people of Faro

João Araújo

Julho 26, 2023
João Francisco, jewelry maker from Brazil, is a passionate traveler, artist and chess lover. He left Brazil due to safety concerns and limited opportunities. João found solace in Europe’s appreciation for art. Eye-opening experiences in India revealed the significance of gratitude and the strong contrast between poverty and cultural wealth. Today Joao grew to appreciate Faro’s calmness and plans to establish roots before pursuing his dream of international travel and jewelry sales.


Let’s say I don’t know you at all and you have to present yourself in one minute. What would you say?

I’m from Brazil. I’m 31 years old. My name is Joao Francisco. I’m currently a jewelry maker. It’s been nearly 10 years working in this field. My previous studies are a bachelor’s in publicity and advertisement and my master’s in marketing management. And there’s something I like a lot, which is chess. It’s been kind of profession before for me when I was younger and nowadays it’s just a hobby, but it’s something I enjoy a lot. Many people say that I’m very calm, but I’m not calm at all. It’s just like the way that people perceive me. I try to keep it calm, but I’m not calm at all. I can explode at any time. It can be very impulsive and explosive, but I’m learning how to tame myself in that way.

Does chess help you to calm and control?

Chess is very interesting. It can surely help to have discipline, to try to make yourself more steel, more focused, concentrated. It’s very good for developing some skills in life as well. Like patience, like knowing how to lose, how to win, also knowing how to attack, how to defend, how to make strategies, how to project your future and make a plan. Because I think in life it’s very important to make plans. Many people don’t like to make plans at all. They like to go with the flow of life, but life is bringing them somewhere and they might not like this somewhere we are talking about. So I prefer to kind of direct the flow of my life, make a plan and try to reach my goals.

Can you talk a little bit more about this journey from Brazil to Faro?

I lived in Brazil for 22 years. When I was in Brazil, I was planning to go live abroad. It was an excuse for leaving Brazil actually. I didn’t tell my parents that I was not going back. The plan was to study English and I went to Ireland for that and my parents thought that it was like a one year trip. I’d go back and have better working opportunities or better quality of life. But that didn’t happen. So I went to Ireland. I was really welcomed there. I felt really like I was home somehow. Made many friends. And I had so many opportunities there that I never would have in Brazil, for example. It made me want to stay longer and longer. So I stayed a total of three years in Ireland. I learned English, but I’m still learning. After a while I had to move from there because I couldn’t renew my visa as an English student anymore. So I either had to enroll in a university course, which I didn’t want because I already had my previous studies. I had like two or three other options. One option was to stay illegally in Ireland, which was not an option I guess because it’s an island. I love traveling so I can’t be irregular in some place. I really need this freedom of travel, to get to know places, people and cultures. So I could go back to Brazil, where I don’t feel home anymore. I don’t feel that there is space for me as an artist and as who I am now. So I decided to come to Portugal because the Portuguese government has this deal with Portuguese speaking countries and we can come over work for a while, get the documents, and then we can do pretty much whatever else we feel like doing.

How do you think Brazil held you back to express yourself as an artist?

Brazil was a very dangerous place for me in that period because of my mindset. So I was very active in protests and riots and stuff like that. I actually got arrested once because I was in a protest on the street. We were actually squatting a place, a public place. People were dying. In my town, there were about 600 people already dead for not having those beds in hospitals. So we invaded many rooms in the hospital. We recorded a lot of things. There were actually beds available and they said there weren’t, so people kept on dying every day. In less than four years it was already 600 people dead waiting for available beds, which is crazy because my city in Brazil has money for that. It’s getting like supplies and everything else. So there were actually some people robbing all those supplies and these resources. I got arrested once because of that, because of this protest. I was actually screaming for help, you know, because I just don’t know if the next one would be myself, my mom, my friends, or whoever. So Brazil is not a safe place at all. It’s very beautiful. The culture is lovely. The music, the traditions, the food, the landscapes, our people are lovely, but it’s a place where inequality screams very loud in your face. So every time you go on the street you see families living on the street. You see children in very bad conditions, too much inequality. I was very emotionally involved with pretty much every inequality I would see. So I didn’t know how to separate the things, the life I had and what I could do in order to help out somehow. So I chose to leave the country not to keep on being in protests because it was getting very dangerous for me. At some point I think I just would have died or something because I was really active in that area, in that period of my life.

