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On 22 October 1872, on the Tentugal plantation in Barreiros, Pernambuco, Estácio de Albuquerque Coimbra was born. He was the first son of João Coimbra – a member of a modest family of Portuguese farmers who came to live in Brazil at the beginning of the 19th century, but who became a lawyer, a sugar plantation owner and a state representative – and of Francisca de Albuquerque Belo Coimbra – a member of an aristocratic family traditionally related to harvesting and owner of the Tentugal plantation.
Estácio Coimbra entered the Recife Faculty of Law and graduated in 1892 at only twenty years of age. Along with his father, he began to practice law in Barreiros, Rio Formoso and Água Preta. Still very young, he married Joana de Castelo Branco Coimbra, whose family owned the Morim plantation. The couple had four children. As a representative of the rural nobility of Pernambuco, Coimbra spent his weekends on this plantation. Later, the place became the Barreiros Central Sugarcane Factory, one of the most important places in the state’s sugarcane industry.
In 1894, after collaborating in the organisation of the Barreiros Republican Party, Estácio Coimbra replaced his maternal great-uncle (whose mandate had ended), and was elected mayor of the municipality. A few months later (10 January 1895), he was elected state representative, becoming leader and member of the Justice and Finance Commissions. For being an excellent speaker and a combative leader, he managed to consolidate his political prestige, and in 1899 was elected as the youngest federal deputy at the time. It is worth mentioning that the speed of his trajectory is the result of the rise and domination of the “Rosista” oligarchy, ruled by the Councillor Francisco de Assis Rosa e Silva, who became Vice-President of the Republic in the Campos Sales government (1898-1902) and who very much supported the young representative.
The prestige of Estácio Coimbra was such that in 1907, he was both a state and a federal representative. In these roles, he achieved some improvements for the Barreiros region: the installation of a railway line to Recife, and the construction of a metal bridge over the River Una.
In 1911, a fierce power struggle took place with one of the most violent electoral propagandas, and military forces were called to intercede. At that moment, Herculano Bandeira resigned, with his position passing to Antônio Pernambucano, his legal substitute, who then alleged health reasons to not assume the role. Thus Estácio Coimbra, as President of the Assembly, took over as Governor of the State of Pernambuco.
Within sixty days, according to the constitution of Pernambuco, new elections were held and Rosa e Silva, who had great power over the electoral machine, emerged as victor. With this, however, many people cried accusations of fraud. There was a second intervention of Army troops, looting, depredation and deaths occur, and Provisional Governor Estácio Coimbra (together with most senators and representatives), with no alternative, sought refuge in safer places.
General Dantas Barreto was then recognised as the new governor of Pernambuco. He then greatly persecuted his opponents and finally managed to neutralise the domination of the “Rosista” oligarchy.
For a certain period, Estácio Coimbra stayed away from politics. However, with the support of the new opposition, he was once again elected as a federal representative in 1915, extended his mandate for two more terms and remained in power until 1922. It should be noted that Estácio Coimbra also held the positions of Minister of Agriculture, under Epitácio Pessoa, and Vice-President of the Republic, under the government of Artur Bernardes (1922-1926), and also assumed the presidency of the Senate and the National Congress.
After passing through the Vice-Presidency, Estácio Coimbra (always supported by Rosa and Silva) began negotiations in order to become the next state governor. This began on 1 May, and the position was his by the end of the year. This time, however, dissidence in Pernambuco was increasing, and the governor was publicly accused of not complying with several terms of the signed agreement.
Parallelly in Princesa, Paraíba (today Princesa Isabel), a strong movement opposed to the government of João Pessoa arose. Estácio Coimbra was accused of favouring the rebels, since the first weapons and ammunition used came from the Pernambuco police. In this turbulent period, João Pessoa was assassinated in Recife by lawyer João Dantas Duarte, instigated by political opponents of the governor and even counting on the complicity of Estácio Coimbra. Such events culminated in the outbreak of the 1930 Revolution in Rio Grande do Sul, and the governor of Pernambuco was informed that the states of Paraíba and Minas Gerais were forced to join the Revolution.
The rebels encountered strong resistance at the barracks of the 21st Pernambuco Hunters Battalion and were forced to retreat. Consequently, they tried to destroy the Recife telephone exchange. The members of the 333rd Reserve – by orders – then seized the Army’s arsenal and ammunition deposit. Outnumbered and outgunned, the State Military Police were forced to surrender, and their headquarters were occupied by revolutionary forces.
From Campo das Princesas Palace (Government House), Estácio Coimbra tried unsuccessfully to resist the attacks from many army troops coming from the Princess Isabel Bridge, Santo Amaro and Rua da Aurora street. Finally, he embarked on a tugboat with his advisors and headed to the south coast of Pernambuco. Then he went to Maceió, and from there to Salvador. Here he became aware of the triumph of the revolution and the resignation of Washington Luis, the President of the Republic. With no alternative, the governor set forth for Lisbon, where he was exiled for four years, accompanied by his faithful friend Gilberto Freyre.
Only due to an amnesty in 1934 did Estácio Coimbra come out of exile. He returned to the Morim plantation in Barreiros, but stayed away from politics until his death: 9 November 1937. Pernambuco writer and literary critic Renato Carneiro Campos said that Estácio Coimbra was both a conservative and a reformer.
Among his most important achievements in political life are: the founding of the Barreiros School of Agronomy; the transformation of the Normal School and teaching in Pernambuco (under the guidance of educator Antônio Carneiro Leão); the stimulation of agriculture; and the beginning of state economic zoning and rural registration.
Recife, 15 July 2003.
(Updated on 25 March 2008).
Translated by Peter Leamy, October 2016.
ESTÁCIO Coimbra [foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <goo.gl/LOZymb>. Acesso em: 04 jan. 2017.
FUNDAÇÃO GETÚLIO VARGAS. Dicionário histórico-biográfico brasileiro 1930-1983. Rio de Janeiro: Forense-Universitária, 1984. p. 829-832. v. 1.
SILVA, Jorge Fernandes da. Estácio Coimbra. In: _____. Vidas que não morrem. Recife: Secretaria de Educação, Departamento de Cultura, 1982.
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Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Estácio Coimbra. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Acesso em: dia mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.