By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As Brasilia celebrated its 59th birthday on Sunday, residents of Brazil’s capital say that the city, designed by world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, has become a typical Brazilian metropolis, with more violence and less freedom.
Born in 1958 in what is now the nation’s capital, Jane Pias de Oliveira says she was born in a city that did not yet exist. “On my birth certificate is written ‘born in Brasilia (future federal capital)’,” Oliveira tells government news agency Agencia Brasil.
Oliveira, who raised her two kids in the city and now is watching her three grandchildren grow up in the metropolis that has become increasingly more violent.
“We had more confidence to let our children play in the street. Today we have to go together with them,” says Oliveira.
Oliveira’s son, Luiz Fernando, remembers riding bicycles in the streets of Brasilia and exploring many parts of the city. Today, however, he takes his two children to play centers.
“We no longer have that freedom (of riding bicycles),” Luiz Fernando Oliveira told the news agency.
According to IPEA’s (Institute of Applied Economic Reseach) Map of Violence 2018, the rate of homicides and violent deaths with undetermined cause in Brasilia was 26.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The total was above that of São Paulo’s (14.9 cases), Florianópolis (18) and Vitória (23.1).
The rising violence, say some analysts, is partly due to a paradox: the city, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the country, is surrounded by a very poor metropolitan region.
“This periphery surrounds the fantasy island that creates this contrast. Hence come the electric fences, high walls and barbed wire,” urbanist and UNB (Brasilia Federal University) emeritus professor, José Carlos Coutinho, tells Agencia Brasil.
“Brasília was born healthy, a rosy baby, beautiful, that as it was growing it was getting the face of the father, that is Brazil. Brasília today has the same contradictions, inequalities and injustices that the country has. Brasília could not be different from Brazil, ” notes Coutinho.
Despite the current concerns by its residents, the capital received a great number of tourists during its anniversary.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Esplanade of Ministry to watch a military parade, the Air Force’s aerobatic squadron show and enjoy free activities for the children.
A group of sixty riders on horseback marched 229 km from the state of Minas Gerais to Brasilia’s central area to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Brasilia and pay tribute to former President Juscelino Kubitschek. Kubitschek was responsible for moving Brazil’s capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in the 1960s.
By the time a heavy thunderstorm fell on the nation’s capital, late Sunday afternoon, most of the outdoor celebrations had ended. Tourists and residents, however, faced flooded streets, halted subway operations and delayed flights, since Brasilia’s airport was temporarily closed due to the storm.