Angel of the Favela

Written by Wim Beunderman, posted on tuesday 23 january 2018

Botanic Garden And Corcovado by Ju Araujo

Story no. 1 in the Valentine's Day Series

Angelica looked up from the plates that she was wiping with a wet, threadbare tea towel. She peered outside through the small window and saw how the morning sun danced on the puddles. Everything seemed so peaceful now, very different to the night before, when the rain from the spring storm had thrashed against the corrugated iron sheeting of her shack. The storm had been so wild; making her wonder if it would tear her beloved home apart. Strangely enough, it made her smile. It wasn’t much of a house, and yet, it and everything inside were very dear to her.

Thinking about this brought her back in time, to the day that she came to live here. It was Augusto’s house back then, or ‘the Cruel One’ as he was referred to by friend and foe alike. Her former boyfriend and employer owed this name to the way he dealt with anyone that had the courage to get in his way. This was inevitable, seeing Augusto was a pimp, and because of the fact that he was known to be a man who never shied from a fight.

It still surprised Angelica how it came to be that she had ended up with a man like Augusto, of all people. At the same time, she knew it couldn’t have been any other way. At the age of sixteen, she had traded the poverty-ridden village of her youth for the beckoning metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. Back then, she had dreamed of a life as a singer in one of the many fine downtown restaurants, yet her dreams soon fell to bits. With hunger pains in her stomach and barely a penny to her name, she ended up begging in the streets before those very restaurants within a week. It was there that Augusto found her. It couldn’t have come any sooner, for she had been a hair’s breadth away from dying there in the street.

That had been some forty years ago, but Angelica remembered it all as if it were yesterday. How couldn’t she? Since the day she had moved in with Augusto, her life became hell. She had barely recovered from exhaustion, when Augusto sent her out on the streets to sell her body, just like his ‘other women’. Not only had it been degrading work, it was also dangerous. Angelica had lost count of the times that she had been threatened to be killed or that she had been beaten up and left in a filthy little hotel room. Not to mention the abuse by disturbed, and often rich and respected, custoclients during their perverse games, and the rape, by Augusto among others. All of this had left the physical, emotional and mental scars that she still bore, as well as the contempt that the other favela dwellers held for her. Hypocritical in Angelica’s eyes, because she knew that everyone was ‘guilty’ of something, whether they lived in the favela or one of the rich suburbs.

Now that Angelica looked back on her life, she realized how lonely she had always been. She gazed at the plates again, she had almost cleaned them all. She knew that the only people she could trust were the children from the neighbourhood. She smiled when she thought of them. Any moment now, the children would come to her, as they did every Sunday morning after church.

Angelica’s next-door neighbours, who looked after her a bit, warned her not to be used by the children and their parents. Still, Angelica knew better. She managed to scrape enough money together for her to live from, by doing chores for the downtown hotels. She had no reason to complain. Augusto was no more, and although it may have seemed strange, she still missed him. For, despite his harsh nature and the anger he had regularly taken out on her, Augusto had given her something that no-one else had ever received from him; his love. In return, she had loved him, and now he was dead, she gave all of her love to the neighbourhood children.

This love was found in warm meals, in her stories, in her consolation and in innumerable other seemingly small things. When Angelica thought about it, she felt her chest swelling with warmth. Her heart pounded away, and to her dismay, her eyes filled with tears. In an attempt to stop them, she forced a meagre smile. The children would be arriving any moment now. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Angelica could take it no longer, she cried and acted at the same time. She dabbed the tears from her face with the tea towel. Just in time to greet the first children with a cheerful smile. “Hola...!” she cried excitedly, and at that same moment happy memories of her own childhood flooded her mind’s eye. To the children, Angelica was the angel of the favela. To Angelica, the children meant the world. When she realized this, she said a little prayer to herself for being the happiest woman alive.

Sérgio Mendes Reza (Prayer)


‘Botanic Garden And Corcovado’‘  by Ju Araujo on

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