More than a few countries have had revolutions that changed the course of History. The United States
, for example, had the American Revolution
, which not only gave them their well-deserved independence, but also declared that the pursuit of happiness was a right of every individual - a striking idea at the time, and maybe also at this time. The French Revolution
ousted a murderous regime and showed that the principles defended by their American counterparts were also valid for Europe
, marking the beginning of the end for the regent tyrannies of the Old Continent, and the beginning of the beginning for many colonies which took it as inspiration in their ongoing quest for freedom.
And then my city had the War of the Comb.
The day is December 8th, 1959. A military officer arrived in a small store in the central area of Curitiba, then a growing small town populated mostly by Italian, German, Polish, Lebanese, Syrian and Jewish imigrants who had settled in this quiet city in southern Brazil escaping war in Europe or other difficulties in their home countries.
The young officer chose a comb and, as he paid for it, asked a receipt. The shop owner, a Syrian immigrant, was annoyed that he had to go through filing a form to sell a single comb, and decided to put off the sale.
The transaction soon became a discussion, and the discussion soon became a fight. Nearby shop owners came to the rescue of their fellow neighbour. Passing citizens took the young officer's pain as their own, and formed the other battalion. What was a private discussion became a fight between costumers and shop owners. Several consumers told stories of abuse. Price tags were removed from stores and burnt in a small fire as they were declared excessive. The ever increasing crowd invaded an ever increasing number
of shops, which tried to protect their goods as they could by closing doors. A few of the shop owners, however, decided to stay and fight. The police was called, or what little there was of it. In the city where the the few policemen were more concearned with giving information to visitors than fighting crime, the nascent revolution went on unimpeded through the night.
Morning came. Both sides were tired, and they prepared to go home. But reinforcements had arrived. Fathers, sons and brothers came to check out why their beloved ones had not spent the night home, and to verify that rumour about an insurrection going on. The families of the store owners, seeing their properties destroyed, their friends hurt and hungry, were quick to take their places. And so did the families of the workers, infuriated by the arrogance of the shop owners and the wounds of their relatives.
Thus came the second day of the revolution. The new battalions divided the city in half. Anyone crossing the imaginary border to the other side was either an enemy or a traitor. Those who didn't want to participate had to convince both armies that they were not their enemies, nor spies of their enemies. Checkpoints were built. Access to essential services were cut. The side that controlled the milk deposit didn't have access to the bread factory, and
In the afternoon, the police, now riding horses and with all men available tried to regain control of the situation. The store-owners were suspicious of the police, who were certainly friends of the officer who had caused the turmoil. The workers were also suspicious of the police, as they were certainly defending the ruling class whom they had rebelled against.
The night was relatively quiet, except for local fighting, with the arrival of those who were there when the fight began, diligently taking their turns. When morning came, on the third day, more fighting ensued, as both sides tried to conquer key resources from their enemies. There was a shortage of supplies. The press already speculated on the length of the revolution. There were rumours that it would contaminate nearby cities and become something bigger. Before the situation got more serious, though, the Army, which had been called the previous day, entered the town and took control of the situation. The soldiers could not believe what they saw as they dispelled informal troops back to their homes, destroyed checkpoints, confiscated flags and removed barbed wire from the sidewalks of what was still, at the time, a sleepy, quiet small town.
A three-day curfew was imposed, and a few days later not a sign of the war was visible, nor was any word spoken about it, the city burdened with shame for its three days of collective madness. There's even a legend that says the officer returned to the store and bought that comb. Even though he didn't request it, the owner gave him a receipt.