Black resistance to the dictatorship had arapongas and ‘enchanted’ – 04/01/2024 – Power

Black resistance to the dictatorship had arapongas and ‘enchanted’ – 04/01/2024 – Power


Important black figures contributed to the fight against the Brazilian military dictatorship, but their participation was diminished or erased from the national memory. Although little remembered in official reports, books and films about the time, the fight against the regime counted on the resistance of black women and men from various parts of the country and figures considered mythical by part of the Brazilian population.

At the same time, the military government viewed the black movement with reservations and even placed traps to monitor militants.

According to Andersen Figueiredo, master in African History from UFRB (Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia), members of the black movement in Salvador were persecuted and had supervised meetings. In a book about the time, Figueiredo demonstrates how the police used people infiltrated in the movement to monitor the militants’ movements.

“For the military, the black movement was subversive, as it went against the regime’s project by saying that racism existed in Brazil”, he states.

The movement’s meetings dealt with the marginal situation of black people and how they could be included in society in a political process of democratic reconstruction.

The meetings were clandestine and normally had few participants due to fear. To protect themselves, the militants adopted strategies such as communicating through codes.

Despite being important in the resistance process in Salvador, the story of black men and women in confronting racism and dictatorship is little told in the official report. “History is Eurocentric. What they passed on to us was the story of white heroes”, says Figueiredo.

According to Janailson Macêdo Luiz, professor at Unifesspa (Federal University of the South and Southeast of Pará) and doctor from USP (University of São Paulo) in social history, resistance occurred not only through political movements, but also through of cultural initiatives. Ilê Aiyê, in Bahia, and soul music parties in Rio de Janeiro, for example, were disliked and even monitored by the dictatorship.

“They had a social awareness, critical and autonomous vision that did not submit to a conservative perspective”, says Luiz. According to the researcher, the black movement was seen as an internal enemy that could destabilize the ideas of Brazil imposed by the regime.

In addition to anonymous figures who worked in the resistance to the dictatorship, Luiz highlights the actions of the guerrillas Osvaldão and Dina Teixeira.

Osvaldo Orlando da Costa, known as Osvaldão, was linked to PC do B, amateur boxing champion and leader in the Araguaia Guerrilla (1972-74). Part of the population that lived in the region of the confrontation considered him a kind of mythical figure, as his ability to survive in an adverse combat scenario was assimilated from local religious elements, such as enchantment.

“These references helped to understand how Osvaldão managed to face an Army battalion and come out alive. They thought: ‘It’s because he was enchanted. He managed to transform into an animal and escape'”, says Luiz.

Like Osvaldão, Bahian geologist Dinalva Teixeira fought in the Araguaia Guerrilla, where she worked as a midwife and teacher. Respect for the skills practiced among the population meant that she was also seen as a mythical figure. According to local beliefs, she was capable of transforming into a butterfly or disappearing in the wind, while Osvaldão could transform into animals such as a dog or the “capelobo”, a monstrous character from Brazilian folklore.

For Tauana Gomes Silva, PhD in history from Université Rennes 2, in France, in co-supervision with UFSC (Federal University of Santa Catarina), the participation of black and indigenous people was erased from the historical discourse of building the Brazilian nation.

“Although black people have always mobilized, they are shown as passive in the historical process”, he states.

According to her, the contribution of black women to the resistance is even more invisible, as they face sexism and racism. The researcher cites important women who were part of the resistance to the military regime, such as Maria Diva de Faria and Thereza Santos.

“Maria Diva, for example, helped great characters who are known today. She welcomed people into her home and gave them structural support so they had somewhere to sleep and something to eat. Today, people she welcomed [como o político e sociólogo Paulo Stuart Wright] are known, but she is not”, says Tauana.

Maria Diva, from Goiás, was arrested in 1973 and tortured by the regime. She was a maid as a teenager, graduated in nursing and then became a civil servant. She moved to São Paulo, where she was a supporter of the left-wing organization Ação Popular. She passed away in 2018.

Carioca actress Thereza Santos was arrested in 1969, went into exile in Africa in 1974 and participated as a guerrilla in the liberation movement of Guinea-Bissau and Angola. In Brazil, she was active in movements against racism and sexism. Thereza passed away in 2012.


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