Ministério do turismo, secretaria especial da cultura e belgo bekaert arames apresentam


Paraisópolis, São Paulo - SP

I worked for a few years in the urbanization of Paraisópolis, one of the largest favelas in the city of São Paulo, both in terms of number of inhabitants and territorial extension. This work was, in my memory, the most complex, harrowing, and challenging experience of my life. I felt in the midst of many practical, ethical, and emotional struggles. As I usually say nowadays: after this experience “the rest was perfumery”.

I still wonder what it was like to work in a place with so many structural, socioeconomic problems, located within one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the city (Morumbi). I seek to present a little of this perspective through two very dear partners who worked with me on this project.

Jaci, a very tough person I met, was a resident of Paraisópolis during the time I worked there (she currently lives in Pernambuco and works as a social worker) and acted as a “community agent”: a resident who helped us, outsiders. At my request, she wrote a beautiful poem about Paraisópolis for this 13th BIA, which can be seen in the video recorded by her, and read below:


“Urban context”

To talk about Paraisópolis
In the context of the city
Still remains
To talk about informality
To be part of the context
Of the formal city
It’s everyone’s dream
Who lives in illegally
Talk about concrete
Which has no perfectioning
Which turns into housing
Brick and cement
Talk about this force
That exists in the favela
That is renewed every day
Inside each alley
Talk about this violence
That takes all city
But it’s inside the favela
That it has truthfulness
Speaking as a resident
Say how I felt
Talk about the difficulty
That I faced every day
I want to be recognized
As a simple citizen
It’s everyone’s dream
Who lives there in the grotão
Speak of the difficulty
Getting home with the groceries
The car can’t get to the door
The alley is very long
Talk about resilience
Of living in this place
Having to prove every day
You’re not a criminal

The fight for the right
Of access to housing
It is part of everyday life
And our day by day.

Written for the 13th BIA by Jacilene Ferreira.

Someone else I met at that moment and who became one of the greatest and most incredible warriors I ever met was Lucia Agata, a social worker who coordinated the social field team in the urbanization work of Paraisópolis. The big trouble, in fact, was left for this team. The other was the “technical team”, linked to architecture (me) and engineering (as if her and her team’s work was not technical…). Lúcia, also responding to my request, recorded a beautiful audio about our experience in Paraisópolis.


Below you can check a photo taken by me, in 2010, of the urbanization work in Paraisópolis, which portrays Grotão, one of the biggest geological risk areas in the city of São Paulo:


Reflection by Lucia, City Hall social worker and coordinator of the “social team”, responsible for general dialogue with residents in the urbanization work of Paraisópolis

Paraisópolis is, for me, a story of resistance. We are talking about a territory with more than 20,000 households, living in a place recorded there in Vila Andrade, Morumbi (a high-income neighborhood in São Paulo).

These are the people who are resisting, living in that area for over 30 years. I worked there from 2006 to 2009, in the urbanization work. And among all my experiences in Paraisópolis, I would like to highlight one aspect: popular participation. How much space we had for participation, fundamental, in the way the works should happen.

Paraisópolis was a territory that, when we started with the urbanization work, we did not have much of a proposal for the resettlement of families, although we had a lot of removal to be done. And, obviously, the need and speed with which the work had to be done. But the residents, in the figures of their main leaders, articulated themselves, with all their difficulties and had many achievements. Telling it like that sounds like a pretty simple story. But, in fact, it was a process of a lot of discussion, clash, a lot of controversy, but, truly, a lot of resistance from these people, so that they could continue living in that territory in which their lives are organized, in which their community and family ties are established, where there is a lot of solidarity, a lot of support from people and that, in a situation of vulnerability, this is very essential.

(To be continued)

Pedro Smith