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The Paulo Freire Legacy


									  The Paulo Freire Legacy

          McGill University
The Paulo and Nita Freire International
     Project for Critical Pedagogy
From the moment I learned that McGill University was
creating The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project
for Critical Pedagogy, I was very touched. On the one
hand, I was pleased and happy--on the other hand, I was
also concerned about the responsibility this honor implies
and why I am receiving it; the greatest ever bestowed on
me, along with the greatest Brazilian educator, Paulo
Freire, whose worldwide notoriety is undeniable.
Questions came to my mind as if to cast doubt on whether
or not I deserved such high homage, on whether or not I
would be able to meet the expectations placed upon me by
those who work so seriously to perpetuate Paulo Freire’s
name in the world from Canada. I patiently allowed time to
provide me with an answer, obviously not in and of itself as
if time were a decision-making entity, but by arriving, little
by little, in time and with time, at the foundation of my own
intuitions and reflections. The first understanding I arrived
at was that Paulo Freire, my husband and to me simply
lovingly PAULO, did deserve to have a study and research
center at a university of McGill’s stature, but that Nita did
not. What might I have done to warrant such great honor?
I reflected upon it some more and was then able to more
clearly realize what I represented in Paulo’s life. Some
friends had long told me, but not until the creation of this
Project did I realize within myself, acutely and profoundly,
what my presence in Paulo’s life was. I gave to him all my
love, tenderness, and care. I encompassed him with my
energy and my vitality; with my curiosity, and my
concerns, with a younger woman’s reading of the world.
The manner in which we exchanged admiration, trust,
fascination, loyalty, and respect also helped him to open
himself up to a new sense of satisfaction with life, and
toward his relationship with the world.
I am thankful to Shirley Steinberg, to Alípio Casali, and Lisete
Arelaro, and very specially to Donaldo Macedo, for having
noticed and understood, justly and sensibly so, even before I
did myself, and for having repeated to me many times, and
vehemently so, the importance, which I now very humbly
recognize, of my role in provoking in Paulo the existential
intent, indeed the vital desire, needed so that he could
plentifully enjoy all his dimensions as a man: from his radiant
taste for a happy and pleasurable life to his scientific
production, made more poetic and diversified, more
profoundly critical and accurate.
I must agree, being a little less shy about it, that had it not
been for me, quite possibly Paulo might have faded at a much
younger age, and he would not have contributed as he did in
the last ten years of his life, consistently and decisively, to
building the Critical Pedagogy he himself had inaugurated.
I must say a few more words about why I believe this
Project for studies about Paulo Freire in Canada also
takes my name, and in its Nita form, which up until my
marriage to Paulo was a nickname, a form of endearment
only used by my family and the closest of friends, Paulo
among them. Therefore, this choice by McGill University, I
feel, has the intent to connect me with the university in a
tender, definitive, and irreversible manner. Similarly to my
relationship with Paulo, a strong and loving bond both in its
affective and intellective aspects, it intends to emphasize
the undying dimension of our relationship of love, within
the institutional relationship being established today
between myself, Paulo, and McGill University with the
creation of this Project.
In sum, I believe that, both due to this joyous, provocative,
instigating facet of mine that beneficially reached my
husband and to my immeasurable efforts toward
disseminating and publishing my husband’s work as his
legal successor, I am inexorably linked to McGill
University, and being granted such an honor alongside
Therefore, my most sincere Thank You goes out to all
the men and women in this university who have
worked to make this Project a reality and to all those
who have come to support and lend their solidarity to
myself and Paulo. I also want to thank, in a very
special way, my sons, Ricardo, Eduardo, Roberto,
and my daughter, Heliana, my daughter-in-law, Elsie,
and my grandson, Andre. My thanks as well to Shirley
Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe, mentors of The Paulo
and Nita Freire International Project for Critical
Pedagogy Project, to Donaldo Macedo, Henry Giroux,
Charles Cole, Hajra Waheed, Peter McLaren, Ramón
Flecha, Antonia Darder, and Peter Park, any-time, all-
weather friends of Paulo’s and, through him, of mine
as well.
