Tiradentes Day in Brazil is celebrated every 21 April and commemorates the death of Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier who was also known as Tiradentes.
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Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier was born to a poor family in Pombal. After the death of his parents, he was adopted by his godfather and moved to Vila Rica where he was taught by a tutor who was also a surgeon.
While Brazil was under Portuguese rule, the government levied heavy taxes on Brazilians. While in the military, Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier witnessed exploitation of Brazilians by the Portuguese which led him to begin a liberation movement known as Inconfidencia Mineira, hoping to help Brazil gain independence from Portugal.
He was influenced by the success of the American Revolution and he attempted to lead a rebellion when Portuguese officials attempted to collect taxes. His goal was to overthrow the government in February 1789, but one of the members of his group betrayed him. He was arrested along with others who were named as co-conspirators.
The trial lasted three years, during which Xavier was given the name Tiradentes, one that was meant to be derogatory but which he embraced. Tiradentes maintained that he was the leader of the rebellion and took full responsibility.
On 21 April, 1892, Tiradentes was hanged and quartered in a public ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. After dismemberment, his body was paraded throughout the region in an effort to discourage any further uprisings. Although all of his co-conspirators were also sentenced to death, his was the only death sentence carried out after the uprising.
His brutal execution led him to be considered a martyr to those still fighting for independence. Today, he is regarded as a national hero despite the fact that his rebellion was unsuccessful. Many believe it was the start of what eventually led to Brazil’s independence, however. Portugal declared Brazil independent 32 years after the death of Tiradentes.