Small book of distracted lines and an obituary

Wassily Kandinsky, Two in One, 1933.


Afterword to the new edition of Júlio Ambrozio's book

When passing through São João del-Rei for the first time, in 1977, on my way to an open-air concert by Milton Nascimento in Três Pontas, I had no idea that I would come to work in this city crossed by a stream with wide grassy banks – an image that remained with me at that time. trip.

It also didn't occur to me that this would happen when, seven years later, Tancredo Neves, from Santos, became the opposition candidate in the indirect election for the Presidency of the Republic, after the amendment that proposed a direct vote for president was defeated in the National Congress. – when I was temporarily suspended from working on a Petropolitan radio station for “failing to comply with regulations regarding the dissemination of prohibited news” regarding the Diretas Já vote.

It was only in mid-1985, after a 45-day bus trip through five states, that I decided to try to practice journalism in São João, attracted by the city's recent projection due to the death of Tancredo, the president who had not been inaugurated. At the time, I saw the local need for a newspaper that was more in tune with the socio-political and economic changes that were taking place in the country.

The opportunity to make the weekly São João Del Rey newspaper It came about through the hands of a Sanjoan friend from my university days, engineer Dario Giacomo Bassi, who introduced me to Walter Luís Baccarini, a doctor and businessman with social concerns. Stimulated by the winds of political openness, he was willing to cover the printing costs in the initial months, without ever interfering in the editorial line, demonstrating the cultivation of a unique ethic. Without Walter Luís Baccarini, who passed away in 2016, none of this story would have happened.

In the effort to get the project off the ground, Fernando Simões Coelho, from a family of journalists, and Geraldo Demeralino Sabino, an agricultural engineer who liked to draw, were pioneers with me. We printed the newspaper in Juiz de Fora, in the old Esdeva printing plant, belonging to Tribune of Mines, at the top of Halfeld Street, in the city center. On the first trip, we left São João on the six o'clock bus and arrived at 9:30 am at Juizforana bus station, the old one, also in the Center. We stopped at the diner for coffee and I ordered a dream instead of bread and butter. Fernando, in charge of finances, said: “Dreams are luxury; That’s how we got off to a bad start.”

To give shape to the dream of an independent newspaper, we set up a small newsroom on Rua Luís Baccarini, in the center of São Paulo, with tables, chairs and typewriters purchased at a cheap price from the company that had completed, in 1984, the Ferrovia do Aço. The team was made up of young people from the city, in their twenties, who had interrupted their degrees in journalism, sociology, theology and history for various reasons, all attracted by an advertisement – ​​“Seja Repórter” – published in the newspaper.

The friend from Petropolitan who had passed through the city with me towards Três Pontas, Francisco Luiz Noel, who was finishing his journalism course, joined the editorial team, excited by the initiative. Perhaps motivated by the advertisement in the newspaper, which a tourist had taken to Rio de Janeiro, a reporter who had studied journalism appeared in the newsroom, without prior contact. A young Danish man who spoke Portuguese very well and a Bolivian journalist, Mariangela, recently graduated from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), also passed through the newsroom.

In order to learn more about the reality of São Paulo and welcome ideas for topics and approaches to topics, the newspaper had the luxurious assistance of an editorial board in the early days. It was an informal group of friendly people, involved in the city's life, who shared the voluntary enthusiasm for the weekly's activity and the expectation that it could help shake up local conservatism. The meetings were on Sundays, in the evening, in the newsroom, and, once the discussions were exhausted, they usually ended up in a bar in the Center. More than once, friendships between counselors and counselors evolved into flirting and dating, a natural result of a climate of camaraderie that resembled Sunday meetings to academic directory meetings, as one of the participants later compared.

The monthly payment at the newsroom was low, but partially compensated by the opportunity to begin the journalistic experience, in an environment of discovery enriched by reading the different newspapers to which we subscribed. At least six beginners continued in the field, as journalists and communicators, after the experience gained at the newspaper. Other team members were involved in finding advertisements and selling subscriptions. But, always, each group acted in its own sector, never mixing advertising and journalistic work – the dominant combination, at the time, in the local media.

Over the 28 months that I directed and edited the São João Del Rey newspaper, from September 1985 to December 1987, the weekly overnight stay in Juiz de Fora was spent in cheap hotels in the center. Eventually, when a reporter went to visit the printer and help with reviewing and assembling the pages, the accommodation was in a better hotel, while I spent the night at Esdeva assembling by hand the four to twelve format pages. standard (large), with a stylus and melted paraffin, the materials that came out of the computer printer.

The return trip consisted of getting on the bus and sleeping straight away, without realizing the 160 kilometers of travel, with the three thousand copies – later, two thousand – tied up in bundles in the luggage compartment. As soon as they arrived at the newsroom, the newspapers were tagged in a collective effort to quickly reach subscribers, via the Post Office. We had more than a thousand signatures, the result of the commitment of the young saleswomen, paid based on production.

The weekly claimed to be, as the editorials preached, “faithful to the defense of collective aspirations” and “contrary to the linking of the press to State powers”, committed to “critically portraying everyday life” and “stimulating the struggle for change”. To try to fulfill this idea, we made reports in which we spoke about agrarian reform, when reporting a meeting of small rural producers in the region, and about reparation of rights, when we publicized the case of a military man from São Paulo who, arrested in the 1964 coup, sought to recover what he had lost by being removed from active duty. After giving us an interview, he got up early in the newsroom, when the edition was already at the printer, to ask that the newspaper not go to newsstands, fearing that the report would harm the progress of the legal action.

