Elza Soares: one of the great symbols of female strength in Brazil

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Elza Soares it was already a symbol of female empowerment, representation, anti-racism and feminism long before these terms were incorporated into current debates on gender, racism, machismo and misogyny in Brazil and in the world. Elza, who died at the age of 91, on Thursday, 20, of natural causes, had a whole life marked by these struggles, even though she never sought them out. But the singer ended up becoming their spokesperson.

Peripheral, female, black, poor, Elza was born and raised in the favela of Moça Bonita, currently known as Vila Vintém, in Rio de Janeiro, in a family of 10 siblings. Daughter of a worker and washerwoman, her condition as a poor woman forced her to dedicate herself to household chores from an early age. However, helping her mother awakened her to singing – and forged the powerful voice that made her one of the greatest interpreters not only in Brazil, but in the world.

Uninhibited since childhood, as she said, Elza liked to sing while carrying a can of water on her head for the clothes her mother washed. He used to moan loudly when he picked up the full can and put it on his head. The groan forced the hoarseness of the voice, which was naturally hoarse. She then learned to make the same grunting sounds that jazz singers made, artists she didn’t know, because she didn’t even listen to the radio at the time.

With many mouths to feed, the singer’s father forced her to marry at just 12 years old, and at 13, she became a mother. In addition to her interrupted childhood, Elza faced other tragedies. Her first two children died of starvation as newborns. She also already faced a routine of domestic violence committed by her husband. At the age of 21, she became a widow.

In the famous episode in which Elza, at age 13, went to sing on the radio show hosted by Ary Barroso, she was also looking for money for her newborn son’s medicine. Ary Barroso looked at that very young girl with her simple clothes and, in an attempt to make fun of her, asked what planet she came from.

As a woman, black and poor, Elza could have felt intimidated, cornered. It could, who knows, have abandoned the program. But the girl looked at that man, older and already consecrated, and gave the emblematic answer: ‘From Planet Hunger!’. Elza impressed in her presentation, got the maximum score and took the prize.

His voice against machismo was already established there, even if unconsciously. “In my day, women only had the right to be silenced”, the singer said in a recent interview.

Years later, Elza lost two other children and had a daughter kidnapped when she was still a baby, who she was only reunited with when the girl was already an adult. The singer had 8 children in total. One of the children who died prematurely, at age 8, in a car accident, was Garrinchinha, from his relationship with football star Garrincha – like the singer, the player died on the same day, January 20, 1983, as a result of alcoholism.

In the documentary “My Name Is Now, Elza Soares” (2018), by director Elizabete Martins Campos and of which the singer is the subject, Elza tells, in a very sincere way, about the impact of the loss of her son in her life. “It was the pain of losing my son, which I thought I would never recover from. It was the moment of madness, it was the moment when I went up to the favelas, it was the moment when I joined the bandits, it was the moment when I snorted cocaine, it was the moment when I wanted to do everything with revolt, with anger.” , she said, in the sad voice of a grief that never passes for a mother.

Elza tried to overcome the tragedies by clinging to God and focusing on her work – but the pain always accompanied her. The very songs she sang viscerally were loaded with her stories, her joys, her sorrows.

By the way, among Elza’s loves, her 17-year relationship with Garrincha was the most striking. And for several reasons. The romantic relationship between the two began as an extramarital affair, since at the time the player was married and had 8 daughters. They met in 1962, before the Copa de Chile. A year later, he divorced his wife (at the time, there was no divorce) to take on Elza, but the singer was accused of having ended Garrincha’s marriage. Fans and press began to attack her. The couple was the target of harassment, threats and name-calling. As a woman, Elza was branded as the villain of the story.

The spotlight was on the two for years. Recently, in an interview, Elza stated: “I never liked being someone’s wife. I’m me. You didn’t have to be ‘Garrincha’s wife’ to be Elza Soares. Garrincha was Elza Soares’ husband”. The two lived a troubled relationship, with a history of physical aggression and betrayal, in addition to alcohol abuse by Garrincha. The marriage came to an end in 1982.

Despite a life punctuated by tragedies, many losses and troubled relationships, Elza Soares made her career her foundation. There was no one who could make her give up the music, the reins of her work. And this since he started professionally, still very young, and at a time when the woman had to follow the rules of matriarchy, marry, have children and be a housewife.

Always empowered, Elza swam against the current.

Owner of a respected discography, the artist turned her last three successful albums, “A Mulher do Fim do Mundo” (2015), “Deus é Mulher” (2018) and “Planeta Fome” (2019), into a trilogy. feminist and with biographical traits, approaching themes such as domestic violence (as in the song ‘Maria da Vila Matilde’), empowerment and resistance. They were representative albums, which symbolized the “Woman of the End of the World” that Elza has always been. The documentary “My Name Is Now, Elza Soares”, released in the same period, in 2018, reinforces this image of Elza as the strength of the feminine.

“Our fight is not new. This comes from time, we struggled a lot, looking for a moment of victory. We are in this moment now. Women are freer. We are together, let’s go, because together we make a war and a victory”, she said, in an interview in 2020, when talking about feminism and empowerment.

The ‘Voice of the Millennium’ was silent, but her example of resistance as a black woman and as a woman continues as a legacy in her work. And life story.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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