Sunday, November 23, 2008

Inêz Melo, in memory

I'm remiss in not having reported the death of our neighbor and friend, Professora Inêz Melo, who was one of the oldest residents of Poço Branco, where Bosque Santa Lúcia is located. I met Inêz the first time in 1981, the year we bought the Bosque property. She taught school for more than 50 years before retiring. Her one-room school house was actually located on the Bosque Santa Lúcia property, as was the community chapel, where she conducted religious leadership. In recent years the community moved both the school and the chapel to the village center down the road approximately one kilometer. Inêz was a community worker in the best sense of the word. She had no fear when it came to knocking on the doors of politicians and other persons responsible for the well being of her constituency. I wonder how many trips she must have made from her simple home in Poço Branco to Santarém for this purpose. I got used to seeing her walking the 4-5 kilometers almost on a daily basis. Sometimes we would be going in the same direction, in which case she got a ride all the way home, or out to the highway. Although our road to the Bosque is now closed for the lack of access, that walk has never been a picnic. It's either muddy or dusty. Most truck drivers and other wheelers have no mercy for pedestrians. During the summer time (dry season), they eat dust. During the winter (rainy season) the mud is thick and slick. Then better than a year ago our favorite mud hole presented some serious problems for access, of any kind. The attached image is of Dona Inez getting ready to wade out into what I refer to as Lake Maria. I think we were both walking the road that day, although in different directions. I had taken a bad fall on the other side and I was mud from head to toes. Inez and I had a chat before she got going. She was on her way to the mayor's office for some urgency, maybe to request help in opening up the road. I know that she had made many trips to the city for that reason. A few weeks later she was dead from some respiratory illness. The turnout for her "wake" and funeral was overwhelming because she was a very popular and respected person in the region. The bus and entourage of vehicles bringing her body back to the village could not get through Lake Maria. It was still dry enough, they were able to get through the fallow soybean fields to eventually get to Poço Branco.

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