Evaristo first caught my eye when he flagged our car down- waving at us from his small kiosk on the side of the sand road between Jangamo and Inhambane, I asked Lynn what he wanted as he doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak either Portuguese or the local Bitonga dialect. Lynn told me that every so often she buys Evaristo some washing powder as he indicates when he needs it by waving a finished washing powder bag at her car as she passes him on her way to town. And just like that- I was intrigued ! Lynn then mentioned that Evaristo had been blind for many years and had recently had an operation and could now see.
I decided I needed to know more about this character and so I arranged to take an interpreter with me to chat to him. Evaristo was delighted to share some of his life story with me and broke into songs of praise mentioning he had been an evangelist. I was amazed to find out that this sprightly old man is 97, having been born close to Inhambane in 1917. He told us that he has lived in the area before the coconut trees were planted and he helped to plant them. Look at these photos of him-it’s hard to imagine that he is 97 years old. I asked him what his secret was and what he likes to eat. He told me he loves rice and pasta and it seems that a simple life with plenty of walking and four wives, bearing him fifteen children- are all a part of the reason for his youthful energy. Evaristo shared with me that he would like to live for another 32 years. He seems very confident that he will live to at least 130 and mentioned that as long as he doesn’t’ fall ill then he is sure it will happen! I am pretty sure he doesn’t know that if he does that- he will be setting a record of sorts and will be among only around 20 known people who have ever reached that age.
I asked Evaristo to tell me about his eyesight and he said he had been totally blind for 30 years between 60 and 90 years old. He mentioned that working with cement and asbestos had caused his blindness, as he spent most of his life as a builder working not only with buildings but also with roads and with statues. At 90 he was “found” by a doctor from Spain (whose name he couldn’t recall) and an operation was performed on his eyes in Inhambane.
When he awoke after his operation he could see. The first thing he saw after thirty years in the dark -was his bible! On telling me this he picked up his bible and started reading from it whilst thumbing it’ s pale pink pages lovingly.Evaristo then showed me around his household and we looked at his old home and the new one that his church has now built for him. There are not many country folk living in cement houses in rural Mozambique but Evaristo is one of them! His wives had an interesting array of houses including this one that I felt sure would not withstand a strong wind.
I took a couple of photos of Evaristo as he is so photogenic.
I took more photos around Evaristo’s household and he showed me a photo which he says was an old fort but it looked like a a fish-moth had already gotten to it !
The other houses in his compound looked a little worse for wear…
But the surrounding coconut plantations were looking great in the sinking sun as we left Evaristo to his evening meal in rural Mozambique… another 32 years to go. Long live Evaristo.