Brazil has a smell but São Paulo smells!

I had traveled to Brazil several times before coming here to live permanently and the first time I came I noticed that Brazil has a smell. The best way I can describe it is that it smells like a mixture of tropical, humidity, and industrial smell. The first time I came here the smell was strong and I remember going back to America and still smelling it in my clothes. The last time I visited (before I moved here) I smelled the Brazil smell for only a few hours and then I couldn’t smell it anymore. My husband says that the United States also has a smell; it smells like cleaning products and has a plastic smell to it and he smells it for only a few minutes when he first gets to the US. It is interesting to me that every country has a smell but the people born there can’t smell it.

Anyhow São Paulo has a whole other smell to it, to be blunt it stinks! It is not the city itself that stinks it is the nasty polluted rivers that run through the city; the Tietê River and Pinheiros River. I don’t know how Paulistanos (People from São Paulo city) stand it! The first time my husband and I drove next to the river he jokingly said, “Smell that wonderful smell, like flowers, isn’t it a lovely perfume?” It smelled like putrefied sewage. That’s because it is putrefied sewage, it is fifty years of industrial effluent and wastewater poured into the rivers with no concern for the environment.

The state of São Paulo has tried to clean up the Tiete River in the past. In 1992 the governor of São Paulo pressured the State to clean up the river and so Project Tietê was born. They have spent 1.5 billion dollars and the river is still far from being cleaned up. Many of the industrial companies that joined the project initially have since dropped out and continue to dump waste into the river. My husband says that when the state initially agreed to clean up the river, for two years they told the people they were cleaning it up when in reality they were doing nothing. Currently the Tiete project is in it’s third phase but I’m skeptical to see if it really works.

I get that most developing countries have issues with pollution, in New York, the Hudson River was polluted with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. It has been over sixty years and clean up is still ongoing. You could not pay me enough to swim in the Hudson but if I was to fall in the Tiete River I would probably dissolve.

I know that Brazilians have other priorities because Brazil is a developing country and environmental problems seem to be the last thing to address, but this problem will not go away. The Paulistanos really need to continue to pressure their government into making a change because São Paulo could be such a nicer place without a stinky river. I am just grateful that I don’t have to live near the river!