Sidewalk Memories

Sidewalk Memories

Where  the much frequented Avenidas Santo Amaro and Padre Antonio Jose dos Santos in São Paulo cross paths, normally nobody has time to pause during daytime. The green and red phases of the traffic lights are unusually short and in case of the slightest delay the horns of the people on the go are roaring. To meander through this pulsating traffic jungle by foot appears to be a suicide attempt, even for a young and healthy athlete. The fact that an older gentleman on crutches successfully accomplishes this day in and day out is so exceptional that he has become a local celebrity. Everybody in the neighborhood knows him, Lourival, who is 67 years old and worked as a vendor for his entire life.

(São Paulo)

His big smiles distracts from the rest of his aging appearance. The face is marked by furrows, he does not understand anything without his hearing aid and if it were not for the two crutches he could not place one foot in front of the other. But this is exactly what he achieves on every single day. He gets up at five in the morning in order to start working punctually, by half past six at the latest.

Now, during the World Cup, Lourival’s business is booming. He is a street vendor. His vendor’s tray, a type of gym bag which he is carrying around his neck, features a selection of exactly three products: bubble gums, a Brazil cover for the external mirrors of a car and Brazilian flags which can be attached to a car as well. His regular place is on the side walk. When the traffic flows, he talks to passers-by. Once the cars stop, however, he slides through them in an inimitable way and tries to sell his goods.

Roughly 50 Reais (equals 16 Euros) is his daily turnover, within in twelve hours of work. »During the World Cup I earn around twenty percent more than on a usual day«, he says. »But that does not compensate what the World Cup took away from me and the other people of Brazil. The health care in our country is disastrous. But instead of building more hospitals, the elites put up stadiums. Lourival suffers from cancer for several years now. Since more than six months he is waiting for the next doctor’s appointment, which he urgently needs.

The only distractions from his disease are his work and the countless daily conversations. He likes to talk about football, too. »I think that Brazil is going to be World Champion but I don’t hope so« he says. »Because if Brazil wins nothing is going to change in this country. Germany should rather win the title. They have a real team, eleven good players. Not just only one like Portugal with Ronaldo, Argentina with Messi or even Brazil with Neymar.«

Lourival has spent his entire life in São Paulo, he has never been to Rio de Janeiro. If he will be able to fulfil his biggest dream, to walk along the Copacabana for once, seems more than questionable. In any case, he would not forget one day at the beginning of the World Cup: »One man bought all of my Brazilian flags. I then asked him what he wanted to do with these. He responded that he would burn them, all of them.«


Translation: Heinrich Zozmann