“The name of black people in Brazil is resistance”, he says

Iyá Vera Soares is an ialorixá. It is she who consults the orixás, the gods of the Yoruba religion, represented by fire, rain, wind and other elements of nature. She is the ialorixá of the African Matrix Memorial Center 13 de Agosto, in Porto Alegre. It is also part of the National Forum on Food and Nutrition Security of Traditional Peoples of African Origin (Fonsanpotma).

She embodies “matripotency”, the role of the matriarch, the mother who teaches, welcomes, heals, feeds and fights. Remembering Black Consciousness Day, Iyá Vera talks about the racism that befalls Africans, immigrants against their will, who arrived here enslaved to work until they die, and the daily struggle against prejudice.

Check out the full interview:

Brasil de Fato RS – In the United States of the 19th century, the freed slave was given 18 hectares and a mule to plow the land. In Brazil, I received nothing. Do you think that this starting point had an important influence on the current situation in both societies?

Iya Vera – When compensation in the United States gives land, it already gives a differentiated quality of life. In Brazil, people from the African continent were treated like animals. Never had a piece of land. The process that took the longest to end slavery was that of Brazil, the most violent of all.

“Voting is priceless, has consequences”, says Iyá Vera / Photo: Leonardo Contursi/CMPA

BdF RS – Jair Bolsonaro, more than once, has despised blacks and quilombolas. What is it like to be black in a country where the president despises or tries to ridicule the Afro-descendant population?

Iya Vera – To be black in Brazil is to be resistant. Our name is resistance. Resist the culture, which comes from the African continent, brought by slave ships. Bolsonaro repeats the look of the colonizer. It’s everything that Brazil doesn’t need, that breaks down and discriminates.

BdF RS – Two strong points in the dissemination of the black legacy in Brazil are the African-based culture and religions. To what extent the strength of these two elements helps or can help in transforming the current situation?

Iya Vera – Culture is the force that keeps us alive. It doesn’t matter if the name is Jesus or Olodumarê. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nossa Senhora Aparecida or Oxum because syncretism created this diversity. Nature is our great altar. The waters, the lands, the forests, everything natural, we ourselves are the Ori, who inhabits each one of us, the Orixá, the Inquice, the Vodum.

Culture is the force that keeps us alive

BdF RS – How do you interpret the rejection of a large part of Brazilian society to affirmative action, especially to quotas for blacks and browns in universities?

Iya Vera – This racism separates, divides, does not take advantage of civilizing values. It is a discrimination of white, racist and elitist society that places these peoples who built this country at the base of the social pyramid forever.

BdF RS – Brazil has never had a black president, all the ministers of the Supreme Court are white and only 77 of the 1,790 politicians elected in 2018 to state or national executives or legislatures declared themselves black. However, 50.7% of Brazilians are black or brown. What to do to change this?

Iya Vera – Too bad it took us a few centuries to understand that we have to be fighting for politics. A vote is priceless, it has consequences. And these consequences are placed today in this government of retrogression, of discrimination.

to live without hope is to die first

BdF RS – Do you hope to see even a less prejudiced, racist and unequal Brazil?

Iya Vera – To live without hope is to die first. Maybe I’m no longer here, but my successors, my grandchildren, my children, my great-grandchildren, now a great-grandson, can bear the fruit of the struggle that this one speaks to you. Because as long as there’s a fight, we’re going to fight and we’re not going to cry. So this is the hope: fight, fight, always fight. Our ancestors left us this legacy.


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Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul

Editing: Katia Marko

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