Brazil: Serving my people

The narration of Councilor for Culture and Tourism in Guaramiranga, in the State of Ceará: “I drew strength from the Gospel for my commitment to my city.”

AlmirFrancoGuaramiranga, with 7,000 inhabitants, is a small city of the Northeastern state of Ceará in Brazil, which boasts a highly diversified natural environment at the Atlantic coast where there are also the most beautiful beaches in the world, and with an interior full of lagoons, and water courses populated by mangroves, jungles and forests. About 100 kilometers from the coast, it is the seat of two important cultural events: the international “Jazz and Blues” and the more local “Northeastern Theatre Festival.” Here lives Almir, a “volunteer of God” of the Focolare Movement. Some years ago, pushed by the desire to do something for his city, he decided to run for the post of Town Councilor.

After his election he was asked to assume the councillorship for Culture and Tourism, an important role since most of the city’s economy rotates around tourism, cultural events and exhibitions. The role is very challenging and above all, Almir is full of ideas. However, it was not an easy choice: “I lengthily pondered on the mayor’s request to assume this position. In fact I was thinking of running again, since after a year and a half there would be a reshuffling of the town council, and I doubted that the proposal aimed at limiting me politically, due to my ideas in advocating clarity and transparency. On the other hand, the area of culture and tourism was undergoing a difficult moment: many small hotels and shops were about to close and the personnel would have been fired. I felt the suffering of those brothers who could have lost their jobs, and of the owners who would have had to close ship. So after talking with some friends, I accepted the challenge.”

Almir started to work on the new assignment with passion, mobilising the entrepreneurs and inhabitants. He launched a participation course with some citizens, involving them in the promotion of touristic events to give a new impulse to the city and boost the economy’s upturn. Also the inhabitants of the rural districts were involved in a project for the upholding of local traditions with new cultural initiatives in the territory. In short, the city saw the growth of touristic flows, the birth of new businesses, hotels and hostels and the creation of new jobs. “Other two challenges” – Almir explained – “were the relaunching of the Town Theatre in the city’s historical centre, and the revival of the Food Court, the square dedicated to restaurants. In this case, the difficult rapports between the restaurant owners negatively influenced the events held in the city. I asked myself how we could go about creating relationships of fraternity and collaboration in that place. I started by going to visit them, creating friendly relations with each of them, and trying to understand the problems and smoothing out the tensions. At first I found a lot of resistance, but I didn’t give up. In the end, I was able to build a “team,” to such a point that today these people have become friends and cooperate with one another. It seemed like a miracle to see these businessmen, who were enemies at first, relate with each other in a friendly and supportive way.”

«Today, due to family issues, I am no longer involved in the public administration, but I participate in the political life with the conviction that in trying to concretise the words of the Gospel, we can find the strength to meet the necessities of one’s people and one’s own community.”