The man is a statue. Immobile. Not a gesture. The body in perfect stillness. Red hat and white beard. Lisbon downtown crowded with people, in December shopping, and him on top of a kitchen bench. Yesterday, Mickey Mouse; today, Father Christmas. Always statue. Each earns bread as he can. Well done, since I was a kid who knows the tricks of not moving a finger. That was how he escaped his father’s belt. The body stopped and thinking around. Rafael Cardoso, “a professional jumper, a variety artist and a man-statue”. When I met him, in 2005, he was 20 years old on the pedestal. Always changing streets and in fact, sometimes in Portugal, sometimes in Spain. He never went to school, the letters of the name escaped him crookedly, putting the pen between his fingers has more magic than it looks. There were bells, yes, in the sleeve of the red suit to make it sound, whenever a coin tinkled on its floor. And I had a rented room, in a pension in Praça da Figueira, a bottle of Vick Vaporub at the head, Spider-Man in the wardrobe. In January, I would wear your skin.
Being anti-racist is more than throwing busts down or filling them with paint. The fight is not with the past. It is with the present. It is for the future
Recently, I have remembered Rafael a lot. Statue on Rua Augusta, from 10 am to 7 pm. At that hour, I was watching him tuck the pedestal under his arm. Where will you be now? Mickey Mouse ?, maybe Frozen? It is to enjoy while the fashion of throwing down statues does not reach the Disney characters. There are statues in sight of the boot below for pure ignorance, or ignorance as an uncontrolled hammer was not worth. Others are of figures who, in the light of our time, would have more bars than pedestal. It is true that knocking down a statue is very symbolic and banging. It also has to do with the desired use of public space. But the street is not only open from 10 am to 7 pm, it comes at dawn and returns there. It has been around for centuries. Rafael knew well that it was necessary to fall from the pedestal in the light of the seasons – Father Christmas in December, clown in February, superhero the rest of the year. But that is the power of flesh and blood, a necessity for those who live on the coins of the day.
The problem with knocking down statues is that more than dropping stone, it is dropping history. And as bad as the past is, it is good that it does not fade. A slave trader would never deserve a statue today. Colonialism is an unfair injustice and cruelty. But it did. And forgetfulness is the path to repetition. Shall we burn books, pictures? Our grandfathers’ albums? The discussion has polarized and that is a serious threat to the end, more noise than reason. It is necessary to jump from the extremes. Overthrow prejudice, ignorance, xenophobia. Being anti-racist is more than throwing busts down or filling them with paint. The fight is not with the past. It is with the present. It is for the future.