A brief history of street markets in São Paulo

. Jul 14, 2019
street food markets são Paulo

In the transition to the 20th century, the trade in basic necessities and the like was a growing line of work, involving the regular participation of Brazilian workers, topped-up by the arrival of foreigners involved in establishing new farms and urban commerce. Understanding the functioning of food sales in São Paulo in this period requires us to recognize, first of all, that this activity was already a part of the city’s life since the slavery era.

In the 18th century, blacks, slaves and poor whites set up greengrocers and markets selling homemade products, fruits, small animals, fish, firewood, medicinal herbs, and other necessities. Some tried to improve the conditions of their own lives, while the slaves tried to save up some money in order to buy their freedom.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Throughout the 19th century, among the groups that took part in supplying markets were the poor freemen, who, in the context of a slave society, created possibilities for themselves to access land outside of the scope of a large property. Some were small farmers, others lived as leaseholders. Beyond them, there were the slaves of poor masters who worked on the plantations with their bosses. For all these workers, cultivating the land and selling food was a form of survival. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Beyond the markets and the intense street commerce, public markets also held significant importance until the 20th century. At the intersection of streets XV de Novembro with Ladeira General Carneiro, there was the so-called Casinhas Alley, later named Rua do Tesouro. There, the Casinhas Market was established in 1773—the first municipal market of its time, made up of seven small rooms, fit for the sale of vegetables, poultry, eggs, fruit, milk, and other foods. Some years later, other stalls were set up on the Ladeira do Carmo. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As of 1867, the municipality already had an establishment known at the time as the &#8220;Mercado Grande&#8221;, or Great Market, on the Carmo floodplains, between Rua 25 de Março and Ladeira General Carneiro. Beside it was another place of commerce, known as the Hick&#8217;s Market (</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mercado dos Caipiras</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">), which was home to several Brazilian merchants, mainly small farmers, leaseholders, and sharecroppers who produced and sold basic necessities. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Considered an annex to the 25 de Março Market due to its proximity, the Hick&#8217;s Market stood out as a delimited space, traditionally recognized as a place of commerce of Brazilian workers, characterized by open-air trade made up of workers’ own carts which they parked in the market. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another important establishment for the supply of food to São Paulo was the São João Market, inaugurated in 1890 on Rua de São João, close to the Anhangabaú valley. The metal structure of the market housed around 50 rooms, which included (in 1908), 28 butchers, five greengrocers, eight cereal sellers, and eight poultry sellers. Around ten haberdasheries were set up at the pillars of the market, as well as 14 tables in the corridors to sell fruits and vegetables. Since its inauguration, stalls were set up outside the market, probably to house merchants looking to pay cheaper rent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Santo Amaro Market was built in 1897 on the São Benedito square, which is now Dr. Francisco Ferreira Square, and was an important element in the supply of the city, along with Embu, Itapecerica da Serra, and Cotia. Since the 18th century, this region supplied cereals, wood, stone, coal, and several basic necessities—cassava, beans, corn, rice, and potatoes—to the population of São Paulo. The village of Santo Amaro became more and more something of a rural outpost of the capital city, becoming the &#8220;granary&#8221; of São Paulo as of the second half of the 19th century. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As well as these markets mentioned above, it is also important to mention the Largo de São Paulo Market, set up around 1895 in the neighborhood of Glória, and the Largo da Concórdia Market, inaugurated around 1897 in Brás. Neither lasted for long: the first only until 1898 and the second until 1906. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Rural Pinheiros Market, inaugurated on August 10, 1910, was not only intended for the sale of food, but also for the sale of farms, allotments, construction material and animals. The choice of the Pinheiros region, between streets Teodoro Sampaio and Cardeal Arcoverde (currently Largo da Batata), was due to the fact that it was a traditional point of convergence of roads to the backlands of the state, with resting stops for horsemen and merchants coming from Cotia, Ibiúna, Mboy (currently Embu), Piedade, Barueri, Itapecerica da Serra, and Carapicuíba, on their way to market in São Paulo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Along with them were draft or working animal merchants, establishing a booming commerce in the neighborhood between producers and intermediaries or buyers who wanted to buy products before they arrived in the city. This commerce, which was originally sporadic, became regular as Pinheiros became the principal point of distribution of products from these municipalities and the entire south of the state. In the records from 1915 to 1924, there is not much change in the type of products sold, which included beans, corn, chicken, eggs, pigs, goats, bacon, tobacco, turkey, onions, and manioc flour—as well as potatoes, the volume of which increased greatly between 1919 and 1924. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In response to popular demand, city mayor Washington Luís formalized the operation of &#8220;open markets&#8221; in São Paulo in August 1914. In the mayor&#8217;s report, one notes his desire to attract merchants, casual sellers, and peddlers, with a view to taking them off the streets and out of public spaces, and concentrate them in delimited areas. But, with this &#8220;creation of open markets,&#8221; the authorities didn&#8217;t actually bring about any real change, as several markets were already in operation since the 19th century. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The construction of the famous Mercadão, as the Municipal Market of São Paulo is known, is to be seen in the context of the remodeling of the floodplains of the Tamanduateí river. The new municipal market was to embody the aesthetic and sanitary visions of mayors Washington Luís and Firmiano de Morais Pinto, of councilor and future mayor Anhaia Melo, and other governmental authorities who intended to employ a form of &#8220;social cleansing&#8221; of the spaces occupied by the city&#8217;s poor population. In this sense, the destruction of existing markets and the concentration of the supply of food on Rua da Cantareira allowed for an intensification of inspection and taxation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Municipal Market of São Paulo was inaugurated in April 1933. On this date, a section of the merchants established on Rua 25 de Março and Anhangabaú were transferred to Rua da Cantareira, with the exception of peddlers, open-air market merchants, and sellers of farm products, who continued their activities in their old establishments. In practice, poor workers who didn&#8217;t fit the hygiene standards of the new establishment continued working at the Great Market and the Hick&#8217;s Market until they were demolished, between 1938 and 1939. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The different ways of life in São Paulo inhered primarily in the town-country distinction. However, instead of a feeling of estrangement between these categories, there was something of a convergence, rooted in the common needs of different workers, visible in the demand for cheaper food and in the popular trade of basic necessities in public markets, streets, and open-air markets. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The location of farmsteads and non-urbanized spaces in São Paulo demonstrates the large number of active plantations in the city until the 1920s, where we can see a certain equilibrium in the relationship between the capital and the productive areas they depended on for supplies. Fields and cities were still to be found in close proximity, although the process of differentiation was already in full swing.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">This text is an excerpt from the book &#8220;Mercados e feiras livres em São Paulo (1867-1933),&#8221; by Francis Manzoni. Publisher: </span></i><a href=""><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Edições SESC</span></i></a><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">

Francis Manzoni

Francis has written "Mercados e feiras livres em São Paulo (1867-1933)." Publisher: Edições SESC.

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