Chiquinha Gonzaga never stopped fighting. She fought to do what she loved most: music. She struggled not to live with a man she didn’t love, at a time when divorce was not a given right and much less acceptable than it is today. She struggled to have unconventional relationships. She fought for the end of slavery, for the republic, for copyrights, for the recognition of her work. And she did all this without losing the ability to create joyful compositions.
Born in 1847, her mother was a mixed-race woman and her father was a white, military man. Although Chiquinha and her siblings were born outside marriage, they were recognized by their father. She received a quality education and learned to play the piano since her childhood. At the age of 16, she married a man chosen by her father. The relationship wasn’t a happy one and she left, with her family completely cutting ties with her. Chiquinha then started to live by teaching music. Soon, she started to sell her composition Her music combined the formal education she received with the influence of the rhythms brought by enslaved people from Africa.
In 1899, she composed the song that defined Brazilian Carnival until today: “Ô Abre Alas”.
She died in 1935, at 87 years old, having composed more than 2000 songs and more than 70 compositions for musical theatre.