Nothing chills like knowing what you want can only be achieved if you are excluded.
‘Our town is prettier, more organised and far more harmonious than if men were in charge. When problems or disputes arise, we resolve them in a woman’s way, trying to find consensus rather than conflict. We share everything, even the land we work on. Nobody competes with anyone here. It’s all for one and one for all.’
The town being described is Noiva do Cordeiro. Translated to English that means Bride of the Lamb. In Portuguese, like Spanish, the same word means girlfriend and bride. This must cause confusion but I am old and I keep my distance.
Noiva do Cordeiro is 50 miles from Belo Horizonte in the middle of Brazil. The founder of the town was a woman. Maria Senhorinha de Lima settled there in 1891 after being branded an adulteress in her own town. There is a tradition of strong independent minded women.
The town has some men but they leave in the week to work elsewhere. This arrangement also exists in certain towns on the north western coast of Spain and it has produced similar results, communities managed by women. But in Noiva do Cordeiro the women also form a majority of the residents. The men are scarce.
Nelma Fernandes, said, ‘Here the only men we single girls meet are either married or related to us, everyone is a cousin. I haven’t kissed a man for a long time. We’d like to get to know men who would leave their own lives and come to be a part of ours. But first they need to agree to do what we say and live according to our own rules.’
The rules are attractive and so are the women. Noiva do Cordeiro is renowned for the beauty of the women.
Rosalee Fernandes, a cousin of Nelma, said, ‘The whole town came together recently to help buy a huge widescreen TV for our community centre so we can all watch soap operas together. And there is always time to stop and gossip, try on each other’s clothes and do each other’s hair and nails.’
I am not a fan of soap opera but my nails definitely need doing. If that sounds like a sneer, it is not. This week 13 men filmed themselves escaping from a Brazilian prison. The video footage suggests a cynical narcissism beyond women or at least the women of Noiva do Cordeiro. In another prison, inmates protested against the conditions inside the prison. Four prisoners died, two were beheaded. The man who was found alive in a Brazilian morgue two hours after he was put in a body bag was luckier. Compared to the world of men and the institutional competitiveness that may or may not be authentic, the shared widescreen TV looks increasingly attractive, especially when there are no men to hog the remote control.
Rosalee Fernandes explains, ‘We have God in our hearts.’
Call it what you want, Rosalee, but whatever it is it inspires me.
Howard Jackson has had 3 books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His next book is a compilation of horror stories and is called Nightmares Ahead. It will be available in 2015.
If you want to read more about Brazil click here.