Brazilian Notebook: “A Very Mystic City”

Brasilia's Metropolian CathedralMay 22, 2012. Brasilia.

At a visit to the Universidade Católica, a professor told me that Brasilia is considered a mystical city. Not far from here is a city of 20,000 people, Vale do Amanhecer, which was founded by a woman truck driver who had a vision in the 1960s to start a city and a new religion, which she did. People come from all over the world to live there. They’re all “veteran spirits of the Earth with nineteen or more incarnations.” They help people, drawing them in during “times of confusion and insecurity.”

Brasilia is something else entirely. A designed, futuristic national capital of the nation spurred by President Juscelino Kubitschek. All the development in Brazil was happening along the Atlantic Coast, including the capital of Rio. JK moved the capital to the nation’s center, which made many citizens happy–except those in Rio who saw their city decline and face more poverty and violence following the move in 1960. Brasilia was designed by Lucia Costa and Oscar Niemeyer in 7 to 8 months, built in three years by 60,000 migrant workers laboring day and night. The nineteen ministerial buildings, the presidential and vice presidential palaces, the metropolitan cathedral, the plaza of the three powers, the national congress, national library, museum, theater, the museum of the indigenous people, etc. Sectors of the city designated for education and churches, hospitals, hotels arranged in superquadra, with commercial streets separating them.

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