book introduces Betinho to children


“Hunger doesn’t wait”, recalled Betinho, who was at the forefront of this fight when millions of people had nothing to eat and the country was undergoing major social transformations. Twenty-five years after the death of the sociologist and activist, responsible for mobilizing people across the country to collect food, Brazil is back on the “Hunger Map”. The indicators, from the United Nations (UN), show that more than 2.5% of the population is facing a chronic lack of food. According to Unicef, there are 32 million hungry Brazilian children.

It’s for his active voice, influence and solidarity that Betinho must be presented to the new generations, believes his son, Daniel Souza. With that in mind, the idea arose to tell his story in a book, to honor his legacy with today’s children and young people.

“We are all Betinho. We all have to be. He did his part while he was alive and called upon all of society to each do his part after he was gone”

Souza, who is now at the head of the association Ação da Cidadania contra Fome, a Miséria e pela Vida, founded by Betinho in 1993, highlights his father’s work and says that, even after so many struggles, knowing that Brazil returns to the “Map famine” causes revolt and indignation. “After you’ve done the hardest and set an example for the world, the last thing you want is to have to suffer through it again,” he says. The invitation to be inspired by Betinho’s attitudes is one of the ways that the family and the association have to continue fighting to fight hunger and guarantee a dignified childhood for all children.

“There is no life without hope”, said Betinho

From Bocaiúva, in the interior of Minas Gerais, the boy, who was born Herbert de Souza, but attended like Betinho, grew up with the restlessness of seeing the world through the blue eyes of someone who needed to make a difference. Moved by hope that all Brazilians, especially children, could have something to eat, Betinho built a large ant project with Ação da Cidadania. Prior to that, he was known for his human rights activism during the military dictatorship and was exiled to Chile. Brother of the cartoonist Henfil, an important critic of the regime at the time, he was quoted in the verses “Meu Brasil que dreamed of the return of Henfil’s brother”, in the song “O drunk and the equilibrist“, by João Bosco and Aldir Blanc.

Introducing Betinho to the new generations is a mission that stayed with the writer José Roberto Torero, author of the book “Very nice, I am Betinho: the life of the sociologist Herbert de Souza”, which brings the activist as the narrator of his own history since the times of boy. “I read a lot about Betinho, saw documentaries and interviews that showed his way of speaking and thinking, in addition to reading several things he wrote, such as letters and children’s books”, says the writer.

By assuming Betinho’s voice and writing in the first person, Torero provokes the reader with playful questions about life, games and also reveals stories that few people knew. One of them is that the boy Herbert spent the day playing making sculptures with candle wax, which was left over from the funeral home where his father worked.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Betinho: the life of sociologist Herbert de Souza”, José Roberto Torero (Moderna)

As a simple telling of the sociologist’s story for children, José Roberto Torero assumes the role of Betinho as the narrator of his life, telling curiosities from childhood to the discoveries of health problems and social mobilization in the fight against hunger in the country. The colored collages are by Catarina Bessel.

For Torero, the book’s challenge is to be able to show today’s children a figure who was and still is necessary for the country, and who united many people around fundamental causes. “I think it’s important to remember who did things that brought results for society, without being deified, but showing that he also had his mistakes and flaws”, he says. When asked about a story that caught the most attention, Torero cites one that Betinho himself used to tell:

“There was a fire in the forest and all the animals started to run away. Except the hummingbird. He, with that little pout for nothing, would go to the river, take a drop of water and throw it into the flames. The other animals, when they saw that, asked: ‘Do you think you’re going to put out the fire like this?’. And the hummingbird replied, ‘No. But I’m doing my part’. Then everyone started to get water from the river and, together, they managed to put out the fire.”

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The article is in Portuguese

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