Peripheries Against the Coup

Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, is facing impeachment proceedings initiated by right-wing elements in government. For background, read this piece in Jacobin: "A Coup in Brazil?".

The impeachment represents a naked power-grab by the far right. One of the deputies, Jair Bolsonaro, dedicated his impeachment vote to the 1964–1985 military dictatorship's torturer-in-chief, one of whose victims was none other than Rousseff.

Major Brazilian media players like Folha de São Paulo have provided a platform for conservative politicians to attack Rousseff.

Meanwhile, statements from those opposed to the coup are ignored by media and circulate mainly online.

One such statement responds directly to a massive ad placed in A Folha and O Estado de S. Paulo by pro-coup business groups. The response and signatories can be found here: "Periférias Contra o Golpe".

I couldn't find an English translation, so I've included one below (the explanatory footnotes are mine).


"Peripheries, backstreets, slums… You must be wondering what you have to do with this."

We, residents of the peripheries, who never slept while the giant was awakening, are here to fire a loud salvo at the fascists: we are against this new, ongoing coup which impacts us directly!

We, who do not defend the PT government, which listened to few of our real demands while allying itself with our exploiters, and who continue to point out its contradictions. We, who also refuse to walk alongside those who represent the plantation1.

We, the peripheral ones2, who have been fighting for a long time/who are in the struggle not just as of today. We, who are descendants of Dandara and Zumbi3, survivors of the massacre of our black and indigenous ancestors, daughters and sons of the Northeast4, of the hands that built the great metropolises and raised the masters' children.

We, who are on the margins of the margins of social rights: education, housing, culture, health.

We, who have belonged to social movements even before the birth of any political party in the fight for basic necessities: electricity, running water, paved roads, and children enrolled in school.

We, who have filled the streets with our assemblies to guarantee a roof over our heads and to secure a piece of ground, without access to the land taken by big landowners5 and speculators who block our right to housing and destroy the environment and natural resources for profit.

We, who bump along for three, four hours a day, squeezed into the railcar, bus, or shuttle, facing long distances between our homes and the economic, entertainment, and world centers.

We, who endure each day with inventive artistry – creativity and solidarity. We, who create theatre on the dam, cinema in the garage, and poetry at the bus stop.

We, who hurt and suffer in emergency rooms and hospitals without beds, doctors, or medicine.

We, who strengthen our faith on better days with our brothers at mass, worship service, in the yard6, with or without God in our hearts, coherent in our journey.

We, domestic workers7, now with mandatory ID cards. We, street vendors and swindlers, who work from dawn to dusk to earn our bread. We, laborers who keep going with the lowest wages and who feel the economic crisis, unemployment and inflation in our bones.

We, who recently made it to university, with our foot in the door, our head held high, pride in our hearts and possibilities on the horizon.

We, who occupy our schools without lunches or support for teaching and learning. We, professors who believe in public education and refuse to be silent about gender, sexuality, African and indigenous history — even when they try to stop us.

We, who are labelled a social problem, imprisoned at 18, 16, 12 years old, as the legislators want.

We, whose rights continue to be violated by the State, unmask the uniformed settler8, we are convicted without trial, jailed, forgotten, if not murdered — and they still say "one less criminal".

We, black women, the cheapest flesh on the market, who suffer domestic, workplace, obstetric and judicial violence, cry for our sons and daughters cut down by the agents of the State.

We, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and trans- men and women, who face violence and invisibility, refuse to accept being put back in the closet.

We, who don't accept our story as told by a media that doesn't represent us, fight for the right to communicate. We, who are constructing our own narratives with our own voices: spoken, sung, written poetry.

We, who were always in the streets, online, in government chambers, in line to see the politician on duty. We, who are now labelled terrorists because of our struggle. We, who have even had to learn to make laws in order to continue fighting for our rights. We, who have barely managed to guarantee a minimal hearing in spaces of power, refuse to take a single step back.

We, who come from several peripheries, protest the coup against the current federal government being promoted by conservative politicians, businessmen unanswerable to the people, and a manipulative media.

We make no compact with those who take to the streets with yellow shirts and fascist hate in favor of a righteous "fight against corruption" motivated by private interests. We make no compact with those who defend breaking the law in order to benefit the privileged part of society, weakening the democratic rule of law for which those of us in peripheral social movements have fought, yesterday, today, and for which we will continue fighting tomorrow.

We, who know that real democracy will only arrive with the broadening of the rights and gains of our peripheral and poor people of color, from the left and from the bottom up.

We, who have won only some of the things we dream of and have a right to, refuse to retreat. We demand respect for the sovereignty of the ballot and the preservation of democratic rule of law.

We demand the streets as a space of dialog, debate, and political action, but never as a place for hate. We demand our freedom of speech, be it ideological, political, or religious.

We demand the demilitarization of the police, politics, and social life. We demand the advancement of public policy, civil and social rights.

There will be no coup. There will be no mourning. There will be a fight!

  1. Casa Grande: a reference to the "Big House" of the slave plantation.

  2. The original text is gender-inclusive: periféricas e periféricos.

  3. Dandara and Zumbi were leaders of the Palmares quilombo, a 17th-century community of fugitive slaves.

  4. Nordeste: one of Brazil's poorest regions and historical center of sugar plantations and the slave trade.

  5. Latifundiários in the original text.

  6. na missa, no culto, no terreiro: This is meant to be inclusive of Catholics, Protestants, and Camdomblé practitioners.

  7. The original uses only the feminine noun: domésticas.

  8. levamos tapa do bandeirante fardado. I remain uncertain of how best to render this in English. It seems to refer to contemporary police by alluding to the bandeirantes, Portuguese settlers whose brutal 17th-century campaigns and slave raids opened Brazil's frontiers to colonization and mining.