English, Português

Translation: life in Brasilia, Brazil

Marina Borges / 25 de junho de 2014


Don’t feel bad because I live in Brasilia. Please don’t.

Patrick Gough, an urban transportation planner from San Francisco, said in a NYT article that he felt bad for those who live in Brasilia, since we are isolated from one another.

Patrick, I didn’t need to go beyond the second line to understand that you didn’t leave the Hotel Sector/ Monumental Axis circuit before writing. You didn’t even feel or smell the satellite cities. But since we’re talking about Brasilia and not Distrito Federal, Brasilia is the one I’m gonna talk about.

Don’t feel bad because I live in Brasilia, please don’t. Maybe you’re right to be amazed with our lousy public transportation system and our need to drive a car everywhere. But we are not isolated.

I live in a city which, due to its limited mobility, has encouraged me, since childhood, to live so intensely with my friends to the point of being part of their family. Those were the weekends (and even holidays) going from one house to another, calling friends’ parents “aunt” and “uncle”, living among their cousins, brothers and friends. This made me adopt a series of “brothers” that may not be blood ones, but certainly are heart ones.

I live in a city that has no sea, but which is immensely proud of its artificial lake. We insist in taking our towels, surfboards, kayaks, paddle-boats with us and crowd those waters every weekend.

I live in a city that has a lot of – plenty of – samba. But hey, there is also plenty of forró. There is frevo, maracatu, sertanejo, axé, funk, rock, pop, jazz. Ah! There are also orchestra concerts for free, a world renowned music school, a choro music club. There are tons of very nice people, struggling to build a robust musical culture in the city. And thanks to this diversity, I never needed much effort to get to know the most diverse Brazilian rhythms.

I live in a city in where it is not an offense to be from Ceará, like it is in Rio, or to be a “paraíba“, like they say in Sao Paulo. This is something to be proud of. Accents mingle here, to the point where we have no accents at all, or have them all together. To the point I can say “oxi“, “uai” and “véi” in the same sentence, and no one finds it strange. To the point it’s perfectly normal for me to be the daughter of a Minas Gerais native mother with an Amapá-born father, and this makes me feel so proud, for I simply look “so very Brasilia-like.”

I live in a city that allows me to have best friends who are: rockers, axé dancers, forró dancers, Catholic, evangelical, gay, straight. And they live well together, they go to the same places sometimes and they have their minds much more open to diversity.

I live in a city that has a horrible subway system and I don’t even know how to take the bus. But there’s a lot of people trying to change that – people who help us knowing which bus to catch, people who defend bicycles as a transportation mean. After all, the city is amazing for this purpose. It also has kilometers of bike paths that may not have been built in the best possible way to turn them into a (not yet) viable means of transportation, but at least they are crowded on weekends.

I live in a city where everyone moves around inside their little boxes known as cars, but at the same time, we gather at the largest urban park in the world every single weekend. We crowd clubs as well. We crowd the lake shore. And there are places like Picnik, Deguste, Quitutes,  Samba in the superblock,  concerts in the street, all of them crowded. There is the CCBB. There is the Olhos D’Água Park. There is the Água Mineral Park, the Zoo. Not counting friends’ pools, at their homes or buildings. And they are always full. Is this isolation?


I live in a city with a bright blue sky, green grass in the rain and red dust in the drought. A city which has tabebuia trees in purple, white, yellow. With colorful flowers. With white monuments. With artwork by Athos Bulcão in the streets, with artwork by Niemeyer downtown, with masterpieces from nature in every corner and around the city. And we never get tired of going out to the streets just to take pictures, or nearly fall from a skateboard just to record a tabebulia blooming.

I live in a city that allows me to get to a stunning waterfall in half an hour. Or that allows me to spend the weekend in a charming small town. Or feeling the atmosphere of an “actual city” 20 minutes south or north – you just need to go to Taguatinga, Sobradinho or other satellite cities.

I live in a city that has no proper security, education or public health services. Still, and despite all terrible governors we’ve had, it’s better than most cities of the country.

I live in a city that allows me to go home for lunch if I want to, or with friends, during weekdays. That allows me to leave work and have a dance lesson, a snack and also catch a movie. That allows me to have four social events in one day and manage to attend all of them.

I live in a city that has struggled to build an identity, after all, we are still very young. A city that has a generation eager for culture, leisure and amusement. That has very good people doing art and people struggling for art to be valued.

I live in a city where I can eat açaí, tacacá, maniçoba, tapioca, barbecue, baião de dois, pamonha, sun cured beef, feijoada, pastel and food from anywhere in the country, as if I were in their regions of origin. Also, I can count on my fingers other cities that have such a large number of restaurants and cafés with such quality. Here, I can have Indian, Thai, vegetarian, Italian, Japanese, contemporary, French and various other types of food without missing any restaurant from large cities.

I live in a city without corners, yes, but never without beer. After all, each superblock has at least one bar or a boteco that is always full. There are also lots of caipirinha, caipisakê, caipiroska, wine, sparkling wine.

I live in a city that doesn’t have any soccer teams, it has no tradition in sports, nor encouragement, nor investment. But we do have basketball, swimming, running. My city has a population that is keen to physical activity and does not only attend the gym. We exercise at the lake (here it is again, now look at that), in the streets with our bikes, the Eixão on Sundays, the city’s park.

So do not tell me that you feel bad for me because I love this city with all the problems it presents (and they are not few), but especially for all its qualities. And I am extremely proud of my generation, who strives every day to reduce bureaucracy in this city  and to make it an increasingly irresistible place.


English translation of the Portuguese original article available here.
Tradução em inglês do original em português disponível aqui.
Traducción al inglés del original en portugués disponible aquí.


(The final picture is my class in Brasilia’s late Canarinho school, 1990. I’m the second one sitting on the floor, left-right)

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