A compact neighborhood nestled between the Avenida Paulista and the old city center, Bixiga is Sao Paulo's most accessible answer to Little Italy. The district also boasts one of the city's most traditional samba schools, Vai Vai, one of its oldest professional theaters, Teatro Brasileiro de Comedia, and a high density of bars and restaurants.
At night, cantinas and bars take over. Though Bixiga has lost some of its charm and popularity, it remains an icon to 20th century immigration and bohemia.
You will not find "Bixiga" marked on any modern city map. By 1914, the municipal government made it part of the Bela Vista district but everybody just kept calling it Bixiga.
At the beginning of the 20th century it became a magnet for Italian immigrants. Simple home-builders arrived and set about constructing shotgun homes typically around seven meters wide and 50 meters deep. The first "cantinas" were bars with a "bring-your-own" policy, at least where food was concerned. Interminable card games determined who paid for the drinks, and around 11 p.m. everybody unwrapped their sausage sandwiches (on Italian bread, of course) and had a hearty snack. The first "cantina" to serve its own food emerged around 1910; by the 1930s, a handful of little restaurants was already in evidence. Today, the neighborhood is home to sundry theaters, dozens of restaurants, and countless bars. The restaurants and bars each have carved out for themselves a stretch of Rua 13 de Maio. Some local cantinas keep the tradition alive with in-house musicians who make the rounds of tables.
Bixiga has a strong samba tradition, thanks in part to the samba school Vai Vai (meaning "Go Go").
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