to Readings Page
Introduction. Carolina Maria
de Jesus was a destitute black Brazilian woman born (1914) in the rural
interior who migrated to São Paulo, the largest industrial city
in South America, seeking to find work and a better life. The great-grandchild
of slaves, she became literate on her own, having attended school for less
than two years. As a young girl, she developed a passion for reading. Later,
this fed her desire to write down her feelings and to tell her story. In
1958 a reporter, Audálio Dantas, discovered that she had written
a diary about her hard life in the city's slums or favelas. He
managed to edit it, publish some of the entries in his newspaper, and,
in August 1960, had it printed under the title Quarto de Despejo.
It became the best-selling book in Brazilian history, and made its author
world famous. Carolina wrote four other books, which were published without
success, and many poems, short stories, and memoir fragments. Only a few
years after her mercurial success, however, she was forced back into poverty.
She died in 1977 in destitute poverty.
Carolina had three children, Vera, Joao and Jose Carlos. Senhor Manuel
is her occassional boyfriend. Her diary recounts the daily struggle for
survival for her and her children, but it is about much, much more than
that. As the translator of her diary, David St. Clair, relates, "Carolina
is not really the main personage in her diary. It is a bigger character--Hunger.
From the first to the last page he appears with an unnerving consistency.
The other characters are consequences of this Hunger: alcoholism, prostitution,
violence, and murder. The human beings who walk through these pages
are real, with their real names, but with slight variations they could
be other men who live with Hunger in New York, Buenos Aires, Rome, Calcutta,
and elsewhere" (Child of the Dark: The Diary of Maria de Jesus,
"Translator's Preface," p. 14). The following excerpts are from her
diary entries for 1958.
Key words: favela = slum or shantytown; cruzeiros
= monetary denomination; nortista = someone from Northern Brazil;
= alcoholic drink; guarana = a Brazilian drink comparable to
Child of the Dark
by Maria Carolina de Jesus
New York: Mentor Books, 1962
July 28 I left Joao and just took Vera and Jose Carlos.
I was so unhappy! With a tremendous desire to kill myself. Today whoever
is born and can put up with this life until death must be considered a
hero. A current verse around is this one :
I hear people saying
Okay, let's leave Dr. Adhemar in peace because he has an easy life. He's
never hungry . He doesn't eat out of garbage cans like the poor. Once when
I went to Dr. Adhemar's residence I met a man who gave me his card: Edson
Marreira Branco. He was so well dressed that he attracted all eyes.
He told me that he wanted to get into politics. I asked him: "What are
your political plans?"
has a lot of money.
Hasn't one got the right to be rich
When he is a national, when he is a Brazilian?
"I want to get as rich as Adhemar."
I was shocked. Nobody any more has any patriotism. When I went by the
slaughterhouse I met Dona Maria de Jose Bento who told me: "If I don't
start picking up things in the street, I'm going to go crazy. Only God
has pity on us poor." I showed her how to look for wild garlic. And I picked
up a little coal. I said good-by to Dona Maria and went on. I met Dona
Nene, director of a city school and Joao's teacher . I told her that I
was very nervous and that there were times when I thought of killing myself.
She told me that I should be calmer. I told her that there are days when
I have nothing to give my children to eat.
July 30 I got 15 cruzeiros and went by the
shoemaker to see if Vera's shoes were ready, because she complains when
she has to go barefoot. They were, and she put on the shoes and began to
smile. I stood watching my daughter's smile, because I myself don't know
how to smile. I met Rosalina who was arguing with Helio. He doesn't want
it told that he and Olga have to beg. Rosalina said that she is alone and
supports three children. She doesn't know that her son Celso is telling
everybody that he is going to run away from home because he hates her .
He thinks his mother is crude and stingy . He said he wants to be my son.
Then I told him: "If you were my boy you would be black. And being Rosalina's
boy you are white."
He answered me: "But if I was your son I wouldn't go hungry. Mama gets
some hard bread and forces us to eat nothing but hard bread until it's
all gone." I started thinking about the unfortunate children who, even
being tiny, complain about their condition in the world. They say that
Princess Margaret of England doesn't like being a Princess. Those are the
breaks in life.
July 31 I lit the fire and went to look for water.
I sent Jose Carlos for six cruzeiros worth of sugar . Luiz, who made the
fence for me, came in and sat down. I told him that I was going out and
when I went I preferred to leave my children by themselves. I hurried out
looking for paper. There was little paper in the streets. I'm getting sick
of picking up paper, because when I get to the junk yard there is a woman
named Cecilia who works there and she is a bitch. She insults me and I
pretend I don't hear. She says I stink. On the 27th Cecilia didn't let
Jose Carlos use the toilet shed. She is such a bitch that her presence
even keeps the junk yard owner away.
Today I am not nervous. I am sad. Because I think things will turn out
one way and they turn out the other. Antonio Nascimento, who lived here
in the favela, moved. He and his "companion" were not happy here. Nobody
wanted them in the favela. Because he ran out on four children and she
on three children. Seven children suffering because of their parents. What
did she gain by leaving her husband and children? She left a man with shoes
to go with one who is barefoot.
August 1 The Welfare Department is arriving. They are coming
to investigate the Portuguese who sells candy. On the 28th of July I went
to visit him. He wanted some help. They claimed he didn't pay social security
and they didn't come. He was moaning and had two Portuguese women visiting
him. I asked him if he was better. He told me no. One of the women asked
me: "And what do you do?"
"I pick up paper, scrap iron, and in my free time I write." She told
me, with the wisest-sounding voice I ever heard: "You must take care of
August 2 I dressed the boys and sent them
to school. I went out and wandered around trying to get some money. I passed
the slaughterhouse, picked up a few bones. Some women were pawing through
the garbage looking for edible meat. They claimed it was only for dogs.
That's what I say--it's only for dogs. . . .
August 3 Today the children are only going to get
hard bread and beans with farinha to eat. I am so tired that I can't
even stand up. I am cold. Thank God we're not staving. Today He is helping
me. I am confused and don't know what to do. I am walking from one side
to the other because I can't stand being in a shack as bare as this. A
house that doesn't have a fire in the stove is so sad! And pots boiling
on the fire also serve as decoration. It beautifies a place. I went to
Dona Nene. She was in the kitchen. What a marvelous sight! She was cooking
chicken, meat, and macaroni. She grated half a cheese to put on
the macaroni! She gave me some polenta with chicken. It's been ten years.
. . . I almost didn't know what it was. The smell of food in Dona Nene's
house was so pleasant that tears streamed out of my eyes, because I felt
so sorry for my children. They would have loved those delicacies.
When I returned to the favela Leila and Amaldo were giving one of their
shows. And the children were enjoying it. I was writing when Vera came
to tell me that they were handing out cards and there were many people
in the street. I went running to see. A crowd was following a tall blond
man who was leading a boy of ten by the hand. He was wearing light gray
trousers and a dark blue jacket. He passed by me and gave me an embrace.
I was bewildered by that embrace without even being introduced. It was
the first time I'd ever seen the man.
Coca Cola's brother-in-law told me: "That's our Congressman, Dr. Contrini."
When he said Congressman I thought: it's election time, that's why they're
all so friendly. Senhor Contrini came to tell us that he was a candidate
in the next elections. We of the favela have not been protected by you,
Senhor Contrini. We don't know you, and you don't know us.
August 6 I made coffee for Joao and Jose
Carlos, who is ten years old today. I could only give him my congratulations,
because I don't even know if we are even going to eat today.
August 7 I got out of bed at 4 a.m. I didn't
sleep because I went to bed hungry. And he who lies down with hunger doesn't
sleep. I saw the tax collector wandering around and asking questions. I
went to see what he was doing. He was looking for Senhor Tiburcio. He builds
shacks to sell and begs over on Direita Street. He doesn't need to and
doesn't live in the favela. He has already built seven shacks and sold
them. Tiburcio has a deformed body and a soul to match.
