Most of the football pictures I’ve taken in Brazil are pretty self explanatory… there’s a kick around going on somewhere in Rio and not too much more to add. But this one troubles me a bit. The story behind it isn’t a good one. The mother of the family, Claudia da Silva Ferreira, was shot in March by police who thought she was an armed drug dealer during a shoot-out. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She later died in shocking circumstances, falling from the police van on the way to hospital. I visited their home a couple of weeks after it happened with a colleague who was interviewing Claudia’s husband and this was taken as we were leaving and the kids began playing again… a brief moment of normality at a tragic time for the family.
(Credit: Interview and words by Angelica Melo / Maruti Blue)
On March 16th, a Sunday, Claudia Ferreira woke up early and left her house to buy bread for breakfast. “I don’t know why she did it. She never used to go out to buy bread as she used to wake up one of our kids and ask them to do it”, says Alexandre Ferreira, her husband. On the way to the bakery that Sunday, Claudia got shot by the policemen who were making a raid in the favela. They claimed that they were shooting at smugglers and shot Claudia by accident. According to their report, in an attempt to save her life, they put her body in the back of the police van and took her to the hospital. On the way there, the latch opened and Claudia’s body fell out while her shirt clung onto the van, causing her to be dragged for over 250 meters on the street. When they arrived at the hospital Claudia was already dead, and according to the death certificate, the cause of death wasn’t the wounds caused by the dragging but the bullets.
“They (the policemen) thought my Mom was one of the thieves, and shot her”, says Thaís Ferreira, the eldest daughter. Her statement is backed up by their neighbours: “Just because we live in a favela doesn’t mean we are also thieves. Like Claudia, there are loads of honest and hard worker people here”, says Regina, one of Claudia’s friends. “Claudia was a good woman, a great mother, and she was not carrying a gun, but money to buy bread to feed her kids. We want justice”.
All too often in the aftermath of the war between the drug dealers and Rio’s police there are casualties like Claudia. Explaining why is a tough task. Many families are still looking for Justice or a way to relieve their pain. “The only thing we have now are all good memories of her”, says Claudia’s husband, Alexandre.
Her white uniform was washed and ironed, ready to be worn on the following day to that tragic Sunday. Claudia was a cleaner at an industrial cleaning company in downtown, and used to work Monday to Friday. According to her family and friends, washing clothes was a kind of a hobby to Claudia. “She doesn’t like to do the household shores, but spends many hours washing our clothes”, says Alexandre. “During the weekends, she always had a bottle of beer with her, and could spend the whole day washing clothes with a nice smile on her face. She was a very beloved member of our community”, says a neighbour who didn’t want to be identified.
Besides her four kids, Claudia was also a mother to her four nephews, raising them all in the family’s small house. “She always kept all of them well fed and always took good care of them like they were her own, and even when things were too difficult she still had a positive attitude. I don’t know how I am going to make it without her,” says Alexandre holding his tears.
In Morro da Congonha, favela located in Madureira, north side of Rio, and the community where Claudia Ferreira lived for over 15 years, there is a general rule: when the Police comes into the favela, its best to stay indoors because nobody knows wha’s going to happen. “There are bad people everywhere. Why do the Police thinks that the only place where there are thieves are the favelas?”, asks one of the residents.
Alexandre knows that life won’t be easy for him and his family, but at the same time he knows that they need to move on. “I won’t give up, I will fight for Justice. Now, I am taking one day at the time. For those who are in the same situation that we are, I say the same: don’t give up. Show your face, keep fighting for justice. Because if you quit, the existence of that person you loved so much will have no meaning.”
Related link: BBC news article.