The Fruit Section

Pajuba

by Christel Escosa
Dany Barony translated by Raphael Caffarena

In Brazil, Brazilian-Portuguese is the language spoken by the population. Obviously, there are rules of how it is spoken. They are complicated.

There is also another language spoken in Brazil. Used by the queer community, it is called Pajuba, derived from Yoruba and the Candomblé religious language. There is also some cross-over coming from Umbanda; Umbanda being a syncretic Brazilian religion blending African traditions with Roman Catholicism, spiritism, and Indigenous American beliefs.

Pajuba is an amalgamation of Yoruba and Umbanda; re-moulded in purpose and form to be used daily in the lives of the trans, gay, lesbian, bi, and intersex community in Brazil; with the intention of separating themselves and being incomprehensible to the heterosexual community. From the police. From those that seek to hurt or persecute them.

It’s Brazilian-Portuguese Queer-Speak, you guys.

Allow me to introduce my friend Péricles. Péricles is gay. The reason he knows of Pajuba is because he has a trans friend on Whatsapp that communicates with him mostly via audio messages. Her name is Dany Barony. For the longest time, Péricles couldn’t actually understand half of what Dany was saying because her messages were spoken with a healthy serve of Pajuba; that even Péricles, as a somewhat prominent figure in the community, wasn’t fluent, or even acquainted with. Perhaps Péricles’ visibility on the scene is the reason why he wasn’t privy to Pajuba.

PERICLES: I’ve always been very friendly with the trans community. When I lived in Curitiba I had so many trans friends, and a lot of them were from the underworld; like, prostitutes. Because they couldn’t get a job, you know? They had to make a living, and that was the only option. I was always very interested to know their purpose and what they wanted. And they all shared this very specific language.

When I first heard it, I couldn’t understand anything. And that’s the purpose of it. They do not want to be understood by anyone.

It’s a form of protection, right?

Yes. Because of course, the streets are very dangerous. They can get arrested or killed or worse. There’s actually a dictionary, you know. I met once, the writer – he died some time ago – wrote this dictionary just for the gay slang, the Pajuba. You know there’s the ‘proper’ dictionary? It’s called Aurelio. It’s Brazil’s famous dictionary. The one for Pajuba is called Aurelia.

Is the Aurelia freely available to purchase?

Yes, it has all the meanings for Pajuba. It’s huge! It’s an entirely different language to Brazilian-Portuguese. Like, for example, another word in Pajuba is erê. It’s meaning in Candomble is a child entity. So the trans people use this word to describe young guys. Like, “Oh I just hooked up or had sex with an erê.”

Incentivo could be anything you know, not just drugs or this kind of thing, but it could also signify sex. But it’s not just this. If you say something nice to me, then that is also an ‘incentive’. Though mostly it just refers to drugs. Calvin Klein for example, is cocaine mixed with Special K. They call that Calvin Klein. And then, Dany Barony has evolved it once more - she calls it Calvin Harris now.

Wait. Let’s explain how we came to this conversation. Oh yeah, I first asked you whether everyone used the word padê for cocaine – I was wondering because it’s the slang a lot of our peers here in São Paulo use to describe the drug. But from what I understand, it's not that commonly used, since it was originally gay slang. Actually, it’s gay slang that has been taken from trans slang. So, could you explain where trans slang comes from?

Yes. Trans people here in Brazil invented their own vocabulary. More than just slang. It's an entire other language in fact, which is borrowed from the African religions that are very popular here in Brazil called umbanda and candomblé, and other religions related to that that came with the African people to Brazil with the slaves.

Why did the trans people choose candomblé and umbanda to take these words from?

Oh, because it’s the religion that accepts diversity, you know? I think it’s one of the only religions that really encourages diversity. Trans people are really really welcome, and they go to these places. For example, padê originally, was the word for the offerings that these religions use in their rituals. This turned into the word used for cocaine. And in turn, it's this "offering" or "incentive" that the gods shone for; so too, do some people for cocaine, or incentivo. For example, ilé is the Pajuba word for house. In candomblé, ilé is kinda like the church. So they call their own houses, ilé.

So, in Brazil, straight people do not know these terms. Like I was saying before, in Australia or in London, say, drug terms, like ‘charlie’, are not gay or straight terms, they’re just street names for people who use. Or another example, in Australia, cocaine is also generally known as bag or rack, but it’s not specifically gay or trans related. But obviously, straight people use drugs here in Brazil as well.

Of course.

Do they have different names for it?

Yes, but they use common names for it. People call it like, Paulo Otavio, which is like the ‘Charlie’ equivalent; just a common name so it's inconspicuous. “Let’s talk to Paulo Otavio or Charlie,” – it’s the same thing. But the gays and trans, they take it a step further. Other terms are like tushe for crack. Gals means like, the bag. Actually, the police already know what padê is. Padê is trans slang from the 80s and start of the 90s. There’s a new word now, invented so that the police can’t track it, because padê is mainstream.

But I’m not going to tell you that one.