Lula Among the People

I read in the Folha de São Paulo that the popular pro-Lula committees have launched a new plan of communication struggle, at the Media Center of the Fronts, parallel and complementary to the official campaign structure of the greatest popular leader of Brazil. In this plan, they want “the disclosure of the living experience of the people, with narratives made of that delicate raw material that is the hope in a full and dignified life, protected by rights. Great initiative!

So, I send the testimony of this beautiful moment in the neighborhood of my childhood in Recife, when I saw, heard and felt the value of Lula in the bosom of the people:

In front of what was once the Cinema Império, the first branch of the Azteca Bank in Brazil was going to be inaugurated. The place chosen was the Recife neighborhood of Água Fria. Men, women and children took over the square, as in the 60s they invaded the same place to dance the frevo. But on March 27, 2008, they did not come for carnival, much less to attend the inauguration of a bank branch, small and without luxury. “Lula is coming. Lula is coming to inaugurate the Bank”, was the slogan that ran.

That is why so many people gathered together, so many and so many, in curiosity and affliction. The peripheral masses dream, they need a better life, money, like Suzana, a fat lady, with the slanted eyes of an Indian, with whom I spoke.

– What do you want from Lula?

– Are you a member of his group?

– No…. (I wanted to say “I belong to your group”, but I kept quiet)

– I want 150 reals.

– What for?

– To buy mordalela, bread, charcoal, guarana, beer, cheese, corn, then I make pamonha, manguzá…

– All this with 150 reals?!

– It’s just a help. I already have a cart to sell snacks. It’s just a help….

She clasps in her hands a folded notebook with her request to the president of Brazil. We are on the other side of the fence, formed by iron trestles that encircle the entire Largo de Água Fria. Reporters pass by and do not deign to direct a glance at us, the mercy of an attention. How aware they are that their importance is in direct proportion to their distance from this mass! From the peripherals, from those of us on the other side of the fence, squeezed between anchors and trestles. A reporter, very young, addresses two authorities, that they must be, because they are fat, tall, white, and wearing plaid suits. Her photographer approaches, and as she cannot stay all the time following a conversation that does not concern her, she turns her back on her, and goes for a walk in a dialogue with her cell phone. Nice pictures we will have.

Lula is late. For an inauguration scheduled for 3 pm, it is already 4 pm. Guys in black suits, in 38 degree heat, do the security. They look like statues, with blank stares of bronze.

– What time have you been here?

– Since nine o’clock in the morning.

– In that black suit, under this sun?

– That’s a big deal.

– How much is the daily rate?

– Twenty-five reais plus lunch.

I notice that a supervisor brings him a bullet. For coffee. It’s a big deal. From time to time, in a part of the crowd, there are shouts and applauses. The security guards look in the direction of the commotion. It is just some joker announcing, “Lula is here! If I leave my seat, here by the easel, I will lose my seat, from my feet. I wonder how these young people have remained unmoved since nine in the morning. 16 hours and 30 minutes. There is a commotion. There is a wave that pushes me, there is a current of electricity running through every body. My wife, the photographer, making her camera and profession debut, wakes me up: the Military Police soldiers take a stand.

– Look at the scouts! Look at the scouts!

Then comes a dark car, which passes through the “gate” of trestles, and only stops in front of what will be the Azteca Bank.

– I thought Lula was going to pass by here. But he gets off in front of the branch.

A lady behind teaches me: “Lula doesn’t do that”. So we take up a more tense position. Suddenly there is an explosion, not of fireworks, nor of a herd. There is a rumor that grows, that becomes uncontrollable, that reminds us of a collective orgasm. Suffered, wanted, and expected: it’s Lula! It’s Lula! Everyone shouts. The screams are louder, deafening. Women, boys, men call the president’s attention, they want to call him, and he doesn’t know which way to go from the fence of easels. At that moment a terrible idea occurs to me: if lightning were to strike here, everyone would die happy. But this idea does not strike words. Lula comes to our side. That’s him. My photographer absolutely forgets about me, the reporter, and moves forward into the narrow circle where everyone wants to touch her hand. Screaming. Crying. Pushing. By force, though restrained and repressed by the young boys in black suits.

Photo by Francêsca.

The last time I saw something similar in Água Fria was in 1965, on the third day of carnival. Vassourinhas played and there was no force that contained the joy of the raging crowd.

Now without frevo, without an orchestra, this time the crowd raves as if they were in front of a pop star. The president gives the idea of a saint, because he has powers to help those who suffer, and of fascination, because he shows how important a man of the people can be. That’s why women shout “Lula, my beautiful!”, that’s why men shake his hand, hard and warmly, that’s why boys raise their heads, all boys raise their heads. Then I realize that the peripherals don’t get drunk only on alcohol and frevo. We also get drunk on Lula. Like in the 2008 off-season carnival in Água Fria, when Lula arrived. That day our neighborhood became the capital of Brazil.

Uriarano Moto is author of the novel “Never-Ending Youth.”