Hanging around Liberdade
Even though Brazilians are the product of intense miscegenation of races, cultures and ethnicities, there are several ghettos that gather different nationalities within São Paulo – the central area of Liberdade being the most significant, as it concentrates the largest Japanese community outside Japan.
Whenever I hear a mention to the neighborhood of Liberdade (which means “Freedom” in Portuguese), my mind floods with memories. It is the place I was born, hung around during my entire childhood and worked at for a number of years. My grandfather also owned a newsagent in the area and lived there for nearly five decades.
Things move on though, and since the Japanese outsed the Italians as the predominant nationality in the area back in the late sixties, the neighbourhood lost some of its magic. But it is still a unique place to visit: walking around Liberdade and checking out its Japanese street lanterns and garden, the bilingual store signs, the mangá and food stores, the Radio Taissô (see video below) gymnastics and the various restaurants and karaokes takes you to another place, somewhere far away from São Paulo. Somewhere special.
Earlier this month, I was interviewed by Monocle 24 radio about what has changed in the district in the last few years – if you want to find out more about this region of São Paulo, have a listen to the special on Liberdade, about 16m into the show.