“Do I still go to political protests today in Paris? Of course! And one time when I was in Brazil, visiting family, I went to a political rally at Cinelândia (Rio de Janeiro) against government corruption. Being involved politically will always be of great importance to me...”
-Angela Xavier de Brito reflects on the balcony of her Paris apartment.
It was June 12th- Valentines day or 'Dias dos Namorados' in Brazil- 1968.
Angela and her husband had plans to go out to dinner.
Instead they spent that night and several weeks thereafter, in jail.
Their's was not an uncommon fate in the late 60s. Part of a political activist group called, "Ação Popular (AP)," or Popular Action, Angela and a group of bright-eyed university students would come together to study political ideas and debate the different courses of action to take against the increasingly draconian measures of the military regime in Brazil. Being accused of conspiring to bring down a regime that came to power illegally, many of Angela’s friends were arrested without valid warrants.
After being released from jail, Angela and her husband continued to be involved in political action. While holding full time jobs (Angela worked as an academic researcher) they would collect testimonies of people that had been tortured in jail and compile them in a newsletter to send to human rights organizations abroad. After increasing oppressive measures taken by the Brazilian military government, Angela and her husband decided to take their car and drive to Chile. Allende had just been elected and they knew they would have much more political freedom there.
Unfortunately their political freedoms did not last very much as Allende was ousted in 1973. He was replaced by Pinochet and all of the political refugees Chile once welcomed with open arms were now, once more, without a home. France and Switzerland were accepting political exiles. Angela could speak French, so Paris made sense.
Once arriving in Paris, she immediately fell in love- the metro, the city, the freedom.
The only thing she really missed when she was in exile was her family and the fact that she left Brazil on unsettling terms with her father. “My father never really agreed with my politics. He hoped I would tend to my home, my marriage and have children --not be active in politics.” However, after being allowed to return to Brazil with the 1979 Amnesty, Angela and her father were reunited and he told her how proud he was of her, an experience she recounts as “the mostly beautiful moment of her life.”
Could she ever go back and live in Brazil?
She has lived more years in France than in any other place and today feels much more assimilated to life here then she could ever feel in Brazil.
And Brazil’s current political climate?
“We did what we could do, and we were forced to leave because of these ideals.
Now it’s this generation’s turn to do their part...and I’ll follow them as they do so, every step of the way...”