Here’s a fact, as told by a Brazilian expat from Sao Paolo who has been living in New York for three years. If you want to capture the Rio beach vibe in Manhattan, head to Central Park’s Great Lawn on a sunny day. Then make like a Carioca; pull out a towel, get tanning and start people-watching.
If the Great Lawn is Rio’s ‘areia’ (sandy strip), then Hudson River Park is its ‘calçadão’ (pedestrian walkway), where joggers, skateboarders and flaneurs cruise up and down.
Both cities share the same ocean, separated though it is by 12 countries and 4,800 miles; both share tales of colonization and ancestry which are carried on the waves to European shores, and for those who live in either city, there’s a chance to experience every aspect of seaboard living.
From the high rollers and sandy beaches of Fire Island where Brazilian expats knock up weekend barbeques and sink caipirinhas, to the scruffy kitsch of the Coney Island boardwalk and the battered architecture of Pier 17 and South Street Seaport which echoes Porto Maravilha – Rio’s soon-to be-renovated port zone - traces of Rio can be found all over New York.
So can Sao Paolo. More so, even. Kings of retail both, Sao Paolo and New York are wheeler dealers par excellence, consumer Meccas of their continents. Upscale ventures in Soho and Jardins invent and reinvent the laws of fashion, dining and hospitality, while Canal Street and Rua 25 de Março peddle anything you want and mostly, nothing you need, megalopolis style.
Then there’s the heat, the cars, the skyscrapers and the pressure-cooker humidity in summer, the smells of fried dough wafting out of Spanish Harlem and Astoria and the beery smell oozing from the Lower East side that remind Brazilians of home.
But most of all, in all three cities, there’s an energy that’s intoxicating, a non-stop whirr and bump and grind, and the sense that millions of different lives are all being lived at the same time, crashing together within the city walls like atoms in a test tube.