Looking for Licaõ
I am finally back in Belo Horizonte. it's some 18 months since I was last here. Patricia and Murilo keep in contact with the street kids (this could be a strange term for them as most are in their thirties now, but that's what they call themselves). Yesterday, we set out to look for them. We started at the soup kitchen they generally visit on a Saturday. It wasn't busy but we did see Reginaldo, Licaõs' uncle. He confirmed that most people are still around here and there but that Miguel has been in hospital since he was run over by a motorbike. He asks for a camera.
Next we went to the shopping street in Gameleira where Sandro used to live. The last time we saw him he was in a terrible state but thankfully, there he was, sitting outside the same moderately smart ladies clothes shop, not exactly enhancing their window display. He's not a pretty sight, battered, bruised, fat lipped, bleeding gummed and his clothes are filthy. He can't use his left arm or hand at all and struggles to walk, but in the scheme of things he is quite organised, with a shopping trolley to wheel his stuff around. The people around him, the ladies in the clothes shop, the guys in the bar next door, obviously know Sandro well and they must look out for him, otherwise we can't imagine he could be there. He wants a camera and a pair of shorts. The camera we have and luckily we have one with autowind because with one hand he can't manually wind the film on.
There are no kids under the Gameleira tree and there's obviously been a big clean up. No litter means no kids. A guy washing cars there says there haven't been kids there for a while. We drive on and soon see a group under some trees on a patch of land encircled by busy traffic. We park the car and look for a way to get across the roads. It's no wonder so many of them get hit, stoned on crack or thinner, weaving their way through this traffic. We find Preto, Silvana and Vinicius sitting on a sofa under a tree and numerous other boys and girls are there too. They have a couple of small tables, some broken office chairs, a tatty Brazilian flag flutters from a branch. They are relaxing and really pleased to see us and Patricia digs out some photographs to give them. Preto is better than before, much more calm. He is listening to the Brazil v Mexico Olympic football final on a tiny transistor radio. They are losing 1 - 0. Another boy is wearing a cool looking pink headphone radio but it doesn't work. Vinicius is also in better shape. The last time we saw him he was on crutches after being run over. Silvana is happy and pregnant and we leave them with three cameras. The others want to play as well and we agree to bring them cameras today.
Next we go looking for Patricia and Licaõ. The last year has been traumatic for them. They had a baby last April and they were allocated an apartment from a government social programme. They had a cooker and a fridge, Patricia and Murilo got them an old TV and a double bed and other bits and pieces. It was an exciting moment, full of promise, but it didn't last. The baby got sick and tragically died and it wasn't long before they were back on the streets. Worse, they then lost their other two kids into the care system. First, we find a group that includes Celia, Buiu and Sueli, none of them photographers but we have known them for years. They are friendly but anxious to start smoking crack so we leave them to get on with it. Patricia is not far away, living in quite an organised place under a road bridge and she's upset a) because her leg got burned in a fire and b) Licaõ has disappeared and she is worried he might be with another girl. She gets in the car and we go looking for him. We drive around and then she takes us to a pleasant stretch of wasteland with trees and bushes and lots of pretty lilac flowers and a nice elevated view. There are quite a few street people here and there but not Licaõ and nobody has seen him. Eventually, Patricia asks us to take her to her mothers house. She packs two bags with her belongings and leaves the street. Her mother collapsed last week and is back from hospital, sick in bed, unable to walk at the moment. We leave her a few $R and Patricia takes a camera. We head for home.