Piecing together her husband's wonderful achievements

Piecing together her husband's wonderful achievements

A 1962 photo shows Frelimo leader Marcelino dos Santos, Amalia da Fonseca from Cape Verde, South African leader Nelson Mandela and Aquino de Braganca in Morocco, two years before Mandela’s long incarceration in South Africa.

But the political firmament spearheaded by the Front for the Liberationa of Mozambique (Frelimo) was already at its peak. When Frelimo leader Eduardo Mondlane was assassinated in 1969, Samora Machel, the  Marxist guerilla became the fulcrum of the violent struggle to end the repressive and racist regime in Mozambique. Soon after the April 25, 1974 military coup in Lisbon ended  48 years of Portuguese dictatorship, propelling the end of its colonial empire, Machel was the natural choice to run an independent Mozambique. He became the country’s first President on June 25, 1975. Among his closest advisors was the  academic,journalist and  intellectual Aquino de Bragança.

On a typically hot Goan afternoon, Silvia Bragança recollected a life intensely lived on three continents to Deccan Herald in the Garçia de Orta garden in central Panjim. Just a street away from the park is the house where Silvia’s husband Aquino’s parents and brother once lived. Immense changes in the city have obliterated the imprint of many such lives. But the threads of history still keep the Goan diaspora connected.

Aquino Bragança’s departure from Goa in the early 1940s to the African colonies was not unusual for a state with a long history of migration. Shocked by the racism he found in Mozambique, Bragança moved to Paris in 1948. It was at this time, Silvia says, her husband became a Marxist and an active participant in the movements to end Portuguese colonialism in Goa and the African dominions.

In the early 1960s till his return to Maputo in 1974, Bragança taught in Morocco and Algeria, wrote for various publications and became actively involved in co-ordinating the freedom struggle. After Mozambique’s independence, he was appointed director of the Centre for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University.

“Aquino de Bragança was not only the symbol of the active generation of the movements of national liberation, but also the example of international solidarity. From his native Goa, who would suspect he would come to occupy a high post in politics and in the academic world of the African countries with Portuguese as the official language!” a fellow political activist from Guinea-Bissau, Carlos Lopes wrote after Braganca died in the 1986 air-crash that killed Samora Machel and 33 others.

Silvia Bragança regrets she spent so little time with her husband. They met just three years before his death in Lisbon where she was teaching art, and quite by chance. “I went to an exhibition at the Gulbenkian Museum when suddenly there was a flurry of official activity as Samora Machel and his wife Graça were ushered in. I happened to be wearing a saree. Assuming I was part of the Indian delegation, I was directed to the official cocktails.” Aquino was in Machel’s delegation, and they met a day later. Married not long after, Silvia would return to Maputo after a decade. She had left just before Mozambique’s independence. Life in a new and evolving Mozambique was hardly easy.
Till she came to live permanently in Maputo in May 1984, Silvia knew little of Mozambique’s post-independence struggle. Her short time with Aquino threw her into a whirlwind of political, social and official activity that ended abruptly with the tragic air crash. After 1986, she spent years trying to piece together a book on her husband’s life.
The English edition of Battles Waged, Lasting Dreams was released in Goa earlier this month. “You should be proud of your husband, he was a great revolutionary. He prepared the ground. I am very grateful to people like those, really very grateful,” Nelson Mandela told Silvia in an interview. Samora Machel’s wife, Graça, who is now married to Nelson Mandela remains a close friend.