In two moments…
I entered the Municipal Market at 11.30am and, maybe because of the late hour, I didn’t see anyone with things on their head. I looked for a young woman to try to find out if young people were still using this method of transportation. With some difficulty, I found a girl of about twenty who was selling fruit at a stall that was well-stocked and varied. With a somewhat suspicious and embarrassed attitude she answered me. She didn’t carry anything on her head; sometimes she wore it on her shoulder. But, as if to hurry me, she indicated the ladies in front of me who might still do it. I thanked her and went to two ladies who were chatting. They had baskets, buckets and bags placed on the floor with potatoes, onions and beans. I introduced myself, asked if I could talk a little and said the reason for my questions.
I started by asking if they still carried those things on their heads — not anymore! The older lady left and I was left to chat with Ms. Rosa. She was a woman in her fifties, with a rosy face and a healthy air. Always standing, she didn’t even have a stool, she thought that this way the customers would see her better, therefore, she would sell more. She lives in S. Martinho de Dume and always has. She worked the land and two days a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, she comes to sell what she produces. Before he also came to the farm. In the winter he would bring turnips and greens, and in the summer tomatoes and other produce.
He carried the baskets on his head from the age of fourteen, fifteen, until he was twenty. With some enthusiasm he recounted that they all came in groups of ten or twelve men and women. Sometimes two or three from the same house, when there was a lot to sell. With their baskets on their heads, it took them an hour and a half from S. Martinho de Dume to the market in Braga, on foot, along the road and through paths. It was more the women, but some men, although they usually carried the weights on their shoulders, also carried them on their heads — even today my uncle carries the bush on his head when he goes to the mountain. They always stopped three times at the “pousadouros” that existed along the way. The “pousadouros” were walls at head height where they leaned and, turning the basket slightly, put it down to rest. If they couldn’t fit, they all took turns to rest on these resting places. It was not possible to bend down to put the basket on their heads, they could hurt themselves. They were helped by two people or they had to place the basket at the level of their height and, with a small rotation movement, put it on their head. They always used the wheel, a scarf that they normally carried with them, rolled up at the height, to put between their head and the basket. If the weight was light and the time was short, they could do without the wheel, otherwise it was essential. The most weight he carried was thirty kilos. They used this method because it was better for walking. They couldn’t carry anything in their hands to get their hands on the basket if they had to.
When she was about twenty years old her father bought a horse-drawn cart that brought the vegetables to town. Mrs. Rosa loved these trips, then there was the tractor, and today her husband transports the vegetables in a van. Besides the baskets that she prefers, the things from the earth stay better in the baskets, she also uses big buckets because they are practical.
She learned the technique with her mother in a natural way, imitating her since she was very young when she went to get this or that. It didn’t cost anything. She doesn’t remember falling down, nor the basket. Nor does she remember any accident related to carrying goods on her head. He never felt that it hurt him. Today he has back problems, although he never went to the doctor or had treatment, every now and then his back and shoulders hurt — these things wear out.
Maria Helena Trindade (responsible for collection management of Nogueira da Silva Museum, Braga)
Testimony collected at the Municipal Market for the subject Anthropology of Body Activities taught by Prof. Jean-Yves Durand, as part of the Master’s Degree in Child Studies, specialization in Visual Communication and Plastic Expression/IEC/UM. The objective was to try to understand the transport of objects on the head, who did it and how.