Ruth Guimarães

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Ruth Guimarães
Ruth Guimarães.jpg
Ruth Guimarães, 2013
Ruth Guimarães Botelho

(1920-06-13)13 June 1920
Died21 May 2014(2014-05-21) (aged 93)
Cachoeira Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
Years active1938–2013
Known forfirst Afro-Brazilian author with a nationwide audience
Notable work
Água Funda (Deep Water)
Spouse(s)José Botelho Netto

Ruth Guimarães (1920–2014) was the first Afro-Brazilian author to gain a national audience and critical attention for her novels, short stories, and poetry. A classical scholar, she translated works from French, Italian and Spanish and studied Greek and Latin, though her works reflected fables, folklore, herbal medicines and legends of Afro-Brazil. She established several cultural preservation societies, served as head of the Ministry of Culture for Municipality of Cruzeiro, São Paulo, and was a member of the São Paulo Academy of Letters.


Ruth Guimarães Botelho was born on 13 June 1920 in Cachoeira Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil.[1] From a young age she enjoyed reading and began writing her first pieces at the age of ten and submitting them to the paper O Cachoeirense. Her father had a library of classical works and her mother read romantic literature, which influenced her. When her parents died, she was quite young and she went to live with her maternal grandparents, attending school in Guará. She later attended high school in Lorena[2] and then in 1935 attended the Escola Normal Padre Anchieta in São Paulo to earn her teaching credentials.[3] In 1938,[4] she entered the University of São Paulo, where she studied classical literature[1] and philosophy. She also studied anthropology and folklore with Mário de Andrade, delving into the customs and legends of her African roots.[4]

Guimarães continued writing during her schooling, publishing in Correio Paulistano[2] and then she became a proofreader and translator for several publishers including Cultrix,[4] and O Diaulas. Among the works she translated were Dostoyevsky from French, Balzac, Prosper Mérimée and Oscar Wilde, including many works from Italian and Spanish.[2] She was very interested in language and studied both Greek and Latin,[3] and though she found the intelligentsia stimulating, she considered herself a rustic hillbilly, often repeating "eu sou caipira" (I am a [country] hick).[3][4][5][6] Though there were more lucrative employment opportunities in São Paulo, Guimarães preferred to return to the Paraíba Valley when she completed her education.[4]


Returning home, Guimarães worked several jobs to help support her family, first her brothers[3] and later her husband, José Botelho Netto, and nine children.[7] She wrote a permanent column in the newspapers Folha de S. Paulo and O Estado de S. Paulo[5] as well as writing for several years for Revista Manchete[7] and the bimonthly Revista do Globo, of Porto Alegre.[8] She served as head of the Department of Culture for the Municipality of Cruzeiro, São Paulo, until her retirement.[3] Between 2010 and 2013 she also wrote a weekly column in the newspaper ValeParaibano of São José dos Campos.[9]

In 1946, Guimarães published her first book, entitled Água funda (Deep Water),[8] which won wide critical acclaim and propelled her to national attention. She was the first Afro-Brazilian to gain a nationwide audience,[4] though she wrote the book in the local dialect of the Paraíba Valley[3] on topics of every day life[5] including disease, misfortune and mystery.[4] These would become signatures and recurring themes in her works,[6] weaving the fables, folklore, herbal medicines and legends of Afro-Brazil into her works. In addition to writing her own novels, short stories and poems, she took up translating again in the 1950s, publishing works of Italian poet Sergio Corazzini in Revista do Globo and later in the 1960s did translations for Editora Cultrix.[8] Her more than 50 books[9] include dictionaries and encyclopedias[8] literary works and children's stories.[6]

Proud of her roots, she encouraged others to study their heritage,[10] teaching and founding many organizations, like the Cachoeirense Academy of Letters, the Valdomiro Silveira Folklore Museum, and a Guarda Mirim, youth program.[11] After having previously declined to take on another responsibility,[3] in 2008, Guimarães accepted an election to the São Paulo Academy of Letters[1] and worked with them on a project to reclaim Brazilian stories.[9]

Guimarães died on 21 May 2014 in Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil[4] and was buried in the family plot in Cruzeiro.[9]

Selected works[edit]

Guimarães has written over fifty publications, including:[12]

  • Guimarães, Ruth (1946). Água Funda (in Portuguese). Porto Alegre, Brazil: Edição da Livraria do Globo.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1950). Os filhos do mêdo (in Portuguese). Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editôra Globo.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1960). Mulheres célebres (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1960). As mães na lenda e na história (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1961). Líderes religiosos (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1968). Lendas e fábulas do Brasil (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1972). Dicionário da mitologia grega (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1975). Grandes enigmas da história (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth; Roque da Silva, Rolando (1986). Contos de Alphonse Daudet (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Editôra Cultrix.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1986). Medicina mágica: as simpatias (in Portuguese). São Paulo, Brazil: Global Editora.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1991). Crônicas valeparaibanas (in Portuguese). Caçapava, Brazil: Centro de Recursos Educacionais.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (1996). Contos de cidadezinha (in Portuguese). Lorena, Brazil: Centro Cultural Teresa D'Avila.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (2003). Água Funda (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Nova Fronteira.
  • Guimarães, Ruth (2006). Calidoscópio: a saga de Pedro Malazarte (in Portuguese). São José dos Campos, Brazil: JAC Gráfica e Editora.



External links[edit]