Mariazinha, the baker

The smell of freshly baked bread and pastries perfumes a mural paying tribute to a woman of the people and self-made businesswoman.

Named Maria José de Sousa, on September 17th 1936, she made a name for herself as ‘Mariazinha the baker’. She started working as a little girl, in a time when women belonged inside the house.

Every day she would walk to the bakery in Rua de Santa Maria, where her father was business partner and which was facing the financial abyss. But Mariazinha believed in the business’s potential and persuaded her father’s partner to sell his share. Aided by a guarantor, Mariazinha became a businesswoman at age 16.

Her bread gradually rises to fame. Carrying a bag full of bread on her back, Mariazinha sets off from the oldtown of Funchal and starts selling door-to-door. After her father passes away, she herself takes charge of the business. Production rises and she introduces an innovation of her own: freshly baked bread, all day long. Years later she buys and expands her business, owning three bakeries and a house.

Having been appointed a ‘Comendadora’ by the President of the Republic, she is now paid tribute by her daughter Selena Soares, in the most recent bakery she opened, the Mariazinha in the Transval area. During renovations the decision was made to pay tribute to the family’s matriarch. The image on the mural was not selected by chance, it is of her appointment.

The Mariazinha Bakeryof Transval now sports a mural in a space well-known for its traditional hot bread and pastries, the signature of Mariazinha the baker.