“In Search of Anselmo” and Soledad Barrett’s pregnancy

Now available on HBO Max is the series “In search of Anselmo” in its entirety of five episodes. In it, the face of Corporal Anselmo as a paid assassin by the Brazilian dictatorship is proven with images, words, and documents. For the first time, a cinematographic investigation and reportage work is done without falling into the cunning game of the bandit Anselmo, who always deceived journalists when being interviewed. The series directed by documentary maker Carlos Alberto Jr. is worthy to be known by all as a history of the Brazilian dictatorship in images.

And for the portrayal of Corporal Anselmo, the connection with his companion, the brave Soledad Barrett, whom he delivered to his death in the dictatorship, is inescapable. I had the honor of writing the pioneering book about this crime in my novel “Soledad in Recife”, and later, more broadly, in my novel “The Longest Duration of Youth”, where she and Anselmo appear as people with their real names, alongside others like Jarbas Marques, one of the character models for the book. Jarbas was one of the six people killed in the Granja São Bento massacre.

In the series, in the fourth and fifth episodes we see the rare images of the testimony of the lawyer Mércia Albuquerque, images never seen by the general public, in her statement-accusation at the Secretariat of Justice of Pernambuco. In the fourth episode, when I saw her again in her role as a brave woman, I got up from the sofa and shouted, because it was irrepressible: “Beautiful! But her beauty didn’t come from the aesthetics of her face. It came from her heroic act that elevated her forever in everyone’s hearts. Because there is a beauty that is not physical, it is a moral quality, just as we see the female soldiers of the Red Army, just as we see that wonderful soldier who puts the communist flag on top of the Nazi building at the end of the war. Just as beautiful is Cervantes, toothless and one-armed, as he builds the greatest novel of all the centuries. Beautiful, I said it there and I repeat it here: Mercia was more than beautiful, because her gestures and actions were beautiful.

In this last episode of “In search of Anselmo”, the filmmaker Carlos Alberto Jr. manages to make an episode so well realized with an artistic eye on infamy that the episode stands out as an autonomous film. In it, since the beginning of this fifth denunciation, we are shocked in front of an Anselmo at ease in a farm, calm, happy, vain like a good son of pure, pure villainy. The murderer displays himself as a kind man, that kind of a good citizen. It could be said of the scene: he killed the bravery of patriots and went to paradise. Later on, next to his statement in a serene voice, we see former policemen, at Fleury’s funeral, saying that Anselmo, in fact, gave courses to them, trained them, that Anselmo was a wise man of the dictatorship’s pedagogy. Cut to the deposition and the infamy continues: now Anselmo tells that he gave lectures to fascist officers in Chile, as a professional, that he was well paid! And he adds with an air of mockery: I could really use some more of that kind of money.

To conclude on his lies against the left and for his work of infiltration and delivery of militants: “I did a good job”. As if to say: I was perfect.

But there is another moment in the episode that I must highlight. It is when Ñasaindy, Soledad Barrett’s only daughter, is interviewed at the time of the year 2017. When answering a question about Soledad’s pregnancy, which Jorge Barrett (her uncle) denies, she leaves open. She does not question the existence of the testimony of the lawyer Mércia Albuquerque. Ñasaindu even disagrees with Jorge, Soledad’s brother, without mentioning him, by saying that the pregnant woman’s body does not always change to the extent that other people notice at first. And Soledad might not have told Jorge about her pregnancy. But at this point, Soledad Barrett’s pregnancy can no longer be doubted, because I recover unquestionable testimonies below.

Read the words of Genivalda Silva, widow of José Manoel, one of those executed for the denunciation of Corporal Anselmo in the Granja São Bento slaughter. At the Dom Helder Câmara State Commission of Memory and Truth, she declared:

“A few months before they killed José Manoel. Then Soledad was pregnant and Anselmo asked me if I knew someone to do an abortion in Soledad. This I tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m not lying or making false statements to Anselmo. And I told him: ‘Anselmo’, that I didn’t even know that she was his wife, I said ‘look, never, if I knew I would tell you someone to do an abortion because only who has to take the life of a human being is Jesus, and nobody else. That is why I don’t teach you. And he left with José Manoel, with my husband, with Zezinho, and Soledad stayed two days with me in my house. But she was like that, a very calm person, she spoke a language that I didn’t understand much, until I liked her way, but she was like that in her corner. I prepared lunch and she ate, I prepared dinner and she ate, but she was such a person that she didn’t open her mouth to me to comment on anything. There was only one thing that I asked her:

‘Do you really want to lose your child? She shook her head, said ‘no’, and the tears came down.

In the same direction that confirms Soledad Barrett’s pregnancy, the militant from Pernambuco, named Karl Marx, spoke these words in the Dom Helder Câmara State Commission of Memory and Truth:

“Whenever we were talking to her husband, her pseudomarido, pseudocompanion, who was Daniel, whenever he was talking to us, she was with my mother and my sister-in-law there in the kitchen. And my sister-in-law found out that she was pregnant… That’s when she said she was pregnant. I know this for sure. She was pregnant.

To the public testimonies above, the word of Nadejda Marques, only daughter of Jarbas Marques, one of the six socialist militants killed in Recife, is added most eloquently. Today, Nadejda Marques holds a PhD in Human Rights and Development. In the days of Carnival 2018, I talked with her.  And I could see what I did not want, nor imagined. Here is summarized, in the limits allowed, her statement:

“Soledad complained about pregnancy to my mother. Both my mother and my grandmother saw the couple, more than once. For example, on one date, Soledad was nauseous and was vomiting because of her pregnancy. My mother, aunt, Soledad and Pauline were present.

My mother told me that she and Soledad went to the beach together, that Soledad seemed happy about her pregnancy, that she was beautiful and elegant. Soledad Barrett presented me with a little baby outfit. She was a sweet and kind person.

Now comes the cruelty that memory does not bury:

“My grandmother Rosália, Jarbas Marques’ mother, managed to enter the morgue with Mércia. Dona Rosália, among the various jobs she had, was also a nurse. She knew Soledad’s person. My grandmother always told what she saw in that fateful January 1973. My father, with torture marks all over his body, had strangulation marks on his neck and water in his lungs consistent with the result of torture by drowning. The shots in the chest and head were given after his death. Soledad’s body, still bloodied, had the remains of a placenta and a fetus in a makeshift bucket.

In short, so many wanted to discredit the lawyer Mércia Albuquerque’s denunciation, but in the end history proves her right and proves what she once said: “Soledad had her eyes wide open, with a very big expression of terror. I was horrified. As Soledad was standing with her arms at her side, I took off my petticoat and put it around her neck. What impressed me most was the blood clotted in large amounts. I have the impression that she was killed and laid down, and they brought her in afterwards, and the blood, when it clotted, got stuck in her legs, because it was such a large amount. The fetus was there on her feet. I can’t know how it got there, or if it was right there in the morgue that it fell, that it was born, in that horror.”

Regarding Soledad Barrett, the story is still rolling the dice.

Uriarano Moto is author of the novel “Never-Ending Youth.”