Insider's guide to Joinville: 'Not many cities have a live alligator as their mascot'
In five words
Industry, cultural expression and saraus.
Sound of the city
Joinville is the third largest city in southern and, with more than 300 days of rainfall a year, it is also one of the wettest. As the old joke goes: to get to Joinville, all you have to do is follow the federal highway BR101, and take the first rain on the left.
Maison de Joinville, also known as A Casa do Príncipe (The Prince’s House), is a 19th century manor, built in neoclassic style at the end of the picture perfect Rua das Palmeiras. Built from 1867-70 for Joinville’s prince Francis Fernand de Orleáns and princess Francisca Carolina de Bragança, the manor didn’t host their royal highnesses, as they never actually visited the city. The building was eventually relegated to colonial administration, and the property now hosts the National Museum of Immigration and Colonisation.
Leandro Mendes, best known as . While not often seen in his hometown, the award winning video artist has left his mark upon the world since 2005. Using public spaces as a 3D canvas, Vigas may be the opposite of what one would expect in an industrial and traditional city like Joinville. And this is just one of the reasons to check his work. The artist recently received an award at the Circle of Light Moscow International Festival.
The look on the street?
Most under-rated location?
Despite still being used as a community centre (and as a site for many photography classes) the old Migrant’s Graveyard on XV de Novembro, just a few blocks away from the city centre, remains largely ignored. Despite poor maintenance, the old burial ground for migrant families from Switzerland and Germany enjoys beautiful views that put to shame many of the city’s better known parks. It also holds the House of Memory, a seldom visited museum of the early city.
Brazil doesn’t have as strong a relationship with Instagram as other parts of the globe. Here, Facebook has a grip on society like nowhere else, and few Instagram accounts express Joinville as well as, ironically, the local newspaper’s , which shows a more intimate view of the city than most personal accounts.
In 2014, the city was (and still is, to a lesser degree) by a heated debate over bus lanes. Parents at one of Joinville’s private schools were using one of the most important bus lanes in the city for parking space, so they could pick their kids up hassle-free. And this was even after city hall built a special overpass for that exact purpose in 1998.
Students and parents refused to use the overpass and a civil movement, Não é Só Pelo Corredor, was formed in defence of the bus lane. However, a local columnist claimed that, since the school came before the lane and donated the land for the street, it had the right to ignore legislation. And so the city, civil activists and the school went to court over whether or not the school had the right to park in the bus lane.
At the height of the controversy, the school was adamant in refusing any solutions other than “removing the bus lane from our parking space”. In a judicial tug-of-war, the school lost the case, went to a and got a court order preserving the parking. The court order got repealed by another judge and in the end the surreal parking space inside a bus lane was removed.
A very ugly representation of the worst problem in our local public space – and very nearly falling apart – is the old Migrant’s Hotel in Rua XV de Novembro. It is an example of the all-too-common practice of leaving historic buildings to rot so they can be torn down to create space for new and “better” architecture. Since legislation forbids the demolition of known historical buildings, it’s not unusual for owners to leave them to decompose like this.
Moment in history
Fritz, Joinville’s unlikely city mascot – a seven-foot-long alligator – was found dead, floating in the Cachoeira River in May 2015. While a seemingly a trivial affair (a dead animal in a city river is not usually a huge historical event for most cities), but for the last 15 years the reptile was one of the incentives to reduce pollution on the river. After all, there aren’t many cities who can claim to have a live alligator as their mascot. The sad news was followed by a report showing that there are far more alligators on the river than just Fritz and his two mates, Jaca and Lacoste, and sightings of other gators in the river lead to doubts over the death of the beloved mascot.
Best local artist
Novelist, journalist, and comic book writer rose to prominence in 2014 with her graphic novel Menina Distraída (Girl Distracted), which deals with bullying and emotional pressure in schools, including from teachers. Alongside her comics, the 31-year-old gives speeches against bullying, prejudice and harassment at schools around the country.
Those interested in the alternative cultural scene of Joinville should head for the park in front of the Municipal Art Museum and the Salvador Vegan Café. Both are gathering spots for rising poets, writers and protesters, with gatherings and Saraus (an event held to promote artistic expression) most Fridays. Another option are the Ocupa Cidadela gatherings on the Cidadela Cultural near the Art Museum. Announced over Facebook and organised by local social movements, those events are marked by alt bands and discussion of social issues.
While the National Immigration and Colonisation Museum is a must-see, at night the area around it is best avoided. Poor lighting make the beautiful Palm Street one of the most crime-ridden areas of the city centre after dark.
What does your city do better than anywhere else?
For most locals, Joinville is a city of two things: industry, and more industry. But for most outsiders and especially for a week and a half per year, Joinville shows its true colours and its real talent: dancing. Joinville hosts the only Bolshoi Ballet School outside Russia and the world’s largest dance festival, hosted yearly in late July, the hosts over 6,000 dancers in various styles, from the classics to modern street and urban dancing. The festival has taken place annually since 1985, and is growing in popularity each year. The Bolshoi School opened in 2000, and in 2005 the festival was honoured as the largest in the world by the Guinness Book of Records.
How green is your city?
We are slowly improving our city’s green credentials. Once the most polluted river in the state, the Cachoeira River might be the best example of how Joinville is cleaning itself up and changing the old ways of the past. Beginning in 2001, the river has seen progressive changes, with new legislation against chemical pollution, changes in sewage treatment (which rose from less than 3% of the city in 1999 to 40% today) and public awareness, spurred on in part by our former reptilian mascot.
Smell of the city?
Given the pollution in the river, the old chemical smell near its banks has been replaced by a (still terrible) earthy odour, and the formerly toxic waterway now hosts schools of fish, cranes, alligators, capybaras and even fishing bats. But where the stench is concerned, there is still much more to be improved. The rest of Joinville has your average urban fragrance, except when it rains – then the whole city has a peculiar earthy pong that isn’t quite as unpleasant as the river’s smell, but your nostrils will certainly notice it.
Five to follow
Pedro Leal writes on pop culture and politics in the city of Joinville and translates independent books for a living. Despite his Masters degree in war and conflict journalism, Leal writes mostly on nerd culture for local collective .