All he knows about his father was his mother, Sanu Mané, now 63, who told him: “I was from Porto, I was 32 years old when I was born and had no wife or children. He was an official and rode a jeep, he was the one driving. I am Fátima because my grandmother was Fátima, and da Cruz because my father had that nickname. When I was born my grandmother started sending out clothes and jewelry. My mother used to receive things, but she didn't know anything, she never went to school, she has no education ”.
In the version that the mother told her, it was the maternal family that prevented the parents from being together: “My father wanted to take my mother to Portugal, but afraid that she would go away from the family and that she would drink alcohol, my cousin took the documents from him and burned everything. And we stayed like this, here ”, laments Fátima da Cruz, widow, mother of three and grandmother of two.
The “like” was a difficult childhood, far from family and school, all because it was different. “In my family, none are white, just me. It was very difficult to grow, very difficult. My family is Muslim, there can be no Portuguese among them. I was born and raised by another grandmother, who is not my mother's mother, who took me to her home. I didn't go to school, because when I went they caught my hair, [they called me] ‘white’, ‘tuga’ and I don’t know, ”he recalls.
Later, after his mother married, he moved in with her, his stepfather and the two half sisters, but the memories he has are no better. From the age of 13, he started waking up every day at 4 am to fry sweets, which he then put into a 50 kg bowl over his head and sold in the nearest village, about 4 km away. Decades later, today a clothing trader in Bissau, he maintains the same fixed idea: “I want to know who my father is. Who is my father? I refused to have my sisters' father's nickname, I just want to have my father's nickname! My stepfather used to punish me, but I didn't take his nickname, which was Dabo. I'm Fátima Celeste da Cruz. When I go to my mother's house, I keep asking her: 'Mother, tell me, who is my father?'. She is now old enough to cry. And cry. But it says nothing ”.
In the association to which she belongs, she explains, there are other children of washerwomen, almost all with stories similar to yours, of love that went wrong – "We have a lady who told us that she was raped and that she became pregnant, but she is just one".
They cannot all have been motivated by errors of perception; There were cases in which the military even lost their love for the women who took care of their clothes, Luís Graça guarantees, and not only, to the Observer: “I know several cases of men, my comrades, who had long-term relationships and marital, marital lives women who often started by washing their clothes ”.