Brazilians Adopt Immigrants, Becoming Their Second Family

Couple becomes mother & father of Haitian after welcoming him into home

São Paulo

“Feeling sorry for them? Take them home." Jorge Mariano, 62, and Eliana Machado, 59 adopted the popular expression to the T . One evening in August 2013, the painter and housewife picked up her sister from the bus station. They returned with five Haitians who they didn't know. The Haitians ended up staying for eight months at their home in São Mateus, in eastern São Paulo.

One of them was Manier Sael, 44, who arrived in Brazil from Acre. On the bus to Sao Paulo, he and the other Haitians talked to Eliana's sister. "She asked where we were going to sleep, and we said we didn't know," he recalled. "Arriving there, she called his sister and brother-in-law. When they returned, I couldn't believe it: they agreed to take five unknown strangers home."

Initially, the children and neighbors were surprised. "The people said, ‘Jorge has gone crazy '," he says, laughing. But a lot of people helped.

Manier Sael with Jorge (62) and Eliana Mariano (59). (Foto: Bruno Santos/ Folhapress) - Folhapress

The idea was that immigrants would stay in the house only on the first day and then go to a shelter. Afraid of being attacked, Jorge put a club behind the bedroom door. With the coexistence, however, he reassured himself and decided to extend the stay. He secured work for the five guests and was their guarantor in renting a house.

"Today they already walk on their own legs," says Eliana. "And I have more children and grandchildren."

Manier calls Jorge and Eliana parents. It was Eliana who walked hand in hand with him at his wedding. "There I went"... I went, no "... I am his mother."

Religious, Jorge considered the opportunity to help as a call from God. He recalls the assistance Manier gave him when he became ill or the help he had from the group of Haitians in building a home for a flooded family.

Manier said his biological parents are not as warm as Brazilians. "In Haiti, there is no custom for the father to hug and kiss. Here my parents kiss me; they say they love me."

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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