||In the middle of the Jequitinhonha Vale, in a land where they once said precious stones sprouted out of the earth like grass, a woman emanates such energetic happiness that even the hard drought and the irregular rains can’t hold her back. “Life might be out of control, but I can’t complain. I’ve always been here, working at my loom. There was a time when the work diminished a lot, but I managed to raise 8 children. I love what I do. I like to prepare the thread, dye it and make all this material. Every bed cover I make takes a lot of thread! And I pay a lot of attention to the finishing touches. That’s what makes my work more valuable. I try to explain that to young people but they don’t get it. They are always in a hurry, and things end up badly done. When you use your hands, you can’t hurry.”
Mrs. Leontina Gonçalves Oliveira Amaral, born in the countryside in 1939, says the area has always had plenty of cotton. “With time, maybe because of the lack of new plantations, the cotton started getting dirty, so now we buy from elsewhere. Today here in Berilo there are about 90 people working with cotton, counting weavers and spinners. But people should appreciate our work more. I know our art is unique here in Jequitinhonha, and maybe even in Brazil.” Mrs. Leontina dyes her thread using natural pigments, from fruit peel and leaves, but when necessary she buys industrial dyes as well.