April 15, 2010

Itaberaí – Home to Super Frango

Again I find myself in Itaberaí, waiting for my bus to Itapuranga. Itaberaí is a small town mid-way between Goiás Velho and Itapuranga, if you choose to take the asphalted way. There is another bus that goes along the dirt road, but it only leaves Goiás Velho once a day – at 2pm. I had hoped to get to Itapuranga early today, but the next bus leaves at 11:30am. So, I am left to explore Itaberaí.

The truth is that I find Itaberaí quite fascinating. It does not have the tourist attractions or natural beauty of Goiás Velho, but is interesting nonetheless. Itaberaí is home to Super Frango – a large chicken processing plant. This plant provides employment to many inhabitants of Itaberaí and is at least partly responsible for the relative modernization of Itaberaí.

A small city in the middle of nowhere, Itaberaí hosts a fairly impressive, brand new shopping center. It is relatively small, with about ten shops on the first floor and ten shops on the second. Shopping Itaberaí is strikingly modern with huge glass windows, stone floors, fancy shops, a modern video arcade, and remarkably clean bathrooms. And, it has an escalator – actually two – one that goes up and one that goes down.

Inside the shopping center, chicken processing plant workers can find all sorts of things to spend their income on – jewelry, clothes, shoes, and electronic devices. Most things are available on credit – you can buy a computer and pay for it over 36 months, or even a pair of sneakers and pay for it over 6 months.

Last time we were in Itaberaí with my children, they had fun playing in the kids’ area. For 5 reais, kids can play in a small area with plenty of toys and costumes for the kids to dress up. They would have liked to stay longer than the half an hour we had, but, as usual, we were just stopping in Itaberaí on the way to Goiás Velho.

When I arrived at Shopping Itaberaí this morning, it was before 10 am, and it hadn’t opened yet. So, I had to find another way to spend the two hours before my bus left. I found a place to waste a few minutes online. But, I wasn’t really in the mood for Internet surfing. Then, it occurred to me that I should get a pedicure.

I found a small salon on the main street, and a young woman agreed to give me a manicure and a pedicure for just 15 reais – US $9. The manicurist told me that Itaberaí has grown quite a bit in the last few years. Since Shopping Itaberaí was built about a year ago, people no longer have to travel to Goiânia to purchase things they need.

I asked the manicurist if she had ever worked in Super Frango. She said no, but that plenty of her friends did. She never tried because she had heard that the work was hard and doubted she’d last very long. Also, since she doesn’t have any friends in management, she didn’t have much of a chance of getting promoted from the most laborious jobs. So, she makes her living as a manicurist.

I told her that I am doing research with deportees, and asked her if she knew any. She said she had heard that one of her neighbors had been deported, but had returned to the U.S. I have heard that from a few people – that people who have been deported make the trek again from Mexico to the U.S. And, it seems that quite a few people make it, despite the heavy security along the border.

She finished my manicure and pedicure in time for me to get back to the bus station and catch my bus to Itapuranga. I hope to be able to complete at least a couple interviews today in Itapuranga, even though I will arrive in the afternoon.

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