Luiza Erundina de Souza (1934) is one of the female symbols of Brazil's recent political history. She started with the fights of popular classes, became town councilor, mayor, representative and senator. She was one of the founders of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), the Labor Party, which she left in 1996. Her honesty in dealing with public affairs is recognized as an example, even by her opponents.
In 1988, she was running for the position of mayor of the largest city in South America. São Paulo went to sleep as a conservative town and woke up with its first female mayor. Besides being a woman, she belonged to the PT, a left-wing party, and was born in the Northeast, one of the poorest regions of Brazil. The mayor was not inexperienced. She had already been elected town councilor and she had knowledge of the political strength of mobilization and popular participation. She and her other nine siblings lived, during their childhood, with a dry climate and the drama of rural exodus. As an adult, she arrived in São Paulo and found the people from the Northeast piled up in slums. She graduated to be a social worker, and she did what she knew best: organizing people. As mayor, Luiza Erundina's biggest concern was directed at the most vulnerable population. Not only did she open health centers in the abandoned regions of the city, she also opened a space for discussing health assistance. She not only built schools and day cares, but she also discussed education. Her administration had women playing key roles. Luiza believes that “women have two challenges: to conquer power and to exercise it in a better manner than men do.” This powerful woman knows that “power does not belong to the one who exercises it, but to the one that delegates it.” She is convinced that democracy lives essentially in the power that emanates from the people. After conquering city hall (1988-1992), she kept on winning elections. Today, Luiza Erundina de Souza is a Representative for the State of São Paulo, and she continues constructing the dream of a more supportive and fair country. “A dream that is so grand that I cannot dream it alone.”