Mexico Brazil England
in Tarahumara country
128 pages
ed. L'Harmattan

Who's looking after your cornfield?

The next day we left for the Sierra in search of Elena's house (I say 'in search of' because the only indication she had given me was "Arriba" (top))
It is necessary to get used to these approximate indications to find various places. In this region, the river is the only point of reference, high up, low down, or in relief, on the 'mesa' (plateau) or in the valley. The first searches are difficult. After walking for two days in all directions, we finished by noticing a large stone, tiled-roof (tablettas), house. An Indian confirmed that it was, in fact, where Elena lived. We were fifty metres from it and stood astounded before this absolutely magnificent house. There were children playing around it and when they saw us they ran inside. We stopped and sat down, taking care not to turn our faces towards the house, even a look must not disturb. A long red skirt slid from the room the children had entered. Elena eventually came out, looked in our direction, then attended to the fire. A few seconds later, she turned to us and signalled us to approach. She seemed at once intrigued and amused to see us there. We were very intimidated, we talked about this and that, about the rain but certainly not the fine weather. She showed us the cornfield in front of her, it was very big. Suddenly she asked: "Quien cuida su maïs?" (Who is looking after your corn while you are here?)
Taken aback at first, I finished by replying that it was our parents who took care of it. It was a lie, of course, but how could we possibly explain that we survived without corn? For the Tarahumara, corn is essential, it represents life…

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" Life-Size Extravaganza"
144 pages


Beneath the aeroplane raced past, faster and faster, a criss-cross of fields and streets. The haze from the engines disintegrated, the ground approached, anxiety increased, the impact, the vibration of the brakes… at last, the redeeming landing. The Varig hostess moved, the door opened, and there we were, at last, in Juazeiro do Norte.
It's amusing to recount all that, but the truth is that we came by road, and what a road! The rainy season, after nine years of drought, had broken up the tarmac between Salvador and Juazeiro do Norte. As we left Feira de Santana, a Luiz Gonzaga song spluttered from the radio cassette player, we followed the frevo rhythm easily, the bus took care of that. The driver had only a millimetre to decrease, never mind about the percentage. Skins and smells intermingled.
A policeman, whose revolver had just rubbed against my cheek, remained standing in order to separate me from a family of Gypsies with dishevelled hair, in rags, howling. Witnesses of this intrusion, the Brazilians, contorted by the cry of the gypsy misery, commented under their breath. They felt sorry for those poorer than themselves, though they were, in fact, destitute. The policeman, offended, thought it best to keep me away from a too-violent reality.
The North-East is a perpetual aggression of people born of the cruelty of destiny, children, men and women lost along the way or in the streets. Their only hope is to use their handicap to survive. At Recife, groups of children came to hotel doors. A real 'courtyard of miracles'! It's no longer possible to respond to each one. With heavy hearts, the rich head, anyway, for the daily restaurant. But why are the portions served such good value and so copious? Where do the leftovers go? In the time of the Army, a journalist had started a scandal by writing an article on the Generals' rubbish bin where whole meals were found intact! Begging children often come to share the leftovers.
Do they act under the influence of a leader, of their family, or individually? Do we have the right to ask these questions when we understand full well the force of history, the force of everyday life? Misery is there, one feels incapable of remedying it. The problem is too great: out of 150 million inhabitants, half are under fifteen… Education is certainly the greatest deficiency in Brazil, as it is in the whole of Latin America…

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Lights Over England
160 pages
100 photos couleur
ed. Barthélémy


Did you say "England"?

I say! Which country, which people are we talking about? The English themselves cultivate a fairly vague attitude towards this, using no less than six names to designate their territory, each one with a nuance which is important to understand for fear of misunderstanding.
The British Isles is everything that is not the Continent. Take away independent Ireland (which it does every time we ask its opinion) and you have the United Kingdom (or, more often, the U.K.), land of the subjects of Her Gracious Majesty and which, as its complete name indicates, is made up of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Take away the latter, then, and you are left with Great Britain, which its inhabitants, however, more often call, simply, Britain (or, more nobly, Britannia), for Armorique, refuge for ancient Bretons, should, in fact, be called "Little Britain" and not simply "Britain". This does not stop the inhabitants of the "Great" to call themselves indifferently British (in the political sense) or Britons (in the ethnic sense), with a vagueness which annoys the Scots who would like to be recognised as British but certainly not Britons because they are, in fact, (as their name of Scots (pirates) badly indicates) a mixture of Celtic Irish and pre-Celtic Pictes. We take away again, therefore, Scotland, so as to keep only England, land of the English, without managing to have everyone in agreement because the Welsh (who are authentic Britons, as the Bretons of France, but no longer use this word because the English took it away) and the Cornish (who are English but prefer to be Bretons) although they did finish by admitting they are part of England but do not think of themselves as English which is the reason why the English, the real-and-proud-to-be, use preferably, in moments of exaltation, a sixth name, Albion, the meaning of which nobody knows ('white' as the chalk cliffs?) but at least nobody disagrees with them about this…

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