We live in front of the Basílica Nossa Senhora do Carmo on a side street in the Bixiga Neighborhood in central São Paulo, very close to Teatro Oficina where we get a discount on tickets by showing a utility bill with our address on it. I am currently reading a book entitled ‘Bexiga: um bairro afro-italiano’. As you can see, it is spelled differently, that special fluidity that Brasilian Portuguese is nice for. A trans safe space, community center and dormitory called Casa 1 just opened up down the street beyond the padaria and motel-by-the-hour. There is a lot to say about Bixiga. When walking in Bixiga, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the imposing Conjunto Santos Dumont building where the lanchonete is located. The metal curve of the tallest (of three) buildings, 14 Bis is yet visible across the valley even if new tall buildings are in the works right beside it on Rua Paim, ones that will eventually obscure its view. Alas, this is the ‘verticalization of Bixiga’ that is on everyone’s tongues.
The ambulant sales guy on our street is peddling a truckload of eggs, with a carton of 30 eggs for only 8 Reais. They are ‘quality eggs’. “Come here, sweets… come again.” He has a pre-recorded announcement amplified from his truck. I wonder where all these announcements are taped? They are like auction callers with some Northeastern music as backdrop to the recording. Our street could be George Ferraz’s street in Cuiabá (Mato Grosso) in terms of these type quotidian experiences. Last year when we lived on the noisier Brigadeiro Luis Antonio, I woke up one morning to find a statuesque shard of ash on the kitchen table that looked at first glance to be a small, black crow with its head tucked under its wing, sleeping. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and likely screamed ‘George’ understanding that he’d lit a candle on top of a cork/plastic coaster on top of a formica tabletop for his ancestors. The end result was a big black square the size of the coaster etched into table top. Happy that the apartment building didn’t burn down, I still scolded sleepy-headed George for not imagining the incumbent flammability of his action. He is adorable and very warm in the morning, so I doubt that I persisted for very long in my tirade. Late last year in the new apartment on the side street we hosted a friend from Cuiabá in October. She brought a package from George’s mom w/ homemade cookies by the lady down the street where George grew up … and three candles she got from her local Candomblé center in Cuiabá. We now have pools of red and green candle wax on the white tile of both sides of our balcony, which faces the Basilica. The tiles are not flammable. The prayers she sent were also for me. My mom sends prayers in a different way, which is also nice.
Cuiabá I recently learned was the launching point for Claude Lévi-Strauss’ expeditions into the Amazon from which he wrote ‘Tristes Tropiques’. Last year at the end of the Queer City / Cidade Queer project, George, Pogo Fiction and I made a final publication entitled, ‘Cuiabá’ with the help of Edições Aurora / Publication Studio São Paulo. You can check it out here. TLL/SP