The evil days of rain had finally given themselves away.
Gifted by a radiant sub-tropical sun, we ventured into a fair held in the “Italian” district of Santa Felicidade.
There, out of step with passersby due to its anachronistic look, a picturesque trio plays classic rural wineries in Liguria.
We are animated by an accordion and a viola, and a vocalist in a beret who, throughout the performance, adopts a pose as trustworthy as his costume and keeps one hand in his pocket while, with the other, he holds a glass of wine.
Largely residents of the “European” capital of Brazil, passersby recognize themselves in the atmosphere that the small trio recreates. They walk around and peek at each of the stalls with renewed interest.
They live together and taste what attracts them the most, including pine nuts of the most varied types.
The Portuguese Colonial Origin of Curitiba. Among Araucaria
Curitiba was founded by Portuguese settlers, in 1693, among thousands of imposing Araucaria pine trees. Its very name comes from this abundance. The Tupi Indians called it the land of pine nuts.
The Portuguese still tried to establish Vila da Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais but, in the middle of the XNUMXth century, it was already the Tupi name that was in force.
At that time, the coastal strip in the area was sparsely populated. The economy of the few Portuguese pioneers and caboclos here and there in conflict with the natives was based on the sale of wood and livestock.
But from 1853 onwards, by decree of the Emperor D. Pedro II, the region assured its autonomy from the province of São Paulo.
The lack of labor proved to be so harmful that the governor encouraged the arrival of outsiders and joined the official program to promote European immigration.
The old continent was still plagued by social inequality and successive wars that fed poverty. Unsurprisingly, thousands of souls eager for similar incentives set sail for the South Atlantic.
And the Multicultural Migratory Influx that followed
In 1871, 164 Polish families arrived in Paraná, followed by Genoese and Ukrainians, the latter reinforced by two distinct waves after the end of both Great Wars.
During these periods, more Germans, Swiss, Slavs, Swedes and French settled, as well as Arabs from Lebanon and Syria, Dutch, Japanese and Spanish, to mention only the most represented communities.
The first of the flows provided a decisive stimulus in the use of fertile land.
The newcomers planted it with coffee, mate and soy in vast areas even in the interior of the state.
The Second Wave and the Recent Migration Reversal
Curitiba is located at the top of a large canyon that appeared on the route that linked São Paulo to Rio Grande do Sul. At a time when coffee and cattle raising were emerging, it also became an unavoidable stop for the gauchos and their herds.
In the middle of the XNUMXth century, a new wave of Portuguese joined the pioneers who had occupied the coastal area of Paranaguá. They headed for the interior attracted by the stimulus of the coffee plantations and settled in the current areas of Londrina, Maringá, Campo Mourão and Umuarana.
The irony of the ironies is that, today, when we meet Brazilians who moved to Portugal twenty years ago, many of those we know and talk to come from the same interior of Paraná where they were limited to subsisting with more and more difficulties. :
“oh you know Iguaçu, Londoner too, really?” asks us, surprised, the cashier of one of the fruit shops in Benfica where, during the summer, we stock up from time to time. “Look, I've lived all my life in Londrina, so close by, and I've never been able to go to Iguaçu…
When we had to decide, Brazil entered a serious crisis.
Despite Curitiba being well above most of the country, at that time, we already had acquaintances in Lisbon. Lisbon gave more guarantees.”
Curitiba: City with one of the Highest Quality of Life in Brazil
Later, we went up to Telepar's telecommunication and panoramic tower (today Oi, or even das Mercês) in the company of a local tourism employee.
Already oriented in professional terms, Delianne does not shy away from praising the urban setting in which she grew up, against the logic of the emigrant cashier we knew in Portugal: “It's a special place, Curitiba.
Whoever manages to make a good life here, is really lucky. I wish all cities in Brazil were so safe and evolved.”
We unveil the front of moderate skyscrapers arranged in a more or less improvised way in the commercial district of almost megalopolis, the most evident proof of its already long prosperity.
From those heights, it is also easy for us to see how green spaces have become a kind of fetish at the expense of wildest urban speculation.
In them, more than finding simple leisure retreats, the residents got used to living with their past and that of their fellow citizens.
