The Minhocão (known officially as Via Elevado Presidente Costa e Silva), is a 2.2 mile (3.5km) long elevated highway that perhaps exemplifies best how São Paulo came to privilege driving over walking and using public transportation.
Built in 1971, during a period in which the car industry was highly influential* and the city experienced rapid and unplanned growth**, the Minhocão was seen as being the solution to the problem of urban mobility – although today it instead symbolises all the worst aspects of São Paulo’s outdated infrastructure.
The highway earnt its nickname (Minhocão means “big worm”***) from the way in which it snakes through the city, from Barra Funda in the west to República in the centre. However, it might just as well be called “the thrombotic vein”, seeing as it is forever clogged with cars**** being pumped towards the beating heart of the city centre.
My first experience of the Minhocão came one rush hour morning as I caught a lift into town with my father-in-law, and I couldn’t help but be struck by how both sides of it are hugged by office and residential high-rises, although moving at speed made it difficult to fully appreciate this peculiarly intimate relationship.
Before I became more familiar with Brazil I didn’t even know that Minas Gerais existed. To be honest my knowledge of Brazil, like most unknowing gringos I’m sure, was pretty much limited to Rio, São Paulo, Salvador, the Amazon and the cataratas (waterfalls) at Foz do Iguaçu.
However, the more people I spoke to about Minas the more I liked the sound of it, especially as many of those same people also said that it was their favourite Brazilian state.
Intrigued and with a free week to kill, my wife and I decided to visit. The following is what we discovered.
Minas Gerais literally means ‘General Mines’ – the reason for this will become clearer below.
When you look at a map of Brazil the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo look quite close – well, they’re next door after all.
São Paulo (Yellow) & Minas Gerais (Beige)
However, let’s put this into context. Brazil is BLOODY MASSIVE.
The state of São Paulo ALONE is bigger than the United Kingdom. As such, the bus we took from the city of São Paulo to the capital of Minas – Belo Horizonte – took 8 hours. That’s a distance of about 580km and so it’s basically like driving from London to Glasgow.
That’s how close your neighbouring states in Brazil are (i.e. not very). Continue Reading