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cities & citizens series - bridging the urban divide

periphery where they could afford to build their own houses. Speculators and developers took advantage of the workers and many lots were sold fraudulently, or outside of the legal requirements of lot size and provision of services. As a result, even when individuals attempted to legally purchase land, many of their settlements were illegal and lacked basic infrastructure and services. According to some commentators, the emergence of a public bus system was not a product of

...the proportion of the urbanized areas of São Paulo considered part of the periphery has increased exponentially. this new pattern of urbanization but a driving force helping to create it. Requiring less infrastructure and therefore being more versatile than street cars, buses could negotiate the rougher terrain of the periphery and offer the critical mobility that those contemplating a life far from the centre (where most jobs were situated) needed. According to one researcher, ‘the main agent of the expansion of the bus service was not the government but private entrepreneurs, most of them real estate speculators’.38

The centre-periphery dichotomy A rapid process of peripheral development continued through the 1980s, creating two distinct social spaces differentiated geographically and economically: a tale of two cities. Lower-class workers were pushed out to the undeveloped periphery, while the middle and upper classes enjoyed the well-developed services of some parts of the city centre, as well as the exclusive ‘quadrante sudoeste’ (southwest quadrant). Low-density suburbs and exclusive high-rise apartment blocks became the territory of the well-heeled rich and middle classes. Over the decades, the proportion of the urbanized areas of São Paulo considered part of the periphery has increased exponentially. The centre-periphery dichotomy has provided fodder for many social analysts, who describe

São Paulo’s ‘social apartheid’,39 or its place in the Planet of Slums.40 Viewed differently, such interpretations of São Paulo as a simple centre-periphery model ignore the territories of the growing middle class. The neighbourhoods that are neither exclusive nor precarious or illegal are important for understanding the emergence of the multi-centrality that has characterized the city from 1950 onward.41 The period between 1930 and 1980 is described as the era of ‘desenvolvimentismo’, or national development. It coincided with the huge acceleration of urbanization in São Paulo and other Brazilian cities, incorporating the period of authoritarianism and corporatism (1964 to 1985) and the important democratic experience from 1945 to 1964. Ruralurban migration was at its highest during this era of rapid demographic change, and the country experienced widespread advances in child mortality, malnutrition and life expectancy, along with other social indicators. In the 1980s, recession bit into the earlier economic success that drew so many people to the city, resulting in increased unemployment and poverty. Fewer jobs, high inflation and higher income inequality created conditions that made a decent life in the city increasingly unfeasible for many of the existing citizens, as well as the new migrants who continue flowing into São Paulo, mainly from the north, fleeing intense poverty of the rural interior. The real value of the minimum wage in São Paulo is calculated to have decreased by as much as 46 per cent during this decade. As the chances for adequate housing and social mobility became increasingly constricted for the poor, the city witnessed a rapid growth of shantytown settlements, or favelas. Informal, illegal settlements proportionally absorbed approximately 1 per cent of the population in 1970, but by the early 1990s they were home to almost 20 per cent.42 Conurbation also took place with neighbouring municipalities (now numbering 38 outside and around the MSP)43 to form the current metropolitan region, as the peripheral areas around other municipal centres merged to form an almost continuous urban zone of unplanned and un-serviced but technically urban area. This

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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