When Joao got home from school I gave him lunch. Later we went to the
city. We walked because I didn't have money to pay for transportation.
I took a sack with me and picked up scrap iron I found in the streets.
We went down Cantareira Street. Vera stared at the cheeses and choked on
her saliva. Dona Alice told me that Policarpo, a nortista that lives
here in the favela, brought a black woman to live in his house. He told
his wife that she was his cousin. His wife is very good and she accepted
the cousin in the house with pleasure. And the cousin stayed there for
several days. Policarpo's wife would go out and he would stay at home with
the cousin. One day when Dona Maria returned to the shack she found Policarpo
and the cousin screwing. She didn't like it and she fought with them. Policarpo
left the house and went with the cousin to Descalvado. He took the furniture
leaving only the bed.
August 8 I left the house at 8 o'clock. I
stopped at the newsstand to read the major stories. The police still haven't
caught Promessinha. The bandit is foolish because at his age he doesn't
even know the rules of good living. Promessinha lives in the favela at
Vila Prodente. He proves what they've been saying: the favelas do not form
character. The favela is the garbage dump and the authorities ignore that
they have a garbage dump.
I went to wash clothes. At the lagoon was Nalia, Femanda, and Iracema,
who were arguing religion with a woman who said that the true religion
was that of the Believers. Fernanda said that the Bible doesn't order anybody
to get married. That it only orders you to increase and multiply. I told
Fernanda that Policarpo is a Believer and has many women. Then Fernanda
said that Policarpo wasn't a Believer -"he's just hotl" I thought that
was funny and I gave out a whoop. Something I don't discuss is religion.
I went to the clothes and left the discussion at its height. Today the
Welfare people were here twice, because Apaleclda had an abortion. Quita
came to my shack complaining that Jose Carlos had thrown shit in Marli's
face and that I must give a better education to my son.
August 9 I got out of bed furious. With a
desire to break and destroy everything. Because I only have beans and salt.
And tomorrow is Sunday. I went to the shoemaker to collect his wastepaper.
One of them asked me if my book was communistic. I replied that it was
realistic. He cautioned me that it was not wise to write of reality. Today
the favela is spinning. Deputy Francisco Franca gave material to finish
the clubhouse of the Blacks and Reds. He gave roof tiles and shirts and
the people of the favela talk about this Deputy daily. They're going to
give a party in his honor. . . .
August 11 I was paying the shoemaker and
talking with a black who was reading a newspaper. He was furious with a
policeman who beat up a Negro and tied him to a tree. The policeman is
white. There are certain whites who transform blacks into whipping posts.
Is this policeman aware of the fact that slavery has been abolished or
does he think we are still in the era of the whip? I got frightened when
I heard my children shouting. I recognized Vera's voice. I went to see
what it was. It was little Joao, Deolinda's son, who had a whip in his
hand and was throwing stones at the children. I ran and knocked the whip
away from him. I smelled the stench of alcohol. I thought: he must be drunk
because he never did this before. A boy of nine years. His stepfather drinks,
his mother drinks, and his grandmother drinks. He is the one they send
out to buy the booze for them. This time he had been drinking along the
way. When he got back his mother asked astonished: "Is this all? What thieves
those clerks are!"
August 12 I left my bed at 6:30 and went
to get water. There was a long line. The worst thing about it is that malice
is the main subject. There was a Negress there who acted as if she'd been
vaccinated by a phonograph needle. She talked about her daughter and son-in-law
who were constantly fighting. And Dona Clara had to listen to it because
she was the only one who was paying attention. Lately it has become very
difficult to get water, because the amount of people in the favela has
doubled. And there is only one spigot.
August 13 Everybody was telling that Zeta
fought with a nortma
woman. Swearwords came into action. I only
feel sorry for the children who have to hear such language. Zefa is a mulatto
and pretty. It's too bad she doesn't know how to read. She only drinks
a lot. She had two children and she forgot to feed them. So they died.
I sent Joao to take a note to the Mello Brothers Circus asking if they
would hire me as a singer. Then I went to wash clothes. I was getting ready
to go to the circus when I heard rumors that Anselmo had shot Johnny Coque.
I was writing, waiting for the rice to dry. I put away the notebook and
started running around looking for Johnny. I found him seated on the Portuguese
soccer field holding his legs with one hand and the bullet in the other.
I asked him if someone had called the police. He said they had. He was
worried that there was no life in his leg. He tried to put on his shoes
but couldn't. I gave him my slippers. The curious gathered. There were
no comments. The people were only complaining about Anselm. I am going
to tell you who Anselm is. Afterward I'll tell who Johnny is.
Anselm showed up here in 1950 with a woman who was pregnant. When the
woman gave birth, to a boy, he started to mistreat her. He beat her and
threw her out of the house. She cried so much that her milk dried up. Now
he fought with Johnny because he is Iracema's lover. And Iracema's shack
is near Anselmo's shack. And Johnny talks with his fiance near Anselm's
house, which he doesn't like. He ordered Johnny to go make love near the
river. Johnny was at home drinking coffee when Anselm called him out to
talk. Johnny told him that he had just returned from work and he couldn't
see him. It was then that Anselm shot him. He didn't see Anselm take out
the gun. Anselm aimed for the chest, but the bullet hit a leg. Anselm fled.
The people say they're going to get together and beat up Anselm. Johnny
went to be treated at Central Police Station and came back. I asked him
if they gave him an anesthetic. He said they only gave him an injection
against lockjaw. It's just one more case for the police.
August 14 Ditinho, Lena's boy, is a veteran
of the favela. But he's bald and never learned to read, never learned a
trade. Only learned to drink pinga. Lena has a nicely built shack
on Port Street. But Tiburcio tricked poor Lena. They traded shacks and
he gave her a badly built one and kept hers. Afterward he sold it for 15,000
cruzeiros. I went to the junk yard and got 15 cruzeiros. I passed by the
shoemaker to tell him to fix Vera 's shoes. I kept hurrying up streets.
I was nervous because I had very little money and tomorrow is a holiday.
A woman who was returning from the market told me to go and look for paper
at Porto Seguro Street, the building on the corner, fourth floor, apartment
I went up in the elevator, Vera and I. But I was so frightened that
the minutes I stayed inside the elevator seemed to me like centuries. When
I got to the fourth floor I breathed easier. I had the impression
that I was coming out of a tomb. I rang the bell and the lady of the house
and the maid appeared. She gave me a bag of paper. Her two sons took me
to the elevator. The elevator, instead of going down, went up two more
floors. But I was accompanied, I wasn't frightened. I kept thinking: People
claim they aren't afraid of anything but at times they are frightened by
something completely harmless. On the sixth floor a man got into the elevator
and looked at me with
I'm used to these looks, they don't
bother me. He wanted to know what I was doing in the elevator. I explained
to him that the mother of those two boys had given me some newspapers.
And that was the reason for my presence in his elevator. I asked him if
he was a doctor or a Congressman. He told me he was a Senator. The man
was well dressed. I was barefoot. Not in condition to ride in his elevator.
I asked a news vendor to help me put the sack on my back, and that the
day that I was clean I would give him an embrace. He laughed and told me:
"Then I know I'm going to die without getting a hug from you, because you
never are clean."
He helped me put the rest of the paper on my head. I went in a factory
and later I went to see Senhor Rodolfo. I earned 20 more cruzeiros. Afterward
I was tired. I headed toward home. I was so tired that I couldn't
stand up. I had the impression that I was going to die. I thought: if I
don't die, I'll never work like this again. I could barely breathe. I got
100 cruzeiros. I went to lie down. The fleas didn't leave me in peace.
I'm so tired of this life that I lead.
August 15 I was picking up manure to take
to Ivani's house when I saw a truck on "A" Street, parked at Anselm's door.
