the november

Image: Hamilton Grimaldi


Novembrada constituted a milestone of democratic protagonism for the people of Florianópolis, who dignified themselves in the fight for freedoms and rights


In the text “Santa Catarina – dimensions and ambivalences of a historical trajectory”, written in the 1980s, I examine some characteristics of the social formation of this state in the south of the country, squeezed between Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná, states with higher socioeconomic density. A few decades ago, in a somewhat ruthless self-mockery, we called ourselves the “0”, the zero, for the designation of the BR-101 highway, an insignificant state among its neighbors to the south and north; and the Hercílio Luz Bridge, which connects the island where its capital Florianópolis is located to the mainland, a bridge that connects nothing to nothing, such is its isolation, mediocrity, inexpressiveness vis-à-vis the rest of the country.

Sure, we now have a modernized capital and state, some highly developed areas, growing cities (although captured by real estate speculation and suffering from administrative ineptitude), some high-tech sectors, exuberant and massive (and greatly predatory) tourism, a qualified university system. We have, therefore, some merits, excellent industries, an interesting small agricultural property regime, a agribusiness expressive, beautiful beaches (although they have many unsuitable spots for bathing, due to pollution), spectacular mountains and canyons and some notable individuals in the arts, but we had and still have structural obstacles, persistent oligarchic dominance, a conservatism ingrained in most of the population .

In this state, Bolsonarism had, in 2018, one of the most significant votes in the country, around 70% of votes, and one of its cities was national champion in suffrage for the former captain. Here we have an illustrious citizen who decorated the bottom of his swimming pool with the Nazi swastika; a vice-governor who had difficulties explaining the loyalty of her ideological references, which referred to the same symbol at the bottom of the swimming pool mentioned above, and whose greatest political credentials, which catapulted her to office, was having helped to organize, through the media social movements, mobilizations and protests, in an interior city, which were added to those that occurred in the country, and which led to the coup deposition of President Dilma.

We also have, to magnify the embarrassment, the most prominent Bolsonarist national businessman, the “veio da Havan”, whose patriotic histrionics does not feel embarrassed to display imposing statues of liberty “fakes” as a symbol of his retail network, coerce employees or evade taxes ; a high school student who refused to do a work on Marxism, denouncing the teacher as a doctrinaire, a case that had national repercussions; a master's student who sued her advisor, for allegedly being a supporter of “gender ideology”, and because of such bravado she ended up elected state deputy; the first black councilor elected in Joinville, threatened with death for the simple fact of being black; and finally, in order not to extend too much the description of such notorious deeds and notable events in this land of Santa Catarina, in the municipal elections this year the mayor of Florianópolis was re-elected, after changing in recent years a half dozen conservative parties, having been arrested by the Police Federal during the mandate, and on the eve of the elections, having been denounced for rape by a municipal employee, which occurred in full dependencies of the public body in which he was allocated.

It did no good that several photos were made public, as in a photo session. soft porn, in which the distinguished mayor appeared half-naked in the middle of a libidinous act with his denouncer, to undermine the morality of the respectable citizens who elected him in the first round. Neither the accusation of rape nor the lack of decorum seemed enough to shake the solidity of the institutions, from the city council that did not approve the opposition's motion for an investigation, to the corporate-business press that protected him; which results in that they, the institutions, are functioning well, moreover, as in the country; it remains to be seen working well for what and for whom.

Faced with such discrediting evidence and such embarrassing episodes, it is not surprising that the people of Santa Catarina, especially those in their capital, or at least a part of them, claim a rare trophy, which is to have confronted Gal. Figueiredo, the last dictator of the military regime, in November 1979, in an episode that the local chronicle recorded as “A novembrada”, with the impetus of a fury charged with democratic radicalism.

The mentioned little expressiveness of the state in the national context found in this episode an opportunity to be overcome, as symptomatically recorded in a local newspaper, “At last, we are on the map”.

