Lyrics from “Maringá” by Joubert de Carvalho (1932), recorded by Gastão Formenti:
It was in a caravan that the cabocla Maringá ended up being the migrant who caused the greatest stir
And along with her came someone who begged that she never forget the caboclo who stayed behind
In days of old, an unrivaled joy reigned over the people of the city of Pombal
But the drought came, all the rain went away, leaving only the water of my eyes
When they cry
After you departed everything became so sad here that I began to imagine
For happiness to happen, this longing must go strike somewhere else
Come back here to my sertão, so that the heart of a caboclo can be at peace again
— Interpretation —
This song holds the rare distinction of having a Brazilian city named in its honor.
In the mid-1940s, the British-owned Companhia de Melhoramentos do Norte do Paraná built a planned city in the southeastern state of Paraná, Brazil. When it came time to give the city a name, in 1947, Elizabeth Thomas – wife of the company’s president – suggested “Maringá,” the name of one of her favorite Brazilian songs.(Some sources report she heard the workers singing it as they built the city.) The name stuck, and Maringá is now the third-largest city in Paraná.
The composer Joubert de Carvalho was a doctor by profession (a pioneer of psychosomatic medicine in Brazil), and in 1932 he had his heart set on becoming physician for Brazil’s Instituto dos Marítimos. To pursue this coveted government position, he turned to a friend in high places: José Americo de Almeida, Minister of Transport and Public Works for President Getulio Vargas‘s interim government (1930 – 1934). An official working in Almeida’s cabinet, Rui Carneiro, suggested that the composer might improve his chances by writing a song about the drought devastating the northeast: Almeida was from the northeastern state of Paraíba, and would surely appreciate the gesture.
Without delay, Carvalho composed this song about Maria from Ingá, abbreviated to Maringá. Ingá is a town near Campina Grande, Paraíba, one of the most desperately drought-stricken areas at the time. The song also makes reference to the city of Pombal, Paraíba.
Gastão Formenti recorded “Maringá” in June 1932 and the song indeed helped Joubert de Carvalho ingratiate himself with Americo de Almeida and get the post he wanted at the Maritime Institute, where he ended up becoming a director. Americo de Almeida, meanwhile, is remembered as a savior for the northeast during and after the drought. When rains finally began again, around December 1932, conditions of poor hygiene and malnutrition led to the outbreak of vicious epidemics. Almeida organized the Medical Commission for Collaboration in Assistance and Prophylactic Medicine for Flagelados (drought victims) as a disaster-relief effort. Much thanks to Americo’s dedication, the government managed to keep the plague in check within a few months.
Caboclo(a) loosely means someone of mixed white and Indian blood. Sertão refers to the dry hinterlands of Brazil’s northeastern region.
Joubert de Carvalho was born in Uberaba, Minas Gerais, on March 3, 1900. He moved to São Paulo with his family at age 13, the same year he composed his first song: “Cruz vermelha,” inspired by a children’s hospital in São Paulo. His interest in medicine and composing never waned: a few years later he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he studied medicine and continued composing, as he did throughout his long medical career at the Instituto dos Marítimos. He died on September 20th, 1977.
Lyrics in Portuguese
Foi numa léva
Que a cabocla Maringá
Ficou sendo a retirante
Que mais dava o que falá.
E junto dela
Veio alguem que suplicou
Prá que nunca se esquecesse
De um caboclo que ficou
Uma alegria sem igual
Dominava aquela gente
Da cidade de Pombal.
Mas veio a seca
Toda chuva foi-se embora
Só restando então as água
Dos meus óio quando chóra.
Depois que tu partiste,
Tudo aqui ficou tão triste,
Que eu garrei a maginá:
Para havê felicidade,
É preciso que a saudade
Vá batê noutro lugá.
Volta aqui pro meu sertão
Pra de novo o coração
De um caboclo assossegá.
Main Sources for this post: Correspondence with Jairo Severiano; Como e Porque Nascem as Canções, Radio Batuta, Instituto Moreira Salles