Note from BW of Brazil: In the midst of a pandemic that has is some ways cancelled the entire year, time continues to fly. It’s hard to believe that three months have already gone by since this shocking incident happened. For those not familiar with this case, on Tuesday, June 2, 5 year old Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva died when he fell from the ninth floor of a building in the neighborhood of São José, in the downtown region of Recife, Pernambuco, located in Brazil’s northeast Miguel went with his mother, the maid Mirtes Renata Souza, to the apartment where she worked.
According to the neighbors, the boy started to cry when her boss requested that she take the family dog for a walk. Miguel, wanting his mother, decided to go after her. He ended up leaving the apartment, getting on the elevator by himself – with the consent of Mirtes’s employer, who at that point, was responsible for him – and got lost in the building. Then he fell from the ninth floor from a height of 35 meters (115 feet). Mirtes’s employer was arrested the next day on suspicion of manslaughter in which there is no intention to kill. But typical in what happens in many cases in Brazil, she paid bail, walked out of jail and today remains free.
The case has outraged many in Brazil, a country in which people have long been accustomed to seeing the rich and elites walk get away with crimes for which the poor would probably be immediately punished. The case hasn’t died down as the child’s mother has also been receiving the support of numerous activists and celebrities calling for justice for the child’s death.
Besides the issue of rights and power, rich and poor, people have also connected the story with Brazil’s legacy of nearly five centuries of slavery and racial injustice as we see a situation in which the perpetrator is white, while the victims are black. Similar to the slavery era, we see a situation in which a black mother wasn’t able to take care of her own child because she was taking care of her
master’s boss’s….well, in this case, it wasn’t even her boss’s child, but her dog. A shameful case indeed. As voices calling for justice continue to scream louder and louder, I will continue to keep my eyes on this case.
Justice for Miguel: celebrities demand justice for the death of the child who fell from a building in Recife
By Samantha Oliveira and Daiane Oliveira
The death of the 5-year old Miguel Otávio in Recife, moved the whole of Brazil. The child died after falling from the set of buildings known as Torres Gêmeas (Twin Towers), in the capital city of Pernambuco. Artists, singers and other celebrities showed solidarity and called for justice on the social networks.
On the web, the hashtag # JustiçaPorMiguel (Justice for Miguel) already has more than 300 thousand publications. The case gained repercussion because of the fatality that happened while the child’s mother had left.
Mirtes Renata worked as a maid in the building, and went for a walk with her boss’s dog. Miguel, in turn, was under the care of Sarí Gaspar Côrte Real.
Wearing shirts with phrases by Mirtes, artists participated in the action and video demanding justice for Miguel. Following the order of the photo are in the Mirtes Renata campaign, actress Cris Vianna, singer/dancer Lia de Itamaracá, rapper/historian Preta Rara, actress Ju Colombo, Dona Marta (Miguel’s grandmother), actress Fabíula Nascimento, actress Maeve Jinkings, singer/songwriter Uana Mahin and actress Mariana Nunes. Other public figures included people like Angélica, Glória Pires, Giovanna Ewbank, Mariana Ximenes, Mana Bernardes, Letícia Colin, Gabi de Pele Preta and Bell Puã.
The winner of the Big Brother Brasil 20 (BBB20) reality show, Thelma Assis, classified the case as “revolting”. She recalled that Sarí even went to the police station, but paid the bond of 20 thousand reais and was released. The doctor also shared an online petition calling for justice for Miguel.
Thelma 🎭 🎗 @thelminha: “Is twenty thousand reais worth the pain of a mother who will never see her child again? A Carne mais barata do mercado é a negra (The cheapest meat on the market is the black/dark meat). Exposing her employee to the virus, exposing her son to death, but not exposing her face to society. Revolting!” #justicapormiguel (justice for miguel)
Also from BBB20, Rafa Kalimann reflected on what happened. “What sadness, my God! I wonder what it would be like if it were the other way around and the maid had been careless. How would that be resolved immediately?” tweeted the influencer.
Rafa Kalimann ✨ @rafakalimann_: “Now I’m seeing what happened to Miguel 😭😭😭 what a sadness my God!!! I wonder what it would be like if it were the other way around and the maid had been careless. How would this be resolved immediately?”
Still on Wednesday, 4, activist Luisa Mell was outraged about the case and offered help to Mirtes Renata. “Please, whoever knows the mother, contact me. I want to help pay a lawyer for the case. Help me not to let this woman [the boss] go unpunished because she is rich and influential,” she requested.
In the music world, many celebrities are also outraged with the details of the case. Marília Mendonça said it was “impossible not to cry”. “I look at my son’s face and think of that mother’s pain, that I will never imagine the size and intensity.”
Marilia Mendonça @MariliaMReal: “Impossible not to cry, impossible! I look at my son’s face and think of that mother’s pain, that I will never imagine the size and intensity.” #justiceformiguel
To her more than 12 million followers, singer Iza reinforced the name and seriousness of Miguel’s case. “What a horror, my God! What a disregard for the other’s life !!! May the Lord comfort the heart of this mother and her entire family. And that justice is done, Sari, that everyone knows your name,” she published.
IZA: “Unfortunately, this story is real. The mother, who is a maid, because she has to work during the quarantine and has no one to leave her child with takes him to work. The boss tells the maid to take the dog for a walk (!!!) and the child stays. Miguel, five years old, starts to cry and SARI GASPAR CORTE REAL, the boss, very busy doing her nails, puts him alone in the elevator so he can look for his mother. The little one ends up getting off on a high floor and falls into thegap of the air conditioning. While this mother (probably now unemployed) carries as much pain on her back as possible, the employer pays bail and is free to return home. WHAT IF IT WAS THE OTHER WAY AROUND ??? What a horror, my God! What a disregard for the other’s life !!! May the Lord comfort the heart of this mother and her entire family. 😞🖤🙏🏾 And that justice is done, Sari, may everyone know your name.” vidasnegrasimportam (black lives matter)
Funk singer Kevin O Chris shared the petition, stating that Miguel’s family deserves justice. The host Maisa Silva, in turn, reposted the singer’s tweet.
