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“Aqui é Santa Cecília?”
“Segundo os correios, é...”
“Na verdade, depende. Algumas quadras são na Consolação e outras são em Santa Cecília.”
“Mas se eu disser pra alguém que moro em Santa Cecília, essa pessoa irá até a Santa Cecília.”
“Pode ser que ela me encontre, afinal eu trabalho em Santa Cecília.”
“Por via das dúvidas, use 'moro na Angélica', aí não tem erro.”
“Oficialmente, não existe Higienópolis, nem Pacaembu. Só Consolação e Santa Cecília.”
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The one area I teach in is considered a 'bairro nobre' or 'noble neighbourhood'. Higienópolis. The quote above is a conversation about finding directions in Higienópolis. It's one of those peculiar neighbourhoods where everyone wants to have it as an address, but most around there live in the 'lesser' neighbourhoods of Consolação, Santa Cecilia and even further 'down', Marechal Deodoro.
Most of São Paulo is sectorised.... split into 'sectors'. Italians cluster together in their corner. Jews in another. Lithuanians claim a hilltop of their own. Business-minded Japanese prefer the heart of the city.
There's also sectorised shopping, whole neighbourhoods, streets or blocks, each specialising in one product or product range. A few blocks in town will give me countless shops selling sewing machines or sewing machine repair shops and spares, including a place to print out patterns. There's a road dedicated to jeans, another to hairdressing equipment. A whole few blocks lays claim to being a bride-to-be's Mecca. Just a little further will be the destination of restaurateurs and serious cooks. I wonder if there's any significance in the fact that the bridal sector is decidedly seedy.
For today, I was focussed on the 'bairro nobre'. The vast contrast between the one end and the other takes me by surprise every time. On the one end, you have your well-healed 'old money'. On the other end, you just have the 'old' part of that statement with money only scattered among those who've been there too long and are now too old to move.
In the front hall of the apartment block is an artists interpretation - you know they kind the designers toss out before a building goes up - of what was supposed to be a very nice complex. I walk in through the peeling gates, then some sliding glass doors into the entrance hall. To my left is an arrangement of plastic arum lilies that badly need dusting. There are two couches straight out of a 70's pawn shop. I doubt they've been moved since they were put there 3 or 4 decades ago. The picture on the wall is smallish, an obscure scenic painting, with an ornate gilt frame almost as thick as the picture is wide. The lift is small and very old, as is the rest of the building, creaking as it goes up. The equally creaking gate opens at my floor.
On the other end of the neighbourhood, I am allowed entry through double security gates by a security guard I doubt I'll ever see. I walk along the sweeping cobbled horseshoe drive to the entrance. The decor is simple and tasteful, one or two carefully chosen antiques. So different from the apartments on the other end of the 'hood'. Strangely, though, the buildings come from the same 'era'.