CH 9: Arrival’s end: Mud floor to middle class

Urban Sprawl of São Paulo - Metropolitan region and its cities. Image via Google Maps.
Urban Sprawl of São Paulo – Metropolitan region and its cities. Image via Google Maps.

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.

Surroundings of Jardim Angela. Image via Google Maps.
Surroundings of Jardim Angela. Image via Google Maps.

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!

June Riots in Paulista Avenue – São Paulo 2013. Image by Pedro Chavedar.
June Riots in Paulista Avenue – São Paulo 2013. Image by Pedro Chavedar.
June Riots in Paulista Avenue – São Paulo 2013. Image by Gustavo Basso.
June Riots in Paulista Avenue – São Paulo 2013. Image by Gustavo Basso.
Brazilian congress – Brasilia 2013. Image by Evaristo Sá/Getty Images.
Brazilian congress – Brasilia 2013. Image by Evaristo Sá/Getty Images.
Downtown Rio – Rio de Janeiro 2013. Image by Felipe Dana.
Downtown Rio – Rio de Janeiro 2013. Image by Felipe Dana.

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.

Downtown São Paulo. Image by Marcos Hirakawa.
Downtown São Paulo. Image by Marcos Hirakawa.
Jardim Angela – São Paulo south suburbs. Image by Iatã Cannabrava.
Jardim Angela – São Paulo south suburbs. Image by Iatã Cannabrava.

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

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Elena Alexandrova says:

    “Arrival City” has been a captivating book so far. After reading the entire book, I came back to Chapter 9 because it truly embarked on what are the main elements in order for an arrival city to function properly. Chapter 9 started off by introducing the readers to Jardim Angela, which was known as the most violent community on earth.
    “Murder, for everyone living here, was a staple of daily life, and horrific poverty and isolation its backdrop.” – (Saunders, pg. 261)
    This particular sentence by Saunders truly described as to why Jardim Angela was viewed as the most violent community. The citizens that resided there saw violence as an unavoidable occurrence. Saunders goes further on by stating that the climbing of the murderer rate in Jardim Angela made it more deadlier than an actual war zone, especially after most shops and services moved out – crime became the main business. In all of this, what stood out the most is that the government did nothing to help, nothing to fix the problem. It was only thanks to Oliveira Viana Municipal School that things started getting better. The school managed to become the only permanent face of government in the favela. It decided to host meetings for the community so they can discuss what was causing this amount of ‘evil’ within the favela. Their conclusion was that the problem wasn’t the presence of evil; it was the absence of normal city institutions and functions.
    This brings me back to main theme of this chapter based on Saunders observations:
    “ What does it take to make the journey from a rural shack to the center of middle-class urban life within a generation?”- (Saunders, pg. 268)

    Within the chapter there were four elements mentioned in regards as to why a transformation occurred in Jardim Angela – for the better. The first factor that eliminated/brought down violence and crime was due to the new concept of economic development; it fundamentally changed the way Jardim Angela functioned. The second element that contributed in the change of this neighborhood was that it finally became tightly linked to the city. New transportation routes were created and it allowed people to stop feeling so isolated. The third factor was achieved due to a forward thinking mayor who allowed people to finally own their houses without the fear that they might be bulldozed or simply taken away from the government and/or military. Lastly, people started to feel hope since there were now means provided by the government/banks, etc, to start and run a small business. These four major factors create the core functions of an arrival city.

    There was also a particular quote in this chapter that truly impacted me on a personal level because it summarized why so many people live in poverty and are continuing to struggle in their every day life. It combined the theme of this book extremely well and shaped my view on poverty even more:
    “Poverty is fundamentally, not the dearth of money or a lack of possessions or a shortage of talent and ambition, but the absence of capacities, the lack of tools or opportunities needed to function as a full citizen.” – (Saunders, pg. 280)
    My overall opinion on this chapter is that I am in awe people have such a strong will to make a change. People who lived in the favela knew they were ignored for years on end by large municipal, state and national entities and they decided that enough is enough by creating their own system. To me this is the ultimate show of strength. People chose not be ignore, they chose to take action and show the government that they don’t simple exist – their life matters and they cannot stay silent any longer while hundreds of children are turning up dead because of the failure of the government to provide them with opportunities and a better future. So yes, while many people think that the families and children who are entering into an arrival city will face perpetual injustice, it is important to note that they might also face prosperity. There is a glimmer of hope in every situation.

