No One Takes Culture

Friday, 11:30am, the Botafogo metro exit, in Rio de Janeiro. I start talking with Ramundo. He’s not wearing a shirt, has a can in his hand and a cap on his head.

“Are all these books yours?

– Yes

– Where do they come from?

– Some we buy, some people give to us. There’s this one woman who gives some to me. I go and pick them up at her house. I have her number.

– And do a lot of people buy them?

– A lot!

– And where do you store these books after?

– Here. I live here (he points to the blue tarp fastened to a post where another man is still asleep).

– And do you read these books?

– Some I do, yes.

– What do you recommend I take?

– (He looks away to think) I like war stories.

– War?

– Yes. Of past wars.

– Do you have one I could read?

– …”

He doesn’t answer.

– « And where are you from?

–  From Ceara*. But I like the city. I have everything here.

– But do you pay the space to sell here?

– No. I just put the books out.

– And no one bothers you?

– No. Sometimes there’s a [police] truck that comes. But most of the time, they leave us alone.

– When they do come, do they take your books away?

– No. They just ask us to wrap it up. (He smiles) No one takes culture!”

* Region in the North-East of Brazil, about 1000 km away from Rio.

Author: A French citizen of 35, I’ve been living in Rio, in the Botafogo neighborhood, for the past two years. Street vendors are everywhere and this eclectic book stand on the sidewalk intrigues me every time I walk by.

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