- Janja da Silva is the new first lady of Brazil and the wife of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
- Janja played a crucial role in Lula’s campaign and is known for her activism on social media and in needy communities.
- She defines herself as a “card-carrying Petista” and has fought for social justice and equality, particularly for women and marginalized communities.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says he is in love with her “as if she were 20 years old”: Rosangela da Silva, whom he married in May 2022, is a sociologist and leftist militant who returns his love in public and after a strong presence in the campaign, yesterday also made her presence felt during the beginning of her husband’s third term.
The first lady wore, during the most formal part of the inauguration, a golden embroidered outfit. She deliberately chose not to wear red, as was speculated, because it is the color that identifies the Workers’ Party (PT) led by Lula.
“Red was a color I didn’t want to wear at all. It was never an option. The clothes we worked on brought several messages, one of which is to show that the government is for everyone,” said Janja’s stylist, Helô Rocha, in an interview with O Globo.
The stylist suggested she wear pants instead of a dress, which Janja agreed with. “One of the things I told her was that she should wear pants and not a dress. Janja is a ready-to-wear first lady who rolls up her sleeves and goes to work every day. There was a symbology for her to wear pants. Also, the model was very feminine,” she explained.
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Janja was one of the strong women in Lula’s campaign on the road to the elections in which he defeated Jair Bolsonaro in a ballottage last October 30.
“Brazil of Hope and Love! I love you, my love. Congratulations, Brazil. Tomorrow will be beautiful,” wrote the Brazilian first lady after the results were announced, which gave Lula the victory by less than two percentage points.
Earlier she had posted on social networks a video after casting her vote in which she declared: “Today I have come to vote for the almost 700,000 victims of Covid who this government neglected. I lost my mother. It’s a pain that won’t go away. I know that many people remember Paulo Gustavo (a renowned comedian who also died from Covid), and many families have in their memory their relatives who are no longer here. Today I vote for these people”.
Lula’s wife increased her role in the candidate’s command, especially towards the end of the campaign, gaining space in the hard core of the coordination, participating in political decisions, and organizing events, local media reported, to the point that some even spoke of the “Brazilian Evita.”
It was her initiative, for example, to articulate the progressive politician’s agenda in needy communities in Rio de Janeiro – the city where she lived between 2012 and 2016 – where Jair Bolsonaro (PL) won in the state in the first round with 51% of the votes.
Janja also increased her activism on social networks, with 1.6 million followers on Instagram and almost 880,000 on Twitter.
On the National Day for the Fight against Violence against Women, on October 10, she unloaded against officialdom: “In the last four years, countless dismantlings have affected various sectors and widened inequalities in our country. And women are always the first to feel the effects of this inequality.“
She was very critical of Bolsonaro when the controversy over the Venezuelan immigrants broke out. Lula’s team saw an opportunity and exploited it for days; they even filed an accusation for alleged “pedophilia” against the right-wing leader, which the Justice dismissed. The same day the president apologized, Janja republished an old video with offensive comments in which Bolsonaro insinuated that those teenagers were prostitutes.
“Petist with a license”
Born in Sao Paulo 56 years ago, “Janja,” as her friends call her, defines herself as a true “card-carrying Petista,” affiliated since 1983 to the Workers’ Party (PT), co-founded by Lula.
The new Brazilian first lady studied sociology at the Federal University of Paraná. She worked for almost twenty years for the energy company Itaipu Binacional in Curitiba, in the south of the country.
Although the Brazilian press claims that the two had known each other “for decades,” Lula’s advisor assures that they began their relationship at the end of 2017, during an event that brought together left-wing activists and artists, among these Chico Buarque.
But the romance between this brown-haired woman with a smiling expression and the left-wing icon, 21 years older, was kept secret until May 2019, when Lula had already been in prison for more than a year after being convicted of corruption in the Lava Jato case, according to Lula biographer Fernando Morais.
Three years later, they married in São Paulo in a ceremony with about 200 people, the details of which are so far kept secret.
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The kiss outside the prison
“Lula is in love, and his first project when he gets out of prison is to get married,” one of his close friends revealed after visiting him in prison.
After learning of the courtship, “Janja” visited him frequently in prison and multiplied the messages of love on her Twitter account: “I’m looking for words on the keyboard to describe these 500 days (he’s been in prison). Difficult! Your physical absence hurts too much,” she once wrote.
“Today, I would just want to hug you to fill you with endless affection. Congratulations, my love, I love you forever,” she said on his birthday.
The wait ended in November 2019 when a change in jurisprudence on serving sentences allowed the former president to be released.
Together with family members and PT leaders, Rosangela waited for him at the exit of the Curitiba prison, and they kissed in front of the crowd that tucked them in.
“I want to introduce you to someone I have already mentioned but that not everyone knows: my future companion,” said Lula, moved.
Politicized and feminist
Little known until then in the political environment, “Janja” was gaining more and more space in the new president’s agenda. Since Lula’s convictions were overturned and he was qualified to run for the election, she has accompanied him in several of his engagements, including his trips to Europe and Mexico.
As a “wedding gift,” she commissioned the re-release of Lula’s famous 1989 election jingle, re-recorded by several artists for the current campaign and which she presented at the launch of her pre-candidacy in May in Sao Paulo.
And she has given hints that she could play an active role as the first lady, working on food security projects.
Although she has shown herself on the networks campaigning for Lula, Rosangela remains discreet about her personal life. According to Veja magazine, she was married more than a decade ago and had no children.
She is a “very politicized person, has a good political head, and is very feminist,” Lula revealed last September in an interview with rapper Mano Brown.
However, she is against abortion, as Lula confirmed in the last presidential debate.
Janja is the third wife of the PT leader. The former president was first married in 1969 to Maria de Lourdes da Silva, who died two years later from hepatitis, and in 1974 to Marisa Leticia, with whom he had four children, who died in 2017 of a stroke.
“When you lose your wife, and you think that life has no more meaning, that it’s all over, a person appears who starts to make sense of it again,” Lula told Time magazine this year.