Brazil on the Move

Free Brazil on the Move by John Dos Passos Page B

Book: Brazil on the Move by John Dos Passos Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Dos Passos
Tags: History, Travel, South America, Latin America, Brazil
Since it was soiled he washed it himself, but he didn’t have an iron to press it with. The suit was so rumpled that his brotherinlaw had to stop on the way to the presidential palace to buy Bernardo a new suit at a readymade clothing store. Vargas, already headed for the dictatorship, knew a good man when he saw one. He started Sayão on the work of setting up experimental farms. He encouraged his interest in western Goiás.
    About the time of the Second World War, when Sayão marriedagain, the first question he asked his betrothed was, would she mind living out in the bush? It was Vargas who arranged his appointment to manage a projected agricultural colony in the red soil region among the tributaries of the Rio Tocantins.
    His daughters still tell of the caravan of fortyeight trucks and jeeps which Sayão led on the great trek across country to the Rio das Almas. When the expedition reached the river, there was of course no bridge. The lands assigned for settlement lay on the other side. Sayão threw off his clothes and swam across. The current was so swift that an associate who tried to follow him was drowned.
    Sayão’s first job was to bridge the river. He used gasoline drums lashed together and covered by a rough board roadway. For years he carried on a vendetta with the government bureau that was trying to get these gasoline drums back to the oil companies that claimed ownership. Sayão said he could not give up his drums until he had finished a proper concrete bridge across the river. At the same time he pushed through a road to the railhead at Anápolis. This road opened up an immense region of fertile country. By the time it was finished and hardsurfaced Anápolis had doubled in size and Ceres was a city of forty thousand people.
    Sayão fought the Rio bureaucracy at every step. The ministry kept demanding explanations and sending out investigating committees to plague him. They couldn’t understand a man who worked for the sport of it with no thought of accumulating a fortune for himself and his family. His instructions were to build a set of agricultural buildings and barns for a model cattle farm. Instead he’d built a road and bridged a river. He wanted houses for his settlers, not offices for officials. The idea of sitting in an office made him sick. He lived in his car the way the oldtime pioneers lived on horseback.
    Not too long after my visit to Sayão back in 1948 he became so irked by bureaucratic obstructions and frustrations that he threw up his job with the government. He went towork on a farm in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The farm had a stone quarry. He got out the rock himself and trucked it in person to his customers. In his spare time, just for his own satisfaction, he paved the local roads.
    His name was legendary in western Goiás. In 1953 a delegation sought him out, at a location near Belo Horizonte where he was building a road, to beg him to run for lieutenant governor. When it was explained to him that the lieutenant governor was in charge of the state road program he consented to run. He was elected by an enthusiastic majority.
    He immediately went to work on the highway that linked the state capital at Goiânia with the milling and cheesemaking center at Anápolis. He improved communications through to São Paulo. All the while he dreamed of the road to Belém.
    When Juscelino Kubitschek’s administration inaugurated the project to build a national capital a hundred miles to the northeast of Goiânia, in the enormous tract of tableland that had been long since set aside for a federal district to replace the region around Rio, he remembered the great roadbuilder. Sayão was appointed one of the working directors of Novacap, the government corporation entrusted with the work of construction. He would not take the post until his old friend, Israél Pinheiro, who as president of Novacap was in charge of the operation, promised that he would never be expected to set foot in an office.

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