With Dimas on the Salamansa Beach


From Cabo Verde, to the World

He’s not older than ten. He starts talking to us immediately. He speaks a lot, about everything, as if we were the first people he’s met in months or years, he smiles all the time, almost contagiously, and tells us his name is Dimas. “Djimas”, the way his cousins, uncles and aunts probably pronounce his name in Brazil, where he dreams of going one day.

His yellow T-shirt and the blue shorts, much too long for him, are definitely passed down from an elder brother. He is barefoot, like any islander child who has come out to play in his backyard, which for him is an enormous beach, with no trace of footprint on the sand. He abandons his football friends to come and say hello to us, to measure us from head to toe, discreetly but with curiosity, to tell us about his school, the newest building in the village, of which he is supremely proud, about his mother – a housewife, about his father – a fisherman (I wonder how many of the village children would answer the same if we asked them about their parents’ jobs) who often travels to the uninhabited island nearby, Santa Luzia, to bring from there *** or ***, fishes whose names are impossible to remember. We already feel we’re taking a listening test in advanced Creole! And he asks one question after the other: where we come from, what it’s like where we live, why we have come here…

salamansa beach cabo verde

He doesn’t even give us the time to start answering before he moves on to the next question. We would expect him to be discouraged by our approximate mix of Portuguese and Spanish, but, to our surprise, he understands us and the next series of questions comes in quick succession: what’s it like in Spain, where you live? what do children get to eat in school? where do Spanish children go on holiday? M. writes ROMANIA in the sand, in big letters, Dimas reads it out loud, but his wish to make friends from Spain is stronger than our reality.

cabo verde romania

“Isn’t it true that when you return to Spain you’ll buy a new pair of sandals?” He’s right, M.! You really have to give up those broken down sandals that you keep gluing back together over and over again, a souvenir from an August trip to Sziget music festival!
He takes us to show us the crabs brought by waves to the stony shore, then he laughs with his football friends when one of them calls the biscuits M. has given them “bonbons”.

capul verde boys

Dimas is the textbook image for “dreaming with one’s eyes open”. One day, he will fly the plane that passes above his village and island, like the pilot he waves at every day. “Hey plane, up in the sky, take me with you, let’s fly so high” – all those songs we used to make up when we were his age and children’s desire to fly are more universal than we might think.

t’s almost time to wait for the bus that takes us back to town. The boys have already left for class, and Dimas accompanies us to the improvised bus stop in front of a small store whose few shelves are almost empty, maybe the only store in the village. And he keeps talking and talking… he is fascinated with M’s watch, a quite big sport model with a round dial. He looks at it, says something, but we can’t make sense of it. We think it might have something to do with the store. Maybe they sell children’s watches? He goes in with M. and they come out together a few minutes later. Dimas holds a bag of chips. He opens it quickly and produces a golden chip, exactly as big and round as M’s watch.
Isn’t this beautiful translation work?

In October 2006 Dimas was our impromptu guide on the beach at Salamansa, a fishing village lost between a gray, desolate mountain and the big sea, on the island of São Vicente in Cabo Verde.


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