I also thank you all here today for the joy of your solidarity
and your presence. I also want to express my eternal
gratitude to all of McGill University’s leadership, and
above all to Dean Jamshid Beheshti.
At times like this, it is natural for one to think of one’s life
history. Thus, as in a movie, I now run through my life
and Paulo’s, lives lived in parallel even before we jointly
built “our communion” made concrete within the maturity
of our choice and the intensity of knowing how to live the
plenitude of life, while surrounded by people who are
most dear to me.
I am taken back to my childhood in Recife: The Osvaldo Cruz
School, which stretched out toward the front of the huge
house at 1002 Dom Bosco Street where we, the Araújos
lived: Aluízio, Genove, and their nine children, my brothers
and sisters, my cousin Itamar and my grandfather, “Godfather
Miguel.” I recall the bucolic Recife with the gas streetlights
and its Carnaval, then filled with Pierrots and Columbines,
confetti, streamers, and frevo songs of innocent and
romantic taste, which I now hear in the 2008 Carnaval,
nostalgically reliving my childhood, at the University Radio
Station created by Paulo in 1963!!
I recall the rotating bridge, which made me panic
at the thought of its moving while I was crossing,
the amphibian airplanes letting off their
passengers downtown, and Derby Square with its
Sunday bands, where I started having my first
dates with Raul. I recall my coming to Sao Paulo
and the birth of our four children, whose lives
today continue in those of Andre, Marina, and
Flora. I remember my brother Paulo’s tragic death,
when the family’s pain was somewhat lessened by
the daily visits by then great family friend Paulo
I remember the day when I made the decision to go
back to school—in my youth I had completed two years
of Civil and Electric Engineering—to study Education,
which coincidentally allowed me to dedicate to and
specialize myself in the same field of study as Paulo’s.
It was the iron-handed years of the military regime
then, and I read Paulo for the first time, in Spanish; I
could “hear” him translate his Pedagogia do Oprimido
back to Portuguese. I was in Sao Paulo; he was in
I go further back in time to find Paulo around the
year of 1937; I met him for the first time then,
before I was four years of age, in the halls of the
memorable Osvaldo Cruz School, owned by my
parents, Genove and Aluízio Pessoa de Araújo. It
was a private school, but its practices favored the
community’s interests, for example, through the
granting of scholarships; it could indeed be
considered a public-mission institution. That was
how Paulo had the opportunity to go to school—
and belatedly complete his secondary
education—and in fact to become a teacher, then
one of his greatest dreams since childhood.[1]
    Among other statements check in Paulo Freire, Política e
  Educação, 4th edition. São Paulo: Cortez, 2000 in “Ninguém
  nasce feito: é experimentando-nos no mundo que nós nos
  fazemos,” p. 79.
      About such opportunity, Paulo stated that,
      beyond the unique and concrete possibility he
      had to be schooled, “… it was there that I learned
      to become an intelligent person, which I believe I
      am.”[1] It was at that school that, while making up
      for years lost out of school, Paulo learned, under
      the influence of my parents, to be a humanist, in
      addition to being intelligent and being human.

[1]Paulo Freire. Pedagogia da tolerância. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2005,
p. 268. This book earned the Jabuti Prize-2006, awarded to Paulo and
myself, as organizer, in the category “The Best Book on Education”, 2nd
At the time, Paulo, an adolescent who thought of
himself as unattractive and angular, timidly overcame
his fear of interacting with his fellow students and
teachers by singing popular songs or whistling Villa
Lobos, but also by studying the Portuguese language
and popular Brazilian syntax with steel determination.
I recall, with joy and longing, our wedding ceremony
held at my mother’s house—unfortunately, having
already passed, my father was not able to experience
the joy of seeing me united to his dearest former
student—in Recife, in March of 1988, at the height of
Paulo’s wisdom, when filled with passion and love we
were formally united in a religious ceremony so as to
complete one another.
