The Many Lives of Luz

Fighting for the Future of a São Paulo Neighborhood

Story by Greg Scruggs

Photography by Tuca Vieira

Published on Jan 21, 2013

As the largest city in South America in a country only 25 years out of a military dictatorship, São Paulo is a global city in the midst of major transition. Nowhere is this more evident in the central neighborhoods of Santa Ifigênia and Luz, which contain an area the city has dubbed “Nova Luz” (New Light) and slated for a 45-block redevelopment project. Once home to wandering crack addicts, now filled with small wholesale businesses, immigrants, students and squatters, the neighborhoods are on track to get soaring office buildings and a massive cultural center. But underpinning this multibillion-dollar real estate deal are land use and development policies that could have implications for the entire city and beyond, setting a legal precedent that residents and activists contest will profit real estate developers at the expense of the neighborhood’s lower- and working-class population. Writer Greg Scruggs examines the issues as they play out in the streets and asks who will control the future of development in Brazil’s premier city?