Note from BW of Brazil: We first introduced you to Elisa Freitas back in May of 2013 when 5’10” beauty won the right to represent her city in the Miss Santa Catarina competition. At the time it was a big deal not only due to the fact that her city and state (Florianópolis, Santa Catarina) have such a small black population but also because of the contrast with another state Miss competition in another state in which Afro-Brazilians are the overwhelming majority. Elisa went on to capture the state crown as well adding another “first black woman” title to her resume. The feature below is taken from a special edition of TPM magazine on Afro-Brazilians and racism.
At 24, Elisa Freitas became the first black Miss Santa Catarina, but says she never suffered racism
Photo: Ricardo Wolffenbüttel
“I’m manezinha (1) from the island itself, born and raised in Florianópolis. The place where I live is a community on the hill, in the city’s downtown, that we call Maciço do Morro da Cruz. I started working very early, at age 15 I already did modeling jobs in local parades and commercials. I was invited to be Rainha (Queen) of the Embaixada Copa Lord, a samba school in which my family always went out for. My father became director of the school and I was queen for three years: 2009, 2010 and 2011. With the work, I started to pay for college for the area of advertising (intend to graduate this year). Late last year, I was invited to participate in the Miss World Santa Catarina. Among 50 girls, I was the only black girl. I think the title came as (something) deserving because of my story, my battle.”
I never had any hassle connected to my color or my social origin in my time for facing the world. I never felt any prejudice. I think I’m so well settled that if there was any prejudice against me, I didn’t realize it. In my opinion, it’s the head of who interprets it. I know that it exists, of course it exists everywhere. Racism is a crime and it must be treated as such. But I realize that, through education, there may be a solution.
I remember once I was at a convention in São Paulo and a lady saw my sash from Miss Florianópolis and said: ‘You are more Miss Bahia than Miss Florianópolis’ (2). This was said in a way that didn’t make me interpret it as prejudice – I smiled and soon after she complimented me. I understood what she meant; I didn’t take it as racism. Of course there are exceptions; right now we have seen the case of the (soccer) player Tinga. But I can say I’ve never experienced that. Nobody ever treated me differently. I don’t intend to raise any banner, but I will fight for my recognition and for the space of black women, as I did in the pageant.
My father is black and my mother is descended from Indians. A news site did a story on me in which I read some reviews saying ‘She is not negra (black), she’s morena,’ or ‘She’s not negra, she’s mulata’. There is no difference. I’m not morena, I’m black (3). I like that. Having the title of being the first black Miss Santa Catarina is a great pride, I represent my state and my community, people are flattered by me.
I realize that many children in the community don’t find themselves inserted in society; they think they’ll never get out of there. They see the foot of the hill as another world and are afraid of it. But it doesn’t have to be like this. My parents never made me feel such isolation; they never put me out as someone excluded from society. Therefore, I believe that the solution to ending racism in Brazil begins with education. I would love to work with children and think of a way to contribute to that change.”
Source: Revista TPM
1. Manezinha (or manezinho in the masculine form) is a term popularly used designating natives from the city of Florianópolis, the capital city of the southern state of Santa Catarina.
2. The comment refers to fact that the northeastern state of Bahia is known nationally for its 76% black population and its standing as the country’s center of black culture. Santa Catarina, on the other hand, is known for being one of the “whitest states in Brazil.”
3. In Brazil, even with the rise of black consciousness, it is still often seen as an insult to refer to someone of visible African ancestry as negra or black. Terms such as mulata or morena are often used to avoid calling someone negra as it is seen as pejorative or the person is deemed to beautiful or attractive to be called negra.