March 1, 2009

Stories da roça


Carnival, the carnal festival, the gratification of desires, the indulgence in carne and all things flesh, is over. It ended last week with quarta de cinzas. All good Catholics are now repentant, and starting last Friday are diligently attending mass, doing penitence, and reflecting on their sins.

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t quite know how these things work, but our neighbors are, and the smell of fried fish is prevalent.

On Thursday Geraldinha was here to do the housework I’m too lazy to get around to and, as usual, she was indulging me in her stories. It started off because I was explaining this hilarious clip to her about what a spoiled generation we have become ("we" meaning me and my peers, not her) and it got to reminding her of the journey her family would make for the first mass of Lent (Quaresma). Her stories are so wonderful I decided I should make a new category and post them here more regularly.

Although she would later convert to an evangelical church, after sneaking out of the house with her sister one night and attending a tent revival meeting, for which her parents nearly disowned her, she was raised a strict Catholic. As such, attending the first mass of Lent held on Friday was very important.

When she was a child her family worked for a time on a plantation far from the nearest town. In order to arrive on time for confession and mass, the family had to leave the plantation at 3:00am. At the time there were seven children, although her mother would eventually give birth to ten. They only had one horse, so her father would ride, securing two small children on the withers in front and one on the rump behind, while her mother, holding a baby, and the three other older children, including Ger, walked. (You know it didn’t occur to me to ask why her mother or one of the older children couldn’t have secured the younger children on the horse while he walked. Hmmm…)

Each of them owned only one pair of shoes and they walked barefoot carrying their shoes around their neck so as not to ruin them. After a while they began to get tired and didn’t have much energy left to make it up the many hills on the windy dirt road so they would divvy up the horse’s tail in three parts and each of the older children would grab on. When they reached a hill, her father would give the horse a slap on the butt and holding on to the tail the kids would get a tow up the hill. That poor horse! Talk about a beast of burden. She said it was great fun.

When they got to town, the family would go first to her uncle’s house so they could wash their feet and put their shoes on. Then they would hurry to the church in order to have time to confess before the start of mass. After all that, what more penitence could the priest possibly ask of them?

But Geraldinha tells me that she and her siblings would look forward all year to this journey and the night before they were so excited you might as well have told them they were going to Disneyland. Although of course at the time, she confessed, she’d never heard of Disneyland.

window confessional


Ballerina Girl said...

puts so much into perspective when you live here, doesn't it?
Thanks for sharing

Ray Adkins said...

Dear Dharma,

Just checking in to say I am new to your blog and I think it is great.
You are a great writer and your stories are fascinating.


lovelydharma said...

It sure does BG! I thought I was pretty worldly and sensitive to my American privileges before moving here and have gotten a reality check on a number of occasions!

Thanks for the encouragement Ray! (I'm a sucker for compliments!) Are you also residing in Brazil?

Oh, my name's Robyn, but like many pet owners, me and the pooch (Dharma) are slowly melding into the same person. :)

Laural Out Loud said...

I love stories like that. My MIL's family lives near Aracaju on a giant plantation. They grow sugarcane and coconut trees, live off the land (including a farihna house), and still do things pretty much the same way as they did 100 years ago. I LOVE hearing their stories, especially what it was like to be a child growing up in a situation like that.

You really are a wonderful story teller.

Linda - A Mommy in Brazil said...

Oi Robyn! What a beautiful blog you have. Loving how you write about Brazil. :) I'm a Swede living in Paraná, also married to a Brazilian. I've never been to MG but it sounds like a nice place. I'd love to catch up with you! :)

marina said...

these is the first time to your blog and I really like my visit here love hearing about life in other counties.marina

Rachel said...

Cool story! I love the photos too. I love the churches in Minas, not just the super fancy ones in Ouro Preto but the tiny, simple ones perched on the hills. So charming.

Ray Adkins said...


I lived in Brazil in the 90's and still have many friends there and travel to Sao Paulo often on business.
Back home in Rhode Island under over a foot of fresh March snow tonight...


lovelydharma said...

Hi Linda and Marina! Nice to bloggy meet you. I"ll swing by your blogs!

Oooohhhh how I wouldn't love to be covered in a foot of snow in March, Ray! It's hit 100 degrees three days in a row here. We're baking. I normally hate air conditioning, but I'm craving it today.

Rachael, I love those little old churches too, even when the country chapels are old and structurally needing help, and someone has tried to "modernize" by jerry-rigging a florescent light on some precarious overhead beam.

Danielle said...
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