Monday, November 14, 2011

The Good-Lookin' Capital City of Goiás

*This is a reprint of an article originally posted on my personal blog this past January. It is updated with additional pics & information.*

I thought i'd tell you a little about the capital city of Goiânia, Goiás. It shares many similarities with the capital city that i hail from: Austin, Texas.

Capitol in Austin, Texas at Night by Eric Hunt

  • Both are considered "small" for a capital city, although Goiânia is 13th-largest city in the country; and Austin is the 14th most populous city in the United States.
  • Both have a great live music scene.
  • Both are very safe cities in which to live. Goiânia is considered a safer city compared to most other state capitals within Brazil. The average yearly murder rate within the metro area stands at just under 450 persons per year according to the Goiás State Police. Austin is consistently ranked among the three safest cities per capita of any size in many categories. Its annual murder rate is fewer than five people per 100,000 residents.
  • Both are mistakenly thought of as Cowboy Capitals, where everyone owns a horse, wears boots and a ten-gallon hat.
  • Both are beautifully manicured, with more parks than other capital cities. Goiânia has the largest green area per inhabitant in Brazil, and is adding additional green areas under the newly-elected city & state government parties. Austin has 18,994.45 acres of land containing 251 parks, 15 preserves (sanctuaries for native plants, native animals and unique natural features), and 40 greenways (parkland on creeks and canyons).
  • Both are cities that have fluctuating residency, whether it be seasonal and/or temporary.

Austin, Texas Skyline along The Colorado River

Austin is a "College Town," (voted America's #1 College Town by the Travel Channel in 2006) which is quite evident during the summer months free of traffic and general congestion. Goiânia is very much the same, not only in the summer, but every 3-or-4-day holiday weekend. The city just empties: there is zero traffic - almost nobody on the streets, parking is available anywhere, and some stores simply do not open.

In Goiânia, a good portion of the population is from somewhere else - another similarity with Austin. Meeting a native"Goianiense" (person from Goiânia) on the streets of Goiânia is about as common as meeting a native Austinite in Austin. Most of the seasonal residents which make up the workforce are from the "interior" (country) small towns in Goiás, and go to see their families & hometowns, every opportunity they get. It is a little surreal to stay here in Goiânia during the holidays. It feels like a ghost town.

This is such a noisy city Monday through Saturday, 24 hours a day; so when everyone makes the big exodus it's weird - refreshing & calm, but weird. We go from this:

pic found here this:

pic found here

Just like that.

People are always surprised that we don't "viajar" (travel) every holiday. This is another aspect to the paradise city of Goiânia. Jet setting appears to be a way of life for the middle & upper class. What i've been told, is that the upper class majority here in Goiânia are people that choose to live in a city where their money will go further; rather than live in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, where the cost of living is much higher. This is most noticeable in the disproportionate number of high-end luxury sports cars & SUVs running the city streets.

For the 2010-2011 State of the World's Cities report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Goiânia remained as the most economically unequal city of Latin America, with a Gini index above 60; while Brazil as a whole, has reached an all time low inequality index in the past five years. Apparently, Goiânia isn't following the national trend. However, Goiânia prides itself in being the sole metropolis in Brazil to have grown into a city with few homeless, and a noted absence of "favelas" (squatter settlements made from scrap materials) such as in Rio.

Viaduto Latif Sebba photo credit: Prefeitura de Goiânia

The fact that there are many people from the "interior" (country) has caused other Brazilians who are from larger, more international cities like Brasília, Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, to remark that although Goiânia is a modern metropolis it still has a "small town mentality." People used to say the same about Austin - until they realized what a gem it is.

Parque Vaca Brava by Ian Nascimento

Overall, i have enjoyed living here. It has been a learning experience, a roller coaster ride and occasionally: a refreshing walk in the park. I hope that in the end i'll have not only earned an "E for Effort" with my peers and newfound friends here, but a "nota dez" (100%) in acquainting those back home with my new one.

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