“This was a garden, a garden that you could stroll through,” said Luiz Solazzi, who has sold eyeglasses and clocks from the same storefront since 1960. “After the Worm, it got a lot worse.”
A love-hate relationship
Anne Marie Sumner, an architect and urban planner who has proposed ambitious projects to Sao Paulo officials, said elevated expressways are a thing of the past.
“You can’t face-lift the Worm. There are certain things there is no face-lifting to it,” Sumner said. “You have to pull it down.”
Sumner and a group of architects have proposed remaking Avenida Sao Joao into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare, one open to the sun. “You can’t have someone living at three meters [10 feet] of chockablock traffic, fumes,” Sumner said. “I mean, you can’t. That’s not reasonable.”
The city’s secretary of urban development, Miguel Luiz Bucalem, said the Worm cannot go unless other major transportation routes, such as a proposed underground expressway, have been built to replace it.
“What we feel very strongly,” Bucalem said, “is that the Elevado has had a very bad impact in its vicinity for so many years.”
Few would agree more than Roberto Silva, 59, whose only window is just 10 yards from traffic whizzing by at 50 mph.
“The noise is hellish,” Silva said, adding that after a day of traffic, his room is covered in dust.
Silva’s home was once a bathroom. Now it is a 3-by-7-foot studio, barely big enough to hold his bed. It is a sign of the hard lives of those along the Worm, he said.
Still, after 40 years, many of the Worm’s neighbors have something of a love-hate relationship with the omnipresent expressway.
“People hate it, because it’s noisy and dirty and they can’t keep their window opened,” said Buhler, the documentary director. “But at the same time, they love it, because it’s their place in the city, the place where they raise their families, they spread their values, they buy their food.”
Every day, Neide Batochio, 72, opens her window facing the Worm and sits at a century-old Singer to sew, passing the time singing Italian ballads and watching the traffic.
“For me, this is part of my life; it does not bother me, really,” said Batochio, who has lived in her home for 50 years. For her, the din symbolizes all she loves about the vitality of Sao Paulo.
“Without the Elevado,” she said, “the quality of life would be very bad.”