Today in Latin America, Tiradentes and the Inconfidência Mineira

tiradentes-brazilI will be honest, I did not know who Tiradentes (Joaquim José da Silva Xavier) was, and maybe you do not either. He died today in 1792 (217 years ago). He was a part of Inconfidência Mineira, a revolutionary group that demanded the independence of Brazil from the tyranny of the Portuguese monarchy.

Born in São José del Rey, Minas Gerais, he struggled throughout the beginnings of his life as he was not a part of the local aristocracy. Minas Gerais was a state flooded with gold – which Tiradentes noticed was being shipped out of Brazil and sent off to Portugal. He had the ability to travel to Rio de Janerio, which brought him into contact with liberal democratic ideas. The movement that would form against the monarchy (Inconfidência Mineira) looked directly towards the United States’ revolt against the British as a blueprint to its own revolutionary ambitions.

Like the taxes imposed by the British onto the North American colonies, the quotas for Brazilian gold production were flagging and Lisbon sought to impose taxes onto the people to circumvent the lost revenue. This was called derrama. This was the day, in 1789, of the revolt against the monarchy. They wished to create a republic, found a university and even proposed a flag that read: “Libertas quae sera tamem” (Freedom, even if late.)

We know how this story goes. The revolution was betrayed by those in power. That the movement was divided among monarchists and republicans, abolitionists and slave holders, exploiters and conservationists, did not help. The movement fell apart and Tiradentes fled to Rio, as anyone protesting would be arrested. Tiradentes fled to Joaquim Silvério dos Reis, whom he thought he could trust. Silvério is seen today as the traitor of the revolution.

Tiradentes was arrested in Rio. He was placed on trial, which lasted three years. Tiradentes assumed full responsibility for the revolution, which was surely a stretch, but the point is made. Tiradentes would go down for it all. He would be sentenced to death – along with ten others. All would be commuted by the Queen, except Tiradentes, who was hanged in a plaza that now bears Tiradentes’ name in Rio de Janerio. His body was quartered into multiple pieces and sent across Brazil to intimidate others from trying to fight for independence.

Today is a national holiday in Brazil, and it is not hard to see why. This is an amazing tale that I am adding to my list of future research.

And how about this. Today, 16 years ago, Brazil voted, on the two hundredth anniversary of Tiradentes death, to remain a republic in a plebiscite to review the monarchy in 1993. The spirit of Tiradentes is strong today, and I am sure that his memory played a role in the voting. Let me know if you have more information on him, or his memory in the 1993 vote, I would love to hear it.


~ by Daniel on April 21, 2009.

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