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Last week, SAMPA, as Paulistas sometimes call it, hosted me and 4,999,999 other souls for a miles-long parade on the principal urban thoroughfare, Avenida Paulista. It was closed to traffic from early morning to late in the afternoon. The bureau of tourism was out interviewing people, and the police force was out, policing. They weren’t in riot gear, they were laughing talking having fun, keeping an eye out on us, their 5 million guests.

The occasion was Orgulho Gay, or gay pride. There were men in short shorts, men with giant beards, men with silly headbands, with daughters and sons taken by the hand and worn on their chests. There were women eating genetalia-shaped chocolate and walking arm in arm with their mothers and grandmothers. There were women hanging out with women, men hanging out with men, the groups together, and people claiming themselves as 100 transsexual (including one famous girl who recently demanded a large sum of money from one of Brazil’s most loved soccer players after a misunderstanding). There were families and singles and people wanting to be both, and a million hues of milky white to earthy black and everything in between. It was festive, it was panreligious, it was a kick. There was a float with people wearing Vermont T-shirts.

Five million people! That’s almost the entire population of Santiago. It was energetic, it was happy, thirsty, hungry, motivated, QUEER. What a kick.

And I’d love to tell you that I was in Sao Paulo with my eyes on this grand event, planning the approach, the stay and the getaway. The truth is, it surprised me almost as much as the Corpus Christi march I got swept up in earlier in the week. I dawdled for a few hours, and then hustled off to the metro to another kind of hospitality. I’d been invited for a family meal in the quiet sector of Vila Clementina. With a hearts of palm casserole. Delicious.

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