I recently published an anthology entitled Manuel Querino (1851-1923): An Afro-Brazilian Pioneer in the Age of Scientific Racism. All but one of the chapters were originally published in Portuguese and are available in English for the first time. They cover several aspects of Querino’s life and career – leaving enough topics for at least a revised and expanded edition. The facets included in this publication are his work as a politician and militant journalist, art historian, Black vindicationist (he was the first Afro-Brazilian scholar to underscore the positive contribution of Africans and their descendants to Brazilian society), ethnologist and food scholar. For more information on the e-book, paperback and hardback editions, visit https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B097N4F8CB/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_RS4D5PVVYJYDMW0B34CS via @AmazonUK or search for Gledhill Querino on your country’s Amazon website.
Happily pregnant, at 6 months, I had no idea that it was my ‘bump’ that would get me over the ‘hump’ and make me an official resident alien in Brazil.
When I arrived in Brazil, I had a three-month tourist visa and no intention of overstaying. By the time the three months were up, I had decided to stay, and my Brazilian friends told me not to worry when it expired, since that would happen on Fat Tuesday. “Just tell them it was Carnival! They’ll understand.”
Carnival came and went, and then I was told that I should wait until a “friendly” federal policeman returned from holiday. I waited a few more weeks, and there was no sign of him. Finally I decided to fling myself on the mercy of the immigration office, which was run by the fearsome Federal Police (note that this was shortly after the end of the dictatorship, when they had had a hand in torture and “disappearing” people, and that mentality still lingered), and found no sympathy at all. I was fingerprinted for the first time in my life – with black ink – fined and given a few days to leave the country.
Fortunately, a friend lent me the money for a plane ticket, for there were no buses available at such short notice. I paid the fine and headed for Paraguay to renew my visa. In those days, that was possible. If it had happened nowadays, I would have had to return to my home country. That gave me another three months, renewable in Brazil for another three, after which I would once again have to go to Paraguay. I enjoyed the beautiful blue butterflies at Iguaçu Falls, crossed the Friendship Bridge on the Paraguayan border, got my visa renewed and headed back to Salvador, Bahia.
By the time I was due to travel to Paraguay for the second time, I was engaged to be married. Normally, I would not have done so, since it was against my philosophy, but since I was in a committed relationship and it seemed to be the only way to become a legal resident, I decided to tie the noose, erm, knot. Before I left, I had a divination reading done – a consultation with the cowries – and all sorts of negative portents appeared. “Work” was done to protect me and I set off on my own, this time by plane to Sao Paulo and bus from there to the triple border region where I would once again cross the bridge and briefly enter Paraguay. The first time I had done it, I had walked across, done some shopping and walked back before I realised that the most important thing was missing – a stamp in my passport! I then had to go back and sit in the Paraguay immigration office, where men in dark sunglasses scrutinised my documents, gave me the stamp – for a fee – and watched me head back across the bridge to their Brazilian counterpart, which looked for all the world like a toll booth.
The first time, I had got my stamp and headed back home. This time, however, the computer said I couldn’t re-enter because I hadn’t paid the fine levied when I overstayed my visa. But I had paid it! Unfortunately, I had left the receipt behind in Salvador. For the Federal Police, the computer was never wrong, so I wandered disconsolately back to my hotel, and listened to pigeons (doves?) rustling and cooing outside my hotel window over the course of a sleepless night. Later I was told that was a blessing. Fortunately, the Federal Police officer I saw the next morning allowed me to re-enter the country officially, but just for three days! Enough time to go home, fetch the receipt and take it to the local immigration office so they could renew my visa for another three months. Three months and three days instead of six months to plan the wedding and, of course, get married!
When I arrived at the Federal Police office in Salvador, receipt in hand, the officer – the same one who had had me fined and fingerprinted – was very understanding. He told me to go to the bank where I had paid the fine to get the receipt officialised. I did, but when I returned to the policeman with the proper stamps, I realised that his supposed understanding had masked utter disbelief. He clearly thought I had either bribed someone at the bank or forged the stamp, because he rushed off with the paper in hand to see for himself. Some time later, he returned and admitted that, this time, the computer really had made a mistake. I got my three months, got married, and was at least spared the need to make a third visit to Paraguay. So far so good, and I was still perfectly legal.
