Cortico is a Portuguese term commonly used in Brazil to describe high-density rental housing where people live in impoverished and unhygienic conditions. The term was popularized by Nrazilian author Aluisio Azevedo in his 1890 novel, O cortico, which depicted poor, but vibrant, urban culture in late 19th century Rio de Janeiro. This reality has existed in the centre of Sao Paulo since the last two decades of 19th century, when the urban activities related to the coffee business expanded the labour market, increasing the need for low-cost housing. The influx of renters caused the wealthy elites who had historically lived in the city centre to move out to exclusive new suburbs. This produced the so called “popularization” of Sao Paulo and buildings that were once offices, hotels, old houses and housing for industry workers were converted to cortices. Since the 1980s, the number of abandoned buildings in Sao Paulo’s central areas increased, and organized groups of homeless people began occupying the city’s abandoned buildings in the 1990s.
Corticos represent now a concrete solution for thousands of homeless people facing the housing emergency. Housing in Sao Paulo, indeed, is one of the biggest issues that poor people have been facing in the last years. Since 2008, real estate prices in São Paulo have shot up by nearly 200%. Over the last five years, rising real estate speculation in central São Paulo has created a deficit of affordable housing. In response, left wing housing movements seize abandoned buildings, transforming them into housing units for poor and vulnerable families.
My project aims to explore the social fabric of this hidden world and show the centre of Sao Paulo and his social movements. My portfolio is a selection of photographs taken during the last month and present a different variety of characters belongings or living around the corticoes. The approach that I will use to continue the project will be mainly focuses to find more intimacy with my subjects and to represent the sense of community that this environment expresses.