|Living with the Coltros: A special experience
by Laurent Gorissen
During the last two shell shows in
Paris, I helped José manage his table at the bourse. I couldn’t
resist asking José if it would be possible to also “help”
him in Brazil. Then José made a serious mistake by inviting
me! So after finishing my research projects, I left the Netherlands
on December 31 for São Paulo and for a totally new and special
One of my first impressions was
the extremely professional way that Femorale is organized. (NO
- I’M NOT BEING FORCED TO WRITE THIS, it’s my OWN
observation). This is actually very necessary because the handling
and cleaning of so many shells requires special skills. I never
saw such a large turnover of specimens. Until now I had been one
of the collectors receiving only perfectly clean and identified
material who had no idea of how much work is involved until a
shell gets to be so neat; now there I was allowed to clean my
favorite families (cowries and ovulids) and had a small taste
of how difficult it can be.
WELL, I am very happy that I’m
not a shell dealer, please let me explain.
For example, Cypraea arabicula has
a very narrow aperture, so getting the animal out is a hard and
frustrating task, especially when cleaning large numbers. You
need to use a needle and try to get hold of the animal which often
breaks into pieces or leaves some remaining inside of the shell…..
it is impossible to blast the animal out using a powerful jet
of water (and they have a high pressure hose). I didn’t
see any cowry-flesh eating ants in the lab, so don’t believe
on those reported fairy tales meat-eating ants. The most difficult
cowry to clean is Cypraea zebra! Check the pictures - a single
shell produces an incredible amount of slime and the shell becomes
impossible to handle as it gets very slippery, even the water
hose…..the boys in the lab got several free showers (so
that was a true “puta merda” moment – an expression
I learned very quickly from them). So for a zebra, I think they
should add an extra charge for cleaning them!
Besides seeing the business, the
most special part for me was living with Brazilian people and
especially with the Coltros. Every Brazilian I met was very open
and warm (compared to the more reserved Dutch, this was an eye-opener
for me). The Coltros and their friends are no exception.
There is never a dull moment, as José and Marcia really
love to have family and friends in their home and take good care
A true ritual happens every Saturday
morning: José goes to his little kingdom, the street market!!
José knows everyone and everyone knows him. In addition
to a talent for selecting the best shells for collectors, he is
also a true expert in picking out the best fruit, meat and vegetables
available at this market. That’s also why I really loved
Brazilian FOOD prepared in their home. José warned me that
I should be prepared to gain some weight, well I did gain some
(5 kilos), but based on the amount I ate, it should have been
closer to 100 kg……..ehm I fear some kind of tapeworm
living inside me also enjoyed all the good food.
I was there in February, and it
was carnival time! Luckily Thais (José’s and Marcia’s
daughter) was there to give me the appropriate beauty treatment:
a tiger face! Well I must admit you need some imagination to recognize
it. During carnival, José celebrated his birthday, together
with his special friend Luiz Viscardi…….they had a
surprise party with all the dancers from a Carnival school, singers,
and a huge barbeque. For sure, they know how to party and make
a superb barbeque!
And now my last and most extraordinary
discovery: you always thought that José and Marcus were
answering your e-mails and identifying shells… No - it is
Thais!!!!!!!!!! OK she is only 4 and already CEO of Femorale,
taking care of everything! You might not believe me, well luckily
I have the pictures!
Many, many thanks to José
& Marcus and the employes of Femorale, for having me at the
office. I really enjoyed working with them all. Special thanks
to José & Marcia for having me in their home for such
a long time.