Over the following decades, chroniclers, academics, journalists, artists from Santa Catarina committed themselves to giving relevance to Novembrada, particularly for what it would have contributed to the democratization process that ended the military regime, and then becoming a landmark, worthy of record in the annals of the country. Although at the time of its occurrence, the national press and prominent journalists had extensive coverage, the fact is that the episode is still little known, and even less considered as something with the weight and historical significance that it possibly deserves.

the november

In the trajectory of peoples there are remarkable moments, extraordinary events, turning points. These are moments when energies crystallize, when aspirations and demands emerge with force in search of resolution, thus projecting their societies on a new level.

In these circumstances, social actors are as if swallowed up by the vortex of events, they are called upon to play a previously unsuspected role, in a scenario where everything seems to move with speed, in an atmosphere laden with risks and threats, but also with promises and hopes. There is fear and courage, availability and impetus for massive mobilizations and exemplary gestures, in a mix of feelings and motivations in the face of a present that refuses, and an uncertain, unpredictable future.

The political incidents of November and December 1979 in Florianópolis, involving high authorities, students and other social contingents, can be placed under the metric and dynamics of movements and events that institute new collective meanings, heralding new possibilities in the field of political action. .

The popular explosion, which became known as “Novembrada” was one of those surprising complex political facts, full of teachings, whose current relevance is renewed, with regard to crucial political issues, such as those relating to forms of regime, nature of the State, standards of relationship between rulers and ruled, criteria of legitimacy, etc.

Collective memory is a necessary substrate for building the identity of a people, of a country. Rekindling memory, reviving it either through the celebration of anniversaries or through its critical recovery, fulfills an important function of social cohesion, of sharing a common past, of establishing parameters for experiencing the present and projecting the future. Memories are made through selectivity of choices, through the diverse valuation of what once was, what was already done, what was left undone. It also operates through deliberate forgetfulness or imposed silence. That's why it's always a field of struggles, a terrain of disputes in the interpretation of episodes and in the diffusion of versions; there are, therefore, attempts to silence some and an effort to express others.

Historical review is always a necessary practice, as there are dark times and dark political regimes, which at the time of their validity prevent or distort the elucidation of events and the recording of facts, as they really happened. For these and perhaps many other reasons, it is worth remembering, revisiting that time, forty years ago, when the people of Florianópolis on the street and in the square, starred in episodes densely coated with extraordinary political and symbolic meaning.

Brazil, at the end of the 1970s, still suffered under the dictates of the authoritarian regime. In Santa Catarina, the memories of scenes of truculence and violence against leftist militants opposing the military dictatorship, kidnapped, tortured and later prosecuted, in the so-called Operation Belly Verde, were still painfully fresh.

Novembrada, in its original manifestation, was the surprising political expression of several actors and social segments that produced an event that transcended any expectations of the participants, aligning itself with the general course of the movements that popped up in different parts of the country. From Florianópolis, an unequivocal message of protest and resistance emerged, which would later flow into the massive national movement of “Diretas Já”.

In 1979 João Baptista Figueiredo began his presidential term, the last of a series of five generals (and a military junta) who took turns in the usurped command of the Brazilian State, between 1964 and 1985. The authoritarian regime already showed evidence of exhaustion

With Figueiredo, the “political opening” continued, gestured by his predecessor, General Ernesto Geisel. It was a strategy aimed at maintaining control of a political process that pushed for the expansion of democratic franchises and the installation of the rule of law. The new general-president was committed to this course of action, but he carried it out in an erratic and, at times, haphazard manner. There was also no lack of veiled or explicit threats of authoritarian resurgence, either on his own initiative or from the “radical pockets”, so called the remaining sectors of the “hard line”.

It is this character who, on November 30, 1979, is solemnly and festively received in the capital of Santa Catarina, by the governor of the State. On that Friday morning, a crowd gathered in Praça XV de Novembro, curious, restless, available and finally giving way to unequivocally oppositional feelings, throwing themselves into the vortex of an uncontrollable tumult, expressing their nonconformity, radicalizing their protest.

Protest or popular revolt, the incidents that follow form part of a process of cornering the military regime. In Praça XV, a random spark triggers an improvised action, but full of energy, by a people who reenact the rituals of baptism by fire of their rulers. The rude and direct interpellation he makes to the authorities demonstrates that the king was naked. Bare of legitimacy, lacking political support, without structured social bases.

