Dispatches from the road: Sao Paulo

I am here. One of the side effects – benefits – of marrying a Brazilian. Especially one that misses her country a bunch.

Sao Paulo is an egregiously large city. 10 million in the city – in an area of 1523.0 square kilometres or about the size of the Moncton CA ( 2177 square kilometres). Imagine squeezing in 10 million people from Memramcook to Salibury. You´ve got yourself a visual image. To make things even more sizeable, there are 19 million people living in the metro area – an area smaller than the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Every time I come I am amazed at its size. From the air it looks three or four times larger than New York City becuase the majority of people live in high rise buildings. Maybe Mexico City or Tokyo look like this – but I have never been those hamlets.

It´s a gritty place where the fabulously wealthy live among the poor. Sao Paulo has the least poverty of any third word city (as a percentage of total population) but it still has a large share of poverty.

One day, I´ll have someone tell me the definition of ´poverty´. According to Wikipedia, about 9% of São Paulo’s population live below the poverty line.

That means there less poverty here – than in New Brunswick – in relative terms.

Somehow I think the definition of poverty line must vary based on where you are standing.

Anyway, not much to say from down here. No Al Hogan. No Tanker. No Ignatieff here. Just about 100 people per square foot trying to get by.

And as for national unity, everyone has a dozen flags or more (Sheila Copp´s cousin must be doling them out right and left) – hanging from windows, cars, worn on clothes, hanging on walls, etc. Sure it´s the World Cup but for some strange reason these folks are intensly nationalistic – not forced by government but by some sense of nationalness which I can´t quite put my finger on but it cuts across ethnicity (Brazil is the most multicultural country in the world), gender, class, employment.

Canada, in my opinion, has much less sense of nationalness than at least some other countries I have spent time in. 98% of Americans polled identified themselves first as Americans and then as Texans, southerners, etc. Only about 50% or so of Canadians felt the same way. The rest identified themselves first as Quebecker, Albertan, Newfoundlander, etc. and then second as Canadian.

I don´t know what that means. Or if it´s even important. But somewhere down inside (without a good, logical reason why) I think we need to work a little more on a sense of national unity. And it takes more than flags (Sheila) and a lot more than forced wealth redistribution.

In my opinion.

But I stake no claim to an expertise in this area – it´s way off my beaten track.

But worthy of someone~s attention, me thinks.