||The boy José Lopes da Silva Filho became Master Zé Lopes due to merit and persistence. Born on a smallholding in Glória do Goitá, whenever he went into town he would hang around the flour market, listening to the masters announcing their spectacles of dolls and puppets. “They would set the dolls up to advertise the show. They would perform in farms and villages. My father used to drive a tractor, and wanted me to become an engineer. He died when I was 4 years old. He didn’t see it but today I am a puppet engineer.”
At 10 he made a doll. “It looked just like me. To this day I still work with the dolls I made back then. The stories get longer because there are more dolls. Now there is radio and television, violence and drugs. Back then the only drug around was tobacco. Nowadays we have to speak to the younger people about this sort of thing as well.” Master Zé Lopes gets emotional talking about his masters, naming three with special warmth – João Nazário, Severino da Cocada and Zé Grande. He now works at the Puppet Museum downtown at Glória do Goitá, teaching others and creating and repairing his numerous characters.
“I’ll never forget that when I was a child, the articulated doll of a neighbour broke. I told him I could fix it. He said that if I made it worse, he would kill me. I opened it up, saw how it worked, fixed it and made another for myself. He said: you are naughty! You took my doll to learn how to make it! And he was right. I learned and I learned very well.”