Any good guide book can lead tourists step-by-step past the historic sights in downtown São Paulo, or museum hopping from one Modernist institution to another in Parque do Ibirapuera. But getting under the skin of the city’s cultural life can be more of a challenge for new arrivals. Everything from the language barrier, to needing a local ID to make bookings, or simply the lack of a companion to go with, can leave much of the city’s varied and effervescent cultural life out of the reach of roughly two million foreigners that pass through the city each year.
For Andrea Bauab, an enterprising Paulista from the city of Jaú in São Paulo state, this gap in the market led her to establish Carona Cultural (which literally translates as ‘cultural ride’) last year, while on a sabbatical from a long career in finance. ‘Carona Cultural came about slowly,’ says Bauab, who inherited an affinity for cultural events from her father (the former São Paulo culture secretary). ‘I’ve always been passionate about culture and I ended up becoming a local reference for my friends,’ she says, introducing them to the cultural goldmines in her home cities which, over the years, have included Paris and London as well as São Paulo.
Sell out shows
For Carona Cultural, Bauab seeks out of the best of São Paulo, taking in everything from theatre to dance, exhibitions, music and opera, as well as cultural tours in, around and outside the city. In February 2012, Bauab took groups to the musical Hair as well as sell-out shows like that of the ‘Prince of Samba’, Paulinho da Viola. A month later, she even had golden tickets to seethe sell-out gig by Chico Buarque (R$421).
Daytime excursions out of town are on the agenda, too, with train rides on the city’s 19th-century railway line to the historic town of Paranapiacaba, tours of the Odsal Ling Tibetan Buddhist temple in Cotia, and even the odd weekend away to experience country life on a farm in São Paulo state.
Thanks to word of mouth promotion, Carona Cultural’s clientele – which leans towards the mature end of the age scale – has grown quickly. A real draw for many of the clients are the money-can’t-buy trips, like a recent visit to the home of the Italian artist Fulvio Pennacchi in Jardim Europa, arranged directly with the artist’s widow especially for Carona Cultural.
‘The schedule each month is fixed,’ explains Bauab, ‘but there’s nothing stopping us from organising trips that the clients suggest, provided we can get a group of at least four together.’ The groups tend to be a mix of paulistanos and Brazilian tourists as well as foreigners, and Bauab speaks English and French as well as her native Portuguese. Thumbs up, the cultural ride has arrived.
To make a booking, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9867 4409/3088 0269 (facebook.com/CaronaCultural). Prices quoted include full-price entry to the event, plus transport. Students and over-sixties pay half-price entry to some events.