Original title: O pagador de promessas (1961)
Author: Dias Gomes
Translator: Stanley Richards

Joe, a simple, idealistic young Brazilian farmer, carries a wooden cross thirty miles to fulfill a promise he has made to Saint Barbara. In a desperate effort to save the life of his beloved donkey, Joe, a devout Catholic, made a promise at an Afro-Brazilian voodoo rite known as “candomble.” When the donkey lives Joe and his wife, Rose, undertake the long and arduous journey through the backlands carrying a cross, intending to place it at the altar of the Church of Saint Barbara in the seaport city of Bahia. But upon arrival Joe meets opposition from a dogmatic priest, who regards the promise as voodoo-inspired and refuses to permit Joe to enter the church. Joe stubbornly encamps on the church steps, vowing to remain until he delivers his cross to the altar. His less-than-idealistic and weary wife, Rose, urges him to forget the promise and return home. Joe’s integrity, however, remains steadfast. In weariness and frustration, Rose succumbs to the enticements of a handsome young man, while Joe becomes a target for personal exploitation by an unscrupulous newspaper, corrupt politicians and a colorful assortment of townspeople. (Source: Dramatist Play Services)

Dias Gomes’ most famous play was first produced in São Paulo on July 29, 1960, and won three Brazilian prizes during the year. It was adapted to the screen as Keeper of Promises and won Brazil’s first Golden Palm at at the at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, and in 1963 it became the first Brazilian and South American film nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

It seems that a translation by Oscar Fernández called “Payment as Promised” appeared in 1967.


Journey to Bahia_Dias Gomes

Paperback: 79 pages
Publisher: Brazilian American Cultural Institute, 1964
Translator: Stanley Richards
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