Correspondence

No Pedestrians

Letter From Brazil

The last time I visited Brazil I arrived on a Ladeco flight from Santiago clutching a copy of Chile's best newspaper, El Mercurio, wherein I was much impressed by an exclusive from the ever-erudite pen of Thomas Molnar. His article dealt with the architectural rape of modern cities, of which Pei's monstrosity in front of the Louvre is one example, and it applied closely to South America, alongside the more publicized pillaging of that continent's natural life.

Everywhere one travels there today the eye is depressed by the sudden urbanization, the eradication of history via hideous high-rise buildings of an anonymity more relevant to insects than human beings. One after another the old colonial centers are being squeezed out in the interests of soulless small apartments, geared to the couchpotato life of washing machines and TV. In some of these cities (Brasilia, Sao Paulo, La Paz, Caracas, even Salvador-Bahia, Brazil's former capital) the pedestrian is an anachronism. It is not merely unpleasant, but dangerous, to amble about. Quito and (to a degree) Asuncion may have retained some of the dignity of their past in the face of this industrialization, and Buenos Aires is still a city you can stroll in, with pedestrian malls like the famous Florida, but Lima and Rio are swamped with appallingly impoverished sectors, some still without light and water, all crying out to city fathers for translation into high-rise...

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