The dry season of the Central Plateau is usually inclement with Brasília and the meteorology fulfilled its intentions.
The air had been hot and rough for some days now, almost devoid of moisture, mixed with a light dust that hurt the most sensitive throats.
“Let's go guys, with determination but respect…” an experienced “policeman” alerts over the loudspeaker.
When Demonstrations Take Over the Plateau
Not even the unbearable heat of mid-afternoon had deterred a mega-demonstration of the Federal Highway Police from forming at the appointed time, next to the city's exuberant cathedral.
We see the procession extending along the main avenues. And to linger on purpose at Praça dos Três Poderes, in front of the National Congress building, next to the Palácio do Planalto, where it was crucial that their demands for a career plan and more vacancies were heard.
Brazilians seek their way to Order and Progress. At the same time, another creative protest, this time by teachers, was taking place on the lawn adjacent to the National Congress.
To guard against more than a certain unavailability of politicians to receive them, those responsible had placed dozens of images of deputies on seats. And it was to that inanimate audience that they demanded a salary “floor”, a demand uttered by a representative of the class from a makeshift pulpit.
The costs of interiority in the capital and, in particular, of these expressions of democracy are high. Expenses with transport, food, infrastructure and others reach the order of 2, 3, 4 and even more millions of Reais.
Despite being tiny compared to what was spent on the construction of Brasilia and the economic potential of Brazil, these numbers affect the promoting organizations that often disclose them to the press as an additional complaint.
The Historical Confines of the Brasilia Project
It was nothing that worried the government of the Marquis de Pombal too much when it considered, for the first time, transferring the capital of the Portuguese Empire to the less explored domains of the colony.
At that time, Brazil's easiest riches – gold and diamonds, instead of the immense present oil – came from the coast to the interior and it suited the Crown to exert the most comprehensive control of the territory as possible.
The idea was debated and disputed by several factions. Highlighting the Inconfidentes Mineiros. This group of rebels had been conjuring, for some time, a separatist revolt against the pour and other forms of implacable taxes that took to the metropolis part (1500 kg of gold annually) of the wealth accumulated by the wealthy population of Minas Gerais.
Ironically, his chosen place for the capital of the new republic was called São João d'El Rei. The plan was betrayed by a colonel who, in exchange, saw the debt he owed to the Crown forgiven.
In the same year of the French Revolution, the Inconfidentes were condemned in Rio de Janeiro and imprisoned. As a preventive example of new revolts. Tiradentes, the lowest-ranking conjuror, was hanged and quartered.
The willingness to relocate the capital has persisted throughout history, before and after Brazilian independence.
The Slow Start of the Capital in the Heart of Brazil
In 1891, this change was included in the republican constitution and, at the same time, an Exploratory Commission for the Central Plateau of Brazil was constituted.
Only much later, in 1960, would the desired new capital become a reality, made possible by the political determination of President Juscelino Kubitschek.
Urban planner Lúcio Costa and the architect Oscar Niemeyer received an almost white letter.
They created a city in such an unusual way that, when Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin visited it, he insisted on declaring: “I have the impression that I am disembarking on a different planet…”.
It's the same feeling we get as we walk along its wide avenues, between shapes created as a 60's vision of what a city in the distant future would be like.
A city that turned out to be the only one built in the XNUMXth century to achieve UNESCO World Heritage status.
On the Margin of Urbanism and Architecture, the Humanized Life of Brasilia
Despite its appearance of an organic museum, Brasília quickly took on a contrasting life.
The Federal District welcomed migrants from all regions of Brazil and even from abroad in a much less harmonious way than expected.
In the proximity of the Monumental Axis, the different housing “wings” and the eccentric functional sectors of the city (amusements, culture, commerce, hotels, medical-hospital etc.), the population benefited from the jobs created by the state and those linked to them. It prospered.
At the same time, the municipalities of Goiás on the periphery welcomed thousands of extra newcomers who were looking for alternatives to the poverty of the areas they had abandoned.
Brasília is on the way to the 3 million inhabitants. In social terms, it is considered the 4th most unbalanced city in Brazil and until recently, the 16th of the world.
The crime numbers come, as expected, to match.
Little or nothing affects the elitist cream of politicians who maintain their luxurious domicile in the capital, but fly whenever they can to the great historic metropolises of the coast – read São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – where, politics on the sidelines, continues to unfold the “true” Brazilian life.
For the middle class, and even more for the poor, Brasília is the city to deal with.
Driver Seu Zé and Brazil's So Wealthy Reality
A full-time taxi driver, Mr. Zé is more upset with the plague of demonstrations than with the “birds” (that's what he calls them), the speed cameras that the authorities have hidden in several trees on the avenue. Whenever you can, accelerate.
“These guys are still going to ruin the end of the day for me. I have to take my son to training on time, you know how the famous Brazilian paitrocínio is…” As there's no politician in the family, we try to get by with football, right? ”
Both the complaint and the ambition are old, but Seu Zé admits: “at least in international news, Brazil has only been showing for some time. You know … it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is predicted to become one of the top five within the next few decades…”
The driver also ends up accepting that the hyper-modern, almost luxurious van in which he works can be considered a result of this new prosperity. However, at the time of the last revision of this text, April 2020, Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil was experiencing a period of social and economic crisis aggravated by the Covid 19 pandemic.
Inside the taxi, we lost track of time. Meanwhile the crowd of protesters had demobilized. When we least expect it, the sun starts to set. Paint an orange sky wall that appears to close off the city to the west.
There is another one of the famous exuberant sunsets in Brasília. A rival twilight follows.
The following morning, several new demonstrations were planned and, who knows, one or another scandal of the ones that give more meaning to the nation's newspapers.
Deputies and senators will occupy their seats in the chamber of the National Congress.
As it has done since the 70s, through its decisions, for better and for worse, Brasília would decide the future of Brazil.