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Pelopidas Silveira was born in Recife on 15 April 1915, to Sizenando Elysio Silveira and Laura de Souza Silveira.
His primary and secondary education was completed in 1930 at St Margaret College, Gymnasium Recife, Father Felix College and Gymnasium Pernambucano. The following year he joined the School of Engineering and graduated in civil engineering in 1935. The choice of this profession is due mainly to the influence of Professor Luiz Freire, Pelopidas father’s friend.
His career began while still a student, at the age of eighteen, as assistant technician at the Port of Recife. From 1936, he was assistant professor of Strength of Materials at the School of Engineering and at the School of Fine Arts, and chair professor of Civil Engineering, Soil Mechanics and Strength of Materials. As a civil servant, he was director of the Pernambuco Directorate of Roads and Public Works (1936-1937) and one of the organisers of the Technological Institute and its Section of Soils and Foundations. In 1955, when he was elected mayor, his professional life was interrupted.
The early political career of Pelopidas happened through the interventor José Domingues, who invited him to be mayor of Recife, though he had no political connections and was not affiliated with any party. This term was short-lived: from February to August 1946. During this period, his administrative actions were aimed at urbanisation: opening of the Dantas Barreto Avenue and the stretch between Nova St and Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; the widening of Conde da Boa Vista Avenue and Dom Bosco St, reform of Independence Square, paving of streets in the suburbs and of the road linking the districts of Encruzilhada and Beberibe, and some works in the Recife neighbourhood. In addition to these actions: he set the price of fish, during Holy Week; created fairs, established the English week (week of work which excludes the afternoon of Saturday) – a longstanding demand from business employees, stimulated the construction of low cost housing. Thus, he soon gained people’s admiration. With the inauguration of General Demerval Peixoto as Pernambuco Governor, Pelopidas was removed from City Hall.
In 1947, the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) and the Democratic Left Wing launched Pelopidas Silveira’s candidacy for Governor of Pernambuco. However, despite winning in Recife and in seven more cities in the metropolitan region, he was defeated by Barbosa Lima Sobrinho, from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), who won the most votes in the interior of Pernambuco.
In the period from 1948 to 1954, Pelopidas acted merely as an engineer and participated actively in the campaign for the state monopoly of petroleum.
Even without success, his candidacy for governor paved the way for the mayoral candidacy in the 1955 elections. He won with 81,499 votes, and his administration (1955-1959) followed the line of his first term: the opening of large perimeter roads; creation of the Urban Transport Company (CTU); assistance to the populations of the periphery, hills and wetlands; creation of Public Hearings; encouraging the formation of neighbourhood associations.
The success of his two terms as mayor resulted in his appointment to the post of vice-governor on the ticket of the candidate Cid Sampaio, in 1958. Cid won the election, but Pelopidas only took office in 1959, eleven months later, in order to finish his term as Mayor and avoiding it being passed on to Vieira de Menezes, his vice-mayor, with whom he did not have a friendly relationship.
Before assuming his last tenure at City Hall (1963-1964), Pelopidas was a candidate for federal representative for the PSB and Secretary of Transportation in Miguel Arraes government. Indeed, it was Arraes who appointed him for mayor of Recife in 1963, with the PSB/PTB alliance. Pelopidas governed the city with the same work pace of previous administrations. He was deposed and arrested on 2 April 1964 by the military coup that began the dictatorship in Brazil, and was only released on 15 December 1964. After the arrest, his political and professional life went through a difficult period; he needed a job, but could not get one. His first activity after the arrest was in Brasilgás in 1965: Invited by Professor Antonio Baltar to evaluate problems of the foundations of the tanks in Brum, he reaffirmed his professional capacity as an engineer and ended up being hired by that company.
With his political rights suspended for ten years, Pelopidas could not have any political activity. He participated only in “some electoral deals” in 1974, when Marcos Freire was a candidate for representative. In 1980, benefited from the amnesty, he was restored to the Federal University of Pernambuco and retired the following year.
Pelopidas Silveira died on 6 September 2008.
Recife, 26 November 2008.
(Updated on 14 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2012.
GUSMÃO FILHO, Jaime de A. (Org.). Pelópidas: o homem e a obra. Recife, Ed. Universitária da UFPE, 2005.
MONTENEGRO FILHO, Sérgio. Há 50 anos, Recife elegia o combativo Pelópidas Silveira. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 10 abr. 2005.
PELÓPIDAS Silveira. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 25 nov. 2008.
PELÓPIDAS Silveira. In: SILVA, Hélio Lins e. Recife, conceitos e evocações. Recife: [s.n.], 1984. p. 120-121.
PELÓPIDAS Silveira (foto neste texto). Disponível em: . Acesso em: 12 abr. 2911.
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Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Pelópidas Silveira. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescola>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009