Rooted in popular cultures, the street market has already been part of São Paulo´s history for the last 100 years

If we think of São Paulo City icons, several images immediately come to mind: Paulista Avenue, the Ibirapuera Park, the Viaduto do Chá, the Catederal da Sé, the traffic… And the street markest! Yes, this real paulistana institution goes through a century, with its stands packed with greens, fruit, fish, pastries, sugar cane, and housewives.

The mother of all streets markets arose downtown in 1914, in largo General Osório, when Washington Luiz, the major at that time, made the activity until then clandestine official. The elite at that time did not look at it kindly, as Hélio Junqueira, agricultural engineer, tells in the book 100 Anos de Feiras Livres na Cidade de São Paulo (Via Impressa), written with Márcia Peetz, economist, and released by the beginning of this year.

In that occasion, 26 store keepers gathered to sell their products. The second street market, held in Largo do Arouche, counted on 116 marketers, and the success soon ensure the coming of a third one, in Largo Morais Barros, in Brás. A year later, São Paulo counted on seven street markets in full pace.

If in the beginning of the 20th century the quantify of this event was still very humble, figures today are impressive. According to São Paulo City Hall, there are more than 880 street markets spread through the city. Just to have an ideia of how important this activity is in here, Rio de janeiro counts on 160 streets markets and Belo Horizonte, 50.

And when the subjects are São Paulo´s biggest street markets, the Eastern zone is the champion! The one with the biggest number of stands is the one in Vila Mara; the longest (a Kilometer) in Cohab 1, in Itaquera. And there is still the most famous one, held on Praça Charles Miller, in front of the Estádio do Pacaembu, every Tuesday and Thursdays.

There are more 12 thousands registered sellers altogether: it seems to run in the family as a tradition. Out of this number of workers who assure the living of a lot of paulistanos, 60% consists of men between 26-65 years old. We may think that is because of this that pet phrases such as “beautiful girl´s doesn´t pay, but doesn´t pay either” are still alive.

However, those pet phrases were not the ones to build roots in popular cultures: the “fazer a xepa” expression, which today is used to describe many situations, was born there. It is in this time that the sellers lower their product prices and offer the customers what is left of fruits and greens they brought to be sold: the ideia is not to take anything back home. And once the Kilo of the papaya has rocketed to more than 80%, and the carrot to 86%, according to the economic indicators in May, everything indicates that the “xepa” will soon star in the beginning of the markets.