City of Dwarfs

By Giulia Valentina Paolini & Bruno Pitzalis | November 19, 2014

A remote rural municipality in northeastern Brazil, Itabaianinha used to be known as “a cidade dos anões”— the city of dwarfs. A century ago, marriage between close relatives was common here, which may explain the widespread hormonal deficit found among the town’s population.

In the late 1990s many residents of Itabaianinha began traveling to São Paulo to receive a new hormonal treatment that involves the absorption of growth hormone, causing the multiplication of cartilaginous cells at the bones’ extremities and allowing for increased growth. The treatment can only be applied to patients fifteen years and younger, because after puberty cartilage has already turned into bone. Nowadays, Itabaianinha’s population of dwarfs is disappearing, with only an estimated one hundred remaining, predominately in the small village of Carretéis, ten miles from Itabaianinha center.

Beatriz and Joana Nascimento are twin sisters living in Itabaianinha. These siblings, now seventy-two, were too old to receive the growth treatment when it first became available in Brazil, and thus are among the last dwarfs of Itabaianinha.

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Giulia Valentina Paolini is a producer, writer, editor and karaoke singer. She’s fond of sad movies, American postmodern literature, black music, puppies and French fries – not necessarily in this order.

Bruno Pitzalis is a director with a background in the advertising industry. His purpose in life is to discover the most interesting hidden stories and to tell them in the best possible ways.

Together, Giulia Valentina and Bruno are a creative couple of reporters,with an ironic and unconventional point of view. For more, visit

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