Florentina and Dona Lurdes came to tell Johnny Coque that Anselm was going
to move and for him to call the police. He couldn't walk because he was
shot in the leg. So I went. In five minutes the news spread that I had
gone to telephone the police, to stop the moving of Anselmo. I returned
before the police, and the favelados,
as soon as they saw me, started
to ask: "Where are the police, Carolina?" If I had saved all the money
I've spent telephoning for the Patrol Car, I could buy a kilo of meat!
The people were waiting for Anselm to make an appearance so they could
beat him up. Men and women had collected for the beating. I heard it said
that Anselmo had jumped over the fence and got out the back way. I said
that I would like to be a man, because I too would like to be able to break
and beat. Then a man replied: "I'd like to be a woman, but only during
the day." And everybody laughed. Lalau and his mother-in-law had a fight.
She hit him with the broom handle. She ran and he chased her. They were
August 16 I stopped by the shoemaker. Senhor
Jaco was nervous. He said that if we had communism he would live better,
because what his shop produced didn't pay his expenses. In the old days
it was the workers who wanted communism. Now it's the bosses. The cost
of living makes the worker lose his sympathy for democracy. The sack of
paper was very heavy and a worker helped me to lift it. These days I've
carried so much paper that my left shoulder is bruised. When I was walking
up Avenue Tiradentes, some workers came out of a factory and said to me:
"Carolina, you like to write, urge the people to adopt another regime."
A worker asked me: "Is it true that you eat what you find in the garbage?"
"The cost of living forces us not to be squeamish of anything. We have
to imitate the animals."
August 17 When I went to lunch I got nervous
because I didn't have coffee. I started to get upset. I saw a newspaper
that had a picture of Deputy Conceicao da Costa Neves. I tore it and put
it in the fire. During the election campaigns she says she fights for us.
August 18 I don't like to lose a Monday.
I go out early because I always find many things in the garbage. I left
with Vera. I feet so sorry for my daughter! I went to Dona Julita, picked
up her paper. I earned 55 cruzeiros. What does 55 cruzeiros buy?
I was nervous. When I got home I lay down because I had carried some thirty
kilos of scrap and tin cans. On my head. After I rested for a while I went
to Rosalina to ask for her wagon to take the scrap to the junk yard. She
loaned it to me and I filled the wagon. I was cold. I was welcomed with
joy by Senhor Manuel. We weighed the material and I got 191 cruzeiros.
I went by the Guine Bakery and bought a guarana and some bananas.
I put Vera in the wagon. When I got to the favela I was beat. Joao said
to me: "Now that you've got some money, I can have my tooth pulled, because
it's aching." I told him to get dressed and wash his feet.
I was going to go out dirty. Then I thought: It's better to change.
I changed, then hurried out. When I got to Filisberto de Carvajho Street
I heard them talking about a fight I went to see. It was Meiry, Pitita,
Valdemar, and Armin. The Portuguese who sells cows' intestines had sold
everything and was going home. He knows Meiry and he stopped to talk to
her. Valdemar showed up and asked to borrow his bicycle to ride around
on. The Portuguese replied: "You want a bicycle, buy one." And that began
the exchange of insults. Valdemar, as he is used to doing to the
the Portuguese a slap. The Portuguese socked Valdemar and threw him on
the ground. Armin was on Valdemar's side and threw a brick at the Portuguese's
head, who tumbled and his billfold fell from his pocket. When the favelados
the billfold they went crazy. They all rushed at the same time to grab
the billfold. When I got near Tiburcio's Ana, I asked her what happened,
and she started to explain. And Isabel laughed and said: "It seemed like
it was raining money!"
I ran near Valdemar and Armin who were smiling as if they had just done
a noble deed. At a distance I saw the Portuguese who was covered with blood.
And Valdemar said: "It wasn't anything, Dona Carolina." I said to Armin:
"Give the money back to the Portuguese." He answered me: "I don't know
anything about it." When I got near the Portuguese, Meiry was giving him
the billfold. And the Portuguese said: "The money is gone."
There was a white girl near Meiry, who called to her: "Meiry,
let's go." The Portuguese gave a piece of meat to Meiry. It was a heart.
I took Joao to the dentist. I saw a sign on ltaqui Street--Dentist. Dr.
Paulo de Oliveira Porto. I rang the bell and went in. A woman came to attend
me. I sat down and waited. But I was worried about the children that I
had left alone. Dr. Paulo came out and I told him that he is the dentist
nearest to the favela and that I wanted him to remove a tooth from my son
Joao. Joao sat down in the chair. "How much is it, Doctor?" " A hundred
cruzeiros." I thought the price was exorbitant. But he was already sitting
in the chair. I opened my purse and sat down, and started to count out
bills of five. I separated 20 bills of five.
August 19 I didn't sleep. I got out of bed
nervous. I went to get water. The soldier Flausino told me that C was his
father's woman. That she told him she went with his father and got 50cruzeiros.
I commented on it at the spigot and the women said they had been suspicious
all along. Day by day the lives of the favelados
worsen with the
water line. Vera is happy because I bought a pair of rope sandals for her.
This morning she cried because her shoes had holes.
August 20 I went out to look for paper. I
didn't talk to anybody. I met the city tax collector who joked with Vera
saying that she was his girlfriend. He gave her one cruzeiro and asked
for a hug. I got a splinter in my foot and stopped to take it out. Afterward
I wrapped a rag around my foot. I found some tomatoes and went toward home.
Today I am animated. Seems as if the old parts of my body have been changed
for new ones. Only my soul is sad. I came to the farthest part of Caninde.
I went by COAP, a state-owned market, to buy some rice. The cheapest, which
is already old and with the taste of dust.
August 21 I fixed coffee and made the children
wash themselves for school. Afterward I went out to pick up paper. I passed
the slaughterhouse and Vera went in to beg for a sausage. I only earned
55 cruzeiros. When I got back I sat thinking of my life. Brazil is predominated
by the whites. But for many things they need the blacks and the blacks
need them. While I was getting ready to make supper I heard Juana's voice
asking me for a bit of garlic. I gave her five pieces. Then when I was
fixing supper I didn't have any salt. She gave me a little.
August 22 I got out of bed at 5 o'clock
and went to carry water. The line was already enormous. I only had four
cruzeiros and an empty milk bottle. I went to Senhor Eduardo; he kept the
bottle and the four cruzeiros and gave me a bread roll. I thought it was
very little, but the money was also very little. I made coffee and got
the children ready to go to school. I went looking for paper. I found some
rags to sell. I went by a house on Avenue Tuadentes and carried 50 kilos
of paper that a woman asked me to sell for her. I put it on my head and
sold it. It got 100 cruzeiros. She was pleased. There are days when I envy
the life of the birds. I'm so nervous that I'm afraid I am going crazy.
August 23 Today there are no classes because
it's the day when the teachers get together with the parents. I plan to
go. I went out and took the three children. Today they are so refined.
They're not fighting. Even I am calmer. I can see the transformation in
myself. I passed the slaughterhouse to get some bones. In the beginning
they used to give us meat. Now they give us bones. I am always shocked
with the patience of the poor woman who is happy with any old thing.
The children were content because they got a sausage. I continued on
to the junk yard. I found some cans, I spotted them in a field. When I
was crossing the railroad tracks I looked to see if a train was coming
and I saw Dona Armanda. I asked her if her son Aldo had left a notebook
for me that he'd promised. There was a lot of paper in the streets and
I got l00 cruzeiros. I bought a sandwich for the kids. They like to go
out with me because I buy things for them to eat. A mother is always worried
that her children are hungry. I washed the dishes and swept the shack.
I wrote a little. I felt tired, so I slept. I woke many times during the
night with the fleas that invade our houses, and without an invitation
August 24 I washed clothes. There was little
soap. Dona Dolores gave me a few pieces. I started to feel dizzy because
I was hungry. I went to see Chica. She told me that Policarpo had come
to fight with his wife because she had complained about him to the relief
board. Corca told me that the Portuguese that Armin and Valdemar had attacked
threw a sack in Valdemar's face and while he was trying to free himself
from it, the Portuguese grabbed a board and gave him a few whacks, and
they ran. Joao and Jose Carlos went to the movie at Pari church. Today
I'm not feeling well. I washed all the clothes because I don't know if
tomorrow I'm going to wake up sick or not. I don't know who is the miserable
character who entered my shack to steal. Because my hatchet is gone.