We also reported movements of housewives, wage campaigns, marches and local strikes, layoffs caused by the economic crisis, growth in demand for unemployment insurance, the lives of waste picker families in the city's landfill, a 66,6% increase in the buses and high prices in the municipal market. We did not overlook the drop in local revenue from animal games due to the crisis nor the desperation of the mother who threw her baby and older daughter into Córrego do Lenheiro and tried to drown afterwards, on a day of torrential rain. It was during the hyperinflation phase under José Sarney's government.

We publish reports on police officers accused of violence, extortion and corruption, the intoxicating gold and cassiterite mining in Rio das Mortes, an outbreak of schistosomiasis, buying votes in electoral campaigns in municipalities in the region, allegations of the use of money from São João City Hall at meetings of newspapers from the interior and councilors from Minas Gerais – in this case, public resources even paid for a parade of mulattas. We report offenses by the president of the Chamber of Councilors against our journalist and criticisms by the São Paulo intellectual Décio Pignatari of the criteria used in the federalization of faculties in Sanjoanense, in addition to reproducing journalistic material about the displeasure of Peronist councilors when the Brazilian and Argentine governments gave the name Tancredo Neves to the bridge that connects Puerto Iguazu to Foz do Iguaçu. Most of these issues were not reported by other local press outlets.

Some of the many other topics we cover in the newspaper: a house on a prostitution street (next to the Carmo Church) catches fire and firefighters don't have a water truck; “zone” lives its last nights, with the closure and demolition of five houses; fifteen-year-old teenager dies after being hit by a bell in the Church of São Gonçalo; The city now receives signals from another television channel (the fourth), with the installation of an antenna in Morro do Cristo.

We published a semi-frontal nude photo of a visual arts model in the corridors of the Santo Antônio campus of the nascent Fundação de Ensino Superior de São João del-Rei (Funrei, precursor of UFSJ), during a winter festival; and we report “philosophies” written on the institution’s bathroom doors;; We didn't miss the end of the famous Clever's Bar, epicenter of Kibon Corner; and we reported on the evangelicals of Sanjoan when they numbered no more than 1,4.

The newspaper also opened its pages to a permanent column on births, marriages and deaths, having maintained for a long time the social column “Useful & Futile”. We were unable to provide a space for local writers with a critical bias. An exception in this picture was Júlio Ambrozio, exercising a “foreign look” on scenarios and scenes from the life of São João and das Vertentes.[1]

More than thirty years later, the question remains: what contributions did the São João Del Rey newspaper to the city and the region in those years of the second half of the 1980s? I think that, by offering a different approach to the facts, the newspaper provided fleeting tremors in the conservative behavior of politics in this part of Minas Gerais and reinforced the positions and actions of people who fought for achievements and social rights, in addition to serving as a stimulus for members editors to pursue a journalistic career.

Week by week, the newspaper created a collection of records and interpretations of local and regional life, constituting a source of information of undeniable value for contemporary history, bound and preserved at the Historical and Geographical Institute of São João del-Rei.

In the almost four years of circulation of the São João Del Rey newspaper, counting the months of 1987-1988 in which it was owned by a state deputy, there was no internet, smartphones, digital cameras or journalism school in the city. Since the 2010s, with all these technological resources and specialized labor, few local independent journalism initiatives have emerged in São João, but they have not continued due to lack of money or the little attention given by editors and readers to necessarily in-depth reports.

Almost forty years after the existence of the São João Del Rey newspaper, The question we asked in our editorials remains current: how can the interior press break its state of critical anemia and help the community it intends to serve emerge from a state of socioeconomic and political anemia? It's not a question with an easy answer. Letters to the editor.[2]

Edson Paz is a historian and journalist.


Julius Ambrozio. Little Book of Distracted Lines and a Necrology. Petrópolis, Grumixama, 2023, 98 pages.


[1] For more details about Júlio Ambrozio’s relationship with the São João Del Rey newspaper check out Ricardo Musse's article posted on the website the earth is round:

[2] The many people who participated in the São João Del Rey newspaper At different times, under my direction, they are named below. It is the relationship that memory allows, after so much time. In case I am omitting anyone's name, I apologize in advance.

In the direction, Dario Bassi and Francisco José Ribeiro Alves (Kiko) shared, for some time, responsibilities and tasks with me.

From the editorial team, the list is long: Alvaro Carneiro Bastos, Ângela Cristina dos Santos Lima, Celso, Francisco Luiz Noel, João Batista Guimarães, Miriam Braga de Lima, Ney, Valéria Cordeiro, Carla and the Bolivian Mariangela – both recently graduated by UFJF. Geraldo Sabino contributed illustrations. Dimas de Oliveira, João Ramalho Neto and Maurício Malta Teixeira (Popó) were the brave photographers.

In administration and commercial, which sold advertising space and subscriptions: Fernando Simões Coelho, Maria Leopoldina Andrade (Léo), Marcelino Bello, now deceased, Regina Célia Martins and Viviane Márcia Neves, as well as other people with a short stay, such as Rosângela Braga. Luciano Nascimento, who at the time was an intern at the Associação Sanjoanense de Amparo ao Menor (Asam) and is now known as The Facebook radio host, and Luiz Claudio Teixeira Martins (Tadô) were jacks of all trades in supporting the writing, administration and commercial. Jorge Taier, Maria Leopoldina Andrade, Maria Ângela Araújo Resende, Norma Marotti Fairbanks, a museologist who directed the São João del-Rei Regional Museum, and the then couple Roberto Lira and Maria Beatriz Monteiro Guimarães, as well as Dario and Kiko. Three advisors would become professors at the Federal University of São João del-Rei (UFSJ): Jorge Taier, Maria Ângela and Roberto. Kiko would pass away in 2019; Norma, in 2020.

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