Mr Ferreirinha, the straightener of the municipality of Odemira

“My father and grandfather already had this gift, it came from generation to generation, a generation of masters”

You can still feel the heat as soon as you arrive at the small village of Castelão, in the parish of São Luís, in the municipality of Odemira, the largest in Portugal. Sought after by people even from the Algarve, Manuel Ferreira, 68 years old, provides a service that hardly exists anymore, but is in great demand. Better known as “Ferreirinha”, he says he believes in the gift of straightening people’s bones.

Born into a family of amateurs (that's how straighteners are called in Alentejo), he soon realized that he also had the gift of straightening bones. Since he was little, he had watched his father, but one day, at the tender age of 9, he broke his leg in two places, with the butt of an ox, and his father had to be the one to do it. tomorrow. “I didn’t even need to go to the doctor,” he says.

Do you feel that this bad luck contributed to the awakening of this art of tomorrow and helping people: “this gift was born with me, it made me believe and make this my profession”.

Despite the 32 years he has worked as a groomer, Manuel Ferreira had no studies, but soon began to list: “I know the ribs that people have: two on each side, seven universal ones and five main ribs on the chest…”, almost as if he were seeing an x-ray. “This is born with the person and the person almost imagines it if they were seeing it”.



Mr. Ferreirinha has his secrets and preferences about the way he treats people: “there are many ways, there are many differences”, he explains, adding that some people have to be aligned lying down, others sitting, it all depends on the pulse rate or even if the person has already had “a thrombosis or something else”.

“Each case is different” and, if he realizes that the person has a more serious situation, the doctor immediately sends him to the doctor, “I don’t tame, I don’t touch”, despite being upset at not being able to help.

Sometimes, people “ask me for everything, but I can't”, as they come looking for this light, creating expectations and faith when they find no other alternative.

There isn't a day that goes by that Ferreirinha doesn't get home from work in the fields and doesn't find people at his door. Sometimes, she even has to stop her farming tasks and return home, due to the many calls she receives to meet people and straighten them out.

The straightener only doesn't work on holidays and Sunday afternoons, to go for a walk. Other than that, he never refuses to treat any person, except in cases where it is impossible to touch them. “Each case is different” is what he always repeats when someone comes along.



Despite just wanting to do good, things don't always go well. Manuel Ferreira remembers some more serious cases that passed through his hands. One of them was a few years ago, when an elderly man came from Sines (35 kilometers away), “with his jaw detached”. “I had to unclip everything, my chin dropped and I had to put it back together, but I got scared, I don’t want to do that again.”

There have also been cases that even end up going well, but whose final outcome is not certain in advance. He remembers a day when, early in the morning, a child arrived with a neck problem and was unable to move, but within a few minutes he left smiling, as if nothing had happened.

Manuel Ferreira says he is not indifferent: “my pride is in staying well”.

That same day, in the afternoon, around 15 pm, a patient arrived at Ferreirinha's house and assured: “if we didn't trust him, we wouldn't come here!”.

The pain continues for a few days, but it is no reason not to return to meet Manuel Ferreira. Recalling the times of her parents, the patient says that, at that time, she was aligned by Ferreirinha's father. Believes in this family, “it’s always an alternative”.



But the opinion is not unanimous. D.Maria José, 88 years old, who that afternoon was in a garden in the village of São Luís, says that she never went to Ferreirinha, nor did she turn to anyone from this family of amateurs. “I don't believe it, I don't have faith in him, for me he's a piece of shit, he just happened to get it right”, he says.

But, for Manuel Feirreira, it is the happiness of being able to help people that leads him to continue his work, despite the time it takes.

The straightening activity is not exactly legal. Therefore, Manuel Ferreira remembers when, before April 25, 1974, his father, now deceased, had to exercise the “gift of line up secretly, because what he did was not well regarded by certain people, especially doctors”.

“My father would go to fairs and go to more private places and people would come to him there”, to be treated.



He also remembers his uncle, also straight, who was banned, at one point, by court order. But everything changed when your uncle tomorrow the “daughter of a doctor”. “There they gave orders again for him to continue with his love".

Manuel's work as a straightener is known through word of mouth, as he never made any complaints about this. People come to us, we don’t go to anyone.”

Pull by pull and (almost) everything straightens out. Without studies and with this gift that runs through his hands and fingers, Manuel believes he is a lucky man, especially because today he no longer feels persecuted in relation to what he does. He guarantees that, “from lawyers, to judges, from doctors to their children, everyone has come to my house” to be straightened out.

There is also no shortage of people for him to teach how to straighten: there are ordinary people, but also nurses, who travel hundreds of kilometers from Lisbon to his home, to ask him to teach them.

“If I could teach someone, I would be ready to teach at all times”, he highlights. But being straight is not something “that can be taught, but something that can be felt”.



Most of the straighteners I knew have already died, with Ferreirinha being one of the last bearers of ancient popular knowledge. “As long as I can, I will continue. When you can’t, it will be boring.”

Manuel Ferreira has not yet given up hope that someone will appear “with the genius to know how to work. It was good to happen and it can happen.”

Always with a smile on his face and ready to welcome someone, Manuel says: “I like what I do, and when people feel good, I feel good”.

Manuel Ferreira does not take advantage of his gift to make money. He guarantees that he does not charge anyone anything, so “the person gives what they want”.

As long as he can continue, he continues, trying to help anyone who shows up: “I'm not waiting for anyone, I'm waiting for everyone”.


Text and photos by Carolina Carapeto, carried out as part of the 22|24 Professional Photography course at ETIC_Algarve, School of Technologies, Innovation and Creation of the Algarve.


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