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As Zungueiras

“Quem não anda na zunga, não come.” — Maria Monte

[“She who doesn’t walk continuously in motion, doesn’t eat.”]

The streets of Luanda are filled with action and continuous motion – people moving about their day, children playing, dogs scavenging and zungueiras selling their wares.   In Luanda, the zungueiras are a part of the scenery; they are a part of everyone’s lives.  Zungueiras come from all the provinces, every part of Angola, to Luanda in order to make a better life.  When they get here, they often have to start from scratch – carrying a load on their heads in brightly colored buckets, usually with a small child strapped on their back.  This is the hardship of the zungueira.  They form the base of the informal market.

The zungueira sets up shop on a favorite street corner – a smattering of blues, greens and yellows selling sumptuously ripe mangoes, avocados, bananas, tomatoes, cilantro.  They call out to you, “moça, moça” and try to entice you with their wares.  But they never stay in one place for too long for that would harness complacency and the zungueiras are anything but complacent.  Day in and day out, rain or shine, the zungueira is walking the streets with a load on her head.  Is it kitchen bowls, shoes, school supplies you want?  A zungueira is selling it.  Fresh ice cream?  Yes, a zungueira will scoop some for you.

With zungueiras, you must buy right away if you see something you like.  They rarely bargain.  They all charge the same price anyways.  You don’t know if you will see the lady selling that amazing piece of African fabric tomorrow.  If you ask her if she will be there the next day, she will just answer yes, she will be somewhere in this vicinity.  Sometimes you can’t even count that they will be there in a few hours.  A favorite spot, under the shade of a building’s awning, might attract 10 different zungueiras to set up shop, but when you walk by again after lunch, only their scatterings remain.

Zunga derives from Kimbundu, a local Angolan language, meaning continuous motion.  It is no wonder then that these ladies who struggle for their existence should be dubbed zungueiras.  They are the true fighters of our times.  The true heroes who work tirelessly, thanklessly.

Today is International Women’s Day, a national holiday in Angola.  I would like to dedicate it to the zungueiras.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Chinito
    March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I like this very much!!!!!

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