Miss Ana

Tiago Coelho

2010 - Ongoing


Miss Ana was my nanny, having arrived at my house when I was 6 years old. She came from the north (Pará) to the south (Rio Grande do Sul) of Brazil as a 17-year-old seeking better living conditions. She could not read or write when she left the north, and eventually she lost touch with her family.

In 2010, after 40 years of not having news from her parents and siblings, she decided it was time to redeem her origins.

She asked me to take a picture of her family here in the south to show to the family in the north. At the time I was taking the picture I realized that the journey was also mine. I went along with her.

When I published the first version of the book, she complained that there were too many blank pages and that I hadn't told her story properly, suggesting she write the story herself onto these pages.

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  • When I was ten, we moved to a place called Pitoro. We worked on the field, which was, as always, far from home. Father made a living out of hunting and fishing. He enjoyed growing rice with us, beans, corn, cassava, and cotton. I enjoyed working. The woods were dense and there were monkeys, deer, lowland pacas, armadillos, agouties, snakes, and tortoises. We were two families. One day, there came a jaguar that followed us from our house to the field. It wouldn't bite, just growl. There were many times when we had to run because it came close to our fishing spot. I was ten. After that, there wasn't much else. I played up till when I was twelve. On a summer's day, a really dry summer, we ran out of water. We saw a crab hole in wet mud and started digging from eight in the morning till five in the afternoon for more water to spring. We didn't have any water for washing, it was dreadful. It was God who ruled this place. We dug for three days, and the spot from were we drew water dried up. When I was thirteen, father sold that place and we moved to the other side, over a thousand kilometers away. There was a river with very deep water. Very good water.

  • This picture was taken when I was 29 and he was 28. It was for my ID card. Today, here I am at 62, happy as can be because I have a beautiful family; and I'll be even happier when I reunite with my relatives.

  • When I was born in 1946, it was dense woodland. There were only Indians, jaguars, monkeys, birds, a river full of fish, crocodiles and snakes.

  • When my sister-in-law saw me getting off the bus, she told her son that either his grandmother had resurrected or Jesus was coming.

  • On August 23, 1969, I left my parents' house because I'd been suffering so much. I was a grown child and still got spanked, and I decided, during our talk, that I'd had enough. The world is big and the borders of Pará are deserted. They threatened to kill me and I left for Belém, the capital of Pará. I started working as a housemaid. I wasn’t familiar with money and couldn't read, so I was duped many times. I went through really hard times. I worked at a household for a year and then left because I got sick. I moved in with my grandmother for a while. She was very poor. When I got better, I got hired at another household. In the very beginning, due to not knowing how to read, I spent the whole night in the street because I couldn't find the house where I was working and living. By morning, I found out I had been really close.
I decided to study so I wouldn't go through this kind of thing again. Four years later, I was invited to work in São Paulo for a year. This invitation came when I was almost 29, and that was in 1975, on January 12. We rode there on a VW Beetle. A year later, when it was time to come back, I was engaged to my present husband.

  • My family thought I was dead because they knew nothing about me. But my youngest brother had so much faith that I was alive that he proposed prayers and fasting. When I met him, it was so emotional that we cried and held each other for a long time

  • In Voltas, I got engaged to my present husband, Julio. Time went by, the children came, and we had no conditions of going back to Belém, in Pará. And I really didn't feel like going, so great was the bitterness I felt. My husband became unemployed and worked as a janitor in buildings. We came to Rio Grande do Sul, even farther away from my family, because the uncle I wrote passed away and we weren't told. Forty years have passed since I left home. During this time, in 1993, I started working for Ieda Coelho, Tiago's mother. He was six. This household enabled me to better search for my relatives, since they helped to make it happen in 2010. We went aimlessly, for we knew nothing about them on this trip. It was me, my husband and Tiago. We went looking for information. We went to a radio station, and then to an Assembléia de Deus church where we found the name of a son-in-law of my dead uncle's. From then on, the doors to the reunion were opened, for I found two sisters of mine, whose emotions ran high.

  • This was the last picture I took in Belém, Pará, at my niece's house. Above, Ana Sousa da Silveira Werner My story