Pianistas de Armazém: Trabalho Feminino na Catação de Café

By Museu do Café

Exposição sobre trabalho feminino nas catações de café.

Catadeiras de café trabalhando em armazém. (1928) by Theodor PreisingMuseu do Café

Nimble hands and fingers moving intermittently to the rhythm of a silent melody, carried forward by the determination to survive. The work of women and girls performed with such dexterity and focus as to earn them the nickname of “pianists”, driven by the gains from productivity, and diligent in their labor, as they work under the watchful eye of inspectors. Coffee sorting is a reprocessing activity, consisting in eliminating the defective beans from a lot, with a view to increase the supplier’s profit. While the practice endured for a large portion of coffee’s history and represented a critical link in the export supply chain, the principal figures in this endeavor – the coffee sorters – were relegated to invisibility. With the “Warehouse pianists: female labor in the coffee sorting industry,” O Museu do Café is privileged to offer the public, through a collection of memories and audiovisual resources, a glimpse into the day-to-day experience of these female workers and a craft, which has slowly, but surely, disappeared.

Catadeiras de Café em armazém de café no porto do Rio de Janeiro - RJ. (1910) by Autor DesconhecidoMuseu do Café

History of coffee sorting in Brazil

The references to this type of work, sometimes designated as “selection", date back to the 19th century. The task was generally delegated to female slaves and performed on large coffee plantations or mills. Although coffee sorting machinery already existed, hand sorting was still essential to ensure cleaner coffee with a higher market value. With the adoption by Brazil, in 1907, of the American defect standard for setting the market price for a sack of coffee and the concentration of coffee bean handling activities in the large commercial centers of Brazil, coffee sorting warehouses proliferated throughout Brazil’s state capital cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, as well as the Port of Santos. Manual coffee sorting in Brazil began its long decline in the 1970s with the enhancement and consolidation of electronic photo sensor equipment capable of distinguishing green, black, and other defective coffee beans, with higher productivity and at lower cost than manual labor.

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1888) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1888) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1890) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1899) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1902) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal A Capital (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1903) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal A Capital (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1903) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Correio Paulistano (SP). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1905) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Gazeta de Notícias (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1906) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal O Paiz (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1909) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal O Paiz (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1909) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal A Epoca (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1913) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Matéria do jornal A Gazeta (RJ). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1928) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Matéria do jornal Correio Paulistano (SP). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1930) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Anúncio no jornal Correio Paulistano (SP). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1935) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Matéria do jornal Correio O Dia (PR). Acervo Biblioteca Nacional. (1940) by Biblioteca NacionalMuseu do Café

Catadeiras de Café em armazém de café no porto de Santos - SP. (1930) by Theodor PreisingMuseu do Café

Female labor

The large daily flow of goods and people to and from ships demanded a substantial workforce. In this setting, women were called on to perform a range of paid activities connected directly or indirectly to the port: they worked as seamstresses, coffee sorters, laundresses, and in other tasks. To supplement their incomes, or in their role as head of the household, they faced the social stigma associated with female labor, one that persisted through the 20th century, and had to endure long work days, as they remained responsible for performing their usual daily domestic duties. Manual coffee sorting fell under the category of “female activities”: repetitive work that required little specialization and less physical effort – a questionable assertion in the light of the day-to-day routines of these workers – and for which meager compensation was paid. The characteristics of agility, attention, and patience were attributes traditionally assigned to women, however without regard to the fact that the skills they developed through their education and in the domestic setting made them, in fact, a specialized labor force.

Catadeiras de café trabalhando em armazém. (1928) by Theodor PreisingMuseu do Café

Memory of coffee sorting

In 2011 and 2013, Museu do Café researchers performed a series of interviews to better understand the coffee trade in the city of Santos. Among the testimonials are the narratives of coffee sorters and other professionals who carry the activity with them in their memories.
Through these memories, the day-to-day experiences and unique features of the coffee-sorting trade are brought into greater focus. The work was considered arduous and underpaid, even by the standards of those activities normally reserved to women. Nonetheless, because of its seasonal and generally informal character, the work met the needs of women from the poorest segments of society, inhabitants of the central region or the hillsides, who were either unemployed or could not gain access to other forms of work.
Another important aspect of manual coffee sorting was the possibility it offered women to bring their children with them to the warehouses, as many of these workers were mothers and had nowhere to leave their children during the day. Consequently, the memories of coffee picking frequently stretch all the way back to childhood, images of children playing in the warehouses or helping their mothers to complete the task at hand. Finally, the accompanying narratives record a host of survival strategies, from reconciling motherhood and work to choosing the highest-paying warehouses, the best employers, and the cleanest coffees.

Maria São Pedro Menezes nasceu em Aracajú, em 1950. Trabalhou com sua mãe na catação de café no começo da década de 1960. Entrevista gravada em 2018.
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Ana Gessi Penedo nasceu em Florianópolis – SC, em 1933. Trabalhou como catadeira de café na década de 1950. Entrevista gravada em 2012.
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Maria Dias Carvalho nasceu em 1949. Acompanhou a mãe na catação de café durante sua infância, até o começo da década de 1960. Entrevista gravada em 2012.
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Maria Dias Carvalho nasceu em 1949. Acompanhou a mãe na catação de café durante sua infância, até o começo da década de 1960. Entrevista gravada em 2012.
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Josephina Viggiano nasceu em São Paulo, em 1927. Começou a trabalhar como costureira de sacaria em 1950, desempenhando essa atividade até o final da década de 1960. Entrevista gravada em 2011.
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Alexandre Rodrigues nasceu em Santos, em 1941. Começou como fiel de armazém em 1959 e, até o momento da entrevista, ainda exercia o mesmo cargo. Entrevista gravada em 2013.
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Ayrton de Souza Ferreira nasceu em 1930. Começou a trabalhar em uma firma exportadora na parte de documentação, e depois como classificador de café.
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Nilton Manso Branco nasceu em 1934. Foi gerente e depois proprietário de uma catação de café, de 1960 a 1972. Entrevista gravada em 2012.
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Credits: Story

GOVERNO DO ESTADO DE SÃO PAULO

João Doria
Governador do Estado de São Paulo

Sérgio Sá Leitão
Secretário de Cultura e Economia Criativa do Estado de São Paulo

Cláudia Pedrozo
Secretária - Adjunta de Cultura e Economia Criativa do Estado de São Paulo

INSTITUTO DE PRESERVAÇÃO E DIFUSÃO DA HISTÓRIA DO CAFÉ E DA IMIGRAÇÃO

CONSELHO DE ADMINISTRAÇÃO (INCI)

Guilherme Braga Abreu Pires Filho
Presidente

Carlos Henrique Jorge Brando
Vice-presidente

Alessandra de Almeida Santos
Diretora Executiva

Thiago Santos
Diretor Administrativo-financeiro

Daniel Ramos
Gerente Administrativo-financeiro

Caroline Nóbrega
Gerente de Comunicação e Desenvolvimento Institucional

Marcela Rezek
Coordenadora Técnica do Museu da Imigração

Bruno Bortoloto do Carmo
Pietro Marchesini Amorim
Pesquisa

Bruno Bortoloto do Carmo
Produção

Osvaldo Abreu
Assistente de produção

Equipe Técnica do Museu do Café
Curadoria

Credits: All media
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