I remember the many trips from Sao Paulo to Jaboatão dos
Guararapes, especially the last vacation we spent together, in
January of 1997, at our condo, which he had bought a few years
before. He seemed to tell everyone in my presence that the
place was meant to trick me and gradually warm me up to the
legitimate dream of returning to our context of origin. He tried
to convince me by proposing longer and longer stays there,
preparing us for a definitive return to his beloved Recife, even
while he objectively knew that would be very difficult to do in
the near future due to the work commitments we had both
made in Sao Paulo.
He would imagine and promise me “a gift” of a large house,
in a pleasant section of the city, one to my taste and of my
choice, preferably with a view to the Capibaribe River, which
runs through and beautifies “our city,” and with a large
backyard with mango, pitanga, carambola, and jaca trees in
it so we could enjoy their aromas and flavors while resting or
just thinking under the shades provided by lush and
abundant treetops.
I relive all that intensely. My life, his life, the characters and
experiences of our simple and gentle life, one of intense
communion and decisive for the being that I have been and
am today and that instigates me to think about what he
thought, dreamed, and practiced. Without that loving and
tender bond we forged day after day, deliberately between
us, and without the learning mutually afforded us by our ten
years of a shared life, it would be difficult to speak about him
with the affective responsibility, with a companion’s respect,
with political engagement and an intellectual identity with his
reading of the world, as I have done.
Thus, during his life, I collaborated in three of his books.[1]
After his departure, I organized three[2] more books with
writings of his, and I had them published and translated into
a few foreign languages. I organized another book about him
with Freireans from around the world, some of whom are
present here.[3] I wrote about us in Chronicles of love: my life
with Paulo Freire [4] and about his prodigious life and singular
body of work in Paulo Freire: uma historia de vida.[5]
[1] Pedagogia da Esperança, São Paulo, Paz e Terra, 1992 ( 52 Notes, from
p.201 to 245); Cartas a Cristina, São Paulo, Paz e Terra, 1994 (46 Notes,
from p. 237 to 334 ); 2nd edition. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2002 and .À
Sombra desta Mangueira, São Paulo, Olho D Água, 1995 ( 13 Notes from
p. 89 to 120).
[2] Pedagogy of indignation.. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2004; Daring to

dream: toward a pedagogy of the unfinished. . Boulder: Paradigm
Publishers, 2007; and Pedagogia da tolerância. São Paulo: Editora Unesp,
2005,Awarded the most important literary prize in Brazil, Jabuti Prize 2006,
“The Best Education Book”, 2nd Place.
[3] A pedagogia da libertação em Paulo Freire Paulo Freire Series

(Direction). São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2001.
[4] Chronicles of love: my life with Paulo Freire. Preface by Marta Suplicy,

Introdution by Donaldo Macedo. New York; Washington, DC; Baltimore;
Bern; Frankfurt Main; Berlin; Brussel; Vienna; Oxford: Lang, 2001.
[5] Paulo Freire: uma historia de vida. Indaiatuba: Villa das Letras, 2006.

Awarded the most important literary prize in Brazil, Jabuti Prize 2007, 2nd
Place in the category “The Best Biography”.
On this solemn occasion, therefore, I want to, I can and
must, because I know him most intimately, give
testimony as to who this small-bodied man is whose
greatness and wholeness of character were quite
uncommon and whose mere presence effected
pedagogy. As I speak about his humanness, I will also
be speaking about his reading of the world, thus, about
the legacy of his work, in light of the extreme coherence
he maintained between what he felt, observed,
reflected upon, spoke, systematized, wrote, and
From his mother he learned generosity and not to be afraid
of living legitimate anger; from his father tolerance and
respect. From my parents he learned humanism and
gratitude. From his students he learned of the need for
spontaneous curiosity to gradually become epistemological
through loving cognitional dialogue. From a few
philosophers, sociologists, and educators around the world he
learned that sameness does not lead to rigorous
systematized thinking, or to the creation and re-creation of
knowledge, as that should be a dynamic process historically
renewing itself at every moment.