August 25 I went to look for water and made
coffee. I didn't buy bread. I didn't have money. I was going to take the
children out when I saw a girl on her way to school and I asked her if
there was going to be classes. She said yes. I dressed Jose Carlos and
Joao went the way he was. I promised to bring them some lunch. I went out
with Vera. There was no paper in the streets because another man had picked
it an up. I did find some scrap metal.
August 26 I returned to the favela and cooked
some food. I was ill. I lunched and laid down. I slept. What a luxurious
sleepl Without dreams, without nightmares. I woke up with the voice of
the Baiana woman who was scolding my sons and throwing rocks at
the other children. Here in the favela nobody likes her because she is
always fighting with the children. I went to talk to Dona Alice. I am very
unhappy. She told me that Pitita had been fightlng with a man and called
his mother a cheap whore. The man reported her and the police came to get
her. She fled.
August 27 Dona Irene gave me some newspapers.
I sold them and got 30 cruzeiros. I sold some newspapers belonging to a
teacher and got 40 cruzeiros. She gave me half of it. I earned five more.
All together I had 55. I went by the factory to pick up some tomatoes.
I got back home and asked to borrow Rosalina's wagon to look for wood so
I could make a pigpen. I took Vera and Jose Carlos with me. I just tramped
around, mostly killing time. After I work and earn enough money for my
children, I'm going to rest. A justifiable rest.
August 28 I went to get water. What a line!
When I saw the line of cans I became depressed with life. I left my cans
in line and went back to make some coffee. I woke Joao. He washed himself
and went out to buy bread. I washed the dishes and disinfected Jose Carlos.
I changed his clothes and gave him coffee. Then they went to school. I
went back to the spigot. There were some arguments because some had tried
to get ahead of the others.
August 30 I went by the slaughterhouse and
they gave me some bones. At the junk yard I got ten cruzeiros. I circled
back by Porto Seguro Street and I met that blond boy, tall and pretty.
The type of man that women like to hug. He stopped to greet me. I went
to Senhor Eduardo to buy kerosene, oil, and ink to write with. While I
was waiting for the ink a white man that was nearby asked me if I knew
how to read. I told him I did. Then he picked up a pencil and wrote: "Are
you married? If not, would you like to sleep with me?" I read it and handed
it back to him, without saying anything. . . .
September 2 I made a fire and warmed up some food for
the children because I don't have any money to buy bread. I changed the
boys and they went to school. and I took Vera out with me. I almost went
crazy. Because there was so little paper in the streets. Now even the garbage
men steal what the paper pickers could take. Those egoists! In Paulino
Guimaries Street there is a metal shop. Every day they put their trash
in the street and the trash has a lot of metal. I used to pick out the
scrap and sell it. Now the garbage truck, before starting its regular collection,
comes down Paulino Guimaries Street, picks up the trash, and puts it inside
the car. Selfish! They have a good job, hospital, drugstore, doctors. And
they are allowed to sell anything they find in the garbage. They could
leave the scrap for me. I spent the afternoon flattening the cans. Then
I went to Bela Vista to get a box. When I went by the slaughterhouse the
bone truck was parked there. I asked the driver for some bones. He let
me have one that I picked out. It had a lot of fat on it.
I made some soup and started to write. The night arrived. Joao ate and
laid down. I put Vera in her crib. Jose Carlos was in the street, hiding
from me, afraid of getting a beating. He is just like a pig. He covered
his shirt with mud. I made a pigpen and I'm going to put him in to live
with the pig. It would serve him right. Pitoca went through the streets
inviting the public to see a movie. She called Joao, and I told her he
was sleeping. I went to see the movie. It was about the church. At the
playground that Adhemar put here for the children. At night the riff-raff
play. Bobo made so much noise that he interrupted the film. The
on the electric wire and stopped the projector. The favelados
say that the favelado is stupid. I thought: I'm going to write.
While I was returning home I met Paulo who lives with Dona Aurora. She
has a light-skinned mulatto daughter. She says that Paulo is the father.
But her features don't show it. I slept and had a marvelous dream. I dreamt
I was an angel. My dress was billowing and had long pink sleeves. I went
from earth to heaven. I put stars in my hands and played with them. I talked
to the stars. They put on a show in my honor. They danced around me and
made a luminous path. When I woke up I thought: I'm so poor. I can't afford
to go to a play so God sends me these dreams for my aching soul. To the
God who protects me, I send my thanks.
3 Yesterday we ate badly. Today
September 8 Today I'm happy. I'm laughing
without any reason. I'm singing. When I sing I make up the verses. I sing
until I get tired of the song. Today I made this song.
There is a voodoo curse on you
And who did it, I know who.
It was little Mary
The one you loved before.
She said she loved you too
But you showed her the door .
September 9 There was no school today because
the President of Italy is coming to sao Paulo. I didn't go out because
it's raining. I spent all day writing. In the afternoon I made a soup of
rice and beans.
September 14 Today is the Easter of Moses.
The God of the Jews. The same God who keeps the Jews free even today. The
black is persecuted because his skin is the color of night. And the Jew
because he's intelligent. Moses, when he saw the Jews barefoot and ragged,
prayed asking God to give them comfort and wealth. And that is why almost
all the Jews are rich. Too bad we blacks don't have a prophet to pray for
18 Today I'm happy. I'm trying
to learn how to live with a calm spirit because for these last few days
I've had enough to eat. When I saw the workers in the factory B . . . I
looked at the company name they have sewn on their backs and wrote these
Some men in sao Paulo
Walk with lettering on their back
On them is plainly written
Where they're working at
September 19 At the slaughterhouse they don't
put garbage in the streets any more because of the women who look for rotten
meat and eat it.
September 20 I went to the store and took
44 cruzeiros with me. I bought a kilo of sugar, one of beans, and two eggs.
I had two cruzeiros left over. A woman who was shopping spent 43 cruzeiros.
And Senhor Eduardo said: .. As far as spending money goes, you two are
equal." I said: "She's white. She's allowed to spend more." And she said:
"Color is not important."
Then we started to talk about prejudice. She told me that in the United
States they don't want Negroes in the schools. I kept thinking: North Americans
are considered the most civilized. And they have not yet realized that
discriminating against the blacks is like trying to discriminate against
the sun. Man cannot fight against the products of Nature. God made all
the races at the same time. If he had created Negroes after the whites,
the whites should have done something about it then.
September 23 I went to see Dona Julita. She gave
me food. She is worried because Senhor Joao is sick. He says he does not
hate those who hate him, that he, being poor, has seen many nobles among
the poor. I know that among the rich there is always a dissension because
of money questions. But I can't answer these questions because I'm poor
as a rat.
September 25 I didn't sleep because I was
exhausted. I even thought I was doing to die. I had the impression I was
in a desert. There are times when I hate that reporter Audalio Dantas tThe
Brazilian reporter who discovered Carolina]. If he hadn't taken my notebooks
I would have sent them to the United States and everything would have been
over by now. I got up two times to kill the mosquitoes. When I was talking
to Chica, Policarpo's "companion" called me. I didn't go. She went back
inside her house and returned with a summons and gave it to me. It was
for me to go to the Investigation Board tomorrow, the 26th, and take Joao.
It was on July 8th, 1958, when she told me that my son Joao of eleven years
had tried to rape her daughter. And she never pressed charges until today.
September 26 I got a meal ready for the boys.
They came home for lunch, I changed them and took them to the Board. The
Board decided to rent an automobile to take us to 3 Asdrubal do Nascimento
Street. We were seven people in that car. I felt sorry for a young girl
that was with us. She told me that her mother had been dead a year. That
her father had started looking at her in a way that shocked her. And that
she is frightened to stay alone with him in the house. We arrived at Asdrubal
do Nascimento Street. I went to talk to a woman who wanted to know what
had happened with Joao. She asked Joao if he knew what it was to make "Dirty.
