Built in 1955 by the architect Aron Kogan: 14 Bis, Caravelle, and Demoiselle are three buildings collectively known as Conjunto Santos Dumont, named after the first airplanes built by the Brazilian aviation pioneer Santos Dumont. On the ground floor, under a marquis, between the two most emblematic buildings on Rua Paim, we find Tarcísio’s bar, where we at lanchonete.org, along with the people we meet there, will be hosted for the next year.
Brazil has a significant history in relation to modernist architecture. Oscar Niemeyer, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Artacho Jurado and other noteworthy architects have left their mark. In São Paulo, Conjunto Santos Dumont is one example of the many iconic modernist structures scattered around the city.
There’s a huge difference between the image painted about Paim street by paulistanos—the name given to residents of São Paulo—and those you encounter in the community. Given the historical presence of crime, you hear completely different perspectives from paulistanos in general and from members of the community itself. “Even though ‘wrong things’ do also happen here, why would they harm where they live? Life here is normal”, says Renata, from 14 Bis.
Tarcísio de Oliveira Carvalho has managed his bar, the lanchonete, in the corridor of 14 Bis for the last 25 years. Lanchonetes are businesses that normally have open doors and long counters, where people meet up for a coffee, lunch, or to buy loose cigarettes. Present in almost every corner of the center of São Paulo, they are also interesting spaces of social interaction. Coming from the Northeast state of Piauí, Tarcísio has lived on the 8th floor of the building since the 1980’s with his wife and two sons (and more recently with his son’s wife and granddaughter). Talking to Tarcísio’s eldest son Tawilliam (25) he describes the corridor of 14 Bis as a “funnel,” where the walls are tightening more and more around the community. Because of high rent prices, Tawilliam does not have the opportunity to move out with his wife and daughter if he wants to stay close to his parents and brother. In a neighborhood where the real estate market is sinking its claws in, this is a common reality for residents of Conjunto Santos Dumont.
Despite its use as a regular bar (mainly for coffee, cachaça, and beer), the lanchonete also has an interesting ‘function’ in the community. What first caught my attention is that there isn’t a sign anywhere. It’s known as Tarcísio’s bar and, undoubtedly, that’s enough. Different from other lanchonetes, where you can also usually find something to eat, the only food available at Tarcísio’s is the orange cake his wife, Raimunda, (or any of their sons), bake every morning.
Tarcísio and his lanchonete play many roles: key keeper, lost & found, jogo do bicho advisor, therapist, friend, and sometimes care taker for his granddaughter. Mainly as a host of his own community, there could be no better character to open the doors to our inquiry.
Raphael Daibert is a researcher, cultural producer and activist based in São Paulo, Brazil. He is a founding member of Lanchonete.org and also part of the pedagogical and artistic experiment Free Home University, in Lecce, Italy.