Fast forward about a year. I was nine months pregnant. An amnesty programme was in effect for illegal aliens. When I visited the Federal Police to see about applying for permanent residence, I was advised to apply for amnesty! “But, but, I’m not here illegally, never have been,” I stammered. “It’s easier for us if we do it that way.” And then, looking at my belly: “How far along are you?” When I told the officer, he gave me a form to fill out and sign, stamped it, and told me that that should suffice. It did. Because I was having a baby in Brazil. There had been no need to get married at all, except to give my child my surname…
After making every effort to play by the rules, I finished up getting the same treatment that every illegal immigrant received when they even remotely qualified for residency. That was typical of my experience in Brazil – play by the rules and rue it. I’m not advocating unlawful behaviour, certainly not malandragem, but it did make me understand why Brazilians tend to view the law as a “guideline” and invented the jeitinho brasileiro.
There are so many misconceptions and misinformation regarding our religion. One of the most common which also results in instilling fear, is that Esu ( or Exu Eshu) is the Yoruba version of the Devil. This is a classic case of Western ideas being imposed in a completely different and separate belief system. Eshu is not the Devil, he is the deity of the crossroads. He represents different possibilities and multiple choices. We then are obliged to find ourselves the right way to go. There is always the possibility of choosing between classic Good and Evil scenarios. We all have choice. How we choose what to do and how we behave is really down to us as individuals and human beings. There is no external force of evil Time to take responsibility people. We all have choices and Eshu does nothing but presents possibilities. Please inform google that their interpretation…
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We are now living in Cabula, a district of Salvador with a distinctly African-sounding name that is home to one of its greatest terreiros (Afro-Brazilian temples). According to Wikipedia – caveats duly noted – this area used to be a maroon settlement, or quilombo, formed by escaped slaves of Bantu origin – from cultural groups currently found in Angola. Cabula is also the name of a secret 19th-century sect that combined elements of Spiritism, Islam and Bantu religious beliefs. Powerful stuff! I have also found that Cabula might also be the name of a town or region in Angola itself. Any confirmation of that will be greatly appreciated.
One thing I noticed right off when we moved into our new place was the high level of security – or at least, security preparedness. We received lots of keys, but the main doors to the two buildings in the complex are most always open. Now I know what all the keys are for.
Early this morning, before 6 am, I heard loud voices outside my bedroom door, which also leads to the outer staircase and the top end of the lift shaft. The building management had already advised us about a scheduled power outage that was supposed to start at 8 am, so I thought the voices and banging I heard were maintenance workers getting a head start. I almost popped my head out the door to complain. So glad I didn’t.
After tossing and turning in bed for a while, I heard more voices, and then the original two identified themselves as “police”. That gave me a chill, because the last time someone had shouted “police” outside my bedroom was when I lived in a very low-income district, and I had just heard the same voice issue death threats to the kids who were sheltering under our house’s overhang. I played possum both times.
This time around – and this is the most credible version of the story I’ve heard so far – an individual was seen running into the complex and the security guard called the police. The most incredible part – though I know it’s true – is that they actually came! They must have spent hours scouring every floor and stairwell, because I later heard that the police were still there when my housekeeper arrived at 7:30 am. They don’t seem to have found the intruder, and the janitor tells me no one was burglarised. The mystery deepens.
It is a bit strange after 17 years in a much larger complex with – presumably – much better security. Living in a country with such huge income disparities, where even people renting a flat in a run-down building in an up-and-coming neighbourhood would seem rich compared to those living in shacks in hardscrabble slums, invasions of apartment complexes are bound to happen. It’s not the first time we’ve experienced it – the last time was nearly 20 years ago. Two apartments in our building in Rio Vermelho were burglarised on All Souls’ Day, when many people in Bahia head for the cemeteries to remember their dead (we were home at the time, which may explain why we were spared).
Perhaps the main doors of this complex in Cabula will be locked from now on – or until we let our guard down once again.