I came to Maré when I was seven years old. I was still little, I don’t know all the details, but I know that the government was tearing down homes and we had to come here. I’m from Rio de Janeiro, I was born in Rocinha, and the move didn’t make much of a difference to me. Each place has its positives and negatives and that’s how it is in the world generally. I studied in the school around here; I finished elementary school but afterwards I dropped out. I didn’t appreciate it – it was just me, not because of anything else. I was young and crazy and so I didn’t care much.
When I began to work it was as a domestic worker in the home of a family. I must have been around 19 years old. After that I worked at a graphic design store, I worked at a health clinic as a receptionist, and I worked from home looking after children. Now I’m working with my carteira assinada taking care of an elderly woman in Leblon. I had already worked with her son while I was a receptionist, and since they needed someone to stay with her they wanted a person of confidence, because it’s difficult to work with elderly people – you have to have patience, you have to be someone who’s trustworthy.
I work there from Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. I do everything for her; when it’s 2 p.m. there’s not anything more to do but I stay with her until 4 p.m. because she doesn’t like to be alone, she lives with her husband but he still works. You know what time I leave there? 4 p.m. And you know what time I get back here? 7 p.m. Then I have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. so I can shower, get ready, and leave by 5 a.m. That’s three hours in traffic – it’s three hours that I can go to the northeast by plane! That’s what really stresses us – it’s not the work, it’s this problem with traffic.
Apart from this I work from home making cakes for parties. I also make pies – coconut, strawberry, pineapple. In spite of the crisis in Brazil people here still pay for parties. I work here, there’s two other women on this street who work making cakes, and thanks to God my sense is that there’s enough for everyone. There’s no problem with competition. We’re friends, we’ll knock on each other’s doors, each one has her own way of doing things. One of them is more professional because she really works making cakes; I don’t, I work outside of Maré during the day and make my cakes from home. If there’s a pie or cake to do during the week I’ll arrive home from work and do it.
I learned to make cakes when I began making them for my daughter when she was young. I didn’t have enough money to pay someone else so I ended up doing it myself. I made chocolate cake, brigadeiro cake, and from there I started to decorate. It’s a good number of years that I’ve been making cake for other people. I didn’t do any advertising, I made a cake for one person and that person would end up liking it and another would come find me. I work for myself, independently, without any fixed commitments; I don’t work to be able to pay my bills. It’s good to work for that elderly woman because that’s where all my guarantees and rights are. This, the cakes, I do it out of love, not for money. It’s a therapy for me, it makes me well.
I’m not taking on that much work currently because I’m having trouble with my spine, but when I do have trouble my daughter helps me though she doesn’t like it. She’s 28 years old. My husband just set up a business working at night at a stand selling drinks, and I’m going to make cakes for him to sell there. He became unemployed, and with the money he received he bought this stand to work so that he didn’t have to stay unemployed; he’s from the northeast and they’re a very hardworking people. I don’t like it but he’s working, he’s trying and I hope it goes well. But I’m not going to stay around there, I’m just going to make the cake and leave it there for him.
I had my daughter with my first husband when I was 24 years old, but I separated from him when I was 28. My current husband is the one who raised her. Her father is a good father, it was me and him that didn’t work out. There are people who complicate things, but whether you like it or not, he’s her father and it’s her right, so he comes to visit her and speak with me. Ever since I separated I never asked him to pay alimony or anything else – I can’t blame him or complain because I never asked him. I don’t know if it was because I was prideful, what it was, but I’m very independent, I’ve always worked. I’m a hard worker, thanks to God, I consider myself a guerreira. I like what I do, I don’t regret anything, and right now, I work for myself and I work for someone else.
For the future you have to have dreams, and my dream is to get together the money I have and buy a store for myself to make cakes and to not have to work more outside of here. It could even be at this stand that my husband opened, because if all goes well then I’ll go there to make my cakes. I think there are some things that I’ve already achieved: I wanted to get married and I got married, and now I do what I want, working with my cakes. I love doing that.
And I hope too that my family is able to realize their dreams. My daughter has her goals – she’s studying to enter university and wants to open a salon – and I believe that she’s going to do it, she’s already doing it. Here in this community I raised my daughter, a girl that thanks to God isn’t on the street, who’s very polite and educated, and I think that with any upbringing what’s important is the education that we give at home. I didn’t have a father, not even in the registry, but I never had a problem with that, I had a marvelous mother who continues to help me a lot, I had an excellent step-father who cared for us very well, I had an older brother who was also a father for me and who gave me a lot of incentive.
Even without studying, if you have a good outlook you’ll do the right things in life. Each person makes his own choices. I’ll see people say, “I couldn’t do it” – no, you didn’t do it because you didn’t try. I’m with the age that I am, 52 years old, and if I want to I can begin to study again, I can take a course or finish high school and go to college. And I certainly believe that a few years from now, I’m going to have a space just for my work with cakes. I intend to have a store, something that’s mine in the future, and I’m not going to give up.
I also hope for a better country, less corrupt and more honest, because our country is going through a very difficult moment. I tell people that I don’t know who to vote for because it’s hard to find someone of character to vote for today, the person who we least expect will deceive us in politics. But we need to have a little bit of hope that things can get a little better – we have to believe, no?
6 thoughts on “Cristina”
A VERY GOOD STORY! Cristina is interesting, full-blooded, independent—and open and friendly. Hope you are very well, Sascha! All best from Lewis and me, ——Ava
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I am always to riveted by your posts. I would love if you added something to the post about how/where you met the person and why they wanted to tell their story. A post script might be better than an intro so you hear their voice first. I hope you are well and not disrupted in your work by the olympics. Regards from is all.
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Thanks Jennifer!! I’ve been thinking about that issue for a while, so it’s great to hear your input. And I’m glad that you’re liking the posts! Please send my regards to everyone.
Sascha–Here you have given us another fascinating portrait that lets us travel to another world, another reality. We find admirable attributes to inspire us, such as perseverance and creativity, and dreams that sound familiar, as if they are strangely our own in spite of geographic and economic distance.
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Thanks very much for the comment, Kathy! Please keep reading 🙂
Cristina is such an ambitious person, a real entrepreneur! Very interesting article. Lovely cakes, too!