Independence or Death!

"The yell of the Ipiranga", painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

"The yell of the Ipiranga",
painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

Today, septemper 7th, is Brazil’s Independence Day. Exactly 186 years ago, Dom Pedro I, royal prince in charge of the portuguese colony back then, took his sword out of the sheath near the Ipiranga River (where the city of São Paulo is nowadays) and yelled “independence or death!”, being after that declared Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil.*

Practically two centuries have passed by, and we have no kind of submissive relations with our former metropolis. In fact, we are way ahead of Portugal in a lot of subjects. But, in a modern perspective, can Brazil consider itself really independent from anything?

My opinion is that no, we have never truly experienced a real independent life, and there’s still a long way to go before we can think of calling ourselves independent.

I say that based on the conception of independence that matters not only to foreign relations, but mainly to internal issues.

It’s easy to notice a lack of credibility to the country’s independence day. Public patriotic demonstrations are becoming more and more rare when the september seventh’s arrive in the calendar. Several military parades are happening right now throughout our territory, but who attends to them? Last year’s parade in Brasília, our capital and home of the largest military parade, had the not so impressive mark of less spectators in the history.

Does that shows a common sense of disbelief in this so-called independence? I say yes. When you go to the United States, England, France, Germany or Italy (or any developed country), every corner, every building, public or private, have their countries flag raised on poles. Independence days are celebrated at its fullest. In Brazil, not even big cities City Halls have the country’s flag waving on top of them.

In a country where government let people die in hospital waiting lines, die with no medication, die from abandon, die because of the crescent and apparently uncontrollable urban violence, die with no education, die with hunger, die with no perspectives, no dreams, no hope… it’s easy to understand why flags only come out in World Cup period.

Personal independence is also a matter of analysis in big cities. People are more and more often depending on luck to live everyday. There are some periods in the day-by-day living in Brazil, specially when media coverage shows murders and shootings like they where showing soccer goals, that you actually believe returning home after a day of work is not guaranteed as it seems.

We have a long way before calling ourselves independent. We must break from the chains of corruption, populism and personal interests in the public sphere, and from the irons of apathy in the private sphere. Then, one day, we may actually celebrate our independence and cheer a true condition of free human beings. 

* Modern historiography considers that the process of brazilian independence from Portugal started when the portuguese Royal Family first came here, in 1808, running away from Napoleon’s army. Also, the utterly romantic version of Dom Pedro I shouting such words of independence mounted on a horse is questioned too.

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