Tiradentes Day

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 organization 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 notably Inconfidencia Mineira, which wished for an independent Brazil, free from the shackles of Portuguese colonization 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 favorable taxation and informed on the rebels.

Tiradentes, among 10 other conspirators, was put to trial that lasted 3 years. The only one 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 decreed a national holiday on the 100th year since the event.

In the state of Minas Gerais, 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 with which Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier is held.

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 be 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 out more about the movement and plot against their Portuguese oppressors of the time. Learn Brazilian Portuguese. This is another way of observing the day if you are learning the language. Try to find some text related to Tiradentes and translate it as best you can.

Where is it celebrated?
Brazil (National holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
April 21 Sunday
Next year (2025)
April 21 Monday
Last year (2023)
April 21 Friday