“Lá vem a força, lá vem a magia
Que me incendeia o corpo de alegria
Lá vem a santa maldita euforia
Que me alucina, me joga e me rodopia
Lá vem o canto, o berro de fera
Lá vem a voz de qualquer primavera
Lá vem a unha rasgando a garganta
A fome, a fúria, o sangue que já se levanta.”
“Here comes the strength, here comes the magic
That sets my body on fire with joy
Here comes the damn euphoria
That hallucinates me, throws me and twirls me
Here comes the song, the beast scream
Here comes the voice of any spring
Here comes the nail tearing the throat
Hunger, fury, blood that already rises.”
from the song “Raça” by Milton Nascimento
In 2017 the Guardian newspaper described the open drug market in central São Paulo known as Cracolândia as follows…
“The reader who has already watched the American television series The Wire may be able to imagine Cracolândia as the “Hamsterdam” – a block of vacant blocks where the Baltimore police, in an attempt to reduce street crime, created a “free zone” for drug dealers and addicts.
But there are two important differences. First of all, Cracolândia is not on vacant land, but in a busy and active center. The area is undergoing a gentrification process and there is an ambitious revitalization plan for 2018, which includes the construction of 1200 new apartments.
The second difference is that this situation, with the shamelessness of drugs in plain sight, has been a permanent “attraction” in downtown São Paulo for more than two decades.
Since the inhalation and highly addictive version of cocaine came to the city market in the 1990s, city governments have successively tried to eliminate Cracolândia, mostly through police repression, and have always failed.”
There are governmental organizations, NGOs and groups of concerned citizens working to help addicted people enter rehab, job training programs and finding ways to bring light to Cracolândia. One such group of people is Pagode na Lata which has been going to Cracolândia weekly since December 2019 bringing musical healing to the people. Various members of the group have been engaged with social projects there since 2012. Per their Instagram page “Pagode organized in Cracolândia da Luz, right in the flow, promoting harm reduction and the right to madness.” I was invited to join them there this week by a friend, activist and fellow street artist, Raul Zito. He shared with me “…I always become unhappy thinking about the situation in Cracolândia but we are trying something that comes from a place of love. All of the songs we sing are about love because the people there have been unloved for too much time.”