From his academic peers, while negating many of them,
he learned that one must not discard common sense
and intuition, but start out from them in order to build
science and philosophy. He learned that knowledge is
born out of a practice that must be illuminated by theory
in a permanent and dialectic process: from practice to
theory to practice.
From his wives, Elza and me, he learned the need for
complicity, for affection and lovingness within married life.
From the African peoples he learned the importance of
bodiliness and of joy, and of a duty toward and a taste for
the learn-teach act from the starting point of engaged work
toward transformation.
Paulo also learned, from “northern whites,” from the
developed world, those who were (and remain) in favor of the
Brazilian bourgeoisie, and thus, against the people. By
negating them, he proclaimed, in a dialectic of denunciation
and annunciation, that division leads to manipulation and
conquest, but that through organization, through union and
the cultural synthesis of the oppressed, the possibility opens
up for social transformations in favor of those men and
women, the excluded, vilipended, and exploited population.
Yet, it was with Recife laborers and fishermen from Pernambuco
that Paulo received and embraced the greatest lessons on the act
of thinking. From those men and women he learned that neither
theology nor his faith and catholic religiousness, neither rationalist
or idealist, functionalist or phenomenalist, personalist nor any
other theories of educative-philosophical-linguistic knowledge
were able to explain in its totality what he saw, felt, and
understood while in contact with the indigent men and women
from the swamps, the marshes of Recife, and from the beaches
and the countryside of Pernambuco.
It was alongside those men and women, the mere
objects     for   manipulation,      exploitation,    and
oppression by the dominant, that my husband
humanized himself more, and understood the need to
study a great deal, especially Marxism, in order to unveil
the cruel and unjust reality that ravaged Brazil, but
above all that Northeast region of his.
It was from his experience with the population of the poor
quarters of Recife and with the rural laborers from the sugar
cane producing towns of Pernambuco that Paulo started out,
thus, to compose his Liberation Theory. He was able to
clearly understand, with that destitute and “ignorant”
population, through studies in philosophy and science, and
through rigorous reflection, that they had been robbed of their
humanness, had their genuine nature as human beings
denied them.
He understood the reality in which they had been
Lesser Beings, exploited, excluded, oppressed,
because they lived poorly, hardly ate, had no jobs, and
were not able to read the world, or even able to write or
read the word—not ever their own names. Illiterate,
they did not even have the right to vote, which might
have afforded them minimal political participation, as
such was the requirement by Brazilian law then.
Paulo’s compassion toward that population and his
radical understanding of the conditions they were
subjected to made him be in their favor, compelled him to
make them conscious of why they felt undervalued,
resigned to “divine determination,” dismissed from life.
Through conscientization as to their day-to-day of misery,
he opened up the possibility for them to fight against that
suffering, which silenced their voices as historical
beings and sentenced them to being mere objects at the
service of the powerful.
From all such men and women, from the most diverse
peoples of the world, Paulo learned that solidarity and
tolerance are the matrixes of true multiculturalism, upon
which earthly Peace can be built, without arrogance,
without discriminations, and without bouts of domination
by the pretentious “lords of the world.”
Paulo was a simple man even though he was a wise man who
studied and read with all the potentiality of his
epistemological curiosity, with great seriousness and feeling,
devoting himself from an early age to overcoming
relationships and conditions of oppression in effect. He
learned to listen to scientists and to hear the people of his
land. He heard them because he listened to what manual
laborers, factory and rural workers and fishermen in
Pernambuco wanted, knew, wished for, and felt.
As he listened to them, he took it all to his heart, reflecting
upon and feeling their problems, because he read with
his entire body—body and mind, he read with his
conscious body. His body hair would rise up, and his
heart would race pumping his blood faster because he
identified with the people’s pain. He would become
stunned and indignant.
Paulo, therefore, wrote about people’s troubles and their
suffering with a legitimate anger or indignation, as he
would say, but without grudges, disrespect, or
exasperation. His enormous joy for living never kept
him from speaking about the miseries of the world, nor
his being one of the most serious and rigorous thinkers
in the history of ideas and of education in the world from
preserving his almost boyish ways of communicating, of
conducting himself with sweetness and simplicity toward
anyone indeed, to the last day of his life.
