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MDT FEATURE | Cartas de Sapana: Bringing back meaningful words

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Patrícia Cardoso - a 27-year-old Portuguese living in Brazil - knew people who had never received a letter. Yes, that letter we used to write out of our own words, picking up a pen, drafting carefully each word on a paper, then sending it by post.
“For me, this idea [of having never received a letter] is unimaginable,” she tells us. Bearing in mind that not all of us are in love with writing, Patrícia thought of launching a project that could combine one of her greatest passions with some people’s inability to translate their feelings for someone into words.
Cartas de Sapana is a recently launched project aiming at providing clients with a personalized letter-writing service. “I am very much clinging to paper. I have always liked to write in notebooks, postcards, letters. I still treasure some. This era where everything seems to be virtual started to be a bit frustrating for me,” she explains.
Putting pen to paper, she created Cartas de Sapana – all the way from Brazil to anywhere people feel like sharing feelings through the words of another person.
“The project is simple but risky. Simple because it’s just a letter, something everyone recognizes. But risky because I am writing in the name of another person, there might be some reluctance [in this sense],” she added.
Nevertheless, Patrícia is convinced that reluctance should be put aside for a moment, as this is a personalized letter-writing service.
“Those who are interested can contact me through Facebook or email and tell me who they want to write the letter to and the reason behind writing such letter (…) I ask a few questions about their relationship, but without being too intrusive, just a few details or memories that are important,” she explains.
The next step is writing the letter itself, send a draft to the client and add changes if needed.
After approval, the client makes the deposit (each letter costs between EUR15 and EUR20) and Patrícia sends it with the Cartas de Sapana stamp.

Trying to make it different from similar projects, she knew the design of her brand would have to meet certain demands. “A letter is something extremely personal, it could not have a design or an approach that does not convey that idea.”
Looking amongst her own personal experiences, Patrícia recalled the time she had lived in Nepal in 2009. “The family I’d lived with used to call me ‘Sapana’ which means ‘dream’. As this project is also a dream of mine, I couldn’t think of a better name.”
Choosing a stamp with an elephant was yet another personal choice, as the elephant is “the most remarkable image I treasure from my journey in Nepal. I wanted people to understand this is an image holding a story behind it,” she says.
Patrícia has been living in Brazil since 2011, where she works for a TV producer company. “By the end of 2011, I thought it was the right time to live the personal and professional experience of my life. I booked a one-way flight to Rio de Janeiro. I knew no one. But I believe that asking for other people’s help is still one of the most foolproof methods. I made a new family that took me in, and got a job at TVZERO, where I still am today.”
Soon embracing a new project this time in Portugal, Patrícia, who studied journalism and filmmaking, assures that Cartas de Sapana does not have a fixed zip code. It can go anywhere. “Anywhere in the world, there is someone deserving the most beautiful words.”
Amongst those having already resorted to Cartas de Sapana, one letter was both particularly remarkable and challenging. A woman asked Patrícia to write a letter to her father, who she hadn’t seen in 15 years. “Her father had a few emotional problems, his wife had just beaten cancer. And this woman wanted to tell her father that she loved him, that although she couldn’t find the right words, she had always been present, and that he was a source of inspiration to her,” she recalled.
Patrícia understood that with great stories, come even greater responsibilities, “as these are the words of a daughter to her father – a relationship that I respect very much.”
On the other hand, it can be extremely rewarding, she added, since both father and daughter were able to reunite and their love was reinforced.
“Knowing that, through this service, they reconnected (…) that things that had been retained were [finally] said, that makes me very happy, proud and thrilled.”

Films on letters’ writers

“Her”, directed by Spike Jonze and released last year, centers its storyline on a man working as a professional writer, drafting letters for people who are unable or unwilling to translate feelings and ideas into words.
“Central do Brasil”, released in 1998, also tells the story of a woman working as a letters writer, but this time helping illiterate people communicate with others.

Pen pals are back

Pen pals are a childhood memory for most of us. The habit of writing a letter to an old friend or to a complete stranger abroad is apparently making its comeback, The Guardian reported this month. From the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club, to The League of Extraordinary Pen Pals, many overseas letters writers have been reinstating an old form of communicating, at times to even help with language practice. “Pen pal enthusiasts say they find handwriting relaxing and meditative, and believe their relationships are just as central to their lives as face-to-face ones,” it reads.

 

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