Francisco Heráclio do Rêgo, son of João Heráclio Rêgo (Father Laquinho) and Josefa Duarte do Rêgo (Mother Zefinha), was born on 3 October 1885, in BomJardim, Pernambuco.
He had eleven siblings: Basílio, Antonio, Jerônimo, José, Maria (known as Mã), Josefa (known as Josefina), Isaura, Josefa (called Finha to distinguish herfrom the other Josefa), Amália, Dorotéia and another Maria.
Francisco was born on the property of the‘old’Jocada Salina, his grandfather. Later, his parents settled onVertentes Farm in BomJ ardim, where they remained until the end of their lives. This site became known as Vertentes do Heráclio(Strands of Heráclio).
Francisco’sparents made sacrifices tosend all their children to study in Recife, with the exception of Basílio who had already married. The daughters went to boarding school at the College of Damas da Irmandade Cristã, learned to play piano and finished the Teaching course; Antonio and José completed high school in Recife and graduated in Medicine in Rio de Janeiro;Jerônimofinished high school and abandoned studies; whileChico performed poorly at primary school and returned to live withhis parents.
Accustomed to the life in the country, he did not adapt to life in the big city. He took the ‘maxambomba’ (train) and returned to the Vertentes Farm, where he became his father’s right-hand man.
In order to spare his father the trip, Chico would always go to Limoeiroon horseback to buy groceries. In one of these trips, he stopped at BomJardim and came across a man who was selling twelve thin calvesfor low price. As he had no money, he askedfor a loan from Silvio Mota, an old acquaintance of his father, who resided in Bom Jardim.
When he arrived back at the farm bringing the lean animals, his father wanted to know whose cattle itwas and he told the details of hisdeal. Three months later, the animals were well nourished and sold for more than three times the amount purchased. Chico paid the loan to Silvio Mota, and thereafter wasnever short of money.
Francisco do Rego Heráclio married three times. The first, to Maria Miguel, in a religious ceremony (at the time there were nocivil unions), who soon died and left him no children. The second timewas to Virginia, whom he married in church and later in a civil ceremony, giving him four sons: Heráclio Moraesdo Rêgo, Francisco de Moraes Heráclio, Luiz (who died at a young age) and José de Moraes Heráclio. The third marriage, only a religious wedding, was with Consuelo, who bore him a son –Francisco Herácliodo Rego Filho.
Besides these children, Heráclio Francisco do Regoalso had seven more children out of wedlock: Josefa (Lulito), Walter, José Francisco (Zé Pequeno), Severina, GersonAlexandre, Reginald (Pequeno) and Reginald (Meninão). They all were legally recognised so they could be considered as heirs.
He was 18 years old when during his trips to Limoeirohe met the young Maria Miguel, with whom he fell in love and married, but she became ill and died of yellow fever while still on their honeymoon. Chico was very depressed and returned to Vertentes do Heráclio. His father, in order to cheer him up, gave him a cow,which under his caresoon increased its milk production, and consequently its cheese and butter production.
When the winter of 1907 arrived, Chico Heráclio decided to return to Limoeiro. He took with him Manuel Mariano (his sidekick), two cows and some money. Arriving at Cumbe, he leased a plotfrom Dr Severino Pinheiro, who was a prestigious politician, wealthy landowner and powerful merchantinLimoeiro.
The year was good for Francisco. It rained when needed and was sunny at the right time, allowing for the harvest of corn, beans and cotton in abundance. During the dry season, he went by horse to the sugarcane plantations in the neighbourhood, buying and selling cattle, horses, donkeys and mainly scrap metal, pots, boilers, pipes anduseless machinery.
Francisco had a cousin, Pompílio, who participated in some of hisnegotiations, lending money and introducing him to the sugarcane barons in Nazaré, Aliança, Carpinaand the SirigiValley,arranging good deals and acting as his guarantor, contributing a lot to his social ascension.
On the other hand, the strong man of Limoeiro, DrPinheiro, gaveFrancisco full rein over the most rural region, with farmers and traders. There was already talk at that timeamongthe high circles of the capital about the existence of Chico Heráclio.
Chico always came to Recife to sell scrap metal to wholesalers. The scrap was transported by train, and the trains were loaded at the Limoeiroand Carpina stations. Those were the days of Great Western. In the capital, he always had lunch with Pompílio and other prestigious businessmenat LeiteRestaurant.
While a widower, when heliving with hisparents at VertentesFarm, Chico Heráclio refrained from amorous adventures, with respect to the memory of Maria Miguel. But when he returned to Limoeirohe began having relationships and conquests in love. In his travels around the sugarcane plantations of Nazaré da Mata, Chico Heráclio met Virginia, a polite and demure girl, daughter of the owners of thePagi sugarcane plantation and niece of Herculano Bandeira, at the timethe Governor of Pernambuco.
FranciscoHeráclio do Rêgo married for the second time in 1911, with Virginia Moraes. The ceremony was attended by Pernambuco high society, including the Governor –the bride’s godfather. The couple settled in Limoeiro, on a small farm that Chico Heráclio had acquired in Cumbe.
Virginia, known as ‘Dona Santa’, was an extraordinary mother and devoted wife, which greatly contributed to her husband’s rise to power.
By this time, his brother Jerônimohad purchased a property next to Francisco’s one in Campo Grande. The brothers already had a reputation for bravery, which increased further with this proximity.
FranciscoHeráclio began entering politics, supported by DrSeverinoPinheiro, who had been elected senator for Pernambuco. JerônimoHeráclio also became a politicianinSurubimand Vertentosa.
