Posted on April 21, 2015
I always feel a slight "uh-oh" feeling when I see that people are celebrating the anniversary of someone's death rather than of his or her birth. I steel myself for what might be one of those sad stories.
And this IS one of those sad stories!
Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier was born on November 12, 1746, in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. He was born in a poor family, and he became a cattle driver, a miner, and a dentist. Being a dentist was not as respected and well-paid back then; it was a position that required no medical education. It is because of this job that Xavier became known as Tiradentes (“Tooth-Puller”).
And because of this national hero, there is now a holiday and a town in Brazil called “Tooth-Puller” (Tiradentes)!
Another job Tiradentes had was being a public official. He ended up traveling all through Brazil, and he saw for himself how much gold was being taken out of Brazil, and sent to Portugal. He discovered how valuable the gold was and began to realize that his people and his land were being exploited by their European colonizers.
He learned something else, too. He learned about the American and French Revolutions. It wasn't surprising that he eventually decided that Brazilians should overthrow their Portuguese rulers.
Tiradentes organized a rebellion, but he was betrayed by one of his trusted partners. He and other group members were arrested. At the trial, Tiradentes took full responsibility for the movement, and when he and ten other group members were sentenced to death, the others had their sentences commuted (reduced to imprisonment).
But Tiradentes was hanged.
The Portuguese rulers tried to frighted all the Brazilians by displaying Tiradentes's body publicly – “Don't listen to those crazy ideas of independence, or this will happen to you!” was probably their message. But thirty years after Tiradentes's death – on this date in 1792 – Brazil became independent of Portugal!
And of course, at that point, Tiradentes became an honored national hero - one of Brazil's first martyrs.
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