What does Faro and this cultural environment and lifestyle allow you, that Brazil didn’t?

So back in Brazil, I didn’t have a place as an artist because in Brazil people don’t value art as it should be valued. So once I was in Europe, in Dublin (Ireland), or even here in Portugal, in Faro, people really value what I make. So if I make a necklace and ask for 100€, 120€, 150€. There is going to be a specific client that will pass by and that will embrace my project. Those people won’t ask for a discount or anything like that. They just know the value of it. So it’s something I found here. People are still not very well educated because of mass production like Taiwan, India, and also China for example. Those countries have been producing those things in mass. People just buy those products at very cheap prices and think they should also pay those kinds of prices in art, which is not the case because in art we place our creativity and our love. And I found safety here in Europe as well. Of course it’s not 100 percent safe, but I know what it is really like to be in a ghetto, in a favela or even in places that you could call a gray area. Here we also have those areas, but it’s not like in Brazil for example, you don’t have to be afraid all the time. Of course I don’t lower my guard. I am always aware. My radar is always on, but I’m way more relaxed. Even in +other countries, for example, Cambodia, Singapore, India, Morocco, I felt even safer than I was feeling in Brazil. When I go back to Brazil, my radar goes crazy like: beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep! And I really don’t like this feeling.

Can you talk a bit about the challenges, or the new perspectives of life your last travel to India brought you?

Going to India made me realize that I should be more grateful for what I have in life. Sometimes I complain about very silly things. In my house I live with three friends of mine, they’re like long-term friends. So we have a very good relationship. But sometimes I complain because someone didn’t do the dishes, or because there is dust on the floor. And then I was in India, and everything is so dirty, so dusty. And poverty and misery are so huge there. But among all of these hard things to see and to feel, there is so much beauty, they’re so rich as well. Culturally speaking they speak thousand dialects, over a hundred languages in the whole country. I mean, it’s not everybody that speaks all of them because it’s humanly maybe impossible. But it’s so colorful, so interesting, so chaotic, so crazy. First of all, I felt in a defensive position because it was a place I didn’t know anything about. I knew very little, just in order to arrive there and to not get scammed, which happens anyway because they have so many different ways of scam. But India was really like being in a hurricane and having to find like peace and silence in the middle of chaos, which was a big challenge.

Going to India made me realize that I should be more grateful for what I have in life. Sometimes I complain about very silly things.

Can you tell us some details and highlights of your travels through India?

I was first in New Delhi because that’s where my flight landed. Then I went to Varanasi, which is a very interesting city. They have Ganges River there, which for them is a very sacred river. For 24 hours they cremate corpses of people. It’s about 200 bodies a day that are cremated there every day, every year. And it’s very spiritual because of the way they celebrate this passage from this life to another life, somehow the journey that their family’s friends and loved ones had passed. It was very shocking for me this city as well because I saw people that had lepra. They had only one member in their bodies, like one leg or either one arm or something like that. And they kept on smiling and it was really weird to see a person without two arms and normally one leg smiling and laughing. I was like: “oh my god, what am I doing with my life”? Sometimes I complain about this and that and this guy is smiling. He doesn’t have his full body.

In what ways did your travels challenge your preconceptions or broaden your understanding of different cultures?

Once you get to know another culture or you travel the world, your mind never goes back to the size it was before. Once you see how big the world is and how small it is at the same time, we realize that the word is small, it has very few people. Even though it’s 8 billion people, it’s only a few. I met friends in India I didn’t know they were there. It was really crazy meeting those friends in India. We didn’t make a plan or anything. How’s that possible? But that’s the thing about traveling. You make friends here and there, then you meet again somewhere else, unexpectedly sometimes.

How is it to travel in this world and being in a small city like Faro now?

