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Day 63: São Paulo

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With Pedro Laurenço and hopefully inspirational collection of pink fabrics.
Michael Palin - BrazilI ask if there's any significant difference between Brazilian and European women that he has to bear in mind when designing. He pauses a moment, then looks up from his work. Brazilian women, he thinks, like to dress more daringly than their European counterparts. If they've got it they like to flaunt it?

He smiles and nods. As if I hadn't noticed that already. Cleavage seems almost obligatory in Brazil.

In the afternoon I renew acquaintance with Carolina Ferraz, who wants to take me to meet another young star from São Paulo. Only this time we're in a completely different part of the city. No silver walls or black-clad staff here. The streets are rough and run-down. The painted walls are smeared black and rubbish is piled up at the side of the road. This is Grajaú, an extensive neighbourhood which is home to 800,000 of the poorer Paulistas. We pull up at the doorway of a concrete shell of a house and ahead, waiting to greet us, is the man we've come to see. He's tall, lightly dark-skinned, quick on his feet and dressed in loose cotton trousers, a white T-shirt and trainers. He was born thirty-six years ago as Kleber Gomes, the son of migrant workers from the North-East of Brazil. Now he's a rapper, poet and composer and has taken the stage name Criolo, the Creole. Political protest is at the heart of his work, whether it be about police brutality, living conditions in the favelas or environmental policy. He's gained some formidable admirers, including the hugely respected singer and composer Caetano Veloso, who has described Criolo as 'possibly the most important figure on the Brazilian pop scene'.

Right now the coming man is leading us towards the house to meet his Mum and Dad. Dad is already waiting at the door, a solid man with greying hair and an instantly likeable face. Warm and wise. I notice Criolo untucking a corner of his father's shirt which has got stuck in the waistband of the older man's shorts. A quick bit of tidying up. Then Criolo goes ahead, loping smoothly up a flight of steps ahead of us. There's building work going on in the house and piles of breeze-block stand about.

The stairs lead out onto a roof with a panoramic view of Grajaú, stretching away on all sides. No one has built tower blocks out here, and there's a refreshing sense of air and sky. Criolo's mother is sitting out on the roof. She's a composed, gently smiling, dark-haired woman wearing a pink cotton top and shorts. Carolina greets her with open arms and introduces us. On the way out here, Carolina had given me some background on this remarkable woman. She was born in a slum, worked as a maid, learnt to read from newspapers the meat was wrapped in and became a teacher, as did her son for a while. In 2006 she was diagnosed with some problem in her hand which made writing difficult and forced a change in her life. Two years ago she opened what she calls a philosophy café, to encourage people from the neighbourhood to come and talk about their lives and their problems. Criolo's Mum is a firm believer in thinking for yourself, in accepting responsibility for your own life.
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Machining in his mother, Gloria Coelho's workshop.
Choose another day from Brazil


  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 63: São Paulo
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: São Paulo
  • Book page no: 263

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  • Music and Film
  • Day 8 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 22 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 88 
  • Pole to Pole


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