Dirty." He said he knew. And if he had made "Dirty-Dirty" with that girl.
He said he hadn't.
The woman stopped writing and read some papers. Then she proceeded with
the questioning. She used slang with the boy. And the questions were obscene,
wanting the boy to describe in detail his sexual pleasures. I thought the
interrogation was horrible. Vera and Jose Carlos were near enough to hear
what the woman said. When she spoke I had the impression I was back in
September 30 I am waiting for the Justice
official, Senhor Feliciano Godoy. He gave me some summons to distribute
here in the favela. I didn't go to Isabel's because those who drink don't
obey. She had made peace with her Negro. For her, today is a day of love.
October 3 I got out of bed at 5 o'clock because I want
to vote. In the streets all you see are ballots on the ground. I thought
of the wastefulness that elections cause in Brazil. I think it's more difficult
to vote than to register. And there was a line. Vera started to cry saying
she was hungry. The man presiding at the table told me that in the elections
you couldn't bring children. I replied I didn't have anyone to leave her
October 4 I left the bed upset because I
didn't sleep. A neighbor is an intense Adhemar fan and spent all night
with the radio on. I passed the slaughterhouse to pick up some bones. Thanks
to the elections there was a lot of paper in the streets. The radios are
transmitting the electoral results. The ballot boxes favor Senhor Carvalho
October 7 A child died here in the favela.
He was two months old. If he had lived he would have gone hungry.
October 12 There was a fight here in the
favela because the man who owns the electricity wants 30 cruzeiros an outlet.
I have been in the world for such a long time that I am sickening of life.
Besides, with the hunger that I experience, who could live happy?
October 16 You all know that I go to get
water every morning. Now I'm going to change my diary a bit and just write
of what happens to me during the day.
October 17 I did my chores and went out with
Vera. I went to Dona Julita to get a bed that she had given me. She is
happier because her husband is better. While I was talking with Dona Julita
inside the house, two boys carried off the bed. I ran, caught the boys,
and took back the bed. I carried it to a Jew who buys used furniture. He
examined the bed and said : "I give 20." "Not enough. The bed's worth more!"
"I give 25." "Not enough. The bed's worth more!" "I give 30." "Not enough.
The bed's worth more!" "I give 35." "Not enough. The bed's worth more!"
"I give 40. But it's not worth it."
I was starting to get nervous with our dialogue. He gave me 40 and I
started out but stopped in the doorway to watch Vera who wanted more money.
She said: "If you don't give my mother more money than that I'm going to
take away the bed." The Jew slapped Vera in the face and she started to
cry. He told me: "Give her a cruzeiro. I don't have any change." After
I had supper I felt ill and laid down. I dreamed. In the dream I was happy.
October 22 Orlando came to collect for the
water, 25 cruzeiros. He told me that nobody was permitted to be late with
a payment. I gave supper to the boys and they went to lay down and I started
to write. I can't write peaceably with the love scenes that are unfolding
near my shack. I thought they were going to break down the wall! I was
shocked because the woman who is with Lalau is married. I thought: what
a dirty common woman. But man for man her own husband is a million times
better. I believe that one man should be enough for a woman. A woman who
marries must act normal. This story of women changing men as if they were
changing clothes is disgusting. Today a free woman, with no obligations,
can imitate a pack of cards, passing from hand to hand.
October 23 Orlando lives doing odd jobs.
Now that he has become the one in charge of light and water, he's stopped
working. In the morning he sits at the spigot giving his opinions. I thought:
he'll lose because the tongue of a woman in the favela is acid. It's not
bone, but breaks bones. . . .
October 28 I---- separated from her husband
and is living with Zefa. Her husband found her with his cousin. Now L---
has begun to commercialize her body, in her husband's presence. I thought:
a woman who separates from her husband shouldn't prostitute herself. She
should get a job. Prostitution is the moral defeat of a woman. It's like
a building that fell. But there are women who don't want to be just for
one man. They want to be for all men. They want to be the only lady dancing
the quadrille with many men. They leave the arms of one and go to the arms
of another. Dona Maria Preta brought her daughter for me to disinfect.
Her mouth was covered with sores.
October 29 I got out of bed at 6. I was upset
because I didn't sleep. I spent all night repairing the roof where it leaks.
I fix one side and it drips in on the other. When it rains I almost go
crazy because I can't go for paper or get any money. I feel very cold.
I put on three jackets and people who see me in the streets say: "Oh, how
fat you got!" The era has passed when a person can put on weight. Jose
Baiano's woman told me, and begged me not to tell anything to anybody,
that Jose threw her out of the house. They haven't spoken to each other
for 20 days. I told her to make peace, because Jose is a good man.
October 30 I went out with Vera. I noted
an unusual amount of police in the streets. I talked with a city worker.
He complained that he had to pay five cruzeiros on the bus. I went on,
looking at the Paulistas
walking in the streets with sad faces.
I didn't see anybody smile. You could call today The Day of Sadness. I
started to add up how much I would spend on the streetcar to take the children
into the city. Three kids and I, 24 cruzeiros coming and going. I thought
of rice at 30 cruzeiros a kilo. A woman called me and gave me some paper.
She said that because of the raise in transportation fares the police were
in the streets in case of riots. I was unhappy. I could see that the news
of the raise saddened everyone. She told me: "They spend in the elections
and afterward raise everything. Auro lost, up went the price of meat. Adhemar
lost, up went bus fares. A little on everything, and they'll get back what
they spent. It is the people who pay the election expenses!"
October 31 I went to get water. How wonderful!
No line! Because it is raining. The women of the favela were upset and
chattering. I asked what happened. They said that Orlando Lopes, now the
owner of the electricity, had beat Zefa. And she reported him and he was
arrested. I asked Geraldina if it was true. She said it was. Nena said
that Orlando hit Zefa for real. I went for some paper. Vera went past the
slaughterhouse and asked for sausage. I earned 106 cruzeiros. Vera got
six cruzeiros, because she went into a bar to ask for some water and they
thought she was asking for money. The people are saying that Dr. Adhemar
raised the fares to punish the people because he lost at the ballot box.
When I got home the boys were already there. I heated the food. There was
very little. And they stayed hungry. In all the streetcars they've put
a policeman. And the buses too. The people don't know how to fight back.
They should go to the mayor's office and the State Assembly and give a
kick to these shamefaced politicians who don't know how to run the country.
I am unhappy because I didn't have anything to eat. I don't know what we
are going to do. If you work you go hungry, if you don't work you go hungry.
Many people are saying that we must kill Dr. Adhemar. That he is ruining
the country. Bus fares are too expensive. It can't go on like this. Nobody
can take it any more. In the morning when I was leaving, Orlando and Joaquim
Paraloa came back, returning from jail.
November 1 I found a sack of corn flour in the garbage
and brought it home for the pig. I am so used to garbage cans that I don't
know how to pass one without having to see what is inside. Today I'm going
out to look for paper but I know I'm not going to find anything. There
is an old man who is in my territory. Yesterday I read that fable about
the frog and the cow. I feel that I am a frog. I want to swell up until
I am the same size as the cow. I see that the people are still thinking
that we must revolt against the price of necessities and not just attack
the transportation company. Dr. Adhemar told the newspapers that it was
with an ache in his heart that he signed the raise agreement. Someone said:
"Adhemar is mistaken. He doesn't have a heart." "If the cost of living
keeps on rising until 1960, we're going to have a revolution!
November 2 I went to wash clothes and stayed
by the river until 7:30. Dorca came to wash her clothes and we talked about
the shameless riffraff that runs around the favela. We talked about Zefa
who gets it every day. I mentioned the women who don't work but always
have money. We talked about the love affair between Lalau and Dona M. But
Dona M. says that he is having an affair with Nena. Nena is a jerk. I washed
the colored clothes and went to make coffee. I thought I had some coffee.
