Fórum João Mendes Junior
São Paulo is a city of contrasts (just like Brazil), of different scales, cultures, and a diversity of people who do not walk, but run around the city in an almost unstoppable back and forth and who try to live, many of them just surviving. Part of these people walk and pass by the center of São Paulo, to work, walk, protest, live…
And this city that supports so much is built and rebuilt with the layers of overlapping time, stories that are gradually erased from books and memories.
But for me there is no doubt that in many moments we do not even have the right to memory, already beyond time, other layers are built and superimposed on others, being erased by those who benefit from that.
Some of these erasures should indeed occupy the “little box” of oblivion, others must be rescued, no matter how painful it is for so many people, memory must exist.
Probably Largo Sete de Setembro fits in this second case, but first I will locate it in the city of São Paulo.
It is located in the city center, in Liberdade neighborhood, near Largo da Sé, the Court of Justice, interspersed by Praça João Mendes and the forum that bears the name of João Mendes Junior (father and son).
There, before being a space surrounded by buildings, streets, avenues, and some green, was a “pelourinho”, or rather, it was “Largo do Pelourinho”.
The term “pelourinho” was the name of a wooden or stone column placed in a public square to punish criminals in the Middle Ages. In Brazil, the pelourinho was instituted by the Portuguese as an instrument that penalized countless women and men captured, imprisoned, and brought in a forced transatlantic crossing from the African continent to this and so many other territories. This was a colonial requirement that turned settlements into villages.
And, yes, in Brazil this was provided by the Criminal Code of the Empire of 1830 and in the “Law of Death” of 1835.
And it was by writing this text that I realized the (ironic) difference in the meanings of “Largo do Pelourinho”, which references slavery, and the current name, “Largo Sete de Setembro”, which concerns the story that we are still told, the one that is in the books, about the date being that of the “liberation” of Brazil from Portugal.
The deletion of pelourinho was not only in the name of Largo, it was part of the changes in the configuration and occupation of that space.
There, where once existed the Capela de São Vicente Ferrer in the 17th century and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, built on the same site in the 1830s and which housed escaped and rescued slaves, which was the seat of the popular Abolitionist Movement of the Caifases, the typography of the abolitionist newspaper A Redenção and a school that received children born after the Lei do Ventre Livre, was built the Fórum João Mendes Junior, project of Ramos de Azevedo in the 1860s.
Since then, Largo has undergone other changes, and will undergo some more.
This timeline puts us before a narrative of changes in the territory, but what about “us” [nós]? Are we part of it or are we part of the erasures?