Paulo’s ethical nature is to account for his exemplary behavior, for
only after analyzing what he heard, read, or saw, living it all within
his reflective reasoning, and within instances of anger and
indignation if he repudiated the fact or deed, would he then
lovingly denounce it, thusly announcing something new. For that
reason, he was not always going on or grieving in elegies or vain
words. He would first intuitively and sensitively learn from the
facts and deeds that sentenced the majorities, or him, to the
limits or depths of meanness. He gave himself the right to
profoundly feel legitimate angers, as he put it, and then, he would
elaborate the facts scientifically and politically in his talks always
marked by ethical composure.
Such is the dynamic of denunciation-annunciation in Paulo, his
educator, political, ethical being. Therefore, I never saw him
complaining, even when treated unjustly or misunderstood by
anyone. He was able to discern and lucidly knew the reasons why
someone would want to discriminate against, subject, or demean
the people or to offend him, put him down, without having ever
“compared” the insults and injuries and the acts of envy
independently from their reasons why and whom they emanated
from. At times he was mistaken, but he never regretted his
magnanimousness toward people.
With clarity and dignity, he would remain in his authentic
and eminently ethical position of humility, even while
denouncing the dominant classes with all his strength.
Paulo’s state of ethical discernment provided him the
foundation for creating a political epistemology driven by
the concreteness of life, of deeds and facts and their
webs, one substantively humanist and critical, thus,
inaugurating a new conception of ethics, creating the
ethics of liberation.
It is this ethics in Paulo that accounts, therefore, for
the unshakable love and unrestricted solidarity
toward the just, the oppressed and excluded that
sets the tone and provides the soul of his own
person, of his theory and praxis. He abominated
with all his strength the envious, the vengeful, and
those who take advantage of their positions to illicitly
gain in every way in every situation. He also
possessed enormous compassion for men and
women who don’t know how to stand firm in their
positions when respectful of the decisions of others
or loyal toward their comrades.
Paulo was, thus, a bold man who was not afraid to
hardheadedly insist, to continue on writing, speaking, and
dedicating his life to the struggle against injustices that afflict
men and women without a voice more, that is, that afflict
those who cannot speak their word. Speaking the word, to
him, means to demand what one wants, desires, needs, to
take a stand for what one thinks and finds necessary for his
or her life in community. It means to want and to understand
that one can and must participate in the political life of one’s
country rather than simply being the docile one who works
and obeys without even knowing why. To speak the word is
to insert oneself in society; it is to establish one’s own
biography. It means to escape the condition of mere object
to gain that of subject of history as well.
Paulo’s struggle of nearly sixty years was,
unarguably, toward making lives into human
existences, toward making oppressed men and
women into More Beings, that is, in fact people,
socially recognized as equal and marked only by
their individual differences. Paulo was “stubborn,”
“persistent” not just to be a “troublemaker,” but rather
out of his belief that all human beings, men and
women, are born to be happy. They are born to fulfill
themselves while human beings, by doing well,
seriously, decently, and joyfully all that they like and
want to do because it is important for their society
and not just for themselves.
Often times, his ethical-critical-political educational
theory is misinterpreted as if it were a mere method for
literacy education.       His critical understanding of
education, his epistemology, has a literacy education
“method” built into it, it is true, but it goes far beyond
that and encompasses other areas of knowledge,
interpreting human existence in and with he world in an
absolutely peculiar dialectic fashion. Through his
theory, Paulo revolutionized the world, without
weapons, with courage and boldness, with coherence
and complicity, with political ethics and love; it is a
Liberating Theory aimed at human beings’ autonomy.
His theory brought humanist-liberating power to
education, to the act of educating the forum of
politicalness, problematics, and dialogicalness, and to
politics it brought a new ethical-pedagogical character,
as those qualities were not recognized before.
