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Our first stop on the trip: the community of Alto Santa Maria. This is a Pomeranian community settled on the slopes of the hills in the municipality of Santa Maria de Jetibá, in the state of Espírito Santo.

Approximately 1500 people live here, with an estimated 90% being of Pomeranian descent, and they cling tightly to their roots. With Pomerania going through many difficulties, the immigration to Brazil intensified in 1860, as Pomeranians arrived with the intention of owning land. After docking in the port of Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government would decided where they went, giving them small plots of land measured by eyesight. In addition to Rio Grande do Sul, Espírito Santo received many Pomeranian immigrants. This state, once kept uninhabited in order to block the land route to the state of Minas Gerais from the sea, at this time began pursuing its own development.

Almost everyone in Alto Santa Maria speaks Pomeranian. Portuguese is taught as a second language, so it’s hard to find children under the age of three that know how to speak it.

The older generation also does not speak Portuguese, but because they’re from a generation that couldn’t go to school. Not because there wasn’t a school back then, but because with president Getúlio Vargas’ nationalist policies, German and Pomeranian was prohibited from being spoken in schools. Since the teachers here at the time only spoke German and Pomeranian, it was difficult to find someone who could teach classes in Portuguese to those kids, who are now the generation over 70 years old.

The green and blue eyes of the Pomeranians are, generally speaking, steady and silent, and don’t readily reveal the facts and stories of their daily lives. Here we had to adjust to hearing only a few words.

They express themselves mainly through persistent gestures. Kneeling over the ground as they work, tending to their vegetable gardens, they don’t raise their eyes to look at the wilderness. They don’t speak of exhaustion, lack of resources, or weather conditions as a source of desolation. They keep on with the arduous, heavy and, at the same time, delicate and almost artisanal work of planting and harvesting without big machines. They kneel silently, planting seed by seed, pulling weeds and harvesting greens.

The Pomeranians of Alto Santa Maria are smallholder farmers who tirelessly plant cabbage, coffee, lettuce, beets, yams, potato, corn, spinach, collards, radish, eggplant, tomato, manioc, carrots, string beans, tomato, scallions, parsley, and much more.

Every house is surrounded by a great garden where all the family members work together. Working as family increases their common bonds.

They’re the owners of their land and in most cases it’s the family members who do all the work. Every morning, everyone heads out to the farm, except for the school-aged children. It’s very common, for example, to see babies in wooden carriages, like a cradle, next to their parents as they work on the farm. They play and sleep in there and, when they want, they ask to come out and play in the dirt for a little while.


The slightly older ones get their own hoe and imitate the gestures they see so closely.


Once a week, they go to the cities of Vitória and Colatina to sell their produce at farmer’s markets. Most of them make organic produce and are proud of it. A short trip along the roads that cut through the community reveals a landscape with countless shades of green on the farms and a variety of colors painted on the walls of the houses. Yellow, blue, red, green, pink, with matching flowers and delicately built ornaments they make themselves. Everything finely decorated and extremely organized.


Indeed, organization is the operative word, just look at the kitchens and stoves. The tiled, wood-burning stove has a shallow space inside for the fire and a top that covers the slot for the wood, keeping the soot from spreading around the pots.




Text and photos: Renata Meirelles

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