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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

Pajelanças, Traditions and Prejudices

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

It was March 2006, in the maternity ward of Casa de Saúde São José, in the Humaitá neighborhood, in the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, a grandson had just been born. A first grandchild! The maternal grandfather arrives for a first look and is equipped with a bottle of Scottish “cardhú” malt and a box of cigars that he had bought for the event, just as he had done about 20 years before with a first son. He imitated what his father had told him he had done, following the legend, 59 years had gone by. Legends are like witchcraft, sympathies: they don't contradict each other. Better not argue with the beyond. Galician saying: “the sweet ones? non o creo pero haber hainas”. The father was from Galicia. Bahiano, near Galhego. is an apprentice macumbeiro....


So, he was there to follow the traditions: male newborns have to take a puff of cigar smoke in the face, so that afterwards there is no doubt about the gender they are going to adopt. Galician people anticipated this novelty by centuries, although it seems that many Galician parents forgot about this tradition or didn't believe in it or didn't give the right puff... or it's just a legend. But, returning to motherhood, the grandfather, to everyone's perplexity, in the middle of 2006, of political correctness, condemnation of tobacco, and for that very reason, half hidden, lights his cigar and, by surprise, takes a precise puff on his face of child... Big scandal! Father, mother, uncles, grandmother, run in defense of the baby, voices are raised, in short, an “auê” that results in abruptly opening not only the window but also the door of the room where the mother and the baby “rested”, to ventilate and expel the grandfather. The door led to a very clean corridor (just like that, with two I's for being so clean and fragrant with the smell of a hospital). At that moment, in addition to the commotion and the people, the smell of cigars spreads across the floor as if to advertise shamanism, ignorant witchcraft (according to the opposition) and traditions (according to the supporters).


The doors of the other apartments begin to open, people don't know what to say, they complain, they order a cigar, a whiskey, they say congratulations, in short, a crowd is created, some many against, others few, the favor of the first grandfather. In the midst of all, there is a loud voice from the father of the newborn in the next room, very angry with the leakage of tobacco breath that reached his nostrils, the woman and his little son, also newborn and still so fragile! The first grandfather looks at the notice on the door of the loud voice's father's room, with a grim face, and sees an embroidered notice, full of fru-frus: “Welcome Raul”. Then he puts his arm on the big voice's shoulder and tells the story of the reason for the puff in a low voice. The one with the big voice makes an “I understand” face, calms down, secretly accepts a cigar and a glass of malt...... Then, about 10 minutes later, he comes to ask for the lighter from the first grandfather: _ Lend fast and come here to help while the mother went to the bathroom. The reasons for the “cigarette” circulated in small mouths, with looks of understanding and complicity from all the rooms, the doctors and nurses. The cigar box was quickly emptied and no more was said about it.


Miguel Fernández y Fernández, engineer and columnist,

Written Aug 2021 regarding a new grandchild. (2,950 rings).

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