Landscape for whom?

Image: C. Cagnin


Memory is denied to the people on the street who live and circulate in an environment steeped in the historical past, as the urgency lies, above all, in trying to survive day to day.

LAERTE, Pirates of Tietê, Folha de São Paulo, 18/07/2023.

“Then I came to understand the role that art has in awakening memory: it is a way for us to resist, it is our way of everyday life. As I am Guarani, awakening memory for us is always waking up through memory – and we understand that memory as heritage, which is our knowledge, our way of not losing the things that make us” (Sandra Benites).

Laerte prophesies a near future for the city of São Paulo, in which increasingly taller buildings will hide the views.

Different experts have been denouncing that the Master Plan is not undergoing a review “for the people and with the people”. Let’s look at this excerpt: “2. It is the construction industry that imposes changes according to its interests, in this case building increasingly taller buildings. 3. The burial of historical monuments, the historical and architectural memory of the city, the disappearance of landscapes is not important. 4. Negative consequences for the city's infrastructure – transport, traffic, water supply, sewage collection, lack of housing for the low-income population, environmental impacts. 6. Drastic changes in the city's climate, as a result, for example, of the reduction in green areas and the circulation of winds throughout the city..”[I]

Following the lead given by cartoonist Laerte, still within the field of arts, I bring contributions from poets and artists to address issues raised in the manifesto above. I start with the “[…] burial of historical monuments, the historical and architectural memory of the city, the disappearance of landscapes”. Let's see how the text by the poet Guilherme de Almeida (1890-1969) helps us about the landscape he saw from his house at the top of Perdizes (west zone of São Paulo).

The House on the Hill

– What an idea of ​​yours, going to live in that end of the world!

That's what my friends told me when, twelve years ago, I built my house on this hill, west of the Pacaembu valley.

End of the world?

–It could even seem like that. Curved, humped street, just one block long and with only three houses (mine was the fourth) separated by land without walls or fences and bristling with shaggy, anonymous bush – it was just a rustic road. The wild note: – high and deserted point, exposed to wild winds that whistled night and day; and, on an arid cliff, about forty meters from my walls, the nest of all the hawks that took flight - pinhé! pine! – and went, far away, to catch the sparrows from Praça da República. The funeral note: – in the garden of the front house, a sad lamp, the only lighting on the street, hung from an inverted “L” made of strong peroba beams that formed exactly a gallows; and behind, in the background, a poor part of a cemetery, a hillside strewn with tombs and crosses. The glorious note: – on the horizon, to the north, closing the perspective of the street, the pointed cutout of the Jaraguá, the “Senhor do Plaino”, the first gold number in Brazil; and, towering over the central crowd, to the southeast, the State Bank, ascending, like a ceramic shell, with its warhead of fluorescent light on quiet nights. The symbolic note: – with the Municipal Stadium, which is all the joy of Life, on the one hand, and, on the other, the Araçá necropolis, which is all the sadness of Death, thus, between the two extremes of human contingency, my street was going philosophically, indifferently. A personal note: – -there I settled my house, because the place was so high and so alone, that I didn’t even need to raise my eyes to look at the sky, nor lower my thoughts to think about myself”.[ii]

Not only does the historical monuments that the poet glimpsed from his home draw attention, but also Pico do Jaraguá, a landmark in the landscape of São Paulo.[iii]

This peak is in almost all of the works of the artist and professor, Evandro Carlos Jardim (1935). Said Jardim: “I discovered Jaraguá one afternoon. I was walking around Lapa and I saw him (…)”.[iv] Since then, Pico do Jaraguá began to be represented in his metal engravings, always at the service of his poetics, as part of non-factual imagery.

Let’s go back in time to briefly understand part of the history of Pico do Jaraguá.

In 1825, Hercules Florence (1804-1879), designer of the Langsdorff Expedition, described his discovery as follows: “Three leagues from São Paulo I saw Mount Jaraguá, an indigenous word that means king of the mountains, as it is the highest point in the region. At the foot of this mountain, the first gold mine in Brazil was discovered, around the year 1520, a fact that aroused Portugal's interest in Brazil, until now little appreciated”.[v]

This discovery signals the beginning of a history marked by iron and fire by the enslavement of black and indigenous people; history of exploration with a beginning, but without end, as explorers follow one another to this day, endlessly coveting the region's riches. The gold cycle that began this exploration was followed by the coffee cycle. Today, private and State interests have been trying to appropriate the territories (TIs) of the Guarani-Mybiá do Jaraguá, privatize the Jaraguá State Park, build fenced private condominiums, build illegal subdivisions, etc. Always at the expense of the forest, indigenous territories and lives.

