Viriato da Cruz

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Viriato Clemente da Cruz (25 March 1928 – 13 June 1973) was an Angolan poet and politician, who was born in Kikuvo, Porto Amboim, Portuguese Angola, and died in Beijing, People's Republic of China. He is considered one of the most important Angolan poets of his time. He wrote poems in Portuguese and Angolan languages. He took part in the fight to free Angola from Portuguese rule.

Political work[edit]

Cruz was educated in Luanda, the capital of Angola, which was then ruled by Portugal. As a young man in 1957 he went to Paris, where he met Mário Pinto de Andrade, another Angolan poet and politician, who helped with his political ideas. In 1956 they helped create the group called the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA—from the Portuguese name Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola).

The MPLA was not in Angola at this time, but was first in Conakry (the capital of Guinea) and then later in Leopoldville, Congo (now Kinshasa the capital of the DRC). Cruz became secretary-general of the MPLA. After some time he and others did not agree with the party leadership, in particular with president Agostinho Neto, and this led to fighting in the streets of Leopoldville.

Exiled in China[edit]

In the 1960s, following the fighting in the MPLA, Viriato da Cruz went to Beijing, China, where he was well known as having helped create the MPLA. At first, the Chinese government welcomed him; they wanted him to help them bring Maoist socialism to Africa.

However, Cruz's ideas were not the same as those of the Maoists. He believed that stronger countries could not impose a socialist revolution on other places, and he would not change his ideas. This was counter to the Maoist idea of world revolution. Cruz wanted to leave China and return to Africa, but the Chinese government would not allow him to go.

Last years[edit]

The last years of his life were unhappy and difficult. He was weak, without much food, and Cruz died on 13 June 1973. His body was taken away in a military vehicle and was buried without ceremony.

Some Angolan people think that this was shocking, because Viriato da Cruz worked hard for his ideals and was one of the most important leaders of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA).

Principal books[edit]

Poemas (1961). Among these poems, "Namoro" (Courtship), "Sô Santo" (Holy One) and "Makézu" (Kola Nut) are well-known.

Further reading[edit]

  • Edmundo Rocha, Francisco Soares, Moisés Fernandes (eds.), Viriato da Cruz: O homem e o mito, Lisbon: Prefácio & Luanda: Chá de Caxinde, 2008.
  • W. Martin James, "Cruz, Viriato Clemente da (25 March 1928-13 June 1973)", Historical Dictionary of Angola, Scarecrow Press, 2011; pp. 73–74.