Forget the reoccurring stereotypes about the suburbs of Recife. Swelling populations, lack of planning, sanitation, and sidewalks aren’t enough when taking in the Brejo da Guabiraba. If you really want a cliche, here’s another: the green lungs of the Zona Norte of the city is there.
Limited by the Alto do Refúgio, Dois Unidos, Cajueiro and Beberibe, where the nearby Avenida Norte thickens the flow of cars from BR-101, there are friendly grocery stores, an old bakery, housing annexes and rooftops in excess. But mostly, there are plants. Many of them. In the neighborhood, there are about ten small farms that act as seedbeds. Most plants sold in the elegant nurseries of the city come from there.
“When I came to live here, it was just bushes. There was no road. We’d come home on foot or on a donkey,” recalls Mrs. Lila, 70 years old, the sweet and very popular widow of the man who started the cultivation of ornamental plants in the neighborhood.
After giving up on the Poço da Panela that watered his plants when it rained, Mr. Severino dos Santos moved into that unexplored Guabiraba marsh with the woman from Paraiba who he’d met in Pina and would soon become his wife. They had ten children and spent more than three decades caring for seeds, seedlings and fertilizers until he died about 15 years ago from problems arising from diabetes.
“There was a time when he was so well known that even Mesbla (a famous, now-defunct dept. store chain) would come to buy his plants! He also rented plants for parties. But he didn’t like it because they often came back in bad shape,” she says, beside her nephew, Geraldo Lima, who helps with the chores.
“I came here seven years ago and never left. I can think of no better place to live in Recife. With my uncle, I learned everything: land deals, knowing what type of soil goes with each plant,” says Gerard, now 44 years old and dedicated to another very common activity in the marsh. As an immediate consequence of the vegetable trade, he prepares handcrafted vases from cement. Of various sizes and prices, they’re far more affordable than in retail stores around Recife.
“Some neighbors saw Severino selling plants and had the idea of doing it as well,” recalls Mrs. Lila. “Mr. Biu (a nickname for Severino) was a master, a teacher, and everyone learned what they know about plants from him,” said a neighbor and also plant-seller Cid Euclides da Silva, 45, a son of another Biu, Severino da Silva, who is also famous in the neighborhood for being one of the pioneers in vegetation. “Oxe, people came from all over. Even agronomists from the university wanted to talk to Severino dos Santos. He would put a bit of dirt on the table and would explain it bit by bit.” – Source (in PT)