In the 1920s, the world was undergoing a severe financial crisis. For Chico, however, there was no crisis. He acquired the rank of Colonel in the National Guard for 90 ‘contos de réis’ (the currency at the time). JerônimoHeráclio bought the rank of Captain, but was also called Colonel.
In 1922 he was elected Mayor of Limoeiro, supported by Dr Severino Pinheiro and Estácio Coimbra, who would be elected Governor of Pernambuco in 1926, staying at the head of the state’s administration until 1930.
In 1924, Chico Herácliobought Varjadas Farm, which earned him the title “Lion of Varjadas”. He also bought the St Roqueand Santa Cruzs ugarcane plantations.
In 1930, the nation’s president was Washington Luiz, who promoted Julio Prestesas a candidate to succeed him. There was the election, Julio Prestes won, but the opposition claimed fraud in the elections. The confusion began and turmoil took over the country. The situation worsened when, in July, the candidate for Vice-President, João Pessoa,was murdered.
In October, the armed movement that ousted President Washington Luizerupted. The head of the victorious movement was Getúlio Vargas, who had lost at the polls but gained power by force of arms andled the nation until 1934 without a Constitution.
Interventors were named foreach state.Carlos de Lima Cavalcanti was appointed to Pernambuco, and began to persecute the followers of the deposed president. DrPinheiro, in Limoeiro, began to feel the effects of theInterventor actions. Chico Heráclio, as his right-hand, was also pressured.
With the illness of the political leader of Limoeiro, Chico Heráclio took charge and confronted Carlos de Lima. It was a difficult period.
When the Second Constitution of the Republic came into force, promulgated that same year of 1934, the situation improved for Colonel Chico Heráclio.
In November 1937, Vargas revoked the Constitution and declared the Charter of the New State (‘Estado Novo’). In Pernambuco, Carlos de Lima Cavalcanti was replaced by Agamenon Magalhães.
Chico Heráclio was still without power, although during that period he had added more personal prestige with the Limoeiro people and residents of neighbouring municipalities. Osvaldo Lima, friend of Chico Heráclio and personal friend of Agamenon, was the one who interceded on behalf ofthe Colonel, giving good references from his friend and smoothing over some situations.
The political leaders of the municipalities of Pernambuco for the post-New Stateperiod began to be defined. With the departure of Getúlio Vargas, in October 1945, Dr José Linhares occupied the presidency; Agamenon Magalhães was replaced by Etelvino Lins as PernambucoI nterventor, later replaced by Dr José Neves Filho; and José Linharespresided over elections to elect the State and Federal Representatives, Senators and President of the Republic, which took place in December 1945.
Chico Heráclio enjoyed the prestige heheldat the time and promoted his eldest son,Heráclio, as a candidate for State Representative, and at the request of his friend Professor Antonio Vilaça, supported Costa Portofor Federal Representative, in tandem with his son. Both were elected.
With the return to democracy, there was political dissent in the Herácliofamily. Chico Heráclio joined the Social Democratic Party (PSD), whileJerônimoHerácliojoined the National Democratic Union (UDN). In Limoeiro, the Arrudas, who opposed Chico Heráclio, joined the UDN and became fellow party-members ofJerônimoHeráclio.
The Colonels had a lot of power, the ‘electoral corrals’(the name for the way Colonels made the people who lived under their jurisdiction vote) were closed. The PSD’s opposition won inthe capital, but the margin was overtaken when the ballots from the countryside were counted.
It was in the 1940s that Francisco Heráclio do Rêgo consolidated his prestige and prosperity. He surrounded himself with smart and esteemedpeople, beginning to mix most regularly with the men who held power in Pernambuco.
On the other hand, the estate of Chico greatly increased.He bought the Carié (1941), Serrinhae Grande (1942), Areias, Baixa Verde, Escuro and Sanbra farms, the latter where he lived, and bought the Viraçãofarm, near Cumarú. His herd consisted of more than 10,000 cattle. In politics,his eldest son was elected representative, and another son became mayor in 1947.
Era o caminho para o apogeu de sua vida, em prestígio, dinheiro e poder, que se estendeu do início da década de 1950,até 1960.
This was the path the pinnacle of his life, in terms of prestige, money and power, which ran from the early 1950s until 1960.
Virginia Heráclio died on 8March 1949. Her funeral was attended by the State’s highest authorities. In 1950, Jerônimo Herácliodied. Those were two unfortunate losses to the Colonel.
During his widowhood, Chico Heráclio reached the height of his prestige. The culmination was the toast with Agamenon Magalhães in 8 April 1951, when the inauguration of piped water took placein Limoeiro.
Chico remained prominent for another ten years, and then his life began to decline.
In a simple religious ceremonytwo years after of the death of Virginia, Chico Heráclio married Consuelo Saves, a 27-year-old widow and mother of two children from her marriage to Severino Salva.
The marriage did not work, and Consuelo left home carrying their son Francisco, then four years old, who was the reason formany of her misunderstandings with the Colonel.
Chico Heráclio had many votes and much prestige, and therefore could harm and help many people with his influence. After all, he was very rich, and could trigger legal and arbitrary mechanisms to achieve his goals.
He had great presence of mind, quick wit and an answer on the “tip of his tongue” for each situation. He was a determined man of courage. He never failed to fulfil a promise.
Francisco Herácliodo Rêgo, Colonel Chico Heráclio, the Lion of Varjadas, died on 17December 1974, at the age of 89.
Diabetic,semi paralysed, with heart problems, he neither trembled nor wept, not even in the final hour.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.
CHICO Heráclio. [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <http://vozesdazonanorte.blogspot.com.br/2011/07/coronel-chico-heraclio-o-ultimo-dos.html>. Acesso em: 1º out. 2012.