“Oh, didn’t you know? I’m brown too!”: In upcoming mayoral election in 80% black Salvador, Bahia, two white candidates declare themselves ‘brown’



Note from BW of Brazil: So typical. Brazil, the place where one can switch their racial identity depending on perceived advantages and agendas. For those of our readers who live in Brazil or have read this blog’s many articles that delve into the perplexing issue of race in this country, today’s feature won’t come as a surprise. In Brazil, in racial terms, a person can see themselves as negro (black), but be seen as branco (white) by their parents, moreno (light brown/mixed) by friends and colleagues and a pardo (brown/mixed) by police. If we remember the numerous cases of racial fraud on the part of white Brazilians who suddenly want to “pass” as black to take advantage of affirmative action policies (see here, here and here) or a clearly white women who suddenly become a mulata in a contest that traditionally reserved for black women, today’s story should come as no surprise. But really, what’s next? 

Current mayor ACM Neto and Congresswoman Alice Portugal

Salvador, Bahia has long been hailed as the Brazil’s African center due to its strong cultural ties to Africa as well as its huge black majority population. But the city has also long held a reputation as the greatest example of apartheid baiano (Bahian apartheid) as the city’s political and economic elites have long been and continue to be dominated by persons with white skin. Well, as it turns out, more and more people are beginning to question why so many black people continue to be ruled by such a small white elite. So what better way to appeal to the black masses than to pass yourself off as, if not black, at least brown, which for many indicates that one has a little or significant African ancestry.

With an eye toward the coming October 2nd elections, both sitting mayor ACM Neto and Congresswoman Alice Portugal, two figures who are seen as branco/branca (white), saw fit to identify themselves as “pardos”, loosely meaning ‘brown’ or ‘mixed race’ on official voting registrations. Could there be any other reason for this except to appeal to the overwhelmingly black (or black and brown) majority in Salvador? Why would this be? ACM Neto is, after all, the sitting mayor and didn’t resort to such trickery to win in the previous election (In 2012, both parties just included black women as vice-mayoral candidates!) Are the two afraid of a rising black consciousness that questions white authority and thus seek appealing to racial allegiance by suddenly becoming a little darker? Could this be the case also due to the fact that there are at least four other candidates who in fact look more like “the people”? Seems a bit obvious to me…

Upcoming elections in Salvador, Bahia, will see two white candidates define themselves as brown, running against four black/brown candidates and one self-defined white candidate

In the elections, as well as at night, are all the gatos pardos (cats brown)?

Courtesy of Correio Nagô

The racial theme promises to have power in the next election debates in Salvador. At least in the center of the controversy is an agenda already guaranteed. After causing awkwardness due to the lack of black vice candidates in the two main slates for mayor of Salvador (the current mayor and candidate for re-election and the opposition alliance between PCdoB/PT), it seems that somehow coalitions want to guarantee that space. At least in the official registration form at the Superior Electoral Court the candidates for mayor and vice mayor declared themselves pardos (browns). Despite the distinctions made in demographic research in the field of social movements, pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns) are lumped together in the same category because of their similarity in suffering the effects of racism and racial inequalities.


On her Facebook page, the journalist Maíra Azevedo, known as Tia Má (Aunt Má), considered the attitude ridiculous. “It would be much cooler to assume branquitude (whiteness), recognize the number of privileges that you had and have had throughout life and say, therefore I am in the race.” For the journalist, the fight against racism is not a struggle restricted to the população negra (black population). “Whoever would do this… would have much more of my respect and even my vote. I’m shocked with so much demagoguery,” she said.

Alice Portugal, listed as parda on election registration

Candidates declare themselves “African descendants”

By Biaggio Talento

Whoever thought that there would be no afrodescendente (African descent) candidate running for mayor in Salvador, Bahia’s election may have roundly “mistaken”. At least on the registration form for mayor of Salvador, four (of the seven candidates) contained in the Disclosure of Candidates link of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), namely: ACM Neto (DEM), Alice Portugal (PCdoB), Pastor Isidório (PDT) and Cláudio Silva (PP), affirmed that they are “pardos” (brown), while Fábio Nogueira de Oliveira (PSOL) said that he’s “preto” (black).

Current mayor also defined himself as pardo on the election registration

The only one who assumed himself as “branco” (white) was Rogério Tadeu Da Luz (PRTB). The registration form for candidate Célia Sacramento (PPL) was not posted on the TSE by the closing of this article.

The vice-mayor candidates followed the trend: Bruno Reis, Maria del Carmen, Luiz Bassuma and Dinamene Meireles said they were “pardos”. Antônio Neto, the vice of Da Luz said that he was “pardo” and Iuri Alves (PSOL), “preto.”

