Heloisa Bezzi was born on April 1, 1916 in the mountainous town of Petropolis, Brazil to a very influential family. She was the oldest of four children. Her great-grandfather was the Viscount of Ouro Preto, the last prime minister of the Brazilian monarchy, and her grandfather was a famous writer and founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Her family was extremely well connected and she was assured of life of leisure and education. She learned English and French and played the piano and the accordion. But a life of leisure was not what she wanted for herself.
Her father, a cattle rancher, died when she was 14 and the day after the funeral, she packed her bags and moved in with an aunt. Her relationship with her mother had always been difficult and she saw no reason for staying. “Where are you going?” Her mother asked when she saw her suitcase packed. “The only person I cared about in this house is now dead – I see no reason for staying”. She was hard, very hard.
She studied. She went to university in a day and age when few people did. Not satisfied with that, she moved a thousand kilometers south to work as an accountant in an Engineering firm. She still has a picture of all the employees together – she’s the only woman.
At 28 years old, she was engaged to a diplomat but still unmarried. She then met João Paiva, an illiterate cowboy at her father’s ranch, four years her junior. Their relationship shocked the family. They accused him of marrying her for the money. She promptly gave up every penny and they got married. He had to teach her how to wash dishes and she had to teach him how to write his own name. They were poor and both worked full time. When asked about her fortunes she simply replied “I’ve had the life of privilege, now I want to experience the other side of the coin.”
He died from congenital heart disease at the age of 64, after 40 years together. She never forgot him. Together they raised seven strong-willed daughters, one of which is my mother.
Vó, esse dia é para a senhora…