Loud noises of metal against metal and male voices shouting instructions to one another woke me up at night during the removal of streetcars rails on the ‘Baixa dos Sapateiros’ in 1960 Salvador, Bahia.
Streetcars were being replaced by buses because the narrow streets of this colonial city could no longer be monopolized by just one form of public transportation. Also, influenced by the Brazilian modern architecture movement of Oscar Neimeyer, multi-stories box buildings were going up among colonial rococo, baroque and art nouveau structures. This was the ‘Baixa dos Sapateiros’ of my childhood.
Fifty-one years later, this February of 2011, my sister Gleydy and I made our way down the ‘Ladeira da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco’ - a very long name for a narrow slope that connects 'Pelourinho' to 'Baixa dos Sapateiros'. It was not nearly as steep and long as I had remembered.
At the bottom of the slope, I quickly recognized the edifice that still held the letters “Moveis Porvi(r)” (the last ‘r’ missing) that we simply called “o Porvir”. In Portuguese, porvir means future and in the early 60’s it represented just that - the future!
This building was square and sleek and housed a stylish modern-design furniture store on its ground floor and the furniture factory at the back. The floors above the store consisted of two-bedroom apartments inhabited by middle class families. We became the Jetsons of 'Baixa dos Sapateiros' when my parents purchased from Moveis Porvir a dining set, complete with a buffet sideboard, “functional” in style with an “ivory” finish, currently known as mid-century modern Danish design.
As soon as we started photographing ‘o Porvir’ a well meaning employee of a clothing store nearby suggested that we put our cameras away and that we keep a low profile because the area was not safe for tourists. Wow, this was no longer the neighborhood that a six year old could walk to the bakery to buy fresh bread in the mornings. Nor was it the same neighborhood whose merchants made sure your business got home before you did. Like the time my father returned from a trip to Buenos Aires with Argentine pesos that I mistook for play money and proceeded to go around the neighborhood buying candy, Crush® and Grapette® soft drinks (my favorites).