¡Vamos que se puede! **

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
11: 00 am – 1:30 pm
Hot and sunny

** Common expression for “Let’s go! We can do it!”

At Alfonso Pena, we took bus #9107, which dropped us near Praça Floriano Peixoto, a beautiful park with lots of green. Here, we began walking west on Av. do Contorno, through a mixed-use area with different types of buildings, temporalities, and uses can be found next to each other. I noticed less high-rise construction than in previous sites and the only significant construction site was the new addition of Hospital da Policia Militar, which was not very high but extended across about half a block. There was a funeral home close by, the first one I have seen, very conveniently located across the street from the hospital. I saw a second funeral home a few blocks ahead and two fancy dental offices specialized on implants.

After a couple of blocks, we stopped for fresh fruit juices and a beer. The restaurant was almost completely open to the street, except for a low wooden fence separating it from the sidewalk, where several wood wheels where displayed [as an evocation of countryside lifestyle and food?] Inside, many people were eating what seemed very fresh and homemade food, which was served from a self-service bar counter. “Comida por kilo” – food per kilo – is common in Brazil, in some cities more than others.

Here, “Contorno” reminds me of parts of Av. Irarrázaval in Santiago, a commercial street evidencing changes in uses, scale, and styles. Older big houses evidence their transition from residential to small offices or companies – such as dental clinics.   Polarized windows shine on old houses’ facades, illustrating the superposition of different eras. These older houses have a glamour that new constructions usually lack. The big trees contribute to create a pleasant space to walk through in a late “winter” day.

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Crossing the train line made me realize how isolated this neighgborhood feels – an island located in between Av. do Contorno and Av. Dos Andradas, the same high-speed street we walked on our first Belo Horizonte expedition. Smaller streets do not cross the train line, except for “Viaduto Santa Tereza.” These cross streets felt a lot more quiet than other streets their scale, and I am curious to walk into this area on our next – and last – trip along “Contorno.” To contribute to the strangeness and atmosphere of isolation, a huge antenna emerged from the middle of a crossing street. Here, there were many car-washing guys working, as well as around the corner, on “Contorno.” There were at least 20 men of different ages – but generally seemed older than the kids we found a couple weeks ago, washing cars alone or in pairs. While I did not see any “office” or kiosk, I noticed many plastic tables and chairs on the street, water buckets, cleaning supplies, and personal items, such as a backpack and pieces of clothing. These informal jobs not only serve a wide public of the city, but also give life and movement to the streets where they take place.   I also saw a couple of bars with sidewalk cafes, which contribute to the aliveness of the street in this area.

In this section of “Contorno,” electrified fences reappear in their entire splendor, together with the use of barbwire and security cameras. I found new warning signs I had not seen before, from different security companies, and new types of built-in mailboxes. A new character emerged today; plants growing from stonewalls and under construction materials. It is always surprising and uplifting to see nature emerging from such massive, dense, and sometimes-unfriendly constructions.

There was one upper-class residential building that had replaced all electrified fences with the slick, glass, laser protected walls. I was taking photos of their front entry and a man [the concierge?] walked out of the building and asked me what was I doing. I told him “fazendo uma pesquisa do Belo Horizonte; caminando o Contorno” – Doing research on Belo Horizonte; walking the Contorno. He replied with a “thumbs up!” and walked away. A few steps ahead, one of the car washing guys asked me why was I taking photos, and I replied the same thing; he nodded and continue working. I sat on the cement foundation-seat of an old house turned into a mini market, waiting for Tamara.

The widespread use of electrified fences and security companies are an expression of people’s fear of others. Fear engenders an impressive process of securitization. What kind of fear motivates such infrastructure of isolation to sprawl in urban spaces? How is fear mobilized? Fear operates in everyday spaces, violently protecting the private sphere from the public. These security infrastructures are an effect of broader social and political inequalities. The production of new technologies of securitization in order to accelerate capital accumulation, also contribute to this trend.

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