Singer Anitta published an image that asked: “What if it was the boss’s son?”, requesting justice for Miguel.
“It’s impossible to imagine the pain of this mother,” wrote Tatá Werneck, on Instagram. “A mother who would NEVER do the same with the son of this ‘boss’. And that now suffers the greatest loss that anyone can have.” In the comments, celebrities like Sandy, Juliana Paes, Adriane Galisteu, Eliana and others showed support.
Also on the social network, actress Letícia Colin classified everything as “very absurd”, publishing a photo of Mirtes Renata alongside her late son, Miguel. Also actresses Maria Ribeiro and Sophie Carlotte reposted a long text by writer Djamila Ribeiro. The publication had a headline from the maid’s outburst: “If it were me, my face would be printed”.
@djamilaribeiro1: “I am appalled by this case of neglect of the lives of black people in the country. It’s important to remember that the first recorded coronavirus death was that of Dona Cleonice Gonçalves, a domestic worker who was working at the house of her employer who had returned infected from a stint in Europe, but who nevertheless kept her working. Now, Mirtes Renata, another domestic worker who was working at the boss’s house even in isolation, mourns the death of her son, Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva, a five-year-old child. With no one to leave the child with, Mirtes took him to the job and, at one point, had to walk the boss’s pet, (while) she should have been looking after Miguel unti her return. For when she returned from the walk, she discovered that her son went after her, without the least supervision from the boss. The child got lost, ended up unbalanced and fell nine floors. The boss was taken to the police station, paid BRL 20,000 in bail, and returned home. The housekeeper now has the greatest pain.
There are a number of absurdities in this case. Starting with: we are in isolation! Why, then, was the maid living under the same roof as the boss? Now, as a direct inheritance of slavery, domestic service is a task historically relegated to black women in Brazil. A target of all types of exploitation for maintenance in abusive working conditions, we see the daily repetition of the Casa Grande-Senzala (big house/slave quarters) (see note one) logic, in which the enslaved women couldn’t be with their children, as they had to care for and raise the children of the sinhás (slave master’s mistress). It’s a profession that has only recently been regulated under strong opposition from a large part of society.
According to media reports, the boss’s name is Sari Corte Real. It would be comical if it weren’t tragic. The logic of the Casa Grande and Senzala still remains. All solidarity with this mother who mourns the death of her son, another victim of Brazilian racism. My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother were domestic servants. That child could be me.”
On Twitter, actor Armando Babaioff sent a “message” to the little boy. “Miguel, I saw a picture of you and I was thinking. What would you like to draw? What was your favorite fruit? Could it be that, as a good Pernambucan, he knew how to do the frevo? Sport or Nautical? I’m crying all day… ”. In the tweet, the artist also posted a photo of the child at a birthday party.
On change.org, a petition demanding justice for the case went viral on the internet. The petition intends to collect 1,500,000 signatures. “His life [Miguel] matters and is worth a lot more than BRL 20,000 in bail! We demand justice and for those responsible to pay for the crime,” states the note. Until the closing of the matter, 1,438,631 people had already signed.
Up to this point, Sari Corte Real is still free and city councilors have filed a request to investigate the mayor of Tamandaré, Sari’s husband. As a slogan, the campaign “Listen to Mirtes, Miguel’s mother” demands justice for the death of a 5-year-old boy, Miguel. Despite being denounced by the Public Prosecutor of Pernambuco (MPPE) for abandoning the incapacitated, which resulted in death, Sari Corte Real awaits trial in freedom.
In a live (online presentation) on Wednesday (02), the date on which he completed 3 months of the death of Miguel, the Articulação Negra de Pernambuco (Black Articulation of Pernambuco) (Anepe), Mirtes talked about impunity and how difficult the months without Miguel have been.
“Today is a very difficult date, although every day for me is being difficult without my son. And today that date is even more difficult, it’s squeezing my heart a lot and since yesterday I don’t sleep well thinking about my son. Three months without my son because of the irresponsibility of Sari Corte Real, who unfortunately is on the loose making fun of not only my face, but the face of society,”said Mirtes Renata.
The campaign video, containing 3 minutes and 41 seconds, was released on Wednesday (02), the date on which it makes 3 months of Miguel’s death. The audiovisual product is available on social networks and was made jointly by Articulação Negra of Pernambuco, Mana Bernardes and Miguel’s family, in partnership with the Gabinete Assessoria Jurídica Organizações Populares (Gajop), the Coletivo Negritude do Audiovisual (Negritude Collective of Audiovisual) in Pernambuco and other social movements. Check it out in full.
Despite working at the home of Sari and Sérgio Hacker Corte Real (PSB), mayor of Tamandaré, Mirtes Renata was on the city payroll as Division Manager, with a background in Maintenance of Administration Activities, since 2017.
On June 8, the city council received the request for an investigation, made by a resident of the city, but the request for an investigation was denied by seven councilors and approved by three parliamentarians, who were present. Mirtes Renata’s mother also worked for the family, as a maid, and was paid by the city of Tamandaré.
- The Casa Grande-Senzala reference is one that is often made in Brazil when there is an issue of racial inequality, privilege, power, whiteness, and the existing racial hierarchy that continues to influence race relations in the country. It is also the name of a widely disseminated famous book whose influence many see as the principal reason that Brazil and Brazilians still cannot fully address its history of slavery and racial inequality.