  2. Vivian H. says:

    In chapter 9, there was great focus on Jardim Angela, a community in Brazil that turned from being the world’s most violent place on Earth in 1996 to a more developed community today. Around the 1970s, Brazil experienced a great wave of rural-urban migration based on an industrial economy that the Brazilian military primarily had control over. The arrival city of Jardim Angela had no connection to the ‘bigger’ cities of Brazil thus work was scarce. This left women to be the main breadwinners of the family while many of the men remained unemployed. This leads men to drink while leaving children unattended for while only having four hours of schooling each day, with nothing else to do, crime such as creating gangs became a major issue related to the poverty and zero aid or interactions with the government. Teachers in Jardim Angela attempted to keep the school building open till the evenings to allow for children to use it as an area to play and interact in attempt to reduce crime. Almost every week there was one child murdered due to crime and gang involvement.
    Today, the hard work and determination of those who resided in Jardim Angela and worked to reduce it from the most dangerous community in the world to one being linked in to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro with government buildings surrounding homes owned by the people living there. There are small businesses present and shops that created a middle class that was able to sustain itself and improve the living conditions for its citizens. What I found interesting about this chapter was that arrival cities are able to transform within ones lifetime. In this chapter we followed the life of Pedro- who lived a childhood of poverty and becoming a father at a young age, to living in the same community but surrounded by shopping malls, driving in cars and living in a leisure middle class, while in his childhood none of this existed. It goes to show how, with determination and hard work by communities, it can turn a community of crime and poverty to a community filled with businesses and modern housing within a lifetime. We can see that the arrival city is the foundation to creating a modern, comfortable middle class. What is important to maintain and sustain to improving this new and emerging community of middle class citizens while still having some in poverty, is government aid. Arrival cities can not sustain if there is no support for education, health care, and essential needs such as water just to name a few. I believe that not all arrival cities have been able to transform like Jardim Angela, this is because it takes a lot of commitment and hard work from everyone living in that community to improve a community that was named the world’s most dangerous to being one having a comfortable middle class, along with the government’s commitment to providing aid and helping to improve the community.

  3. Sumaya Almajdoub says:

    “Simply inspirational”, this was my impression after reading Jardim Angela’s transformation story. This chapter gave me a boost of hope. Change is possible because poverty, crime and violence is not “natural or inevitable” (Saunders, 2012, p. 269). Yes, there is still more work to be done, and yes this doesn’t mean that Jardim Angela’s model is a “one-size fits all” for other communities.

    I still think it is important to take a pause and think about the fact that a community ridden with violence and gang activity was able to carry out a complete transformation. To me it seems that there were two necessary but not sufficient components that rendered this change possible. First, a strong will to change the status quo. Second, a careful evaluation of the community’s specific needs and challenges. Saunders explains that after a number of emergency meetings “The citizens of Jardim Angela were unanimous in their description of the neighbourhood’s needs: first, security, then education, then a proper link to the larger city, physically and economically.” (Saunders, 2012, p. 270). I won’t go into further detail about how and why Jardim Angela’s transformation took place, as Elena and Vivian have already outlined great points to this end in their above comments.

    I would like to come back to the chapter’s broader theme of middle-class mobility. As you rightly point out in your insightful article Ms. Beatriz, it’s important to be critical of what we mean by ‘middle-class’. You asked an important question: “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?”

    Saunders also alluded to the politics of defining the middle class. He explains that one way to define the middle class is through identifying a middle income range; another way is by self-identification or by examining its role and “their ability to deploy savings and investments to alter their future status” (Saunders, 2012, p. 276).
    Arrival cities are constantly changing in complex ways, and this means that positive changes may not always be sustainable over time. Jardim Angela and other success stories “remain the global exception rather than the norm.” (Saunders, 2012, p. 275). Even if families on a micro-level were sending their children to good private schools; it may not necessarily lead them to get better jobs if the economy on a macro-level does not provide opportunities for growth. The ‘rate of return’ for education can change with different generations and different economic policies. Saunders argues that sustaining upward socio-economic mobility is more likely with a welfare oriented political will and policies, something that may not sound appealing to free-market neo-liberal economists (Saunders, 2012, p. 288).

