BRAZIL  |  São Paulo, Brazil Travel Guide
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Ethnic São Paulo

Ethnic São Paulo

Just south of the Praça da Sé are two interesting ethnic neighborhoods that took shape early in the 20th century as large numbers of immigrants arrived in São Paulo.


Liberdade got its name after 1888 and the abolition of slavery. The area’s main square was until then the site of the city’s whipping posts (pelourinhos), where escaped slaves and other transgressors were punished. When it was renamed Praça da Liberdad, the area also took that name. A working class neighborhood, Liberdad is home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan. Although many second- and third-generation Japanese Brazilians are quite wealthy and successful, they still live in the area where they grew up. You’ll know you’ve found it when you spy the red porticos that mark the entrance way. Beyond them are pagodashaped buildings and street lamps that resemble Japanese lanterns. It’s fun to shop in the small stores that seem to import everything from Japan. There are good restaurants and tea shops too. The best day to visit is Sunday, when Praça Liberdad hosts a fair selling Asian foods and attractive handicrafts. Combine that with a visit to the Museu da Imigracãno Japonesa (Museum of Japanese Immigration). Exhibits trace the history of the community in São Paulo and the community’s contributions to Brazilian society. Rua São Joaquim 381.

Bela Vista

Adjacent to Liberdade (southwest) is Bela Vista, which locals refer to as Bixinga. This is São Paulo’s Italian quarter and has the restaurants to prove it. Browse the shops and notice the well-kept homes and well-tended gardens. There’s a lot of pride here.

Make a stop at the Museu Memória do Bixiga, which traces the Italian immigrant experience in São Paulo. Wed-Sun, 2-5 pm. Rua dos Ingleses 118. A weekend fair here has less food and more handicrafts and antiques than the one in Liberdad. It’s in Praça Dom Orione.

Last updated December 24, 2007
Posted in   Brazil  |  São Paulo
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