For our English Composition class, each of us went on a walk, without technology to distract us. The goal was to get to know the history and populations (human and non-human) of our neighborhoods. I was born and raised in the neighborhood of Acimação, in São Paulo, Brazil. Its history is quite interesting: back in the 1890s, it was a farm purchased by a man who dreamed of recreating the Jardin d'Acclimatation, a Parisian zoo where species from the colonies could acclimate to France's weather. As the acclimatization garden developed, so grew the neighborhood around it. Eventually, it was turned into a park (Parque da Aclimação), with a diverse middle-class community around it. Today, it is a multicultural area, and stronghold of major Koren and Japanese communities (fun fact: the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan is located here!). It is mostly residential, with lots of small business, and I love that it doesn't really feel like it is part of a modern big city.
Aclimação is now a modern neighborhood, but the historical focus on nature is still present. A fun element is that many of the street names follow a nature theme. Around one of the main squares, streets are named after precious stones, like the streets Diamante, Safira, Esmeralda and Rubi. At a different area, streets pay tribute to planets, with names like Júpiter, Urano and Saturno. It is an unassuming, but ever present reminder that the natural environment still colors the Aclimação of today.
Before urbanization, this area used to be a tropical forest, and many elements from it are still present in the fauna and flora. When we discussed Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, many of my American colleagues commented on the arrival of birds and their singing with the coming of Spring. That is something I would not have understood if I had lived here my whole life. Here in Brazil, even in big cities like São Paulo, we have birds singing in the mornings in all seasons. They all coexist harmoniously, and from my bedroom window I can see little songbirds, parakeets, and even hawks. The warm climate is a blessing and a curse. Together with the birds, we also have a dramatic insect population, that ranges from annoying mosquitoes to dangerous wasps and spiders.
I often take my dog for walks in Parque da Aclimação. To me, the park feels like home. I "grew up” there, as did my father before me, in the 1960s. Now I get to watch kids play at the playground I loved as a child, and watch the lake right at the spot where I used to go fishing two decades ago. Speaking of the lake, I can't forget to mention the swan couple. Swans are not a local species, but for some reason, they have been added to the lake, sometime between my dad's childhood and mine. There used to be many, black and white. As they are very expensive animals here, most of them got stolen. For the past few years, there have been a couple of black ones, and they look majestic and out of place amongst the wild ducks and turtles from the lake.
By the end of the walk I felt really glad to have taken time to be in nature without technological distractions, appreciating everything the park has to offer while keeping in mind its fascinating history. Parque da Aclimação has a special sentimental value to me since I spent so much of my childhood there. In these chaotic times, it was wonderful to go back to a familiar place where parts of my personal history took place.