Both the Brazilian and the previous one.
A Cultural and Ethnic Indigenous Legacy from the Four Corners of the World
We leave the lively market of Bairro da Felicidade and head to the huge Tingui Park. The park was dedicated to the Tupi-Guarani people.
This is proved by the bronze statue of the chief Tindiquera placed next to the entrance door. The statue reproduces the leader of the Tingui tribe (“sharp noses”) who controlled the region when the first Portuguese arrived there.
This tribute does not invalidate the presence of the Ukrainian Memorial, a wooden Orthodox church brought from the interior of the state to honor the flow of Ukrainian immigrants and that their descendants continue to visit to leave their prayers and written messages there.
We come across similar phenomena in the different forests in the surroundings attributed to the different communities of the city: they are both “Germans” and recount the history of the Grimm brothers, as they reveal themselves as “Italians” and house a huge pot of polenta, like the one that boiled at the Bairro da Felicidade fair.
There is also a Portuguese man, armed with eight pillars decorated with tiles with verses by illustrious Portuguese-speaking poets from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth centuries, which identify the PALOP's.
And a Pole, the case of the baptism in honor of Pope John Paul II after his visit to the city in 1980.
The Prolific Poles of Curitiba and Paraná in General
With the passage of time and the lack of knowledge of the European continent, the curious term was adapted by the people to define Brazilians with light hair and light eyes coming from Eastern Europe, not necessarily from Poland.
Clemente himself, the host with blood and Italian “singing” who helped us explore much of the state of Paraná, used the term to explain the normality of families that seemed to have left Kiev or Kaliningrad. “Hey, they're Polish, right?
Brazil is not just your descendants, black, Indian and mulatto. The southern Poles are like that.”
When the pretext is not ethnic, Curitiba builds and requalifies in the name of the arts, if so justified, without any pretext, as long as the work contributes to the dignification of the city and the people of Curitiba.
Opera de Arame, Niemeyer and the Futuristic Environment of Curitiba
Where there was an old quarry, the municipality built, in iron and glass, the exuberant Opera de Arame inspired by the one in Paris.
We pass by the Fanchette Rischbieter Botanical Garden, where a gleaming greenhouse is the heart of a space of about 25 hectares that concentrates the attributes of the regional flora and the main plants of Brazil.
And in the bold style that made the author famous, the Óscar Niemeyer museum – or “of the eye”, as it is locally known – appears semi-suspended for its architectural sophistication.
These are some examples.
Curitiba's wealth and dynamism seem to have no limits. As a reward, in 2003, the UNESCO elected it as the American Capital of Culture.
The prize acted as an extra incentive. Since then, many more works and events have continued to justify and give meaning to the busy days of residents who sustain the fifth largest GDP in Brazil.
Counting on the futuristic tube bus stations where we wait, well sheltered from the rain, on the number of cyclists who traverse the vast network of local bike paths, it would be easier to say that we were in the Japan or in Berlin than in a Brazilian state capital.
Curitiba is a case apart.
Unlike what happened with neighboring São Paulo, with Rio de Janeiro and also with the youngest Brasilia, until a few decades ago, Curitiba had grown and reached almost 2 million inhabitants in an almost immaculate way.
Today, despite having given in to population pressure and the invasion of some favelas, it continues to stand out for a quality of life and diversity that is unique in the Brazilian territory and that respects its own historical background.
Among so many daring gardens and monuments, we find time to pass Tiradentes Square, admire the Metropolitan Cathedral and proceed through the pedestrian tunnel to the old Largo da Ordem.
There, many of the city's centuries-old buildings have been restored and improved, and the black boardwalk serves as the basis for yet another market, this one beautiful and yellow.
It's the color of most of the houses that surrounds it and the stalls where some vendors set up their businesses, much more comfortable than dozens of other used clothes and books dealers who display them directly on the floor for consultation and bargaining with hundreds of squatters.
Next door, a shop distracts us, for a moment, from the fair and its charming genuineness.
The Portuguese pavement that precedes it, its name and the market in which they specialize, tell us, once again, a lot about Curitiba: “Gepetto: Toys”.