Last visit to São Paulo

Let’s call it a victory tour. I have been so extraordinarily lucky in Brazil, with opportunities opening and good people to work with, that I developed a kind of unreasonable dread that something would go wrong in the last few months and reveal me as only that little man behind the great wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” With only days left, I think that I can declare victory, as nothing short of a catastrophe can prevent me from successfully completing the course.

As I wrote before, I am visiting my posts to say goodbye and thank you to the people who did the real work to make these years the success they have been. Today I am in São Paulo. I like São Paulo a lot. It has everything. You often hear bad things about the city and it is truly crowded and the traffic can be horrible, but it is also a very green city when you get to the human level. There are a surprising number of trees. True that many don’t have enough room to grow, but grow they do.

The people in São Paulo sometimes think of themselves as a country and in many respects they are not wrong. The São Paulo district, which includes São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso do Sul, produces about half of Brazil’s GDP. São Paulo state alone produces about 1/3.  It has the best universities and the big newspapers. That is why I have been to São Paulo so many times, that and I like to stay at the Renaissance-Marriott. But as public affairs officer for all of Brazil, I had to be careful not to be beguiled by São Paulo. You could spend all your time working in São Paulo and never run out of excellent projects and valuable things to do, but Brazil is a bigger country than that. I always remind myself that having priorities means not doing many things that are good and so much of my challenge was making sure I did LESS with São Paulo lest I become too fond of it. Well, I am done with all that anyway.

That is one of the reasons they built Brasília. São Paulo and Rio were just too attractive and they wanted to pull people and attention to the rest of Brazil. Actually, in the “old” Brazil they had three states that really counted plus one associate member. São Paulo and Minas used to trade power between them. They called it café com leite, or coffee with milk, since São Paulo was the big producer of coffee and Minas was a dairy state. Rio was important because the capital was there and Rio Grande do Sul with its peculiar characteristics and ambitions was off to the side, but still a power-player. These places are all still the most important parts of the country, but w/o the old predominance. It is the story about the rise of the rest and moving the capital to the interior really helped.

This may have been my last ever time in São Paulo. I liked it better each time I visited the city.   This is a post from one of my walks through the city on a quiet morning and another from the newer part of the city.  And my more recent walk.  My picture up top is from my hotel room.

I flew back to Brasilia on Gol.  Usually I take Tam.  Gol is a nicer.  There is a lot more room.