Initially a student protest that found popular receptivity, it triggered an odd authoritarian-authoritarian reaction from Figueiredo; generalized confusion, expansion of protest, bewilderment. When leaving the Palácio Cruz e Sousa, seat of the government of Santa Catarina, contrary to advisers and authorities, to engage directly in a one-on-one with protesters, the president stripped himself of his investiture, abdicated the status and rituals inherent to authority and he became a common citizen, according to his own words, who, being offended, came to take satisfaction for what he considered a personal offence. Vain and mistaken attitude, as it turned out, because if the language of the protesters was in part rude, their inflections and meanings were unequivocally political.

With that Figueiredo transforms an incident, at that time still a small protest voiced by a few students, into a huge turmoil, which will later be treated as a matter of national security.

That crowd agitated by the rapid succession of such unusual events, saw before them, less the physical figure of Figueiredo, a singular individual who came threateningly, stumbling towards him, than the representative of a regime, who now received open disapproval , naked and raw of the people on the street. A rare scene in which, at least metaphorically, the deep gap that separates rulers from ruled, especially in authoritarian regimes, is suddenly filled, without mediation, rituals or protocols.

It was as if these extraordinary successes heralded the beginning of the end of authoritarianism, which, however, successfully claimed its continuation for another five years, when it was replaced by a New Republic¸ in 1985, which greatly frustrated expectations for a democracy worthy of the name, and for long-awaited social transformations.

But it was unstoppable, in the anarchic vortex of the events of those days, the exultant and liberating feeling that something formidable was taking place before astonished eyes. Those were moments of euphoria when collective energies released their contesting potential. In the tuning fork of the insurrectionary spirits that impregnate the hopeful becoming through great transformations, there too the flame of hope was ignited in the hearts of many. That indefinable, but powerful disposition of collective spirits, which from time to time emerges from the depths of history and visualizes more promising horizons, anticipating new orders, freer, more democratic, more just.

Regarding the figure of Figueiredo, on the eve of his arrival in Florianópolis in November 1979, the regime rehearsed a communication and propaganda strategy, not only to soften his grim image as former director of the fearsome SNI (National Information Service), but to increase the chances of facilitating the path of “slow, gradual and safe opening”, with which the regime intended to maintain control over a political process that was pressing for the end of the authoritarian cycle.

The explicit fanfares of " João, president of conciliation", " Santa Catarina believes in João " and other slogans of equal bizarre that adorned balloons and banners in the official apparatus of the festive reception, with which the local authorities greeted the illustrious visitor to the capital of Santa Catarina , were literally blown up by the events at Praça XV in those days in November.

The discarding of this political marketing of forced popularization of the president was one of the quickest and most palpable effects of the so-called “novembrada”.

Authoritarianism: past and present

“Novembrada's trigger may have been the student revolt, but its strength derived from the synergy of various actors to position themselves against the authoritarianism of the military government at the time, as well as against another authoritarianism of the past, that of Marechal Floriano Peixoto, whom President Figueiredo joined him when he came to the city, intending to pay homage to him” (RH Srour).

Novembrada constituted a milestone of democratic protagonism for the people of Florianópolis, who dignified themselves in the struggle for freedoms and rights, inscribing a memorable chapter in the annals of its history.

May this unique event inspire today's social and political struggles against governments and fascist practices that threaten democracy and civilization among us.

*Remy J. Fontana is a retired professor at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at UFSC.


On the episode see, Robert Henry Srour, col. by Remy J. Fontana, Politics in the 70s in Brazil. The lesson of Florianópolis. Sao Paulo: Economic Ed., 1982; Luis Felipe Miguel, Uprising in Florianopolis: the November of 1979. Florianópolis: Editora Insular, 1995; Moacir Pereira, November. An account of the popular uprising. Florianópolis: Ed. Insular, 2005; Remy J. Fontana, “The incident in Florianópolis revisited, 30 years later”, UFSC-CFH, communication to the seminar on the 30 years of Novembrada, Florianópolis, December 2009. There is the film “A Novembrada”, by Eduardo Paredes, with Lima Duarte in the role of Figueiredo, from 1988; and the duco-fiction “Quarenta” by Cooperativa Comunicacional Sul and Portal Desacato, from 2019, about the 40th anniversary of November.


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