Hamilton meets Campinas
By: Antonio Vianna
Some cities are too big, some cities are too small. Some cities are neither big enough to be too big, nor small enough to be too small.
This statement points to the existence of one specific kind of town that is clearly not a small one, but might display some characteristics of a tiny village.
At the same time, it can have access to certain resources that are commonly associated with a huge metropolis, such as different cultures from abroad, advanced technology and complex urban structures.
These big little cities, among which I include Hamilton, define a phenomena that I call regional cosmopolitanism.
Regional metropolis are not new.
Since Marshall McLuhan’s cosmovision of the global village, many dreamed of a future where the whole world could feel like being part of the same community.
When the Internet made this dream come true in certain senses, people from not-so-big cities had already experienced a similar feeling.
In both cities you can see densely populated urban landscapes living side by side with nature and laid-back sceneries, like Campinas’ green hills or Hamilton’s waterfalls.
Living in a big city that feels local has its perks. Although it may have a really large area, it is very likely to meet people you know wherever you go.
It doesn’t matter if you move through the different regions within these cities. Everywhere feels like an extension of your neighbourhood and you are probably going to find that guy that studied with you in high school, that friend of your family whose name you’ve forgotten or familiar faces downtown.
I am from a city in Brazil called Campinas, which is as close to São Paulo (our biggest city) as Hamilton is close to Toronto in distance and in size.
Like Hamilton, Campinas is fairly large, but the fact that there is a world-class metropolis next door sometimes overshadows its greatness.
I can’t say my city has as many things to do compared her big sister, but there are still a lot of different places to go, restaurants from all over the world, more than one sports team to support and those weird local stories that, somehow, everyone that lives there knows.
For example, Campinas is also known as Princess of the West due to its important role as commodity producer in the past.
Hamilton has the title of Steel Town for similar reasons. In both cities you can see densely populated urban landscapes living side by side with nature and laid-back sceneries, like Campinas’ green hills or Hamilton’s waterfalls.
The cosmopolitan regional cities blends things from the countryside with things from capitals in a very idiosyncratic way.
It is possible that some of these characteristics of the city are reflected in its inhabitants. The realm of psychogeography studies that.
The Ancient Greeks, for example, developed a much more fragmentary political mind than the cosmopolitan Romans, following the geographical isolated formations of their land.
This also helps explain the stereotype that people from the countryside tend to be more small-minded and provincial, whilst people from central towns usually are more snobby and individualistic.
Cosmoregional cities defy these stereotypes, being home of people that can have good and bad qualities of both.
If you live in a big city that feels like a village, it’s probably easier to gather up your friends and maybe harder to be alone even when you want to.
Everywhere is like an extension of that central square, the common place where people meet to hang out, feed the pigeons and gossip about someone else’s life.
In Hamilton, I have learned to recognize, love and participate of a cosmoregional polis. People from my city in Brazil have developed the unhealthy habit of complaining about their own town.
The only exception being a significant population who have never lived anywhere else.
I do think that criticism is important for a democratic life, even in small and not-so-small communities, but Hamiltonians showed me better and more efficient ways to do that.
Hamilton gives more space to local media, listens to the voices its people, supports local magazines, newspapers, TV channels, participates in local assemblies to discuss common issues and supports local businesses and artists.
This is good for the regional culture and economy as a whole, among many other things.
Finally, I think that cosmopolitan regionalism is a distinctive feature of the geography cities like Hamilton and Campinas share.
These cities should share more stories, to see how much they have in common, learn from their differences and be proud of their uniqueness: after all, neither super-big nor super-small cities are capable of being as cosmoregional as we are.