I hadn't. A thing that I hate to do is to go into the little room where
I sleep, because it is so confining. For me to sweep the room I have to
take the bed apart. I sweep the room once every 15 days.
Lunch was ready but the boys didn't come to eat it. Joao disappeared.
I figured that he went to the movies. I ate a little and picked up a book
to read. Afterward I felt chi1ly and went to sit in the sun. I thought
the sun was too hot, so I went to sit in the shade. I talked with a man.
He said there was a rumor going around that the favela was going to be
torn down because they were going to put an avenue through here. He said
it wouldn't be right away. That the mayor doesn't have any money. Joao
came home from the movies. I gave him a slap and he beat it fast.
November 3 I found some scrap. I left a little
at the junk yard and the rest I took home. When I passed the newsstand
I read this student slogan:
I stopped near the train tracks to pick up some cans I had left near the
watchman's shed and asked him to guard for me. The watchman asked me how
much I would receive for the cans. I replied that it should be around 300
cruzeiros. I'm sick and tired of odd jobs. He said they were better than
nothing. I told him that oil cans were 70 cruzeiros and now they are only
60. He said: "Instead of going up, they went down." He said that life is
very expensive. Even women are more expensive. That when he wants to f---
a woman they want so much money that he gives up the idea. I pretended
I didn't hear, because I don't speak pornography. I went away without thanking
The public pays!
I gave the children a bath and they went to lie down. I washed the dishes.
Later I wrote. I felt tired and sleepy. I laid down. I killed some fleas
that were walking around on the bed and laid down again. I didn't see any
more. I slept three hours straight. I woke up from the voice of Joaquim
Paral'ba, who was complaining that he had got a woman that didn't want
to make love in the dark. She would only love him during the day, or at
night near a light. I thought: He doesn't have decent intentions toward
November 4 I went to pick up paper. When
I was returning I stopped at a newsstand. I heard a man complaining that
the police were donkeys. In a photo a policeman was beating an old man.
I decided to take the streetcar and go home. We were talking about Dr.
Adhemar, the only name that we can blame for the rise in the cost of transportation.
A man told me that our politicians are clowns. I think that Dr. Adhemar
is angry, and he decided to be forceful with the people and show them that
he had the strength to punish us. But really superior people do not try
I got home tired and with my body aching. I found Vera in the street.
That blessed Joao, my model son, doesn't pay attention to anything. The
shack was wide open and shoes thrown on the floor. He didn't put a fire
under the beans. It was 6: 30 when he showed up. I made him light the fire.
Then I gave him a beating, with a stick and a belt. And I tore up those
disgusting comic books. A type of reading material that I can't stand.
November 5 I went to the store and sold an
empty bottle to Senhor Eduardo for three cruzeiros so I could pay on the
bus. When I got to the bus stop I met Toninho. He works at the Saraiva
Bookshop. I told him: "That's it, Toninho, the publishers in Brazil don't
print what I write because I'm poor and haven't got any money to pay them.
That's why I'm going to send my novels to the United States." He gave me
the addresses of some editors that I should contact.
Went on up the street picking up pieces of scrap iron I found. At Dona
Julita's house I asked for some food. She heated some for me. Dona Julita
gave me soup, coffee, and bread. I ate it there, in her house. It was 3
o'clock. I didn't feel good. The furniture was spinning around me. It's
my body is not used to being invigorated. I made soup for the children.
They slept until it had cooked. When it was ready I woke them up to eat.
We ate and slept. I dreamt about Dona Julita. That she had asked me to
work for her and that she would pay me 4,000 cruzeiros a month. I told
her that I would intern my sons. And only take Vera. I woke up. I didn't
sleep more. I started to feel hungry. He who is hungry doesn't sleep. When
Jesus told the women of Jerusalem: "Don't cry for me. Cry for your own
selves," his words were prophesizing the government of President Juscelino.
A crown of thorns for the Brazilian people. A crown that the poor have
to wear while eating what they find in the garbage or else sleep with hunger.
Have you ever seen a dog when he wanted to grab his tail with his mouth
and kept spinning around without catching it? It's exactly like Juscelino's
November 6 When I got to Dona Julita's it
was 8:30. She gave me some coffee. Vera said she would like to live in
a house just like Dona Julita's. She made lunch. Vera ate and said: "What
delicious food!" Dona Julita's meal left me dizzy. After lunch was over
she gave me soap, cheese, lard and rice. That long-needle rice. The rice
of people of property.
November 8 I went to the Japanese to shop.
I bought a kilo and a half of beans, two of rice, and a half of sugar and
one soap. I asked him to add it up. It was 100 cruzeiros. Sugar has gone
up. The word in style today is "up." Up! That reminds me of the four lines
that Roque made and gave to me to include in my poetry book and say that
it was mine:
Politicians on their platform
I went to pick up an old wardrobe closet. A young girl who lived there
helped me to carry it down and she gave me a mattress. I wasn't able to
put the wardrobe on the wagon. Joao was beginning to get nervous. He said:
"Damned hour when I came to get this wardrobe!" The owner of a shoe store
helped me put the wardrobe on the wagon. It fell off because the wagon
tipped over. There were some men from the light company working. I went
up to one and he gave me a rope. I started to tie it. But I couldn't do
it. People stopped to look at me. Joao was nervous with their stares. I
glared at the employees of the light company and thought: in Brazil there
aren't any more men! If there were any they would fix this for me. I must
have been born in Hell!
Promise they will give you raises
And the people find out soon enough
That it's their suffering that was raised.
I put the mattress inside the wardrobe. It was worse. The light company
workers watched my fight. And I thought: That's all they are good for-staring.
I thought: I didn't come into the world to wait for help from anybody!
I've managed many things alone, and I have to manage this one here! I had
to do something about that wardrobe. I wasn't thinking about men from the
light company. I was sweating and I smelt the odor of my sweat. I was startled
when I heard a voice in my ear: "Wait a moment. Let me help you."
I thought: now it will be done. I looked at the man and he was handsome.
He took the mattress out of the wardrobe and put it on the wagon. Then
he put the wardrobe onto the wagon just right so it wouldn't tip over.
He took the rope and tied it. Joao was boastful and said: "Thanks to us
men!" I was cursing Senhor Manuel when he showed up. He gave me a "good
evening." I asked him: "I was cursing you. Didn't you hear?"
"No, I didn't hear anything. "
"I was telling my boys that I wanted to be black. "
"Well, aren't you black.'.
"I am. But I wanted to be one of those scandalous blacks to beat you
up and tear your clothes." When he lets a few days pass without coming
here, I start cursing him. I say: When he arrives I'll hit him and throw
water on him. But when he comes I get weak. He tells me that he wants to
marry me. I look at him and think: this man will not do for me. He seems
like an actor, just about to go on stage. I like men who can drive nails,
who can do something around the house. But when I am lying with him, I
think that he will do. I made rice and put water on to boil so I could
take a bath. I thought about the words Policarpo's woman said, that when
she passed near me I was stinking like a codfish. I told her that I work
hard and had just carried more than 100 kilos of paper. And it was a warm
day. And the human body is worthless. Anyone who works like I do, must
November 9 I got lunch ready for the children
and went to wash clothes. Dona was at the river with a nortista woman
who said that her daughter-in-law was in labor pains for the past three
days, and she couldn't get in a hospital. They called the patrol car to
take her but nothing had been done. The old woman said: "sao Paulo is worthless.
If this was the North all I'd have to do would be call in a woman, and
it'd be over." "But you're not in the North. You've got to find a hospital
for your son's wife." Her son sells in the street market. But he doesn't
want to spend anything on his wife because he wants to go back North and
is saving his money.