    Finally, I think that this chapter did a great job in examining a number of factors that can be necessary but not sufficient to consolidate upward social mobility in arrival cities. Some of these factors include the ‘formalization’ of settlements through land ownership, or connecting the slum to the city via public transit, or bottom-up participatory action and citizen engagement or any other measure discussed in the chapter. Each arrival city has its unique challenges that require careful and intelligent holistic responses and what constitutes “sufficient” changes based on the context. I will conclude with a useful quote: “ Arrival cities, one analysis notes, requires a welfare-oriented political will and strength in which a formalization of economic relations makes up a perhaps important but far from sufficient foundation” (Saunders, 2012, p.288).

  4. Viktor Anastasov says:

    Chapter 9 of Arrival Cities is one of my favorites. Its inspirational in the way Saunders structures his choice of topic. He begins by talking about the horrific situation in the Jardim Angela favela in Sao Paolo. What stood out the most to me is how this favela specifically was at a time more dangerous and faced more deaths than actual warzones. A neighborhood, which experienced murder, more specifically young gang murder on a daily basis. It was a total disaster according to Saunders, where people lived in extreme poverty, and where the government was absent of any services whatsoever. The police would come to raid and kill drug members and then simply leave the community as it was. What is essential to note here are the methods in which the new middle class emerged in such a violent community. According to Saunders, “in the years since the favela collapsed into violence, new thriving middle class has emerged. With this, came the development of small businesses, and development of the main street in the favela for social interactions and etc. The most significant thing that came with this development is that between 1999 and 2005 the favela’s homicide rate fell by 73.3%. This statistic is truly astonishing, and Saunders’s belives that this decline of crime rates is a direct result of economic development. With economic development, closer ties to the city emerged and more and more services became available to the people of Jardim Angela. However, what is essential to note is that since 2003 people have legally owned their homes in the favela and as a result people have invested more heavily for improvements. This change followed with the emergence of grassroots municipal government in the favela, which responded to crime and advocated for services to the government. This economic development in Jardim Angela led to improvements across the board, with more job opportunities the gang member numbers decreased heavily. These improvements created a new way of life for the residents in the favela especially the third generation that is now focused more on survival and improvement, rather than gang membership. This is credited to extensive economic development according to Saunders.
    In the second section of the chapter, Saunders takes us to Mumbai to a family that just joined the middle class. He talks about the struggle in India to make it to the middle class and to be successful in staying there. In order to be able to move up to the middle class, the family needed numerous incomes in order to receive a loan for their new apartment. A line of credit is impossible to be received on one income alone. In order to move up to the middle class, there is successful trend around the world in many arrival cities, and that is the home ownership claim. When families are granted home ownership, they are better able to reduce their burdens and secure a way of life. They are also able to invest in business opportunities and gain capital due to their land claims. However, an important point to note here is that land ownership is very valuable and can transcend arrival city poor residents into the middle class, but not without wide and extensive range of government-funded services and supports. When land ownership is given, along with government support, it is only inevitable that the middle class will grow in numbers across all arrival cities in the world!

  5. virginia says:

    Chapter 9 of arrival cities details a story of the Brazilian favelas and their struggle of making the arrival city prosperous in order to overcome gangs and poverty. Gangs were a main part of why poverty was so overwhelming in San Paulo. The disappearance of the gangs was due to economic development, more transit developed that linked the favelas to cities and government agencies, and finally people were allowed to legally own their homes- thus use it as collateral for starting their own business. This chapter then details what it takes to shift a rural shack to middle class urban life within a short amount of time. The arrival cities main objective to shift people from villages to city, this is viewed as a norm and can be made possible when people begin to come together and decide that city institutions and functions are necessary for a city to develop. In Brazil, the people who lived in the favelas created their own grassroots municipal government and agreed that the city needed security, education, and proper linkage to the inner city- both physically and economically.
    The arrival city is all about social mobility and people use it to increase living standards, income, and the quality of life. Urban poverty is a step up from rural poverty, and poverty is viewed as a temporary necessity in order to reach the ideal middle class status. This middle class status is important because it creates social and political stability, it raises living standards for those neighbours who remain poor, and it can generate ‘neighbourhood feedback effects’.
    The chapter moves from Brazils arrival city to Istanbul, and how its middle class requires legal ownership of property in order to secure a place and have a source of equity- It is built on real-estate value. However, granting land titles does not always work for every city. In Mexico and Columbia, it is not highly valued because it does not allow them to have access to credit. Therefore, social mobility is possible and valuable when active state spending and involvement. Necessities and amenities create value, which are need to compliment land titles.

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