“A Young Warrior” - by Oscar Niemeyer
That morning in 1984 brought a young man of around thirty to our office, coming from the borders of the States of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, with an Arabian surname that justified the bent profile, tawny skin, thick beard, and who spoke which such enthusiasm about the subject that brought him there that I pictured for a few moments, an anti-imperialist warrior, defending his origins in the Middle-East.
I had no idea what weapons this lad had, but in all certainty he was a revolutionary. While we were in the total silence of defensive analysis, he exuded visionary daring, shooting with the voluptuousness of a machine gun the essence of a cowboy culture, surrounded by cattle, brought by conquerors who knows from where. From the Mongolian plains or the African nomads of the desert.
This lad wished that the Brazilian country culture, disseminated on the backs of horses and mules all over Brazil, should have a sanctuary in Barretos, to where descendants and supporters would follow in pilgrimages, just as the Islamic people around the world follow towards Meca.
We agreed on the density of the project, anticipating a whole universe of chores and customs, flavours, colours and melodies, preserved as of a certain moment in time for posterity. That is what monuments are for. And thus, we proudly signed below on the implementation of the Parque do Peão in Barretos.
Twenty five years ago his fellows recognized the importance of the project. For the future. But he wanted the future to be then and there. Today, I have news that the Park is looking for ways out of obsolescence, and that the original 240 acres, together with the adjacent nature reserves already add up to more than 780 acres.
And twenty five years later, we have heard that the Park has been named “Mussa Calil Neto”, after that lad that convinced us to do the project in 1984. But this story doesn´t end here.
Not content at just winning over our architecture office, he began to treat us with small gifts which we only accepted as we could see the purity behind his intentions; to protect our heads from the scalding sun of Guanabara with the lightness of a “|Montecristo” hat, or to protect us from rheumatic evils, as those from the interior of Brazil believe, with the fruit known as “leather hat”.
This native of Barretos became friends with my grandson, won over our familiarity, and in the celebration of our Centenary, invaded our house with an authentic cowboy entourage, cooking for our friends as they used to on the cattle drives. It was the launching of the “Centennial Cavalcade”.
Organized with great care by our grandson Carlos Oscar, this undertaking was a very special gift, and with the collaboration of several editors, he distributed books throughout the small towns of the route that started in Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, arriving in Barretos in the middle of the Barretos Rodeo, inside the Park that began with that visit in 1984.in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the capital´s foundation, always answering to my request to deliver books to the people along the way.
And my grandson didn´t stop at this first undertaking. He is organizing a ride in 2009 starting in Rio and ending in the Pampulha complex, our first work of national importance. And for 2010, he has already announced that he´s going to organize another ride from Pampulha to Brasília, in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the capital´s foundation, always answering to my request to deliver books to the people along the way.
We knew of the wholeness of character of the friend we gained twenty five years ago, of his fight in support of the needy, and of his ethical posture towards national politics.
A lover of good books, he learnt that no one should bow down to a superior, but that authority should come only from virtue, and he also learnt to distinguish the ethical from those who steer far away from righteousness.
A companion of Lula´s, frequent visitor of the Planalto ( a euphemism for Brasilia), he told us during our last chat that “Brazil overcomes the rocks that appear along the way, leaving behind the growing inequalities, returning what was acquired through evil means, doing what we can for others and proving to the world that the Cavalgada do Socialismo (Cavalcade for Socialism) undertaken by Luis Carlos Prestes is still going strong”.
After 100 years, we get used to seeing time go by a little slower than what we used dream of when we were young and we know that some water will still needs to pass under the bridge to be purified. But as we hear resounding shouts coming from the interior of the country, we realize that our margins are no longer as placid as before, and neither do we sleep in a splendid cradle
I wrote on the sketch I gave to our friend from Barretos. “To Mussa, old pal: The people have already gone to the streets, thousands all over the place. It’s a protest against this hateful war with which Bush is trying to set the world on fire”. A protest as vehement as the reception that was given with rotten eggs by the Americans, on the second occupancy of the White House, by the President who was elected with a smell of fraud and Iraqi genocide.
Together with the sketch given to Mussa, we also insisted on sending him sent a box of cigars given to us by Fidel. He deserves it. And he knows that our revolution doesn´t only mean the search for life and freedom, but the search for knowledge and sharing, always placing these precepts in the humanization of what he achieves.
It has been three decades of visits and friendly conversations, Mussa has always been the same, he always maintains the vision of a socialist warrior, and by knowing solidarity and generosity, he is committed to the virtue of modifying our undignified and unfair world.
I hope he also makes it past 101 so he can still give a lot of himself to his people in the public life he has embraced with a good performance, answering to our summons.
Rio de Janeiro, March 4th 2009 – Oscar Niemeyer