Marked by the ethics of life, his theory negates the ethics of
markets, of easy and illicit gain, which is characteristic of
those who practice the dictums of neoliberalism and of
economic globalization. It is a critical and liberating theory
because it proposes thinking and acting toward the
transformation of societies; it is hopeful because, while
believing in human inconclusion and in collective
participation toward the building of a better world, it
foresees the utopia of a more just and human society.
It is dialogically loving because it does not prescribe and does not
determine but, rather, establishes a horizontal relationship in the
search for knowledge and for well-liking between subjectivities and
the objectivity of what is to be unveiled and known. It is humble
because it does not intend itself as the only true theory at the service
of men and women and tolerant because it values and respects
differences. It is engendering of conscientization, geared toward the
autonomy of subjects, because its citizenly tactics has democracy as
its greater strategy. In sum, Paulo’s theoretical thought exposes all
his greatness, wholeness, and dignity of an existentialized human
Paulo’s greatest dream, therefore, was the reinvention of
societies toward the prevalence of justice and equality in
them, thus making them truly democratic societies. That is,
it aims at our building a more ethical, more human world.
Just as Martin Luther King, he also pronounced, with his
conscious body, with his work, and with his example, “I
have a dream… I have a possible dream, that of
humanizing ourselves, in communion, of men and women
freeing ourselves from the unjust bondage that has made
us Lesser Beings. I have a dream… I have a possible
dream, that of all of us men and women becoming More
Beings, in a permanent process of liberation.”
In other words, Paulo created a theory of
knowledge from draining theoretical studies, from
his prophetic intelligence, drenched by his
experiences as a man who fully lived his
Recifeanness, his unrestricted and profound love
for his homeland, for his “context of origin,” but
above all from his sensibility soaked in
compassion and solidarity toward the Marias,
Manuels, Joses, Severinas, and Severinos from
the hills and the marshes of Recife, the fishermen,
and the sugar-cane plantation workers of
Thusly, fighting fearlessly from the starting point of
his Recifeanness, but never stuck in it, with
courage and a belief in the other, he made himself
a citizen of the world, a well known man, admired,
respected, studied, and cited all over the world, by
scholars from the most varied areas of knowledge.
From Recife to Montreal, from Santiago to La Paz, from
Havana to Geneva, from New York to Beijing, from Tokyo to
Massachusetts, from Jakarta to Barcelona, from Sao Paulo to
Seoul, from Kiev to Bilbao—Paulo is considered the thinker of
Brazil who, having thought from the starting point of his
dearest city, Recife, where he was born in 1921, reached the
world. It is necessary to say, and I do so with pride, but
without pretension or arrogance, that my husband, alongside
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is considered the greatest
pedagogian in the history of education and of the ideas of
humanity, according to statements by liberation philosopher
Enrique Dussel.
This homage, as I see it, commemorates this man’s
immortality—Paulo Freire—who thought, fought, and
dreamed tirelessly, throughout his life, in favor of the
utopia of transforming the world, through collaboration and
communion, into a more beautiful and fraternal society,
one more just, more egalitarian, and more solidary, a
world of Peace and equity and a more democratic one.
I cry his absence and exalt and rejoice in his fruitful life, marked
as it was by tenderness, courtesy, and the patience for listening.
I commend his joyfulness, humility, simplicity, generosity, and
respect for all men and women, regardless of nationality,
religion, language, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation,
age, or culture, his easygoing and hopeful nature, his wisdom
for dialoguing and creating. I admire him for his enormous
capacity for being tolerant toward the different and lenient
about the frailties of others, for having been wise about the
difficulties of life, for never having lamented or complained
about the problems that affected him.
I also admire him for his awareness of his own knowledge
at the service of transformation, of understanding as to the
incessant remaking of history through possible actions in
the present, and for having fought against today’s
impossibilities to make them into the possible dreams of
tomorrow. I praise him for having realized that the world is
possibility rather than historic determinism and that
impatient patience is one of the most important
revolutionary virtues, for having loved indiscriminately, and
for having shown extraordinary courage to love!

Ana Maria Araújo Freire.
Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Carnaval Sunday, 2008.
Montreal, March 13, 2008.

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