“Mariel, present!” the legacy of a counselor and black activist

From an immediate agent, Mariel became a symbol and inspiration for those who defend human rights and social justice

“Mariel, a present!” For five years, that cry has been heard in demonstrations across the country. It expresses outrage over the murder of councilor Mariel Franco and driver Anderson Gomez. At the same time, the cry is a tribute to the memory of those who dedicated most of their lives to the fight against inequalities. The shootings that took Mariel’s life interrupted her growing political trajectory early on, but did not silence the landmarks she represented. Death rang his name around the world. From a direct agent, it became a symbol and inspiration for those who defend human rights and social justice.

March 14 has become “Mariel Franco Day, Day of Struggle against the Genocide of a Black Woman” in the official calendar of the state of Rio de Janeiro. And it could become a national date as well, if the National Congress approves the bill sent by President Lula last week. The auditorium of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) was named after him, as well as the tribune of the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro.

Mariel Franco became the name of the awards. one that included the best feminist essays from a book publisher, and another that was approved by the São Paulo City Council to celebrate human rights defenders in the city. Samba schools paid tribute to him at the 2019 carnival. In Rio, the Estação Primeira de Mangueira featured a councilwoman in a samba plot about resistance heroes. In Sao Paulo, his face was the highlight of Wai-Wai’s sleeve, which featured a plot about the struggle of blacks.

During these five years, the councilor’s face began to appear on murals and graffiti in various regions of Brazil, usually accompanied by pleas for justice. In one of the most symbolic tributes, in 2018, protesters placed a plaque in his name on a sign in Marchal Floriano Square in downtown Rio. Two far-right MPs (Rodrigo Amorim and Daniel Silveira) broke the sign during the election campaign. But a major mobilization, which included crowdfunding, ensured that thousands were produced, just like the original.

In 2021, the municipality of Rio de Janeiro officially opened the plaque in the same square. In 2022, a bronze statue of the councilor was installed in Buraco do Lume, also in the Center, where he met with voters and activists.

International recognition came in different ways. A digital art workshop named after Mariel was held in Nairobi, Kenya. It became the name of the roof of the Biblioteca Municipal delle Oblate in Florence, Italy; Hanging Gardens in Paris, France; From the Grenoble bus stop in southeast France; Street in Lisbon, Portugal; Scholarship at Johns Hopkins University, Washington, USA. His name was placed on the sign of the Rio de Janeiro metro station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The face was painted on a mural in Berlin, Germany and in graffiti on the facade of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“When the first international tribute took place, I vividly remember my surprise. But I began to understand my sister’s mission here,” recalls Minister of Racial Equality Aniel Franco. “I think Marie went down this road to open up a lot of avenues. She went through all of this to bring a heightened vision to women, especially black women, but to all women who recognized themselves in her and the struggle. I think it has become ubiquitous.”

political legacy

In addition to respect, Mariel’s legacy lives on, primarily through the direct political action of those who have taken up the guidelines she advocated. Widow Monica Benicio was elected by PSOL as Rio councilor in 2020 with 22,919 votes. In the campaign, he promised to present Mariel’s projects, to focus on human rights and the demands of the LGBTQIA+ universe.

“The meaning of my fight today is that no one feels the same pain as I did at that moment. This guides a little bit of what I do both in institutional politics and in my work as a militant,” says Monica. “The fight for Mariel’s memory also speaks to a place that is not only my colleague’s, but all the aspects that today comprise her image of representation, struggle, hope. This image of political struggle is also an image that gives me hope for a better world, it gives me hope to understand that Mariel is still out there somewhere.”

In 2019, Mariel’s three direct advisers, who are also black and from the favelas, became state deputies. Renata Souza, Dani Monteiro and Monica Francisco were from the PSOL bench in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro (Allerj). In the next election, in 2022, the first two had a significant increase in votes and won a second term. Renata Souza went from 63,937 to 174,132 votes; Dani Monteiro: 27,982 to 50,140 votes.

“Mariel was too big for a single person to represent all of her struggles. Mariel’s greatness represents the struggle for a new society. And the main message he left is that humanity is not dehumanized. Mariel is present in all struggles against social inequalities, especially against gender, race and class inequalities,” says Renata Souza. “May we love each other to ensure that life is full for all, whether women, black, poor, indigenous, Kilombola, Kaichara or LGBTQIA+. May we have the same level of humanity that Mariel taught us so much.”

Renata Souza and Dani Monteiro are among the 44 people elected in 2022, in the National Congress and the country’s legislative assemblies, that have accepted the guidelines of the Mariel Franco agenda. The project, created in 2020, brings together a range of political commitments inspired by the council’s legacy, such as anti-racism, feminism, LGBTQIA+ rights, public health and education, environmental and climate justice, and favela and resident demands. suburbs.


Mariel Franco Institute

Rio de Janeiro (RJ) - Marielle Franco Special - Article 3 - Heritage.  Photo: Personal archive
Mariel Institute Director Ligia Battista (yellow) welcomes board member’s father, daughter and mother – Personal Archive

The agenda is being coordinated by the Mariel Franco Institute, established in 2018 by the councilor’s family, whose initial goal was to protect the deputy’s memory and put pressure on the authorities investigating the murder. But the institute broadened its reach and began to focus on promoting social change.

The official page states that one of the missions is to “empower and support women, black people and people living in the favelas who want to enter politics so that decision-making spaces become more like the people.” Aniel Franco, the councillor’s sister, ran it from its inception until earlier this year when she took over as race equality minister.

Aniel coordinated a number of projects at the Mariel Franco Institute. These include the launch of the Anti-Racist Platform (Pane) in 2020 to support black candidates in municipal elections, and the Mariel School project in 2021 to train women from minority groups politically.

“I had to take care of my family, take care of this legacy, take care of this memory. And I don’t say “take care” as a person who will take it, have it as a possession, but the struggle to legitimize that belonging to a black family that has always struggled to have everything it had. And three things motivated me to continue: to take care of that memory, to take care of my mother and my niece,” says the minister.


The Mariel Franco Institute is currently under new management, Ligia Battista, 29 years old. He holds a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy and human rights. Previously, he worked for Amnesty International Brazil and c Open Society Foundations. The director emphasizes that championing Mariel’s legacy inspires Black, LGBTQIA+, and marginalized women to occupy spaces of power and decision-making.

“Maybe fear won’t be an obstacle for them to be there. At the same time that we want to see more and more black women elected, we also want them to retain their power. Thus, we understand that the place of the debate about political violence is crucial to this work. Especially because the institution stems from political femicide. Our goal is to mobilize memory through this work. Let people not forget Mariel’s story, let them not forget this political legacy left to Brazil,” he says.

According to Agência Brasil


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