November 12 I was going to go out, but I'm
so discouraged. I washed the dishes, swept the shack, made the beds. I
was horrified with so many bedbugs. When I went to get water I told Dona
Angelina about a dream where I had bought a beautiful piece of land. But
I didn't want to live there because it was on the coast and I was afraid
the children would fall into the sea. She told me that only in dreams can
we buy land. In my dream I saw palm trees bending toward the sea. It was
lovely! A dream is the most beautiful thing in the world. Dona Angelina
told the truth. The Brazilian people are only happy when they're sleeping.
. . .
November 17 I----- and C---- have started
to prostitute themselves. With 16-year-old boys. It's a lively game with
more than 20 men after them. There is a boy who lives on Port Street. He's
yellow and skinny. Looks like a walking skeleton. His mother keeps him
in bed all the time, because he is sick and gets tired easily. He only
goes out with his mother to beg, because the sight of him touches people.
That yellow son is her livelihood. But even he is following I---- and C----
around. So many young boys of 15 and 16 have shown up here in the favela
that I'm going to report them to the authorities. I saw the girls from
the candy factory. So clean. I---- and C---- could work. They're not even
18 years old yet. They are unfortunates who started their lives in mud.
Today I'm sad. God should have given a happy soul to this poetess. Pitita
ran out with her husband right after her. The children watch these scenes
with delight. Pitita was half naked. And the parts that a woman should
cover up were visible. She ran, stopped, and picked up a rock. She threw
it at Joaquim. He ducked and the rock hit a wall, right over Teresinha's
head. I thought: she was just born again! Francisca started saying that
Joaquim was worthless. That he is only good for making babies. Leila shouted
that Pitita was fighting with Joaquim because he was sleeping with I----
I---- is being fought over in the favela. She left her husband. Leila
in a fight is like gasoline on fire. She drags people into them like a
spider with a web. When Pitita fights everyone comes to see. It's a pornographic
spectacle. The children were saying that Pitita had lifted up her dress.
I went inside the house. I lie there listening to Pitita's voice. The evening
in a favela is bitter. All the children know what the men are doing. .
. with the women. They don't forget these things. I feel sorry for the
children who live in the garbage dump, the filthiest place in the world.
November 20 I looked at the sky. It darkened
as if we were going to have some rain. I got up, made coffee, and swept
out the shack. I saw the women looking toward the river. I went to see
what it was. I had some onions that Juana gave me because I gave her some
tomatoes. I told Vera to watch the onions and went to ask the women what
there was in the river. "There is a child that can't get out of the water."
I went to look. I thought: if it is a child, I'll cross the Tiete to take
her out, even if I have to swim in the water. I ran to see what it was.
It was one of those wicker baskets they pack cheese in that was floating.
I went back and started to write.
November 21 I saw many people in Leila's
shack. I went to see what was going on. I asked Dona Camilia what happened.
"It's her daughter. She died." "But what did she die of?" "I don't
know." Tiredness overtook me. I laid down. I woke up with a crash near
my window. It was Ida and Analia. The fight started back at Leila's place.
They don't respect even the dead. Joaquim intervened asking them to respect
the body. So they went to fight in the street. . . . From my window I can
see Leila's daughter in her coffin. The devils don't even respect the death
watch. It looks more like a party. The moon is marvelous. The night is
warm. That's why the favelado
is restless. Someone is playing the
accordion, others are singing. A third of them are praying for Leila's
daughter. The coffin is white. I'm going to lie down. The noise is great,
but I'm going to lie down. Here anything is a reason for an orgy.
November 22 I got out of bed at 5 o'clock
and went to get water. I looked in Leila's shack. I saw Jose do Pinho in
the midst of those tramps. I thought: such a beautiful boy. . . Everybody
is complaining that the wake for Leila 's daughter was disgusting. That
it went on all night and didn't let anybody sleep. The hearse arrived to
take away Leila's daughter. She started to cry. As soon as the child was
gone, Leila began to drink. I have to admire these souls in the favela.
They drink because they're happy. And drink because they're sad. Drink
here is a comforter, in the sad as well as glad moments.
November 23 I got some scrap iron ready to
sell at the junk yard. I made two trips. I earned 178 cruzeiros. I telephoned
the Folhas to send some reporters to the favela to throw out some gypsies
who are camping here. They throw their excrements in the street. People
who live near the gypsies complain that they talk all night long, and don't
let anybody sleep. They are violent and the favelados are afraid
of them. But I've already shown them that with me the soup is thicker.
The girls run naked and the tramps sit near their shack, watching. The
bad part is that if something displeases them, the gypsies riot. But their
nudity is exciting. Right now I'm listening to a fight between gypsy and
take our favelado vagabonds a thousand times to those gypsies.
November 26 I went for water. I looked at
the place where the gypsies had camped. They only stayed three days, but
it was long enough to annoy us. They are disgusting. The place where they
were is filthy and has a foul odor. An unknown odor.
November 27 I am pleased with my literate
children. They understand everything. Jose Carlos said that he is going
to be a distinguished gentleman and that I'll have to treat him as Senhor
Jose. They have one ambition: they want to live in a house of bricks. I
went to sell paper. I got 55 cruzeiros. When I was coming back to the favela
I met a woman who was complaining because she had been fired from her city
job. How horrible it is to hear the poor lament. The voice of the poor
has no poetry. In order to cheer her up I told her that I had read in the
Bible that God said he was going to fix everything up in the world. She
became happy and asked: "When is this going to be, Dona Carolina? How wonderfull.
And just as I wanted to kill myself!"
I told her to be patient and wait for Jesus Christ to come to earth
and judge the good and the bad. "Ah! Then I will wait." She smiled.
I said good-by to the woman, who was more cheerful. I stopped to fix the
sack that was sliding off my head. I stared at a vacant lot. I saw purple
flowers. The color of the bitterness that is in the hearts of the starving
November 28 I went for water. There was nobody,
just me and the daughter of T---- ( the woman who gets pregnant and nobody
knows who the father of her children is). She says that her children are
her own father's doings. . . .
December 5 Leila told me that Dona D.'s daughter
has been arrested because her husband caught her in adultery with a Baiano
has two gold teeth. Today I inaugurated a new radio. I played it until
midnight. I heard the tango programs. Orlando turned on the electricity.
Now I have to pay 75 cruzeiros a month, because he charges 25 per outlet.
December 6 I left the bed at 4 a.m. I turned
on the radio to listen to the day dawn with a tango. I was shocked when
I heard the children saying that the son of Senhor Joaquim went to school
drunk. The boy is 12 years old. Today I am very sad.
December 8 In the morning the priest came
to say Mass. Yesterday he came in the church car and told the favelados
they must have children. I thought: why is it that the poor have to have
children--is it that the children of the poor have to be workers? In my
humble opinion who should have children are the rich, who could give brick
houses to their children. And they could eat what they wanted. When the
church car comes to the favela, then all sorts of arguments start about
religion. The women said that the priest told them that they should have
children and when they needed bread they could go to the church and get
some. For Senhor Priest, the children of the poor are raised only on bread.
They don't wear clothes or need shoes.
December 11 I was complaining to Dona Maria
das Coelhas that what I earned wasn't enough to keep my children. That
they didn't have clothes or shoes to wear. And I don't stop for a minute.
I pick up everything that I can sell, and misery continues right by my
side. She told me that she is sick of life. I listened to her lament in
silence. And told her: "We are predestined to die of hunger."
December 13 A nortista woman was complaining
that she and her sons are going back to the interior because they couldn't
find jobs here in sao Paulo. They're going to pick cotton. I felt sorry
for her. I have picked cotton. I felt sorry for her.
December 14 This morning there was a Mass.
The priest told us not to drink, for the man who drinks doesn't know what
he's doing. That we must drink lemonade and water. Many people went to
the Mass. He said that it was a pleasure for him to be with us. But if
that Father lived with us he would soon change his tune.
December 16 While I was talking with Senhor
Venancio, I saw a disgusting sight. The wife of that mulatto who lives
in front of Senhor A. was making love to Joao Nortista. That one that has
two gold teeth.
December 18 I was writing. She asked me:
"Dona Carolina, am I in that book? Let me see!"
