provides a different perspective on the matter:
“The denomination ‘new middle class’ is unfortunate as it wants to give an impression that we are becoming something we are not: a society where the middle class is the dominant and the poor are the marginal. Sadly, this is not the case (…) The new dynamic class of the Brazilian capitalism works 10h-14h a day, has two jobs, studies at night (…) to consume a little of some things they couldn’t before” (Souza, 2010, p.7).
Is the new consumption a suitable “ruler” by which to measure social classes? Is it necessarily an indicator of improvements in quality of life? Or are we creating a new urban poverty that actually have quality of consumption, rather than quality of life?
I’ll leave the answers to the future City Builders. Looking forward to seeing a debate!
Some other links to share:
- A recent study shows how the new and small entrepreneurs in the Brazilian favelas prefer to stay inside the communities, they would rather be the richest among the poor, than the poor among the rich. People from A and B class grew from 3% to 7% inside the communities since 2013. Renato Meirelles the coordinator of the survey talks about the democratization of consumption.
- Global Migration: The Basics A book By Bernadette Hanlon, Thomas J. Vicino. A great book to understand the basics of migration and how sometimes the arrival city absorbs the migration culture, and why this phenomenon does not happen in every arrival city.
- A brief study about the urban expansion of São Paulo and how it turned to a special segregated arrival city
By Beatriz Vicino