Why you need to know Brazilian Senator Regina Sousa

If you have been following Brazil politics, by now you probably now that Dilma Rousseff was suspended from her Presidential duties, and replaced by her Vice President, Michel Temer. Soon after he took power, he quickly replaced all cabinet ministers with white men.

One of the senators who voted against the impeachment of Rousseff was Regina Sousa, a senator of the Workers’ Party in Piauí. While I don’t know if Regina identifies herself as brown or black, it’s obvious to most people that she is a woman of African descent. It’s so obvious that a Brazilian comedian called her a “Tia do Cafe” (literally translated as Aunt of Cafe) during the Senate impeachment vote.

The Brazilian comedian Danilo Genteli called senator Regina Sousa a "Tia do Cafe," or a servant in a tweet during the senate impeachment vote.
The Brazilian comedian Danilo Genteli called senator Regina Sousa a “Tia do Cafe,” or a servant in a tweet during the senate impeachment vote. Senator! I thought she was a Tia do Cafe.

Brazilian society still has strong connections to slavery and to this day, in some elite offices, you will see black people serving the workers (mainly white) with coffee and water. Thus, this is basically akin to calling a woman senator a maid. And as we all know, most maids in Brazil are black and poor. Soon after this fiasco, women across the country came to her defense. Every week, a cartoonist named Dona Fodona (well, I really don’t know if that’s her name. It could just be the name of the character) creates a one-page drawing based on the story of a woman.

This week she chose to tell the story of Regina Sousa. The facebook post went viral and was shared more than 16,000 times. Below I did my best to translate the image.

Dona Fodona

A “Tia do Cafe” was in reality, a coconut breaker who fought for rights and became the first woman to become a senator in the state of Piauí.
She discovered injustice when she was still a child. Then the head of the plantation where she lived gave her just a paper ticket for her broken coco. She then went to live with a guardian in order to finish her studies. She studied Portuguese and came to know the student movement in college during the military dictatorship. She became a professor and then started working in a bank, where she became involved in the union. She was elected president of the union by the bankers and she never abandoned her militancy.
When she arrived in the senate, the first question she received was not about her projects for human rights, or access to education, of justice or the rights of women, but whether she wanted to “fix” her hair.

Quote on right:

This is my hair of a black woman and I won’t change it for anything.

Quote on left:

Fight for a country where a “Tia do Cafe” can get to any place while racists and misogynist are kept in prison.

Regina Sousa

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