"No. Who's going to read this is Senhor Audalio Danta and he's going
to publish it."
"Well, why am I in it?"
"You are here because of that day when Armin fought with you and started
to slap you, and you ran naked into the street." She didn't like that,
and told me: "What are you going to gain by this? I decided to go back
into the house. I looked at the sky with its black clouds that were ready
to turn into rain.
December 19 I awoke with a stomach ache and
vomiting. Sick and with nothing to eat. I sent Joao to the junk
yard to sell a few rags and some scrap iron. He got 23 cruzeiros. It wasn't
even enough to make soup. What torture it is to become sick in a favela!
I thought: today is my last day above ground. I felt that I had gotten
better. I sat on the bed and began to look for fleas. The idea of death
had faded. And I started to make plans for the future. Today I didn't go
out to pick up paper. Let happen whatever God wills.
December 20 The old people say that at the
end of the world life is going to be empty and drab. I think that's pure
talk, because Nature continues to give us everything. We have the stars
that shine. We have the sun that warms us. And the rains that fall from
high to give us our daily bread.
I was getting ready to go to bed when Duca appeared, asking me to report
Senhor Manuel, because he bought a television and the television captured
all the electrical energy and left the favela without lights. She was wrong.
The television wasn't even connected. Something that I never want to do
is defame Senhor Manuel. He is the most distinguished man in the favela.
He has been here for nine years. He leaves the house and goes right to
work, never misses a day. Never fights with anyone. Never was arrested.
He is the best-paid man in the favela. He works for the Count Francisco
Matarazzo [the richest man in sao Paulo, if not all Brazil, who commands
the biggest industrial empire in Latin America].
December 24 Today I am lucky. There are many
papers in the street. At 5:00 I got dressed to go to the Spirit of the
Divine Master Center to get the Christmas handouts. I got the children
dressed and left. I heard voices: "They're giving out cards!" I ran to
see. I saw the favelados surrounding a car, and the people running.
There was only the driver in the car . The people pleaded: "Give me one.
Give me one." The driver said: "You're dirtying the car!" I asked him:
"What is it you're handing out?"
"I came to bring a man to the favela. I don't know what these people
are asking for."
"It's Christmas season, and when an automobile comes here, they think
you came to distribute presents." "I'll never again come here at Xmas,"
said the driver looking at us with disgust. There were so many people around
the car that I couldn't even note down the number of the license plate.
At the Spirit Center the line was enormous when we got there. Ten children
of a nortista were begging for bread. Dona Maria Preta gave 15 cruzeiros
to her. She went to buy bread. Senhor Pinheiro, the very respected President
of the Spirit Center, came out to talk to the beggars. A man went by, stopped
and stared at us. He said loud enough for me to hear: "Is it possible that
these people are of this world?"
I thought this was funny and replied: "We are ugly and badly dressed,
but definitely of this world." I cast an eye over that crowd to see if
they looked mortal or as if from another planet. The man went on smiling.
And I keep on analyzing. When we got in to receive our gifts my number
was 90. I and the others got presents and food: clothes, tea, potatoes,
rice, and beans. . . .
December 25 XMAS DAY. Joao came in saying
he had a stomach ache. I knew what it was for he had eaten a rotten melon.
Today they threw a truckload of melons near the river. I don't know why
it is that these senseless businessmen come to throw their rotted products
here near the favela, for the children to see and eat. In my opinion the
merchants of sao Paulo are playing with the people just like Caesar when
he tortured the Christians. But the Caesars of today are worse than the
Caesars of the past. The others were punished for their faith. And we,
for our hunger! In that era, those who didn't want to die had to stop loving
Christ. But we cannot stop loving eating.
December 26 That woman who lives on Paulino
Guimaraes Street, number 308, gave a doll to Vera. We were passing when
she called Vera and told her to wait. Vera said to me: "I think I'm going
to get a doll." I replied: "And I think we are going to get bread." I sensed
her anxiety and curiosity to see what it was going to be. The woman came
out of the house with the doll. Vera said to me: "Didn't I tell you! I
was right!" She ran to get the doll. She grabbed it and ran back to show
me. She thanked the woman and told her that the other girls in the favela
would be jealous. And that she would pray every day that the woman should
be happy and that she was going to teach the doll how to pray. I'm going
to take her to Mass so she can pray for the woman to go to Heaven and not
to have any painful illnesses.
December 27 I tired of writing, and slept.
I woke up with a voice calling Dona Maria. I remained quiet, because I
am not Maria. The voice said: "She said that she lives in number 9." I
got up, out of sorts, and went to answer. It was Senhor Dorio. A man that
I got to know during the elections. I asked Senhor Dorio to come in. But
I was ashamed. The chamber pot was full. Senhor Dorio was shocked with
the primitive way I live. He looked at everything surprisedly. But he must
learn that a favela is the garbage dump of sao Paulo, and that I am just
a piece of garbage.
December 28 I lit a fire, put water on to
boil, and started to wash the dishes and examine the walls. I found a dead
rat. I'd been after him for days, and set a rat trap. But what killed him
was a black cat. He belongs to Senhor Antonio Sapateiro. The cat is a wise
one. She doesn't have any deep loves and doesn't let anyone make a slave
of her. And when she goes away she never comes back, proving that she has
a mind of her own. If I talk about a cat it is because I am happy that
she has killed the rat that was ruining my books.
December 29 I went out with Joao and Vera
and Jose Carlos. Joao took the radio to be fixed. When I was on Pedro Vicente
Street, the watchman at the junk yard called me and said that I was to
go and look for some bags of paper that were near the river. I thanked
him and went to find the sacks. They were bags of rice that had rotted
in a warehouse and were thrown away. I was shocked seeing that wasted rice.
I stared at the bugs that were there, and the cockroaches and rats that
ran from one side to another. I thought: Why is the white man so perverse?
He has money, buys and stores rice away in the warehouse. He keeps playing
with the people just like a cat with a rat. . . .
December 31 I spent the afternoon writing.
My boys were bouncing a ball near the shacks. The neighbors started to
complain. When their kids play I don't say anything. I don't fight with
the children because I don't have glass in the windows and a ball can.t
hurt a board wall. Jose Carlos and Joao were throwing a ball. The ball
fell in Victor's yard, and Victor's wife punched a hole in it. The boys
started to curse her. She grabbed a revolver and ran after them. If the
revolver had fired! I'm not going to sleep. I want to listen to the sao
Silvestre race [a traditional footrace through the downtown streets of
sao Paulo every New Year's Eve]. I went to the house of a gypsy who lives
here. It bothers me to see his children sleeping on the ground.
I told him to come to my shack at night and I would give him two beds.
If he came during the day the women would transmit the news, because everything
here in the favela is news. When the night came, he came. He said he wants
to settle here and put his children in school. That he is a widower and
likes me very much. And asked me if I want to live with or marry him. He
hugged me and kissed me. I stared into his mouth adorned with gold and
silver. We exchanged presents. I gave him some candy and clothes for his
children and he gave me pepper and perfume. Our discussion was on art and
music. He told me that if I married him he would take me out of the favela.
I told him that I'd never get use to riding in a caravan. He told me that
a traveler's life was poetic. He told me that the love of a gypsy is as
deep as the ocean and as hot as the sun.
That was all I needed. When I get old I'm going to become a gypsy. Between
this gypsy and me there exists a spiritual attraction. He did not want
to leave my shack. And if I could have I would not have let him leave.
I invited him to come over any time and listen to the radio. He asked me
if I was alone. I told him that my life was as confusing as a jigsaw puzzle.
He likes to read so I gave him some books. I went to see the appearance
of the shack. It was pleasanter after he set up the beds. Joao came looking
for me, saying that I was lingering too long. The favela is excited. The
favelados are celebrating because it is the end of a year of life.
Today a nortista woman went to the hospital to have a baby and the
child was born dead. She is taking transfusions. Her mother is crying because
she is the only daughter.
There is a dance in Victor's shack.