My Our Curitiba

Alice Ruiz

Some poets, novelists and chroniclers write with greater ease, entire books on their hometowns.

Centro Histórico

Even though I have lived twice in Rio de Janeiro e three times in São Paulo, most of my life, so far, was in Curitiba, city where I was born.

And the hometown concentrates many towns in itself.

The real one, which is transformed over time.

The imaginary, idealized, and the emotional, which is transformed according to the memories that assail us. This one is as if haunted by us. And by our history.

So far, I have written only two lyrics to Curitiba.

A photographic one and one other for Espanha Square, for it is related to my mother side.

And some haikus that would almost serve to any other town.

Years ago, when I was asked to write a prose about Curitiba, I wrote about the impossibility (or inadequacy) of writing about our own city. Challenge I face now trying, in vain to be impersonal.

For me, it’s not easy. It’s like having to take from the womb.

And there, deep down inside, I find my childhood Curitiba.”

And there, deep down inside, I find my childhood Curitiba. To me it looks grey.

Like the river that flowed past the city, Belém River, which now only exists in the memory of some, for it was covered with cement. There is still a part of it that charms  Passeio Público, the sidewalk I used to go to school “breaking the ice” as I stepped on the layers of frost that covered the paths  in early mornings.

I remember my feet on the white ground, legs exposed, made purple by the chill, short socks and short skirt, mandatory school uniform.

Bizarre cruelty that the local tradition made with children.

I look up, though, and I see the completely blue sky, absolutely cloudless, weak sun e strong wind, nipping.

Jardim BotânicoThis cold seemed to pass in the way the city is. A little introspective and sober.

Much has changed, although one still breaks frost with their feet and it remains clean and organized, where, apparently, nothing is out of order.

But there was, and still is, a moment when the city is covered with gold.

That is when the ipes flourish. And Curitiba people applaud, not only for its beauty, but it is believed that when that happens there will be no more frost.

That is when the ipes flourish. And Curitiba people applaud, not only for its beauty, but it is believed that when that happens there will be no more frost.”

And my memory is no longer grey, it begins to gain color.

Curitiba still has its purple sunset, the color of Symbolism, the cultural movement in which the city stood out, partly because at the time of immigration, many Germans chose this city e brought their machines, an advanced technology of printers for the time.

Legend has it that among thirty literary magazines that were published throughout Brazil, twenty-three were from Curitiba. But this can be an overstatement.

Another reason for this literary boom is the proximity of the ports of Paranaguá and Antonina.

Information came quickly from Europe, especially France, exponent of Symbolism.

It arrived by ship and went up Serra da Graciosa by train, one of the most beautiful drives in the region, quenching the cultural thirst of Curitiba people, well before reaching the other capitals.

Although some of these books and magazines stayed right there, with the coast writers.

These two cities added to Morretes, which lies between them, have produced several important poets of this Movement. And the architecture is so well preserved that whenever I visit I seem to still hear their footsteps on the same paths they once trod.

But it is in Curitiba where the greatest monument to this period lies. The Neo Pythagorean Temple, also known as the Temple of the Muses. There, the poets of the capital and surrounding towns gathered to exchange ideas and do readings of their works. They used to wear Greek tunics at these gatherings and had code names of Greek philosophers and poets chosen by the group that was led by the founder of the templo and its host, Dario Veloso, or rather, Apollonius of Tyana.

Ópera de ArameBut Curitiba is mainly green. Its parks are its beaches. Including some very original ones, which were created around deactivated quarries. As the one bearing the Ópera de Arame (Wire Opera) or the Universidade Livre do Meio Ambiente (Free University of the Environment).

Even in winter, when the sun comes, the lawns are full of people, like bathers stretched on the sand. And even though there are many parks, one can visit all in only one day. Just leave early and take the “jardineira”, a sort of tour bus.

Quite different from Ligeirinho, another local novelty, which could be called surface metro and crosses town as if it were in Europe. Impression confirmed by some monuments inspired by European architecture, like the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden), among others.

And, of course, by the harsh winter.

But also for its ethnic diversity, which is maybe its main feature.

We do not have a typical dish of Curitiba, but we have typical dishes from Poland, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Italy etc.

We do not have a typical dish of Curitiba, but we have typical dishes from Poland, Germany, Turkey, Japan, Italy etc.”

We have a whole neighborhood turned to the Italian cuisine and other traditions: Santa Felicidade, where the feast of grape usually takes place and we can still see pushcarts full of vegetables, freshly harvested, on their way to the tables of residents and restaurants of the neighborhood.

Once there was an attempt to invent dishes based on the pinion. “Curi” means pinion and “tiba” means a lot, in Tupi Guarani. It may become typical, if we give it time.

We have had more pine trees, but the remaining are kept as relics to do justice to the name of the city and one of the most prominent local soccer teams.

While most of Brazil has a rich folklore, mixed mainly of indigenous, African and Portuguese roots, Curitiba has, as a counterpoint, the conservation of the tradition of the various ethnic groups of which it consists. Dances, music, accents, costumes, cultural traits, habits and folklore that have been preserved by the immigrants who came here and struggled to keep their origins, their references.

Portal do polo gastronômico Santa FelicidadeAnd what is now consolidated in doorways, parks or squares dedicated to their ethnicities.

Or in some houses that still retain traces of this formative history of the city where one still speak as it is written (because the mother tongue was different and that was learned in the books) and where the surnames reflect the miscegenation.

We know that this mixing occurred gradually. At the beginning of last century, what was seen was closed groups trying to survive alongside the other ethnic groups.

But the parallels ended up meeting.

Especially when, in the early 70’s, from night to day, the shortest avenue in the world (so they say with pride) Luiz Xavier Ave., became one sidewalk, closed to cars.

More than that, it extended beyond the boardwalk, for a large chunk of the XV street.

Now it is Brazil that wants to come to Curitiba.”

And the city center became a space to walk at ease, where you can stop to chat, watch shop windows.

It is very possible that it was then that Curitiba, once and for all, began to “break the ice.” No more frost, between people now.

As if the street by closing for the cars had opened the hearts of the passers-by.

People who came from afar, and learned to live with diversity, to respect the otherness and founded the city that today, for its attractions, increasingly get new residents, no more from so far, as in the past that has formed.

Now it is Brazil that wants to come to Curitiba.

One of the most colorful cities and the least tropical in the tropics.

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