What do you do if the government you’ve worked so hard to elect reneges on their promises once they get into office? And your attempts to name and shame them in letters to the newspapers aren’t getting results? Take to the streets! But the protest Cecilia Sardenberg, Ana Alice Costa and their colleagues from the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre a Mulher (NEIM) organsed to declaim Bahia’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) Governor Jacques Wagner for breaking faith with what his campaign promised the women of Bahia wasn’t an ordinary kind of protest. This was, after all, Bahia and the build up to Salvador’s famous carnival had begun.
Governor Wagner committed himself to creating a State Bureau for Public Policy for Women during his campaign, and again right after his victory. Yet once he entered office, he instead created a bureau to combat Racial and Sexual Discrimination, headed by a man. Outraged by his duplicity, but realising that their protests were falling on deaf ears, Cecilia, Alice and her team decided that it was time to put into use a traditional form of political protest - and draw on the participation of the thousands who line the streets of Garcia, a neighbourhood in Salvador, on Carnival Monday.
The traditional Mudança do Garcia parade has long been used as a vehicle for popular demands. It started in the mid-1930s when middle-class families began to move to the neighbourhood of Garcia. They sought police support to close a famous brothel that operated there at the time. On the day that the brothel was closed down, the women who worked there left in style, riding on top of horse-drawn chariots, dressed to the nines, accompanied by a band and followed by a parade of protesting customers.
Inspired by the protests that have followed in the years since the original Mudança do Garcia, NEIM commissioned a horse-drawn carriage decorated with flowers and banners bearing their demands, and joined the Carnival Monday parade. In the carriage were NEIM interns, dressed as Wonder Woman, Super Girl and a Good Will Fairy. Right behind them followed a small percussion band playing traditional carnival songs, inviting people to dance along and join the protest. Among those who followed the carriage were representatives of different local women’s groups, carrying signs displaying their demands and - as is part of the tradition - lampooning the governor and his failure to live up to his words.
Governor Wagner has yet to respond to these demands. But the words of the protestors who took to the streets in a demonstration with a difference continue to reverberate. Among the placards and banners bearing demands for citizenship, equality and rights that were carried through the streets of Salvador on Women’s Day, were reminders to Wagner that the matter was far from closed - and that the protests would continue until he lived up to his commitments.
This ongoing study has been carried out by NEIM since the 1980s, focusing on feminisms and women’s movements in Brazil. It is the study that underpins the Pathways Latin America programme, in that the feminist movement has set the stage for the specific struggles and campaigns examined in the other projects. Pathways Latin America's research has been conducted from a feminist perspective, sustaining a “liberating empowerment” approach and, as such, their primary focus is on collective action as a pathway of women’s empowerment. …
“Mudança do Garcia” is one of the most popular Carnival events in Salvador, as a traditional arena for political protest. Thousands of people from Garcia neighbourhood converge on the city centre. The tradition takes place on Carnival Monday, and started in the mid-1930s when middle-class families began to move to Garcia and sought police support to close a famous brothel that operated there at the time. On the day of their eviction, the women brothel workers left Garcia in horse-drawn chariots, dressed in fancy costumes, and followed by a band and a parade of protesting customers. …