Brazil: What Path Lead to This Ruin?



On October 28, 2018, Brazil elected a new president whose policies threaten directly Indigenous, Black, queer, and poor people. In this poetic account of the situation, Mariana de Matos places these policies as part of the country’s sustained history of settler colonialism and slavery.

I AM SORRY, historians

1500: Beginning of colonization of Brazil;

1530: Arrival of the first slave ship in Brazil;

1822: Independence of Brazil

1824: Brazilian Constitution forbids punishing crimes with physical violence;

1830: Penal Code states that if a convict is enslaved, they do not go to jail, but are scourged as a way of not losing labor and money, making torture against the enslaved institutional until 1888;

1852: Last slave ship to land legally in the country;

1871: Free Womb Law declares free the children of enslaved mothers, as a way to prevent the enslaved to remain in that condition until the rest of their lives;

1882: Illiterates (most of them former enslaved) are forbidden to vote in Brazil;

1888: End of slavery and beginning of the extermination of Black people in Brazil;

1964-1985: Civil-military dictatorship in Brazil;

1984: A year before the end of the civil-military dictatorship in Brazil, Paulo Freire affirms that it would be naïve to expect the dominant classes to develop a form of education that would allow the dominant classes to see the social injustices in a critical way;

1985: Illiterates are allowed to vote in Brazil;

2002: Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, the first working-class president, is elected in Brazil;

2010: Dilma Rousseff, tortured and capture during the civic-military dictatorship, is elected the first female president in Brazil;

2016: Dilma Rousseff is impeached;

2016: Michel Temer, vice-president and articulator of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, takes over the presidency of the country;

2016: Marielle Franco, a Black woman from the ghetto is elected with more than 46,502 votes, becoming the second most voted woman councilor in the country;

2018-03: A Sergeant and neighbor of Jair Bolsonaro is accused of executing Marielle Franco in March with 4 shots at 9:30pm;

2018-10: Ex-military, Jair Bolsonaro is elected president;

2019-03: Michel Temer is arrested by the Lava Jato operation as the leader of a criminal organization;

2019-03: Ex-military, Jair Bolsonaro celebrates the military dictatorship;

2019-04: The Brazilian Minister of Education proposes to change the content of history books regarding the 64 Coup.

One cannot kill the writing

that carries on its shoulders the

history that one wants dead

one kills the man

hardly hunger

one tries to kill memory

the poetry survives the moment

here are those who describe history as a science that investigates the past of humankind and reveals through information and facts that took place, as a way to understand the present. However, there is no neutrality in the production of knowledge, and there is no way to deny the interests of those who built what is read as a historical truth in Brazil. To create a timeline that enunciates in a responsible way relevant historical facts and to produce a critical reading of the country’s reality requires a lot of breath. To create a narrative that describes in a harmonic way the nation formed by colonial trauma that combines the extermination of a native population and slavery, is an exercise that requires skill, resources, and imagination. Writing is an ordering practice of the “modernity” we live in today, during a time of Big Data, within a country built on fictional pillars.

FACT, is fake

Under the rhetoric of progress, a project of nationhood was built to insist on erasing the life and the struggles of Indigenous peoples. Under the rhetoric of progress, they insist on narrating a Brazil that was discovered by the colonizer, despite there being eight million individuals living on this land in 1500. Under the rhetoric of progress, they relativize the biggest crime against humanity, blaming Africans for their own enslavement. Under the rhetoric of progress, they sell medications, penthouses, and wriggle out of due reparation. Under the rhetoric of progress, robots use foul play and elect a president who says dictatorship is revolution, runs the country through Twitter, and promises to do everything he hasn’t done since he got into politics in 1988.

BRAZIL IS A wrestling arena

Under the rhetoric of progress, Brazil has historically been (and is still today) oriented by a single thought that reinforces asymmetries among a few legitimate individuals and the constant denial of other ways of living and being This reinforces the reduction of the existence of many, gesturing towards the historical and present condition of the exploited and worthless. The Brazil that knows its history doesn’t know where to begin its reform.

Brazil must give up to be a colony

Abandon all the delusional so called good men

Brazil must implode the old and phallic representation of harmony

and Decolonize the spirit and desire

Brazil must let go from the fictional nation identity

Ask the Indian, the poor, and the Black for forgiveness

Draw in the books of mythical history

Brazil must piss on the word origin and repopulate its memory

Decolumbusize language and reforest the devastated chest

Register caring as national treasure

Choose the exercise of sensitivity as a revolution

Teach the consideration of difference to the world

Brazil must dissolve the feud and take a deep breath

OUR HISTORY in ruins

Brazil is the country of the American continent that received the largest flow of enslaved Africans in the period of 1501 to 1900. There were over 4.86 million individuals forced to land in Brazil — as a comparison, the Caribbean saw 2.31 million enslaved individuals forcefully brought to its islands. As a laboratory of racism, Brazil is key to understanding the delusion of modernity/coloniality, the invention of difference, and the reflections of this colonial wound. The interdisciplinarity of the means of control and domination in Brazil are remarkable. The coloniality that permeates the historical, social, and political situation in the country goes through writing, the invention of history, the art practice, politics, and finds strength in other areas of knowledge. This transversal practice sentences the position and the right of locution among individuals and legitimates oppressions practiced until today in Brazilian society.


that reveals your rotten secrecies?

The national union around a single version of history is an alliance that was organized in the past and remains active until today, as a way to maintain hegemonies and positions of power. Sugar, coffee, diamond, cotton, gold, oil, ore, forest. In Brazil, everything is and was for sale and still, the country says it cannot afford to pay for the crimes it has committed. Affirmative measures, historical reparation, colonial wound, are concepts so completely diminished in the Brazilian society, but

STILL, I rise

Notwithstanding, the individuals and voices subordinated throughout this project of exclusion, have always been there producing knowledge in the frontiers of coloniality. And precisely on these frontiers highlighted by the colonial difference, epistemic responses emerge to the Eurocentric project of modernity, that is, aspects and gestures we understand as decolonial. The thought and struggle of Indigenous and Black peoples, are themselves, against a historical process of genocide, an epistemic response. To potentialize and recover these multiple existences, to embrace these speeches as a fundamental contribution, is a paramount exercise of alterity and a shorter path to the development of this nation project. To face these lions is the most righteous path to our collective emancipation.

PS. the poems are the author of the text.