A Futuristic City

We are in Brasília! Today we took a bus tour around the third, and current, Capital of Brazil. Brasília is a unique city for multiple reasons. For one, it is the only city where cars legally have to yield for pedestrians in the crosswalk (unlike Rio where I swear the cars speed up when they see you cross). Also, the city's unique layout looks like an airplane. The city was strategically planned and purposely designed to be the Capital. There were several reasons as to why this land was transformed from rainforest to a city. One reason has to do with a dream. While visiting the Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial Museum, I learned that the location of the city came from a dream from a priest named Dom Bosco where he was met by a "young and very kind man of superhuman beauty, saying he was a friend of Salesians and that he came on behalf of God to give him a bit of work. In his dream, they started by doing a great trip through Latin America." As the story goes, the land of Brasília fulfilled Bosco's prophecy which is one of the reasons for the city's location. The location itself is in the central part of the country and provides protection from outside attacks more than Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. Another reason for the Capital's development was political. With the city in a more central space, it is easier for all different regions of the country to meet as well as promote more development in the North.

To me, Brasília feels a bit like Panem from Suzanne Collin's trilogy the Hunger Games. The development of Brasília is similar to the different factions in the novels. The city's layout was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer was a communist and attempted to make each super block a place where the people could live in community with each other and not have to leave the area. So, each super block has shopping, a school, a chapel, and a residential area. Within this block system, there is a business district, a medical district, a political district, and so on. Coming to Brasília after spending time in Rio and Salvador, the city feels eerily dystopian. The buildings, built in late 1950's to early 60's, were created with the intention of being futuristic. They feel very modern, and in my opinion, boring compared to the colorful architecture in the other cities we have visited. An article by Holford titled "Brasília: The Federal Capital of Brazil" mentions the absence of history as a potential social problem. He notes that "it could not have been otherwise. The housing areas have not grown up slowly enough to look as if they were rooted to the ground. There has been no time to mold the contours, and the playgrounds, to respond to traditional human use and custom; to create established gardens, and to grow mature trees" (Holford, 17). It is noteworthy that despite having "no history", the intentionally planned city carries a legacy seen throughout the country: a legacy of inequality.

Brasília is one of the most unequal cities in Brazil. The great inequality that I sometimes feel as if I am in the Capital seen in the Hunger Games, but if I travel a few miles out of the centre I feel as if I am in District 12. Dr. Pedro dos Santos shared just how unequal this one city is by comparing the Human Development Index (HDI), a tool created by the UN to measure development. In "Lago Sul, the region across the lake, where 28,000 people live, has an HDI higher than that of Norway, the country with the highest HDI. Meanwhile, some of the poor communities surrounding Brasília have an HDI equivalent to that of Iraq." The HDI data shows the drastic inequality found in one city, the Capital nonetheless. This city shows how the legacy of inequality that dates back to when the settlers first colonized--when the first indigenous person, as well as the first African person, was captured and enslaved—is still prevalent despite the best efforts to make this city perfect. If I am being honest, it is discouraging to me to think that even when a fresh start comes along, even when the planning was severely detailed oriented, this place is one of the greatest unbalanced distribution. However, I try to take comfort in this: Just as this city was built, brick by brick, we the people have the ability to create a new legacy everyday. It is this hope I will remember from this trip long after my suntan fades.

-Information obtained from JK Memorial
-Holford, William. "Brasília: The Federal Capital of Brazil." The Geographical Journal 128.1 (1962): 15-17. JSTOR. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.
-Information obtained from Dr. Pedro dos Santos

Capital Buildings
Miniature Layout of the Capital