Murder of an Angolan woman and the roots of anti-black, anti-African ideologies in Brazil

Angolan woman Zumira de Souza Borges Cardoso was murdered in São Paulo

In yet another example of Brazil’s centuries long anti-black, anti-African ideology, an Angolan university student was killed and three others were injured after a shooting on the night of Tuesday, May 22, at a bar on Cavalheiro street, in the Brás district of downtown São Paulo. The shots were fired after an argument. As of 4pm Wednesday the 23rd, the gunman still had not been identified by police.

Witnesses said a group of Africans were drinking in a bar at 80 Cavalheiro street, when two other customers, both Brazilians, started cursing at the group, with terms like “macacos (monkeys).” There was an argument and the Brazilians left. About 20 minutes later, one of the Brazilians returned to the bar in a silver Gol Volkswagon car. The man got out of the vehicle and fired shots in the direction of the Africans, all  students from Angola and Nigeria.

Zumira de Souza Borges Cardoso, 26, an engineering student from Uninove (Universidade 9 de Julho), was shot in the forehead and died on the scene. Celina Bento Mendonca, 34, and about eight months pregnant,  was wounded with at least two shots, one in the stomach. Gaspar Armando Mateus, 27, was shot in the leg and Renovaldo Capenda Manoel, 32, was also struck. Cardoso had already graduated and was to return to Angola in one month.

According to reports from João XXIII Hospital in the Barra Funda district, Celina had been admitted for observation. The hospital also reported that the child was not hit, but the victim was to undergo an ultrasound later on Wednesday. Gaspar, 27, and Renovaldo, 32, had already been discharged at around 11:30pm Tuesday night. The case was filed in the 8th Police District (DP) of the Brás/Belém area as homicide and attempted homicide.

Friends of Zulmira Cardoso were planning a protest in front of the Angolan general Consulate in Rio de Janeiro at 311 Rio Branco Avenue to demand justice for the woman. Another goal of the protest is make the society “feel the presence and rights of students and foreigners in Brazil”. Organizers of the protest stated that “We cannot remain silent and see nothing done in relation to what happened with our compatriot Zulmira Cardoso because all of us could go through a similar situation and other aspects that affect us and we want to see this changed.”

This incident is the latest of several incidents involving the mistreatment and disrespect of African immigrant students in Brazil. On March 18th of this year, after an incident of racism in southern Brazil involving a black Cuban volleyball player, this website asked this question:

“….we already know that racism clearly exists in Brazil, but is there also a rejection of immigrants that the country needs to address? Better yet, is there a rejection of immigrants of color?”

Why pose a question like this about Brazil, a supposedly harmonious country where persons of all races and backgrounds get along? Of course this is a joke, or at least only partially true, after all, if you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you would have learned about the dorm rooms of African immigrant college students being firebombedAfrican immigrant students being removed from a public bus at gunpoint for no other reason than looking “suspicious”, an African immigrant student being told to “lighten his skin” and “go back to Africa”, and African students reading graffiti that read “no quotas for the animals from Africa.” Keep in mind, this is besides all of the racism (1) targeted at Brazil’s born and raised black population, death squads whose mission it seems is the annihilation of Afro-Brazilians, Brazilian styled apartheid and near complete exclusion from media representation.

Without a background in the history of Brazil, someone might ask, where do all of these anti-black, anti-African sentiments come from? To answer this question, one need look no further than history. You see, the Brazilian nation was constructed upon the free labor of 4-5 million African slaves, a total representing more than 40% of all African slaves sent to the Americas and between 9 and 10 times the amount of Africans that ended up in the United States. The brutality of Brazilian slavery was such that the average life span of these slaves was about 7 years. With the end of slavery at hand near the end of the 19th century (1872), elites looked at a population that was 62% non-white and didn’t like what they saw. The solution was the slow whitening and eventual disappearance of the non-white population by three methods.

1. They initiated a mass immigration program that attracted more than 4 million European immigrants over the next 70 years while simultaneously creating a law, Decreto 528, of 1890, that would require Africans and Asians to get approval from congress to migrate to the country.

2. After slavery, simply abandoning former slaves and forcing them to survive on their own accord.

3. Encouraging non-white Brazilians to desire procreation with white or light-skinned partners so that after a few generations of this mixture, the African or black phenotype would be effectively eliminated from the nation. Scientist João Batista de Lacerda was so certain of this that, in his thesis entitled Os mestiços do Brasil (Mixed race people of Brazil) that he presented in 1911 at the First Universal Races Congress at the University of London, he predicted that within 100 years (by 2011), black people will have disappeared and mixed-race people would represent only 3% of the population.

In fact, according to José Carlos Rui in his article, “O sonho racista de um povo branco (The racist dream of a white people)”, Lacerda’s prediction actually left many people furious because they felt that a century for the nation to become white was much too long! For Brazilian writers of the period between 1870 and 1930, it was obvious that the country needed to whiten itself because they saw blacks, Indians and people of mixed race as peoples incapable of civilization and representations of Brazil’s backwardness. Politician and writer Joaquim Nabuco thought that “European immigration could bring, continuously, into the tropics a stream of lively, energetic, and wholesome Caucasian blood”. Literary critic José Veríssimo thought that “sooner or later it (the white race) would eliminate the black race” from Brazil. Silvo Romero wrote in 1880 that “the victory in the battle for life, among us, will belong, in the future, to the white man”. He predicted it would take three or four centuries so he accepted the 100 year prediction of Lacerda with optimism. In 1921, journalist Artur Neiva wrote that “within a century, the nation will be white” and in 1923, deputy Carvalho Neto predicted that “the negro would disappear within 70 years”. In 1938, doctor and writer Afrânio Peixoto said that 200-300 years were necessary for the nation to totally pass through the “black eclipse”. Not exactly predictions that would lead one to believe in a “racial democracy” or equal acceptance of all three races that were the base of the Brazilian people.

afro brazilians

A Redenção de Cam (The Redemption of Ham)

While Brazil’s national identity seemingly prides itself in its mixed race heritage, it is important to realize that the goal of elites in the 19th century was not the complete mixture of the population but rather the complete whitening of the population. This white dream is captured perfectly in 1895 painting entitled A Redenção de Cam (The Redemption of Ham) by the Spanish artist Modesto Brocos. As the old Bible myth declared descendants of the character Ham to be cursed, this painting can be interpreted as such:

The black grandmother on the left had had a relationship with a white man, which produced her mulata daughter sitting next to her. The mulata daughter had a relationship with the Portuguese immigrant sitting next to her that produced the phenotypically white baby that sits on her lap. The grandmother gives thanks and praise because the “black stain” has finally been removed from the family. The palm leaves behind her are a symbol of hope.

Thus, today it should not be surprising that black exclusion, murder, anti-African sentiments, racism and an obsession with whiteness continue to be blatantly present in Brazilian society.

It is a part of the nation’s very history.

1. For many examples of everyday racism in Brazil, click the word “racism” in the “labels” section toward the bottom on this blog.

Part of this article was based on an article in Estadão as well as José Carlos Rui’s article “O sonho racista de um povo branco” taken from the Jornal dos Economistas, May 2005

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. I think you are stupid and a nerd to respond like this when we talking about death ,violence .Listen you should know better .Violence,racism,rich ,poor whatever happens everywhere and be more conscious when and apply at least 15% of ur brain if u got one

  2. People of African decent should realise by now …those who colonized,enslaved you,raped your women will not wake up one day and embrace you…destruction and evil is part of who they are……like an African saying goes a baby cobra is still a cobra ….Africans wake up have no friends if you want to get along with any one look in the mirror

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