On May 23, Brazil overtook Russia and became the second country most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, behind only the United States. Two days earlier, he recorded his deadliest 24 hours: 1,118 deaths from the disease, according to the Ministry of Health. As of May 25, COVID-19 has claimed 23,473 lives in the nation of 200 million people among 374,898 confirmed cases.
Brazilians are gradually getting used to statistics breaking records every day. On May 6, when the total number reached 8,500, presenter William Bonner, TV Globo news anchor, Jornal Nacional, took a moment to reflect on what the numbers meant:
I hear a thousand lives will end. Eram lives of people, loved by other people. Country, irmãos, filhos, amigos, conhecidos Aí or mourning dess so many families vai ficando só pra elas, because as outras pessoas já não têm nem as to reflect on a gravidade dessas dying all, that vão accumulating every day.
Eight thousand lives have ended. They were people's lives, they were loved by other people. Parents, siblings, children, friends, acquaintances. And then, the pain of these families remains only with those families, because the others no longer have how to reflect on the severity of so many deaths that accumulate daily.
Bonner's words resonated with many Brazilians who feel that human stories are lost behind staggering figures; But a group of artists and writers has decided to make sure they don't forget.
“Inumeráveis,” or “Incontables”, is an online memorial created by Brazilian artists Edso Pavoni and Rogério Oliveira that honors the lives of those who have died in the pandemic. The list was released on April 30, and contains the names and ages of the people plus a short obituary. Around 20 people run the site, either with research, writing, or reviewing.
In a WhatsApp conversation with Global Voices, Pavoni said:
Você agrees e 68 pessoas morreram; you agree no other day and 120 pessoas morreram; agrees not another day and 200 and so many people will die. Depois de um tempo, esse numbers vão losing or meaning, vão becoming a kind of relogio, warning, another thing that is not heavy. E vai people becoming insensitive.
You wake up and 68 people have died: you wake up the next day and 120 people have died; another day and more than 200 people are dead. Before long, those numbers begin to lose their meaning and become a kind of clock, an alarm, anything but people. And we become insensitive.
Pavoni had the idea for the memorial after the cancellation of its exhibition in Lisbon. He says he wanted to find a way to work on the topic of “connection” during social isolation. Then he approached Oliveira, who was also uneasy about the growing number of news.
The first obituaries in the memorial were about the in-laws of a mutual friend – Edgar Farah, 81, proud owner of a beige Volkswagen Beetle, and his wife Eunice Farah, 77 – who spent this year's carnival partying with their children and grandchildren.
Currently the list has just over 600 names – still a long way from the more than 20,000 deaths that Brazil has registered so far. Among them is Agatha, 25, who loved cats and attended nursing school while working at a health center in a favela in Rio de Janeiro.
And from the legendary Brazilian composer and musician Aldir Blanc, or Julia Nieto Parra, 101, who was born on a coffee farm, saw electricity come to homes and streets and had 17 grandchildren.
In a conversation with Global Voices, Pavoni noted that Brazilians are so overwhelmed with their own financial stability in the midst of the crisis that it is easy for statistics to turn into background noise. He says:
The numbers are not enough. It is not enough for each individual to understand as a society in depth the transformations of the historical moment that people are experiencing.
The numbers are not enough. They are not enough for each person to understand the depth of the transformations and the historical moment that we are experiencing.