Pico do Jaraguá, however, is one of the city's main tourist attractions, as can be seen below: “The Jaraguá State Park is home to one of the last remnants of the Atlantic Forest in the metropolitan region of São Paulo. It is represented by the iconic Jaraguá hill, where Pico do Jaraguá is located, which represents the highest point in the city of São Paulo, at 1.135 meters high and providing the visitor with an unusual and beautiful glimpse of the largest city in Latin America”.[vi]

The guide encourages people to visit Pico do Jaraguá to admire an “unusual and beautiful glimpse” of the city. This attitude of contemplation hides everything that bothers the unique and “perfect” landscape of the city of São Paulo. I am referring to the precariousness of life in the tiny territories (TIs) of the Guarani-Mybiá do Jaraguá located at the foot of the peak (Mybiá is one of the subgroups of the Guarani people - Tupi-Guarani linguistic family).[vii]

At the end of Rodovia dos Bandeirantes, close to São Paulo, Pico do Jaraguá falls further and further behind. The following photograph shows Pico do Jaraguá 40 km from São Paulo.

Estrada Bandeirantes, towards Campinas-São Paulo. Pico do Jaraguá on the right. Photo by Ana de Niemeyer, taken from inside the car.

As you enter the city, you see a huge population that does not enjoy any landscape. They are men, women and children who live under viaducts, on the edges of garden beds, in corners of the city's avenues and streets. When they disrupt the beauty of the largest city in Latin America, occupying places coveted by the construction industry, “threatening” the “safety” of those who pass by on foot or by car, the city hall is efficient… It guarantees the “cleanliness” of the place , preventing people from returning, erecting bars and placing police vehicles.

Drive people away!

I return to the personal note, which ends Guilherme de Almeida's text, “-there I settled my house, because the place was so high and so alone, that I didn't even need to raise my eyes to look at the sky, nor lower my mind to think. in me".

I also return to the cartoon by Laertes that opens this text. In this one, a person sitting on a sofa in his apartment, enjoying the view from the window: sky with clouds, and, in the distance, a series of buildings. Unexpectedly, a face invades the window and blocks her view.

Two questions, at least, are raised by this event: the first evokes the absence of landscape, as the inhabitant of the neighboring apartment only has what he sees and appreciates from his window, someone else's sofa; the second refers to the invasion of privacy felt by the person who has a face entering their room, blocking their entire view of the outside.

This invasion is a threat to the lives of the inhabitants of the city of São Paulo, as increasingly taller skyscrapers are erected every day, practically glued to new or old buildings. Not only the sight is lost, but something deeper, the daydream, the dream, the memory. Our memory, according to Sandra Benides – mentioned in the epigraph – is our “heritage” based on our “knowledge”.

Anthropologist Tim Ingold (1948) has been reflecting on the capacity that we ideally have, when moving through landscapes – places steeped in stories – to archive experiences and knowledge in our memory. [viii] Now, if landscapes, historical monuments, city landmarks, green areas, the infinite immensity of the sky with clouds, stars and moon disappear, we run the risk of losing, not only, a large part of the content accumulated in our memory, as well as parts of our history and our ability to dream, to create poetry. How to resist? In accordance with the potential evoked by Sandra Benites.

Memory is denied to the people on the street who live and circulate in an environment steeped in the historical past, as the urgency lies, above all, in trying to survive day to day. It is therefore necessary to reflect on what landscape is for each segment of the São Paulo population.

From light to shadow, from satisfaction to frustration, these are perhaps the poetic messages transmitted by Laerte in the cartoon with which I close these reflections.

LAERTE, Pirates of Tietê, Folha de São Paulo, 20/04/2024.

*Ana Maria de Niemeyer is a retired professor at the Department of Anthropology at Unicamp.


[I] Accessible at:

[ii] In: presentation folder of the Casa Guilherme de Almeida Biographical and Literary Museum. Accessible at:

[iii] The Jaraguá peak is part of the metropolitan region of the city of São Paulo – northwest zone of the municipality of São Paulo, Jaraguá neighborhood.

[iv] In: MACAMBIRA, Yvoty de Macedo Pereira, Evandro Carlos Jardim, São Paulo: EDUSP, 1998: p.144

[v] FLORENCE, Hercule. River trip from Tietê to the Amazon through the provinces of

São Paulo, Mato Grosso and Grão-Pará: extracted from the autobiographical text L'Ami des Arts Livré à lui-même/ Hercule Florence -1st ed. São Paulo: BBM Publications, 2022: p.35

[vi] Accessible at:

[vii] Accessible at:

[viii] See an excellent synthesis of part of Ingold’s thought in BAILÃO, André S. 2016. “Paisagem – Tim Ingold”. In: Encyclopedia of Anthropology. São Paulo: University of São Paulo, Department of Anthropology. Available in:

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