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Street Children - Sao Paulo - BrazilStreet Children in São Paulo – Brazil
Photo Credit: Devamor Amancio / ONG


October 12 is Children’s Day in Brazil. It’s a fun time for children across Brazil. On their special day, children receive toys from their parents and relatives. The day is celebrated with children parties, family outings, and special local events. It’s a day for families to share in the joys of childhood.

To commemorate Brazil’s Children’s Day, my Poetry Corner October 2014 features the poem “À Procura da Infância” (In Search of Childhood) by Brazilian poet Anilda Leão (1923-2012). Born in Maceió, capital of the Northeastern State of Alagoas, she grew up in a privileged middle-class family. Her father was a business owner and a respected politician in the 1940s and 1950s.

Her childhood in the prejudiced Alagoana society, divided between black and white humankind, was not without its challenges and life-long influences. In an interview with the Alagoas Gazette, she confessed that, as a child, she felt like “a strange object” in her family. “I fell into the family by chance,” she added with a laugh.

While her sisters were quiet and well-mannered, she was mischievous and disobedient. The “rebel” grew up to become a feminist and friend-consoler of gays and single mothers expelled from their homes.

In her memoir, Eu em Trânsito (In Transit), she speaks about her love of life. “I feel like a child in the face of life. I play with children as if I were one of them.” Until the end of her life at eighty-nine years, “childhood persisted in [her] soul.”

In her poem, “In Search of Childhood,” Anilda Leão caught a glimpse of [her] former cheerfulness in the presence of children. In the faces of first communicants, she sought the traces of [her] innocence / and of that first emotion that remained in time. Desperation drove her to find her lost purity in the faces of innocent children.

Is it possible to find the vestiges of [our] happy childhood?

When in the company of my favorite five-year-old neighbor, I delight in her joy of discovery, enchantment with Nature, and spontaneity. With a child’s innocence and purity, she brightens my day.

I feel no need to go in search of my childhood. Living with warring parents during my childhood years has left its mark on my soul, forging a bond with children facing adversity.

With our barbaric violent behavior, corrupt and totalitarian leaders, and growing inequality, we adults are robbing our children of their childhood. In denigrating childhood, we are witnessing the degradation of the human species.

Syrian Refugee Children - Refugee Camp in IraqSyrian refugee children at play – Domiz Refugee Camp – Iraq
Photo Credit: B. Sokol / UNHCR

What will become of our species, homo sapiens, without happy and healthy offspring, capable of developing rational thinking and ensuring the survival of our species?

You can read Anilda Leão’s poem, “À Procura da Infância” (In Search of Childhood) in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Writer’s Website.