The Crying Man and the Machete

Henrietta Conrad - Brazil


March 7, 2012

I was having trouble figuring out exactly what was going on. There was a blubbering man with tears streaming down his face and my host dad sitting on a stool, determinedly looking straight ahead with arms stubbornly crossed. My host dad owns a burraca in front of the house, a tiny convenient store/pit stop, which tends to be one of the three’ happening’ spots in the tiny, rural community. Contrary to my preferred company, I privately find my host dad to be quite old-fashioned and in my opinion he always thinks he is right about everything, yet it was on this day that he had earned my deepest respect because regardless of outside forces my host dad has an impressively resolute moral compass.

“I want my machete!” the crying man stammered. His words slurred together and he leaned against the wall as the alcohol took its toll.

No response.

“Give me my machete!”

“No.” Was the succinct and resolute reply from my host dad.

“But, but, that woman cussed me out, she threw my stuff on the floor, and said she was leaving me. In my house, In my house! I’m going to cut her with my machete…I’ll do it. ”

“Go home and sleep. Relax a little bit. Tomorrow I will return your machete.”

“Give me my machete!”

No. Give me! No. Give me! No.

“Go home. Look, you are my friend and I don’t want to fight you but if you don’t give this up we will fight,” my host dad said calmly. And so the man went home.

Kilometer Twenty-five is the name of my community. It is located on the 25th Kilometer on a dirt road from the nearest town. Given the harsh road conditions with are often exacerbated by the copious amounts of rain, the lack of precious good or banks, and that the police don’t give much thought to the “going-ons” of the poor farmland folk, the members of the community have to depend heavily on each other for protection from outsiders and, if the situation calls for it, for member to correct the moral transgressions of other members (notwithstanding that there is something to be said about being nosey and bossy). I’ve observed that this is one of the most sacred, implicit codes of living in a small community and like my host dad there will always be those elders who put everyone else in check for the physical safety and sanity of all.

Henrietta Conrad