Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't drop the potato - São Paulo

Praça das Araucarias, Largo da Batata

On my way home from the "gringalhada" (the monthly meeting of gringas) yesterday in Cidade Jardim, I passed by this, possibly the saddest "praça" or square in São Paulo. There is some competition from a skateboard park called Roosevelt near Republica Square. But I won't set foot there as it seems if not dangerous, more than a little seamy. Even after renovations last year.

I've talked about Largo da Batata before. It's on the way to my kids' school. I walk through it frequently on the way back from dropping them off, or when I occasionally take the yellow line metro to things like Chinese New Year.  Its name roughly translates to "Potato Square" and was the site of a farmer's market of potato sellers long ago. Those farmers have since moved to the Mercado Municipal de Pinheiros, just down the street.

The square itself is one big tiled sadness. The only green is some poor decrepit new trees surrounded by orange fencing and a green square of grass. The grass mixed with hard-packed dirt fend off wrappers and dog crap and the flotsam and jetsam of city life. There is NO shade. There are electric wires and hoses coming mysteriously out of the ground as if a lamp was planned but discarded.

In case you don't know what an Araucária is, let me tell you. Araucárias are the giant monkey puzzle pine trees that take years to grow. They are protected--you cannot cut one down now, not even a dead one, without permission. 

Araucária in its happy place--the fazenda.

None of the new trees in the square are araucárias. A friend of mine, owner of a tree farm, has many araucária seedlings and she has even volunteered to donate small ones to the city. Instead these tiny saplings struggle.

There is not one bench in the square. Not one. Are they afraid there would just be bums sleeping? I don't know. Even if you could find shade, you can't sit in it. Recently I noticed and joined a community movement page on facebook called "Não largue da Batata" or "don't give up on the Largo da Batata." They are organizing events to bring life to the square--there is even yoga planned there for Friday night. I applaud their work and will be showing up to an event in the future. 

The square needs YOU!

As of now, I have not seen any of the "green changes" promised by the sub-mayor's office. In fact I find this title of an article from November 1, 2013 hilarious: "O verde toma conta da Praça das Araucárias" --"Green is taking over Araucária Square." What? Where? I guess this was to counter the article published in March 2013 that the araucárias planted in 2010 were all completely dead. The news in March was published by Arvores de São Paulo, one of my favorite blogs and worth checking out if you're a tree person.

Don't give up on the Potato.


  1. Hi Kris. Great that you wrote about it!!!
    I do have to amend you the benches. There's actually one, made graciously by Rai, an engineer who belongs to the Movimento Boa Praça, and sympathizes with the movimento Bancos com encosto para Sampa! Take a look.

    1. Thanks, Joana!! I will have to check out this bench on my next walk through. I admit that I have never seen it!