Curitibanas and Curitibanos like to boast that their city is a German city. While this also includes the German immigrants from the 19th and 20th century, it mainly refers to the order, cleanliness and good urban planning . Or rather it referred to…
At a first glance, Curitiba appears to a German about as as Brazilian as any other city in this country: You see the poor garbage collectors, the concrete housing blocks, and the traffic jam that ranges from one end of town to the other.
But the differences do exist: the well working public transport with its distinctive tube stops (there’s even an app to look up the timetable of buses*), the many large parks and the German restaurants downtown.
In the 70s Curitiba enjoyed a moment of near world-famous celebrity thanks to the public transport system. That the city shares nevertheless the same problems as any other one is, according to the statements of befriended Curitibanos, due to the inability of politicians over the past 2-3 decades.
Now, ranting about incapable politicians is a highly popular sport in Brazil, probably only second to football. In all fairness it shall therefore be added that Curitiba, just like the other major cities, has grown tremendously in recent decades. Especially the areas Metropolitanas, the metropolitan area with their industrial suburbs and favelas, have often more than doubled in size since the 1980’s.**
Even without any preexisting problems but lots of money and good will instead, it would be a challenge to keep up with such a demographic development and to provide the necessary infrastructure, hence schools, sewage, electricity, etc.
Considering then the traditional nepotism in politics (after all, there is a reason for the ranting), it is perhaps not surprising that also in Curitiba the stadium for a Copa will barely be completed in time. It’s unlikely that Curitiba will lose the self-attributed title of the ,German city’ but it’s one of the facts that highlights the very Brazilian character of the city after all.
* One really learns to appreciate such services after living for some time in a city where the buses come simply when they come and it is not unheard of to be waiting at the bus stop for hours.
** The Brazilian office of Geography and Statistics has some good data on the development of the cities; Wikipedia provides also an overview of the metropolitan regions.