As I write this, the Biblioteca Nacional is rounding out its third (and hopefully final) day of “Cultura em Greve,” or “Culture on Strike.” Since Monday, its doors and gates have been firmly locked to the outside public, with only a few security guards milling around the premises, often simply to answer questions of the curious public. I included myself in the latter category as I found myself hesitantly walking to the side entrance early Tuesday afternoon to inquire with regard to exactly what was going on. After all the previous accounts of drama with the library, the strike did not come as a surprise, but it was a definite disappointment. My days in Rio are numbered; there is only one full week remaining in my time here. So these additional setbacks become all the more grave considering I have only found one valuable piece to add to my research in an entire two months.
“What’s going on?” I asked the guard with caution, expecting him to tell me to leave the premises (the gate I had entered through was only ajar for the passing of one of the other guards).
“The library workers are on strike for a few days. They’re still in talks, but things should be back to normal on Thursday or Friday”
Just a typical day in my attempt to actually get any work done.
As I walked home, I tried to think of the situation positively. Maybe it could be an opportunity for me to get some “e-research” done. The material on the library’s website has been more useful than anything I have been able to access in person, if at all. When I got home, I plopped on the couch, got out my computer, and went to their website.
The site was down. Sigh.
I had had enough. It was time for my own strike. I had been working really hard for the past few weeks and recently found myself under the weather. It’s possible that the universe was sending me a sign to stop stressing about all the atrapalhaçao and to just relax. Maybe it was time to cuidar de mim mesma! So I spent the rest of the day at home and dedicated my time to a mini-marathon of the Real Housewives of New York, all the while gingerly snacking on the Mexican food I had made entirely from scratch the day before out of desperate cravings for something spicy. And I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty.
As someone conducting archival research, I go through periods in which I feel alienated. I’m in a room, working in silence, for hours at a time, surrounded by other people doing the exact same thing, but with whom I cannot interact. It can be time-consuming, exhausting, and at times incredibly boring. Even writing about the experience can be dull (though I am lucky that these adventures provide a laugh or a sigh here and there). But with the library closed for this short time, I am reminded thoroughly of its significance. The workers had succeeded. With culture on strike, my work was too.
I hope to go back to work tomorrow. The website is functioning now, which I interpret as a positive sign. But in the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my registered computer charging. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long day…
Posted by Wendi Muse – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU