Planting seeds works: an example of solidarity in Gostoso

Assentamento em Alagoas

Traveling the Northeast widens our horizon because we integrate every day more with nature. At the same time, we die a little every day as we witness the generalized destruction we humans cause as a race to the joint home and to one another.

The poverty and the destruction of life we have seen till so far removed the fine film from our eyes that allowed us to pretend that nothing is wrong, that, in fact, everything is just great, so long as in our micro-lives everything is great. Removing this film hurts and it is the “pain to see” that leaves the path hazy. We feel very little and incapable to make a difference.

Like a miracle, it was just in this moment that we arrived in São Miguel do Gostoso and were presented with lessons of loving the other and of citizenship. What we learned in Gostoso filled our hearts with hope and showed us a way: we need to transform this pain into action and create/enlarge the net of solidarity. Small actions do make a difference and to plant seeds is worth it.

In Gostoso we got to know a network of ecological, social and cultural initiatives that seeded the basis for a youth of conscious citizens. Talking to young adults between 20 and 30, we discovered a bit of the history of the town and the projects that gave the young gostosenses pride in their culture and made them socially active citizens. We were inspired by their ideas and hope to have the energy to create similar initiatives as the ones they have been a part of and are currently replicating.

Neném de Lala

We were told that several years ago Gostoso was very different. There were less people and tourism had not yet gotten there. During this time, Anne Raboud and Neném de Lala started the work that would later give them the titles of Secretary of Trash and Secretary of Culture respectively. It was also then that the population started fighting for their independence from the municipality of Touros, which was granted in 1993.

Anne Raboud is a swiss nurse that lives in town for more than 20 years. Today she lives a part of the year in Brazil and the rest in Switzerland. We did not have the opportunity to meet her, but heard a lot about the work developed by her. We heard her story through Luzia, a 23 year old educator from Gostoso who works directly with Anne.

Luzia told us that when she arrived in town, Anne worked with the community to introduce trash management and to promote sports activities. With money collected in Europe she promoted activities aimed at cleaning the town, as for example organizing the community to clean the beach, building septic tanks for sewage treatment, and promoting collective trash removal. These resources were also used to support the local football teams whose members in return helped clean the town. Gostoso is, indeed, cleaner and better taken care of than many of the other towns we have visited in the Northeast.

Capoeira - ASCDEG

In 2001, the activities put into action with the resources raised by Anne Raboud were institutionalized in the NGO ASCDEG (Socio-Cultural and Sport Association of Gostoso). Today, ASCDEG receives support from the municipality, the state and federal governments, and from some local entrepreneurs. Luzia works there for more than 6 years and is instrumental in implementing projects on urban cleanliness, alphabetization and sports activities (football and capoeira) for children and adolescents.

Besides taking care of trash, we realized that people in Gostoso are very concerned to revive local popular culture. And in Gostoso, whenever the topic is culture, the name of Neném de Lala appears. The town gave her the title of Secretary of Culture because she had an important role in reviving the tradition of the Bois de Reis, a folkloric dance that had been practiced locally. She helped restore the local Bois de Reis group and to pass on this tradition to the younger generations. The group still exists and continues to animate the population.

Espaço TEAR

The Espaço TEAR was created in 2007 upon initiative of Father Fabio (one of the reasons for our visit) brought new wind to the dissemination and revival of popular culture in Gostoso. According to Dominque, one of the coordinators of the program, the project helped in creating a local theater group, and offers cultural workshops, such as workshops to learn Bois de Reis, Pastoril, music, dance, and others, in addition to some professional courses. TEAR has an important role in educating through the arts and to transmit the local popular culture to new generations.

We asked Ari, a student of information technology and coordinator of the Espaço TEAR, if he thinks that social programs focused on culture and sports were efficient. He did not hesitate:

Cultural activities and sports are alternatives to drugs and alcohol for kids and adolescents. Both are important instruments to promote citizenship, because in addition to educating, they are activities the youth is interested in.

Oficina Jornalismo

We had the opportunity to participate in a journalism workshop of TEAR on Saturday morning. There we met Luzia, Ari, and other young people who are multipliers of social action. One of them, Tiquinho, is 26 years old and the current coordinator of the Program for the Eradication of Child Labor (PETI) of the federal government.

Through Tiquinho we met a third generation of projects. Many young people have profited from the opportunities offered by programs aimed at the creation of active citizens by the Gostoso’s community and the federal government (especially a program called Young Agent or Pro-Youth). These young people today create their own multiplier initiatives. Together with a group of young adults, Tiquinho is a member of the Association for the Environment, Culture and Social Justice (AMJUS).

AMJUS undertakes research and educational activities in the municipality. In October of last year they put together a conference that brought together more than 130 adolescents and dealt with topics such as reproductive health and drugs, among others. Currently, they are developing research with 500 teenagers to develop profiles of the young gostosenses. They also work with the older inhabitants of Gostoso to revive and register other aspects of the popular culture of the municipality that are not yet on the program of the Espaço TEAR.

After several days in Gostoso, we had the feeling that the more we dig, the more initiatives like these we would find. At least among the young adults we met in Gostoso, the rule is one of cooperation to improve the lives of the town’s whole population. They have learned from the recent conquest of independence of their town that any dream can come true. They worked hard to educate themselves in the universities of the region. Today, they see it as natural to ensure that the projects that had widened their horizons are continued in a way that amplifies them for the common good of the community. There are no doubts for us that planting seeds besides being gostoso (“delicious”), is worth it.


3 comments to Planting seeds works: an example of solidarity in Gostoso

  • Anja

    I am truly admiring what you are doing!! it's most be such an exciting, also exhausting and for sure inspiring experience for you – being out there and seeing global change, sustainability project and the good and bad of mankind exploration first hand and without any journalistic interpretation. so much real life, so little scientific blabla…. how long will you be on the road? rabea and I really thought about coming down to Brazil for a while and support you in your project. whatever it will be – I am sure it will be a good one!

  • thanks for the encouraging comment – you are right – it is funny how traveling can become exhausting at times, but we are still loving it!!!

    yes, come down!!! you can help us figure things out 🙂 there are 3 more weeks left of the trip. we are now in Recife and will continue to Salvador, then south of Bahia…


  • […] São Miguel do Gostoso (Rio Grande do Norte), local folks in their twenties and thirties are leading several NGOs to ensure that the touristic […]

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