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from FAXINA Media

Entre Quatro Paredes (Between Four Walls)

FAXINA, /fah/she/nah/, is a Portuguese word that means deep cleaning, an activity that is much more than a simple tidying up. Brazilian house cleaners call themselves “Faxineiras.” When someone is performing a “faxina,” this person is committed to move things out of their familiar places, to create a zone of chaos and discomfort, so that the dust — long accumulated — can be removed. Also, there is inside “faxineiras” (house cleaners) an interior preparation for the possible surprises that they might find under the rug or behind the sofa. 


FAXINA storytelling was created by me, Heloiza Barbosa, a former house cleaner and Brazilian immigrant. I know firsthand the difficulties of arriving in a foreign country in search of opportunity, how limited the resources many of us have, and that domestic work is one of the few work options Brazilian migrants find upon arriving in the United States. As a former house cleaner, I have seen into this world. I also know how often the immigrant stories have been ignored, forgotten or simply not heard. 


My show tells the stories of Brazilian house cleaners in America; cleaning other people’s houses while creating homes of their own. It is an ethnographic audio-documentary about the lives of these immigrants in their own voices; it is a podcast about the stories that get swept under the rug. And on it you will hear Portuguese language immigrant narratives infused with original music composed by Brazilian musicians. 


“Between Four Walls” is an episode about Elza, an undocumented Brazilian housecleaner who borrowed money from a “coyote” and fled Brazil to save her life, leaving behind her family, her house, her secure job, and her two-year-old son. It is an episode about the structural forces that cause women displacement, about domestic violence as a factor of women migration, racism, urban violence, separation of mother and child, and the aspirations of dreamers. It is an episode about the psychological manipulation and violence of "coyotes." The whole episode had original music composed by FAXINA’s team. We also use FAXINA’s platform to shed light on the work of Brazilian illustrators and artists. Thus, this episode has original artwork by Carli-Ayô, an awarded Brazilian graffiti artist. 

— Heloiza Barbosa

Listening Instructions

I edited this piece with a lot of anger. It was the first time in my life that I could understand how one can channel such a powerful emotion into creative work. This piece is tense and dense. The tension comes from a picture that slowly sharpens the contours of structural inequalities, racism, and misogyny. The density is because human life is complex and layered. 


So, my suggestions for the best way to listen are:

  • Click here if you can listen to it in Portuguese, and please use headphones.

    • Listen to it while taking a walk, kneading dough, painting, or doing nothing but opening your heart;

    • But also feel free to listen via speakers while driving for instance — just make sure that you do not have young kids in the car.

  • If you are a speaker of a language other than Portuguese, you need to listen to it with a screen in front of you. There's an option for that below. I am sorry for that! 

    • You will need to read the subtitles while listening to the piece.

    • Or, forget completely about reading, and immerse yourself in the sounds of human voices speaking another language, and music from different places.

  • Have a drink of your choice close by. Hydrate yourself.

  • If you have a house cleaner, thank her, pay her well, and please choose cleaning products that are not harmful to the cleaner’s health. Her lungs and her family will be very grateful.

  • And all of us, after listening to this piece, remember that immigrants are people displaced for hardships unknown to us, for reasons that our society swept under the rug, and you can help to lift it up.

Heloiza's Inspiration

  • The Brazilian writer Sheyla Smanioto’s book Desesterro turned my eyes to women forced to migrate in order to survive. And open my ears to their interiority.

  • The pandemic of COVID-19 increased the occurences of domestic violence against women. It was reported by NPR.

  • Immigrants are constantly being vilified by American mainstream media and some public figures.

  • Latino USA aired the brilliant piece The Return [note from Third Coast: Our Winner of the 2019 Third Coast/RHDF Competition Best Documentary: Gold Award!] and I could not stop thinking about the mother who was forced to leave her son behind. Who was she?

  • The movie Roma — which spells “amor” backwards — seemed beautiful but backward to me. Who were those domestic workers beyond the master’s house? I could not hear their voices.

  • Rhiannon Guiddens' album Freedom Highway was playing in a loop in my headphones.


Producer: Heloiza Barbosa

Host: Heloiza Barbosa

Story Editor: Heloiza Barbosa

Editor Assistant: Valquiria Gouvea

Sound Design: Paulo Pinheiro, Diogo Saraiva & Adam Gamwell 

Original Score: Diogo Saraiva and Paulo Pinheiro

Illustration: Carli Ayô

Translation to English: Adam Gamwell

Subtitles: Diogo Saraiva

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