Ode to Anhangabaú

Image by RaphaelBurn

Anhangabaú. I love how the word forms in my mouth, all mellifluous, open vowels. It’s an indigenous word, Tupi for “water of the bad spirit.” It’s also the name of the subway station where I transfer to the bus and vice-versa, on my way to and from work. ahn-yahn-gah-bah-OO. Almost comical.

The station sits in a valley of the same name, once a pristine, gurgling creek and now a traffic-choked expressway and stretch of landscaped park coursing through downtown São Paulo. It’s connected to the Terminal Bandeira bus station by an overhead walkway that carries harried commuters from bus to subway to bus across six lanes of some of the fastest vehicular traffic on earth. One escalator is almost always broken. People rarely watch where they’re walking. I like listening to Audio Lotion’s Bad Timing when I’m running through the station; it’s like I’m in a movie.

I see a few office workers in gray pinstripe or coordinated high-heels connecting between the two modes of transport, but it’s mostly maids and security guards and construction workers and random old people, some of whom stop at the pharmacy or low-end Nescafé booth inside the station. Of course, the demographics change with the time of day. 10pm finds me sharing the train with working class strivers getting out of their night school classes. Some are taking college courses; others, high school completion.

I wonder how many of them know what the word Anhangabaú means.

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