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The struggles of the Eleven

Academic center of the Law School completes one hundred years

In July 1903, students from the São Paulo Law School decided that it was time to put together the various groups of students scattered over the academia to form a guild that would represent their interests. The School was then 76 years old and it was founded in 1827, by means of a decree by D. Pedro I. At the time of the foundation, the young students decided to postpone this event and wait another month. The reason: to make the date of the first Brazilian academic center coincide with the date when legal courses were instituted in Brazil, on August 11.

The directorate that founded the XI August Academic Center had amongst its members the writer Monteiro Lobato (1882-1948) and the poet Ricardo Gonçalves (1883-1916). Both used to live in lodgings with other students that they called the Minaret, actually a chalet in the Belenzinho district of São Paulo, where they would hold literary meetings. The first directorate of the Eleven, as it came to be called, was chosen unanimously, something not very common ina guild usually, the elections were much contested.

The fact is that, in these hundred years, the center has become, by far, the most important student association in the country, with a participation in all the important events in the history of Brazil. It is no mere chance: in all, nine presidents of the Republic and 12 governors of the State of São Paulo sat down at the benches of São Francisco Square. In the course of the century, the students went to the streets to take an active part in the 1932 Constitutionalist Revolution, and, soon after, in the struggle against the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, in the resistance to the military regime, in the struggle for Direct Elections Now, for the impeachment of Fernando Collor de Mello and in the creation of campaigns for citizenship.

At times, it would anticipate trends, as in the election for the XI August directorate in 1925, carried out by means of the secret vote, before this kind of ballot was effectively adopted in the country, in 1932. The history of the guild, full of significant landmarks for the history of the nation, is also replete with picturesque facts. A good number of them are in the book that will be launched this centenary month, A Heróica Pancada, Centro Acadêmico XI de Agosto, Cem Anosde Lutas, [The Heroic Blow XI August Academic Center, A Hundred Years of Struggles], published by the Brazilian Institute of Juridical Memory (Memojus), in partnership with XI August itself.

The cases range from the theft, done by the students themselves, of the statue of José Bonifácio the Young, from inside a municipal deposit and into the school, in 1936, to the abolition, in 1974, of the “slavery” that obliged pupils to dress in collar and tie in the college, something required even of candidates doing their entrance exams, which they achieved after two years of pressure.