Maíra Azevedo - Tia Ma
Journalist Maíra Azevedo: It would be better if they recognized their white privilege

The discussion on the use of negritude in Salvador mayor’s election came up in the composition of the plates. Candidates ACM Neto and Portugal Alice tried to put afrodescendentes on the slate, with an eye on the black electorate.

The strategy paid off in the 2012 election for Neto, who chose Célia Sacramento, at the time with the PV, for vice. He managed to defeat the Nelson Pelegrino/Olívia Santana slate, with an ethnic composition similar to his opponent.


In the dealings for the composition of the slates this year, the weight of the PMDB was stronger, and Neto placed the PMDB’s Bruno Reis as vice.

Alice Portugal tried to compose the slate with the PT (Worker’s Party) councilman Gilmar Santiago, but the governor Rui Costa (PT) preferred the name of the deputy Maria del Carmen, Spanish by birth.

Attempted fraud

“It’s an attempt to defraud the system. It’s as if only women candidates were admitted and they put on the record that they are of the female gender,” responded the president of Grupo Cultural Olodum, João Jorge Rodrigues, lawyer, a master in public law and activist the Movimento Negro (black movement).

President of Grupo Cultural Olodum, João Jorge Rodrigues

Rodrigues came to be probed to be a vice on the PCdoB/PT/PSB slate, but didn’t accept. “How are you going to say in the campaign that you’re something you haven’t been? It’s not possible to assume what is pardo or negro in 2016”.

He laments that candidates hide their ethnic origin only to win votes. “This is done because the Brazilian political system is very broken, needs urgent reform. It is a very exclusive system. Normally the Brazilian can vote but can’t be voted. In the past there was prohibition of women and illiterates voting. Today, not all can be candidates because they can’t afford it on the one hand and, on the other, it depends on the party structures,” he criticized.

He recalled that this kind of ethnic fraud has occurred in other fields. “Recently a competition at the Itamaraty there was a candidate that declared himself an African descendant being Jewish, white, grandson of Germans and upper-middle class. He didn’t feel embarrassed to say he was afrodescendente. The goal is always the search for vacancy, for power. This prevents Brazil from advancing. Our country is far behind the United States, South Africa (1), Australia, countries that had many tough regimes based on the separation of races.”

He considers that this type of “distortion” is itself a thing of uncivilized societies. “So they (candidates) are trying to get closer to something that is far away from them.”

Gatos pardos (brown cats)

The sociologist Joviniano Neto joked remembering a saying: “At night all cats are pardos. In Salvador’s mayoral election all the candidates are pardos.” (2)

He says that in the time that white candidates identify themselves as pardos, they aim to make a connection “with what would be Brazilian miscegenation.”

He declared that “what may be true in the American conception, for who if anyone has African ancestry he is black, doesn’t match the mode of classification in Brazil.”

The candidates, for the sociologist, are “trying to show that they are equal to all Brazilians who would be miscigenados (mixed race), but that’s not the way that here one evaluatrd the person and this strategy may be an exaggeration of political correctness.”

More rich

Regarding the economic power, the candidate ACM Neto (DEM) is the richest among the six names listed on the TSE page. He claimed to have funds in the amount of R$27,886,721.62. In second place comes the PP candidate, Cláudio Silva, who has declared R$3,862,593.36. Third, Alice Portugal, of the PCdoB, with R$1,103,374.21. Pastor Isidório declared R$555,500. Of all he was the one who said he possessed cash: R$350 thousand. Rogério Da Luz (PRTB) declared assets of R$4,500, and the PSOL candidate, Fábio Nogueira, didn’t declare his assets. Among the vices, the one with the most resources is Maria del Carmen, who declared R$888,068.08.

SourceCorreio Nagô, A Tarde


  1. The discussion (or mere mention) of perceptions of race and racism in Brazil, the United States and South Africa has been featured in numerous previous posts. See here.
  2. This is very popular phrase in Brazil and here means two things. 1) It basically says that at all, we’re all equal in the dark. With little light, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish one person from another. 2) Brazil is known as a “mestiço” (mixed race) country, where everyone is more or less mixed. “Pardo/parda” is a term that is often translated as “brown” but signifies a person of “mixed race” while for others the term refers more or less to a negro/black person with some degree of racial mixture.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


    • In 2000 when I was in Bahia during the elections I remember asking a cabdriver why, if Bahia was so clearly the black heart of Brazil and overwhelmingly consisted of Afrodescendants, were all the politicians on the posters white? Everywhere we went, a white face stared back at us from campaign posters. His reply was clear, simple and unforgettable: “O negro não vota negro.” He touched the brown skin of his hand as he said it. I’ve never forgotten that.

