A UTOPIA IN MAKING

Photo Essay Deepa Gopalakrishnan

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

The capital city of Brasília was built in merely 41 months, with its inauguration on April 21, 1960. The construction process, which began in 1956, embodied some of the greatest architecture the world had ever seen with the most remarkable buildings designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. With an astonishing plan designed by Lucio Costa to hold 500,000 inhabitants, Brasilia is currently home to more than 2.5 million people. Brasilia could never have been anything more than a utopian fantasy, without the integral role played by the indigenous Candango people in developing it. With a unique Brazilan sense of the plan of the capital, the construction of Brasilia served as a symbol of national  pride, brotherhood, prosperity and modernity which would transform the nation and bring it up in the eyes of the world.

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

The pioneer builders of the future

Candango is a term used today to describe the pioneer builders of Brasília. However, in the beginning, the term was deprecatory and was used to characterize the Portuguese or, a being of amiss manner. The Brazilian author, Euclides da Cunha, used the term “candango” to portray the distressed, fatigued country man. The expression was introduced in Brasilia to attribute to the thousands of Northeasterners who arrived there with hopes and aspirations of a better future.

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

Due to poor educational facilities in the interior of Brazil at that time, a large contingent of people belonging to those regions came to Brasília as workers.The construction of the new capital attracted all kinds of workers – skilled and unskilled. Most of the candangos came from a background in subsistence agriculture and no experience in construction work at all. The unskilled workers were hired as servants whereas those who knew how to read and write would be hired as pointers, responsible for making different records in the construction process.

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

The residential camp area was rather hierarchical and strictly observed by the authorities. Access was granted only to the employed workers while the watchmen guarded the entrance to each camp to keep away the stray. Each registered unskilled worker would receive an identification card along with some equipments that would be needed at the construction site.

The camp site housed engineers, supervisors, single and married workers. Housing provided for each category of residents varied drastically. The quarters assigned to the construction workers were extremely perilous. It lacked privacy and had bug infestations. The engineers’ houses, on the other hand, were spacious and comfortable. The work routine of the labourers was extremely exhaustive, often working for about 12 hours a day on site. Many workers also worked all day and night continuously, powered by Coca-Cola and coffee in order to earn more money. 

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

The lives of the thousands of workers who participated in the construction of Brasilia were powered by the sole dream of a better life, a better future – one in which they would have access to proper education, health facilities, housing for their families. It was the dreams of these countless workers that made Brasilia a reality with its inauguration in 1960.

© Courtesy of Federal District Public Archive; Source: Agência Senado

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One thought on “A UTOPIA IN MAKING

  1. Dear Reine.
    Captured the city in all terms .as whereads architecture is concernef. The detailing is done very well and specific.
    As said history repeats itself again iI would like you to write or think of writing sbout cities, regions which is sso rich in culture and monuments. You being from Mumbai can talk about Mumbai itself. O

    Iits just a sggestion as when an author is concerned there is no barriers. You can explore as much ads you can. Sky is the limits

    Liked by 1 person

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