Every time I speak to one of my friends from home, someone asks how many times I have gone to the beach. I remind everyone that Brazil has more to offer than the beach and I am luck that I get to live in a city that has is known for being a cultured city with a passion for all forms of art. While art has many forms, in São Paulo, some these expressions take form in graffiti and tattoos.
The graffiti isn’t something that one can ignore in São Paulo because it is literally everywhere. From the moment I got off my plane on July 1st, a sea of graffiti beautifying the would-be bland painted buildings. Although one can’t ignore the art, it is very possible to not truly see the beauty of it. There is a famous alley in the hipster district, Vila Madelena, called Batman Alley that completely covered with graffiti. That isn’t the only place where you’ll pass this free expression. I’ve walked down Avenida Paulista a million times, but last week was the first time that I’ve noticed this artwork. You’re probably thinking, “how did you miss it, it’s so big.” Well, last week was the first time that I happened to look up. It was so pretty that I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture. For those who don’t know, Avenida Paulista on a warm day is like Wal-Mart on Black Friday, packed. You can imagine the irritated people behind me, but I think they are so used to seeing this form of art that they don’t fully appreciate it.
That being said, I was never a fan of people defacing buildings because it seemed like a form of disrespect. The city of São Paulo would agree with my previous thoughts because it is still illegal to deface public and private property. In some cases I do agree with the city, like the case of people painting a statue as a form of protest and the city spent thousands of dollars cleaning the mess. Yet, in other cases, I think the graffiti adds to the culture and interest of the city. There are very few places in the world that have the same rhythm as Sao Paulo, but the graffiti is truly unique. If you want to know more about the personalities of the people of Sampa (nickname for São Paulo), then just look to the sides of buildings.
Other popular canvases in this city are bodies. Of course tattoos are popular in many large cities, but I was surprised at how many people actually have tattoos. Walking into a college classroom here, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t have tattoo. I guess that is why they have the Sao Paulo Tattoo Week, one of the largest tattoo weeks in Latin America, where tattoo artists from all over Brazil and the world come together and showcase their talent.
I thought most Latin American cities were pretty conservative, but Sao Paulo proved me wrong. One of my fellow study abroaders described São Paulo as having a very gritty vibe with natural landscape in the background. You can’t put a culture of a country in a box and expect that every city will act the same. I didn’t appreciate the different sorts of people in São Paulo until I started to appreciate the amount of time that this city dedicates to art and self-expression.