      Speaking of ACM Neto, his father, Antonio Carlos Prieto Magalhães (ACM) was a major power broker in Bahia for decades. He was governor three times and one of Bahia’s Senators three times too. Salvador’s airport’s even named after him, right? Perhaps there could be some racial intermixture there (the Portuguese themselves are hardly “pure”), but ACM Neto appears to be stretching it, knowing he probably won’t be challenged on it, and that he’ll retain power.

      As someone below mentions, President Obama’s victory occurred because of generations of political activism by African Americans and others, and a long series of historical transformations taking place. I believe there’s a famous cartoon from the antebellum era that suggests that if the North elects Abraham Lincoln, eventually a black person will be in the White House! It took 148 years, but the white supremacist who feared Lincoln’s election was prescient. The Civil War, 13th and 14th Amendments, Reconstruction, and the long struggle for black freedom and equality, which included the Voting Rights Act of 1965, all of Obama’s black predecessors running for office, Black elected officials from Reconstruction on, etc., and his genius at seizing the exact right moment to run made his election possible.

      The rise of Afro-Brazilians is under way. The key is not to turn backwards. Every positive entry we read on these pages, from the successes of high level figures, to affirmative action policies and anti-racist laws being invoked and utilized, to the movement of more Afro-Brazilians into the middle classes and the professions, to those amazing rolazinhos, powerful acts of resistance and self-affirmation, that young Afro-Brazilians staged a few years ago, point to the changes underway. As in the US, as in South Africa, as all over the globe, one of the toughest but most important things is to keep moving forward–together!

      • I’ve had similar experiences in Bahia! “Negro não vota em negro” I’ve also heard! I also remember seeing sometime in the early 2000s, numerous Afro-Brazilians wearing ACM t-shirts! Anyone who has done any research on ACM’s legacy knows it’s a trail of corruption and dead journalists who have attempted to expose it! Amazing how that one family owns the whole state!

        In terms of Obama, I stopped believing in the rhetoric of “change” and “hope” in America after I came to terms with the truth about politics.

        Obama is not the result of civil rights or struggle, he is the result the American power and media structure getting behind him as “their man”. Obama, as the most recent American puppet, was given his marching orders and he did what he was told to do. Obama doesn’t represent the aspirations for the general black population beyond a symbolic victory.

        The overall state of African-Americans and the US in general as it continues its downward spiral should prove beyond a shadow of doubt the truth about the “Obama Legacy”. For me, he is simply proof that one cannot put their faith in another person simply because he looks like him or her.

        Exposing the truth about Obama is still very difficult nowadays because the “kool aid” effect is still pretty strong, but fortunately there is a small percentage of people in the US who know what’s REALLY going on!

        I can only hope the understanding the truth about politics continues to spread! As a general rule, politicians DO NOT represent the people! PERIOD!

      • I hear you. I do think, however, that Obama’s victory in 2008, and especially in 2012, were not just the results of the American power structure getting behind him; in fact, in the last election, they were lining up strongly behind Mitt Romney and had all but patted themselves on the back for allowing him to hold office in 2008, with utter obstructionism to hold him in check, and got the shock of their lives when he did not lose. Mitt Romney did not even write a concession speech they were so confident about ousting Obama after 4 years. I’d also add that while it may seem on a surface level that the overall state of African Americans is in a downward spiral, I’d beg to differ that if you dig a little deeper, it’s the opposite, which is one reason we’re witnessing 1) the white political and social hysteria that has empowered Donald Trump; 2) the extreme reactions to Black Lives Matter and black political and social protests, dissent, outspokenness and wokeness; and 3) the rising indicators, despite what the mainstream media is telling us, in many areas of black American life. Black Americans are more hopeful than white Americans about the future, Black childrens’ academic test scores, as measured by the NAEP, have risen substantially over the last 15 years; Black people’s movement into higher education, the professions, etc., continue rise, and on and on. Yes, there are still serious problems with white supremacy and systemic and structural racism, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, police and state violence and surveillance against black bodies, environmental racism, social/political/economic inequality and the (growing) wealth gap, etc. But we have much to be hopeful for, and it may not seem that Obama has played any part in any of this, but he has. On a broader note, we can *never* depend on one person, of any race, to do everything we need; that has to come from US, we the BLACK people, working together, often with but sometimes against that figure(head), who, if she or he is the US president, is also the leader of an empire. That’s something we should never forget. But democracy always involves conflict and antagonisms, and politics requires pragmatism; utopia should be our horizon, but reality and hard work are what are required to transform the world we live in.

