Our vendors: Samuel Diarra (CAIS, Lisbon, Portugal)

Interview by CAIS

Writing and editing by Cat Schaupp

Samuel tells us that his parents named him Samuel for religious reasons: Samuel was the prophet who anointed Saul and David as kings of Israel and the name means “God heard”. When he was young, Samuel dreamed of being a spiritual healer but, now that he is older, his biggest dream is to be a poet.

Samuel is passionate about the arts and talks with enthusiasm about his favourite films, books and songs. He tells me that a film that he will never forget is O Mago do Inferno because of its powerful message. “It talks about courage, which is the best friend a man can have during times of anguish,” he says. There are many songs that remain important to Samuel, such as those from his homeland that are sung by sorcerers, while his favourite musician is Tony Carreira, whose singing Samuel is particularly fond of. Courage remains a common theme when it comes to Samuel’s favourite book, which is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, a volume of biographies of United States Senators and their acts of bravery while in office, written by John F. Kennedy while he himself was a Senator in 1957. Samuel tells us more about some of his other favourite things: his favourite sport is gymnastics; his favourite TV show is Fatima Lopes’s show and his favourite season is summer.

CAIS vendor Samuel. [Photo courtesy of CAIS]

It is clear that Samuel also feels a lot of love for his adopted hometown of Lisbon. He is a fan of football team Benfica and says that he greatly admires the politician Mário Soares, who was the first Secretary-General of the Socialist Party from 1973 to 1986 and who also served as both the Prime Minister and President of Portugal during his political career. When we ask him about a meal that brings back fond memories, it is a speciality from Lisbon that he mentions: Bacalhau à Brás—a dish made from strips of salted cod, finely-chopped potatoes and scrambled egg that is garnished with black olives and parsley. When asked about his favourite spot in the city, Samuel answers that he loves the frequesia or civil parish of Arroios, whose open spaces and market he loves.

When our conversation turns to more personal matters, Samuel says that his best quality is being peaceful. His worst? “I’m resentful,” he admits. Samuel says that selling CAIS has affected his life in many positive ways. It has helped him to resolve various problems, which, in turn, has allowed him to have a better life. Samuel’s ultimate goal in life is to be at peace and to help the world to be at peace too. We finish by asking him what values he has grown up with that are still important to him. “My traditional religion, which is based around happiness,” Samuel responds. “Everything that we do in life is in the pursuit of happiness.”

Translated from Portuguese by Claire Reid