As heroic Brazilians go, if you live outside of South America you could be forgiven for not knowing who Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier was. He died in 1792 after being sentenced to death for attempting to rise up as a rebel against the Portuguese who were imposing crippling tax burdens on Brazil.
A dentist, he was a leading part of a rebel organisation looking to expel the Portuguese oppressors from his homeland and is seen as a hero. So, on April 21st, Brazilians recognize the day as Tiradentes Day.
Who Was Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier?
Born in 1746 in Pombal, his parents both died before he was a teenager. He was adopted by his godfather, a dentist. With no formal education, and after working in mining, he dedicated himself to learning dentistry, later earning the nickname tooth puller (Tiradentes).
His enthusiasm for political change saw him join different movements, most noticeably Inconfidencia Miniera who wished for an independent Brazil, free from the shackles of Portuguese colonisation that were becoming increasingly demanding and taxing. In 1789, on the day that the latest tax was due to Portugal, he planned to announce a Brazilian Republic but one of his co-conspirators struck a deal with the Portuguese for more favourable taxation and informed on the rebels.
Tiradentes, among 10 other conspirators were put to trial that lasted 3 years. The only to be sentenced to death, he had accepted full responsibility for the movement, and thus became a martyr. To discourage others from following his liberal ideas, his body was quartered and displayed in various places around Vila Rica. The anniversary of his death, April 21st was decried a national holiday on the 100th year since the event.
In the state of Minas Geras, there is a town renamed in his honor. The flag associated with the state was designed with the colors of the movement and even carries a Latin phrase that translates to “Freedom though late.” This shows the significance of the day, as well as the esteem of which Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier is held so high.
How To Observe Tiradentes Day?
One of the most significant ways of acknowledging this day is by delving deeper. By conducting your own research, you will discover plenty more about the life of a Brazilian hero, what he was fighting for, and why he is remembered so fondly.
This can even work as a history project for children. Spread the word on social media. Tiradentes Day is not a commonly known day outside of Brazil, so it would feel significant to share any knowledge. Look for the hashtag #Tiradentesday and see what others are saying and get involved in the discussion.
Alternatively, research the Tiradentes Conspiracy (1789) and find more about the movement and plot against their Portuguese oppressors of the time. Learn Brazilian Portugese. This is another way of observing the day if you are learning the language. Try and find some text to do with Tiradentes and translate it as best you can.