  1. Well, hopefully the majority Black population of Salvador is smart enough to recognize 1) who is truly Brown or Black (because they have eyes to see with), and 2) who is the most qualified to win (because they have brains to think with)! They have the power to make this issue a complete non-issue. But will they use their collective power to benefit themselves, or will they continue to blindly choose crappy leaders?? Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

  2. @Realist – YES! That’s what we need….ANOTHER POLITICAL PARTY to add to the 50 other ineffective ones!! Frente Favela is just PT by another name. It will begin on good intentions, but, as things go in Brazil with it’s endemic corruption, all the money will mysteriously disappear. This country does not need new political parties. It needs for the majority Black population to start placing demands on the existing ones and elect leaders that are conscious of their needs too (outside of giving crumbs-from-massa’s-table type handouts). Time will tell if the collective Black Brazilian consciousness will lead the population to better times, or if the country will degrade into another Argentina/Venezuala/Cuba/Much of Africa. Anytime I see any politician in a developing nation talking about any sort of populist agenda, I run the other way!

    • Hi Realist! I think that the issue with Marina Silva is quite a loaded one. The main problem with her is that her campaign has traditionally been a weak one. It didn’t gain steam in the last election until a space opened up when that other guy (Eduardo Cant remember the last name now) died in the plane crash. She has typically run as a sort of “nobody” third option, talking about issues that no one really cares about (mainly environmental issues and anti corruption issues, without really specifying how she would specifically go about making changes to the deeply rooted corruption in Brazil). In the meantime, the PT party already had a lot of political clout because of the sheer tenacity of Lula (all of which has gone down the drain under Dilma). She has been important in that she has at least been a Black face running for president.

      However, Black Brazilians can’t just vote for a Black person just because they are Black (remember that President Obama was not the first Black person to run for president in the US. Before him, there was Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Shirley Chisholm, Fredrick Douglass, etc. before him). President Obama was just the candidate that was actually electable, in that he had mass appeal – not just to Black voters. The other US presidents seemed somewhat provincial and country in comparison – same as with Marina Silva.

      Also, a Black political party that focusses exclusively on the issues of favela dwellers, rather than on how the country as a whole will move forward, would be a disaster in Brazil – particularly when you have so many people who don’t even seem to know what Black is, or how Black people are affected by systemic racism and discrimination.

      Add to that, the fact that you also need to elect a true politician who can actually navigate the murky waters of politics in Brazil, with is ridiculously numerous political parties. Gaining consensus here is more difficult than the average person seems to know. Unfortunately, as in the US, you still have a lot of people who see the president as a fairy godfather/mother who only needs to wave a magic wand to make everything better. On top of that, the average Brazilian does not have a deep sense of patriotism or personal responsibility that is greatly needed in ushering in systemic and lasting change. Instead, the brightest among them complain a lot and talk about just leaving the country, rather trying to find ways to set up new systems that could lead to better sustainable outcomes in the future.

      Black Brazilians would be doing themselves a huge disservice by voting for a Black person simply because they are Black. Rather, the Black communities must produce a Black Lula who is ready to let go of populism, who deeply understands Brazilian history, world economics, has business acumen, who is attractive to candidates outside of the Black community,and who can continue to move the country in a more productive direction.

  3. @ Gatas – Black Americans are not in a downward spiral, as media would have you believe. What you are witnessing via the media is the simple exposure of what has BEEN happening for hundreds of years. Black Americans are simply taking note of the incidents as they occur, asking questions, and actively pushing against an oppressive system in a way that has not been done in a long time.

    And (as usual 🙂 ) I still must disagree with the rhetoric that Obama is ONLY a puppet. But my view stems from my own understanding of politics and how it has ALWAYS been. For some reason, people forget that there have ALWAYS been rich and poor, oppressed and aristocrat classes, since the beginning of time. Also, as in Brazil, Black Americans have really only just now (in the last 2 years) begun to come together as a collective and actively ask for anything (which is VERY different from the Latin community and LGBQT communities – both of which have ALWAYS had specific agendas in place,backed by financial support, in exchange for votes and support for President Obama.) This is how politics works today and how it has worked since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, many Black people around the world are only now realizing what politics is, how it functions, and how to gain political power as a collective.

    In the meantime, President Obama actually HAS done quite a bit to support the Black community. He just has not publically declared: “I am doing this for the Black community and no one else!” If you want to know what these policies might be, just look at any policy that possitively affects the poor (since Black Americans are disproportionately poor in America) and do a google search on policies that have been made in areas where Black people are disproportionately negatively affected by a skewed system. However, if you simply google “what has President Obama done for Black people?” you are gonna come up empty.

    If, however, you search more specifically and compare his policies to all presidents before him, in relation to America’s Black population, you will come up with different results.

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