Back to the maid’s room
After living in London for two years I am finally back. Back to Brazil, back to my city SÃ£o Paulo, but this time – I’m back to the maid’s room.
As most flats in Brazilian cities, my family’s has a small room for the housemaid. Such rooms are usually small, dimly lit, sometimes damp. This is where I am living now; and I must say it has been a sad experience.
Living in the same room that many maids occupied throughout my childhood, I start to realize how degrading it is. It seems that, for the architects, the worse these rooms are, the best.
My room has no windows, no natural light or proper ventilation. It is very cold, about 2 degrees colder than the rest of the house.
It is close to the noisy washing machine, behind a wardrobe where everything related to cleaning is stored, and in front of a tiny toilet so tiny it’s not even worth mentioning.
Between the toilet and my room, clothes hang to dry, constantly reminding them that there is no place for intimacy, space, or beauty there. Plus it is situated outside the social areas of the houses, such as the living and TV rooms. The whole thing is built to state clearly that this is where the maids belong, separated from the family; that cleaning is their duty, their life, and who they are.
And some still say there’s no politics in architecture!
In Brazil, such room are a legacy of the slavery times. Back then, slaves brought from Africa had to live in shabby basements (the senzalas) while the white masters’ family would occupy the luxurious farm house (casa grande).
Back then, the architecture marked the violent separation between masters and slaves, as it continues to do now.
Still today, new flats are built with rooms for the servants. They are built for girls of my age to live in, while they spend their lives cleaning somebody else’s home (and being reminded of their place). But the saddest thing is, unlike me, they never complain.