Madame Satã - João Francisco dos Santos
Dr. Deneval Siqueira de Azevedo Filho,
Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo Vitória(ES) - Brazil
Brazilian folk hero João Francisco dos Santos was a black, capoeira-style, gay, female-impersonating bohemian criminal, whose chameleon-like, self-mythologized life emerges as a carnivalesque hybrid character of so many stories thattook place in Brazil, mostly in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro. As a self-mythologized fiction narrative, Santos's dictated his autobiography, The Confessions of Madame Satã, riddled with half-truths and fantasy.
As a myth, a legendary folk hero, all the stories about him are reconstructed upon his strong desire tobuild his history himself in all its complexity extended to João dos Santos's wild personality. A murderer and “thief” (although in most of his statements he denies he has ever stolen anything), he makes for an uneasy gay pioneer: a black gay man who came from Pernambucoat age 13, and always showed his complex personality: very aggressive, yet very tender; quite cruel, but quite loyal. Everything in him is somewhat heightened.
His first brush with the law was in 1928, accused of murdering a police officer in a small bar booth in Lapa. According to João, he shot the guard, but the victim was killed by God – “I shot him, but the bullet just made the hole in his head. It was God who killed him!”
I see that as an extreme, but very human behavior. He was persecued by the police much more for being a faggot than for being a rogue, although his roguish had always been used to cover up police homophobia, a very strong feeling that still survives in urban areas and in our Brazilian culture in general. This self-contradiction, ultimately, also functions as a metaphor for Brazil. Why? Brazil is a country of extreme social, economic and political (many times contradictory) baroque situations. There is a kind of strong homosociability among men that it is very hard to explain, from the soccer fields to anywhere considered real masculine places (for men only) such as saunas, all kinds of sports for males... and so on.
So, it is very reasonable to think João Francisco dos Santos, born in 1900, the beginning of the 20th. Century, a symbol and a pattern of a kind of hypocritical behavior – being a bisexual lover is a very common silent choice among men in Brazilian society. Although, the rise of this legendary Brazilian rogue, who emerged from the mean streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s and became a celebrated cross-dresser entertainer was driven by a fierce ambition to better himself: hamstrung by a hair-trigger rage, dos Santos honed a street- fighting prowess that would earn him 27 years in jail, but also gave him the moxie required to make it as a tall black gay male entertainer in a racist, conservative, straight and, at the same time, hybrid and sincretic culture.