The city I come from in Brazil has about like half million of habitants. Then I lived in Dublin, which was like one and a half million more or less. So kind of big cities. And here in Faro it’s about 50,000 people. And it was a very big challenge in the beginning. I really didn’t like Faro at all because it was really small. I really didn’t see like any perspective of life here. I didn’t really see many cultural and social activities. Just few parties here and there, but everything really mainstream. Some one or two things were very nice when I arrived and they were more underground let’s say. And then I think it was because of the work that I was having at the time. I was working in a restaurant in order to get my documents. So this work made me really sick. Somehow, I was feeling depressed and unhappy with life because I was doing something that didn’t feed my soul. It’s a work that’s mechanical and easy. In the beginning I learned a lot and then at some point I stopped learning because I already knew pretty much all my duties and things that I had to do. So I think that I didn’t like Faro because I was very young, unhappy with the work I had, but it was a challenge living in a place that where everybody knows everybody.Even like to get in a relationship for example, it was harder because this girl has been with my friend and my other friend and my other friend and I had to deal with those things as well. So after one and a half year more or less, I started opening myself more to travel a bit in the Algarve. Because I see the Algarve as one village. If you get all the Algarve, it’s like my city in Brazil. So Algarve for me it’s like a small village of 400,000 people and Faro has only 50,000. It’s very small. But now I like Faro very much. It’s very chill, very calm. It gets a little crazy in summer, but we need that in order to get enough money to live during winter, autumn. So it was a big challenge but I think somehow I overcame it. But I think most of all it was a big challenge because of the work I was having. If I was working with jewelry in the beginning, I think I would be way happier and that challenge would be easier somehow.

How do you plan to continue exploring and immersing yourself in Faro?

As I’m an only child and my mom doesn’t have any other siblings and any family in Brazil, my plan is to stay longer here until she can make her plan. She already made her plan but she needs to do a few things before she can actually move to Faro. So my plan is to stay here, to grow my roots here for a little while, like more three, four years perhaps. Then my mom comes. She works in the same field as I do. So I would probably give my place in the market to her so she can work with her stuff as well. Whereas I can start like traveling a bit more. So either selling in different countries or either starting to serving festivals, maybe opening a physical shop as well here in Faro probably. So it’s a dream my mom always had. Having a shop for me is not a big deal because it’s a physical shop. You have to be there, or you have to hire someone to work there. I prefer to be more free, to travel around and stuff like that. But the plan for the following years is to keep on being in Faro. Bring my mom over. Once she settles here then I can start like traveling a bit more. Very soon I’ll be buying my camper as well. So I’ll have a bit more of mobility in being able to go here and there.

How did you start with the jewelry? When did you know that you wanted to do this for a long period?

That’s very funny because I was planning to go abroad Brazil in 2014. So I had already my flight ticket for 1st of January, 2015. My mom is a craftswoman, she makes jewelry, and my father makes music instruments. He’s also a poet. And before I went to Ireland, my mom sat with me and she was like: “João, your English level is very low. Let’s be like just sincere. You’re not gonna find a job easily. So I’d like to teach you how to make a bracelet, a necklace. And then if you sell like one a day, you already have a meal for your dinner or something”. And I thought it was a good idea. And I sat with her, she showed me the very first steps. I started making few bracelets and I was really enjoying making it. I’ve never really worked with handwork, manual work. And I really enjoyed it. I was getting more and more interested in it. And at some point I was already like mixing colors, adding beads, trying different designs. And when I moved it was just a backup plan. So if I don’t find the job, I have my backup. So I go out on the street and I try to sell a piece or two and then I have some food for the evening or something. And then my English school closed, after two months of classes. I was supposed to have six months of classes. So the bangladeshian guy, that was the owner of the school, took all the money from the school, bank accounts. He didn’t pay the teachers, he didn’t refund the students. So he just left the country and he left behind about 800 students with no support at all. We were all students and the dream we were living became a nightmare. From one day to another, it became really a nightmare because I was running low in money, my friends were also running low in money, and I saw many people like just gathering the luggage they had and going back to Brazil. I had only the money for one more rent. So I started selling on the street. I wanted to buy a bag of weed. I really wanted some relaxation, but if I spent the money I had would be like the money for the rent. So this money is untouchable. And I went there for getting like 25 years in order to buy a bag. When some people ask me that, I say that I needed to pay like the rent. However, I bought my bag with three days of work. It was really hard.

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