Race, color, gender, and class are some of the issues which are continuously being raised in different societies due to the conflicts attributed to them. Due to such concerns, many individuals experience discrimination and inequality as a result of their difference in race, color, gender, and class. Similarly, Benidita da Silva had the same experiences and conflicts to deal with as a favelas, but she has withstood life’s adversities and has risen up to become a major politician in the country of Brazil.
The book Benedita Da Silva: An Afro-Brazilian Woman’s Story of Politics and Love narrates the autobiographical story of Benedita Da Silva from the time she was young until the time that she has gained her government position.According to the narration of Da Silva, it really seems like she has been leading a life full of struggles from the time that she was born. From the moment her parents got together, there were already conflicts arising in their relationship in terms of social status and tradition. Based on the story of Da Silva’s mother, it appears that class status is very important for every parent. Since the time when her mother was thirteen years old, she was already arranged to be married to a wealthy forty year old man. However, the man died and the assets were not allowed to be inherited by the young mother of Benidita. Her mother ended up working for their family and marrying another man.
Eventually her mother needed to be in the city in order for their family to have a better way of living. When the whole family was already in the city, the mode of their living was far from the typical ways of Brazil’s society. As children, Benidita and her other siblings were brought up into a matriarchal family.During the time when Da Silva was young, she was already exposed to extreme poverty and slave work in the markets as well as in the elite’s homes. Da Silva worked as a bucket carrier in the market.
At first, she was not allowed to carry buckets because she was a girl, but then she proved herself. As she grew older, she took in much heavier tasks than before. She used to carry 5 liters when she was 6 years old, and by the time that she was 10, Benidita was already carrying 20 liters. It was a tough world for Benidita as she accepted all the possible jobs that she could do to allow her to help her family in their financial needs. Likewise, by the time that she got married, she was still in poverty. All the problems and conflicts which her mother faced were also the same things that she needed to deal with in order to somehow provide for her children.In addition to poverty, Da Silva also faced discrimination and classicism within the society surrounding her.
During the time when Da Silva was working as a house maid, she truly experienced the limitations set for poor people because of their class status. In the society of Brazil, concepts of limitation due to the wealth are truly felt. Similar to slaves, workers are needed to strictly adhere to their master’s rule. Through the experience of Da Silva, she stated that,“When I was single I’d work as a live-in made and only come home once or every two weeks. It was terrible work because there were not set hours. When you worked as a live-in made, you have to work all day and night.
My bosses would always tell me that I was part of the family. What a joke! I don’t know what family member would agree to be treated like a slave.” (19).The statement provided by Da Silva suggests that the society promotes limitations and unwritten rules that divide the rich people from the poor people.
In another statement written in the book, Da Silva stated that whether she was in a government position or in the favelas, she still experienced the limitation that the society has placed on the poor people. Da Silva declared that the racists’ attacks that she had experienced frustrated her because the authorities do not adhere to the problem of racism and do not take it seriously:“Before I was a politician, they’d say to me, ‘My advice is that you just forget about it. You’re a poor woman, and this will never go anywhere.’ Now they tell me, ‘Oh, don’t make the big deal about it.
You’re an important public official. You shouldn’t lower yourself for such a small thing’.” (131).The experiences narrated by Benidita Da Silva imply that the society is evidently making restrictions to individuals, whether they are poor or affluent. As someone with a different colored skin and did not grow up in the rich estates, she was an easy target of racial discrimination. In addition, being in the lime light and experiencing wealth is something that is unacceptable for people who have lived in favelas. Obviously, discrimination of people who are living in extreme poverty can be observed as people should not experience or move up the ladder of success.
In other parts of the book, the life story of Benidita Da Silva is continuously recounted through a very detailed and personal narration of her life experiences. However, I noticed that the book is more autobiographical and entails the concept of racism in the Latin American region. Although discrimination is not a very popular issue in the Latin American region in comparison to the inequality of ethnicity in the United States, it appears that the dilemma is just the same.
While there is no institutionalized discrimination in Brazil, the societal system is very distressing. It merely presents that the society in Brazil prioritizes people who have lighter skin color rather than those that have darker skin tone. Therefore, it is apparent that social classes in Brazil have a very large gap: Rich ought to be rich; the poor ought to be poor. The rich becomes richer while the poor becomes poorer.In the book written by Sonia Alvarez, she focused on the feminism concerns in the Latin American region, specifically in Brazil. She stated that in Latin America, it only seems that the concerns regarding gender are not a big alarm for the region.
However, the truth is, the issue regarding gender is also something that people must be aware of. In many chapters of the book of Alvarez, she mainly discussed about the political roles of feminist in various countries in Latin region. The author did not discuss aspects regarding certain individuals but more on the political group who fights for the rights of women and fights against male domination in the government and the political parties.
One of the topics Alvarez discussed was regarding population growth and feminism. Similar to the dilemma that Benidita Da Silva had faced, women in Brazil have to deal with discrimination regarding their bodies. For instance, Da Silva had to abort her baby for the reason that she does not have the capability to bring up her child (Da Silva 16). One the other hand, Alvarez’s book stated that “women’s right to control their own bodies has long been one of the great banners of feminism and that both natalist and antinatalist politics have utilized sexuality, the body of the woman, as a social patrimony, denying her rights and her individuality” (Alvarez 184). Through the book of Alvarez, it was formally articulated that the problem of poverty and rights of women are linked with one another. The continuous growth of the size of the family is one of the main reasons that poverty is arising—leaving many children struggling to have a decent life and a society that is not sufficiently educated.In conclusion, both books discuss the political situation in Brazil as well as the societal problems that it faces today. The book about Benidita Da Silva focuses on the issues in Brazil through a lighter point of view.
Through a first person point of view, Da Silva was able to narrate her life in the favelas and expressed that despite her struggles in life, the presence of her family and loved ones inspired and supported her to work hard and never quit. Through all the years of struggles that Da Silva had faced, she is still fighting numerous discriminations due to her social class, gender, and ethnicity. On the other hand, Alvarez focused on the serious cases in the political factors in Brazil.
Although both of these books approach the same issues differently, both were supplementing each other in a sense that Da Silva makes readers understand the people and society of Brazil while Alvarez presents the technicality and political aspects of the problem of women in the country.Works CitedAlvarez, Sonia E. Engendering Democracy in Brazil.
New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990.Da Silva Benedita, Medea Benjamin and Maisa Mendonça. Benedita Da Silva. Food First Books, 1997.