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The city of Pompéu

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Pompéu – city of Minas de Gerais, state of the immense Federal Republic of Brasil, counts roughly 29.000 citizens, for 2.500 km2, thus with a density of 11 inhabitants per km2.

Pompéu is one of the most flourishing cities of the state. Its economy is based on milk production, as it is the second milk producer of Brasil. Other activities comprehend furniture industry and slate extraction and machinering. The areas sorrounding the city are full of eucalyptus plantation, used by the furniture industry, and cane plantation. Cane is used to produces alcool, combustible material and obviously sugar. These activities are the foundation of the local economy, giving jobs to the majority of its citizens.

However, the city is divided on both economical and territorial levels. Well-off citizens live in the city centre, while the suburbs are characterized by a generally high level of poverty. There are no paved roads and no plastered walls. The big perimeter walls made of slate that surrounds the houses in the city center disappear, in favor of small walls made of wood, or foil, or with whatever you can find around to make a wall.

As it often happen, the people living in the centre don’t come here. First of all because there is nothing more than few supermarkets, then because these areas are seen as dangerous, with a high crime rate. It’s possible to perceive the deep crack between the two parts of the city by just checking the skin colour: white people live mostly in the city centre, black people live almost only in the suburbs. You can breathe racism walking down the streets, with poor people confined in this ghetto. Even if Brasil is basically a huge federal republic with many people from different origins, the cultural legacy related to slavery and exploitation is still here. But, in my humble opinion, it’s here that you can breathe the true essence of brasilian culture: families use to sit outside their house, old people talks for hours sitting on rigged up benches, barefooted children play soccer on dusty roads, some youths dance in the street. All the people know each other, and help one another, when possible.

On the countrary, the city centre is ghosty, and almost lacks an identity of its own. Here it’s important to show off: brand new clothes, cool glasses, branded shoes. Old people that drag their bodies around, weighted down by too much food, sign of a life of wealths that is now disappearing. In fact, the city of Pompéu lives a false illusion of richness that was real 30 years ago, but that today is going to end. The consequent disenchantement and limited possibilities is reflected on the youths: who can, travels abroad, while the others continue to pursue their fiction, trying to avoid reality in a illusory well-being. In this sense, it’s significant that Pompéu is known in Brasil for its Carnival, a turistic show that lasts one week where thousand of people meet to drink liters and liters of low quality beer, insted of being known for the suggestive and marvellous nature that surrounds the city, full of wonderfull landscapes, rivers and waterfalls.