Talita Virginia de Lima (Brasil)

For years, I was afraid of my father. When I needed to ask him something, I would use my mother as an intermediary. The curious thing is that my father is a quiet, religious man. He likes animals and nature yet his work is extremely violent. I always associate him with his uniform and with his gun.  I was afraid of my father and his uniform. Perhaps in his behavior and his temperament there is an indication of why after thirty years of service in the Military Police, he retired at the same level as he had always been. My father found studying difficult when he was young.  He never did well on tests and he never had the contacts inside the police force that he would have needed to get promoted. He joined ROTA, the most violent police unit in Sao Paulo who award their members with prestige rather than money. He didn’t last long though, he could not adapt. The ROTA is a hard unit, even between the members. They do everything they can do to make new recruits give up, to weed out those not tough enough.  Violence scares me, but death does not shock me. Seeing death is nothing out of the ordinary in the neighborhoods I grew up in. The fact that my father was a cop had little to do with it. The neighborhood where my family lives today is also a dangerous place. I remember once, a man was killed right on our doorstep. We were at home when we heard screams and gunshots, and being a cop, my father had to act whether he was on duty or not. He tried to save the man but by the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. The guy had been shot in the chest and he died right there on our doorstep. The only time I was shocked by the violence I saw was when I was about 6. I went into the bathroom and found my father clutching his stomach with blood running through his fingers. My mother told me to go to another room and wait quietly with my brother.  He was only two years old at the time. My father was off duty when he was shot. Again, the ambulance took too long to arrive so my father drove to hospital with my mother. That day I was afraid. I’ve been involved in a gunfight, but again, this was more to do with location than with my father’s profession. I was a baby and he was leaving the house with me in his arms when a man burst through our front door, chased by three others, all armed. As the pursuers entered our home shooting their guns, my father retuned fire, protecting his family. At that time we were living in in the south of São Paulo, in another violent neighborhood. In the past, we have been forced to flee our house in the middle of the night to escape threats against us. There was a fight in a bar near our house and my father became involved and ended up hitting a man, who died. He was a drug dealer and everyone around there knew where we lived and my father was seriously threatened. For the rest of that year, my brother and I didn’t return to school. Only as an adult, when the PCC (an organized crime gang) waged a war against the police in Sao Paulo in 2006, did I come to realize the risk my father took. He always wanted to be a cop, always worked on the streets, always knew the risks and yet he has no regrets. All his life he asked in his prayers that if he could reach retirement with his family safe, he would make the pilgrimage to Aparecida do Norte, a religious city 168 km from São Paulo. Since retiring, my father has walked to Aparecida do Norte every year.

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