He was born on 14 July 1920 in the city of Bom Jardim, Pernambuco, to colonel of the National Guard, merchant and farmer Manuel Gonçalves Souto Maior and Maria da Mota Souto Maior.
He completed his primary education at the private school of teacher Josefa Coleta de Albuquerque, known as Santinha in Bom Jardim, and at Colégio Marista in Recife, where he also did his secondary schooling. At Colégio Carneiro Leão, he did pre-law, and in Maceió, at the Alagoas Faculty of Law, he completed his bachelor’s degree in Social and Juridical Sciences.
On 23 December 1943 he married Carmen da Mota Silveira Barbosa, with whom he had seven children: Fred, Gise, Jane, Liz, Jan, Glen and Ed.
In 1945 he was appointed Mayor of the municipality of Orobó, Pernambuco. He also worked as a district prosecutor in the counties of Surubim and João Alfredo, Pernambuco, and taught at the Escola Normal Santana in Bom Jardim.
From 1957 to 1967, he was the principal and a teacher at Ginásio de Bom Jardim, which he also founded.
From 1967, he became the assessor of the executive directory of the Joaquim Nabuco Institute for Social Research (IJNPS), today the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation and Federal Inspector of Teaching for the Ministry of Education and Culture, a role he performed until 1979, when he retired.
He was also a member of the ‘Tropicology’ (study of the tropics in a bio-cultural-social reality) Seminar (1972), director of the magazine Ciência & Trópico (1973-1975) and, from 1976, a researcher at IJNPS. In 1980 he was appointed director of the Centre for Folkloric Studies at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, a role he carried out until 1990 when the Centre closed due to an institutional restructuring. From 1991 to 2001 he headed the Folkloric Studies Co-ordination.
He received several awards, among them the Silvio Romero, from the Ministry of Education and Culture in 1979, for the book Folclore & alimentação (Folklore and Alimentation) and, for the same book, in 1989, the Augusto Cortazar Iberian-American Grand Prize, awarded by the National Foundation of the Arts of the Argentinean Ministry of Education and Justice.
He was a member of the Piracicabana Academy of Letters, São Paulo, and member of various institutions like the Paraíba Historic and Geographic Institute, the Brazilian, São Paulo and Pernambuco Unions of Writers, The Rio Grande do Sul Academy of Letters and the Vale Caririense Cultural Institute, from Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará.
He received the International Writer, Certificate for Excellence, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, United States, in 1985.
The Emeritus Researcher of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation was a poet, storyteller, researcher and contributor to specialist newspapers and magazines from Brazil and abroad.
He published the following books:
Como nasce um cabra da peste (How a Northeast Tough-Guy is Born) (1969)
Antônio Silvino Capitão de Trabuco (1971)
Em torno de uma possível etnografia do pão (Around a Possible Ethnography of Bread) (1971)
Dicionário da cachaça (Dictionary of Cachaça) (1973)
A morte na boca do povo (Death in the Mouths of People) (1974)
Nome próprios poucos comuns (Uncommon First Names) (1974)
Território da danação (Territory of Damnation) (1976)
Nordeste: a inventiva popular (Northeast: The Popular Invention) (1978)
Dicionário do Palavrão e termos afins (Dictionary of Swear Words and Similar Terms) (1980)
Folclorerotismo (Eroticism in Folklore) (1980)
Galalaus & batorés (1981)(Tall people and short people)(1981)
Painel Folclórico do Nordeste (Folkloric Panel of the Northeast) (1981)
Comes e bebes do Nordeste (Food and Drink of the Northeast) (1984)
Remédios populares do Nordeste (Popular Remedies of the Northeast) (1986)
Folclore quase sempre (Folklore Almost Forever) (1986)
Folclore e alimentação (Folklore and Alimentation) (1988)
Antologia pernambucana de folklore (Pernambuco Anthology of Folklore), with Waldemar Valente (1988)
Antologia da poesia popular de Pernambuco (Anthology of Pernambuco Popular Poetry), with Waldemar Valente (1989)
Antologia do carnaval do Recife (Anthology of Recife’s Carnival), with Leonardo Dantas Silva (1991)
A língua na Boca do povo (The Language in the Mouths of the People) (1992)
Sogras: prós & contras (Mother-in-laws: Pros and Cons) (1992)
O Recife quatro séculos de sua paisagem (Recife: Four Centuries of its Landscape), with Leonardo Dantas Silva (1992)
O puxa-saco: aqui, ali & acolá (The Kiss-Ass: Here, There and Everywhere) (1993)
A paisagem pernambucana (The Pernambuco Landscape), with Leonardo Dantas Silva (1993)
Três estórias de Deus quando fez o mundo (Three Stories of When God Made the World) (1993)
Riqueza, alimentação e o folclore do coco (Wealth, Food and Coconut Folklore) (1994)
Geografia Vocabular do pau através da língua portuguesa (Geographic Vocabulary of ‘Pau’ [a word that means ‘stick’, or in vulgar language ‘penis’] through the Portuguese Language) (1994)
A mulher e o homem na sabedoria popular (Women and Men in Popular Wisdom) (1994)
A mulher que enganou o diabo (The Woman Who Fooled the Devil) (1994)
As dobras do tempo: quase memórias (1995) (Time foldings: Almost Memories) (1995)
O homem e o tempo: quase memórias (Man and Time: Almost Memories) (1995)
Brasil x Portugal: aquele abraço (Brazil v Portugal: That Embrace) (1995)
Folclore etc. & tal (Folklore Etc. and All That) (1995)
Os mistérios do faz-mal (The Mysteries of Doing Harm) (1996)
Frei Damião: um santo? (Fr Damião: A Saint?) (1998)
Oração que o povo reza (Prayers that People Pray) (1998)
Pedro e seu mil carneirinhos (Peter and His Thousand Sheep) (1998)
Cangaço: algumas referências bibliográficas (Cangaço: Some Bibliographical References), with Lúcia Gaspar (1999)
A moça que casou com uma cobra (The Woman Who Married a Snake) (1999)
Padre Cícero Romão Batista: algumas referencias bibliográficas (Fr Cícero Romão Batista: Some Bibliographical References), with Lúcia Gaspar (1999)
Bibliografia pernambucana de folclore (Pernambuco Bibliography of Folklore) (1999)
Dicionário de folcloristas Brasileiros (Dictionary of Brazilian Folklorists) (1999)
Um menino chamado Gilberto Freyre (A Boy Named Gilberto Freyre) (1999)
Um menino chamado Hélder Câmara (A Boy Named Hélder Câmra) (1999)
Um menino chamado Joaquim Nabuco (A Boy Named Joaquim Nabuco) (2000)
Um menino chamado Capiba (A Boy Named Capiba) (2000)
João Martins de Athayde (2000)
O papagaio e a menina (The Parrot and the Girl) (2000)
Algumas pernas curtas da mentira (Some Short Legs of a Lie) (2001)
Frei Damião: algumas referências bibliográficas (Fr Damião: Some Bibliographical References) (2001)
Antologia pernambucana do folclore 2 (Pernambuco Anthology of Folklore 2), with Waldemar Valente (2001)
Mário Souto Maior died in Recife on 25 November 2001.
Recife, 18 July 2003.
(Updated on 31 August 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.
GASPAR, Lúcia. Mário Souto Maior: cronologia e bibliografia. Recife: 20-20 Comunicação e Editora, 1995.
MÁRIO Souto Maior. Disponível em: http://www.fundaj.gov.br/docs/mario/msm.html. Acesso em: 3 jul. 2003.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Mário Souto Maior. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.