I only said my name

In memory of Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1950-1973)

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme retratado em estúdio fotográfico aos 2 anos de idade (1952) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme was born in Sorocaba, 100 kilometers from São Paulo, on October 5, 1950. The eldest of six siblings, four girls and two boys, he was the son of professors José Oliveira Leme and Egle Maria Vannucchi Leme. 

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme em sua primeira comunhão, aos 7 anos (1956) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Having an uncle who was a priest and an aunt who was a nun, Alexandre was influenced by the catholic faith from an early age. In April 1964, five days after a military coup in Brazil, the 13-year-old boy was surprised by his uncle Padre Aldo's arrest, accused of subversion. 

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme recebe prêmio de desempenho escolar aos 10 anos (1960) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

He began his school life in Itu, a town near Sorocaba, where he lived most of his childhood, since his father started teaching at Senai School, in that town. Studying at Instituto de Educação Regente Feijó, Alexandre soon stood out as the best in his class.

Boletim escolar de Alexandre Vannucci Leme no 4º ano (1961) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Trecho de entrevista com Beatriz Vannucchi Leme, irmã de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme

Grades above 9 would be a constant in his teenage years. In his sisters’ memories, he enjoyed staying alone in his bedroom, always studying. The exception was when his football team Corinthians was playing, when he would dispute the TV with his siblings. 

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme na recepção aos calouros do curso de Geologia da USP (1970) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

First place in the Geology entrance exam, Alexandre (left) starts studying at the University of São Paulo (USP) in 1970. One of the freshman pranks consists of having the student's body smeared with oil. The country is going through the most truculent period of the dictatorship.

Calouros do curso de Geologia da USP diante de barracão construído para a semana de recepção (1970)Instituto Vladimir Herzog

A shed was built by the students especially for the freshman reception week. “Survival Center”, said the poster. A reference to the state terrorism becoming less and less discreet? Alexandre is the boy wearing a white shirt and glasses standing at the center.

Alexandre Vannucchi Leme aos 19 anos, em foto para a carteirinha do Centro Acadêmico (1970)Instituto Vladimir Herzog

In the Geology course, Alexandre got the nickname “Minhoca” (earthworm). It could be a reference to his skinny body and to his love of earth, but it also honored a professor in that course, Sérgio Estanislau do Amaral, known as Minhocão, who Alexandre specialized in imitating. 

Excursão de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme com os colegas do 1º ano de Geologia ao município de Itu (1970) by Roberto NakamuraInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Trecho de entrevista com Adriano Diogo, colega de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme no curso de Geologia

Fieldwork was frequent in the Geology course. On a trip to Itu, a country town in São Paulo, Alexandre is the boy wearing glasses with his hand on a friend's shoulder, on the left.

Registro da comemoração de Natal da família Vannucchi Leme em Sorocaba (1972)Instituto Vladimir Herzog

Alexandre used to go to Sorocaba on the weekends. In 1972, his visits became rarer, as he participated more intensely in the student movement and in Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN), a group resisting the dictatorship. He introduced his girlfriend to his family at Christmas. 

Obituário de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme no jornal O Globo (1973-03-23) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

At DOI-Codi, the most violent torture center in the dictatorship, Alexandre agonized back in his cell on March 17th, 1973. 'I'm Alexandre Vannucchi Leme', he said. 'They say I'm from ALN. I only said my name.' The newspapers published a false version of his death. 

Catedral da Sé lotada para missa em memória de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1973-03-30) by Estadão ConteúdoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Seven days after the announcement of his death, 3,000 people went to Sé Cathedral to the mass in memory of Alexandre, celebrated by archbishop Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns, on March 30. Musician Sérgio Ricardo sang Calabouço, a protest song he had just recorded. 

Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns celebra missa em intenção de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1973-03-30) by Estadão ConteúdoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Defying the repression, with mounted police outside and undercover agents inside the church, Dom Paulo denounced Alexandre’s death under torture. “Only God owns life; His is the origin, and only He can decide its end”, began the archbishop's homily.

Gilberto Gil se apresenta na Escola Politécnica da USP (1973-05-26) by Carmen PradoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

To denounce the arrest of over thirty students from USP, plus Alexandre's and his colleague Queiroz's deaths, Gilberto Gil performed at the Polytechnic School in May. He tricked the censors and sang Cálice for the first time. At the back, the names of those still in prison.

Egle, a mãe, em vigília junto aos restos mortais de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1983) by Pedro ViegasInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Ten years after Alexandre’s burial as a pauper in São Paulo, his family was able to transfer his remains to Sorocaba. On the photo, Egle, his mother, in a public vigil at Getúlio Vargas School. Alexandre’s portrait becomes a symbol of the struggle for justice and reparation.  

Inauguração da Praça Alexandre Vannucchi Leme, em Sorocaba (1978) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Five years after Alexandre's death, a square was named after him in Sorocaba. As the slow and gradual opening promised by the then president Geisel started to come true, the death under torture of a 22-year-old student sparked outrage and evoked solidarity.  

Carta do escritor Gabriel García Márquez para a inauguração da Praça Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1978) by Autor desconhecidoInstituto Vladimir Herzog

The inauguration of the square prompted expressions of support from intellectuals such as Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who sent a letter to be read on the occasion. 'I'm right there, next to you, on the side of the struggle you've been waging for democracy'.  

José de Oliveira Leme e Egle Vannucchi Leme com retrato do filho Alexandre (2006) by Epitácio PessoaInstituto Vladimir Herzog

José and Egle Vannucchi Leme have become great references in the struggle for memory, truth, and justice since their brave search for their son's whereabouts, among prisons and centers of torture, in the days after March 17, 1973. He died in 2014 and she, in 2019. 

Ato na USP marca a concessão póstuma de anistia política a Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (2013) by Marcelo Camargo / Agência BrasilInstituto Vladimir Herzog

Alexandre was granted amnesty by the State forty years after his death, in a posthumous ceremony in 2013 at the Geology Institute of USP. Among those present were the then Minister of Human Rights, Maria do Rosário, and the chairman of the Amnesty Comission, Paulo Abrão.

Bandeira com o rosto de Alexandre Vannucchi Leme em passeata pela democracia (2022) by DCE-Livre Alexandre Vannucchi LemeInstituto Vladimir Herzog

His face was immortalized in the logo of the Central Directory of Students of USP, founded in 1976 under the name of DCE-Livre "Alexandre Vannucchi Leme". Banners and flags with the image are frequently seen in popular demonstrations for democracy and human rights.

Credits: Story

Exhibition "I only said my name" - In memory of Alexandre Vannucchi Leme (1950-1973)

Coordination - Camilo Vannuchi
Curatorship - Carolina Vilaverde

Research -  Carolina Vilaverde e Camilo Vannuchi
Installation - Carolina Vilaverde
Writing - Camilo Vannuchi
Translation - Aline Matos Gurgel 


Instituto Vladimir Herzog (Vladimir Herzog Institute)
President - Clarice Herzog
President of the Deliberative Council - Ivo Herzog
Executive Director - Rogério Sottili
Memory, Truth and Justice - Gabrielle Abreu (coord.), Mayara De Lara e Valquíria Ferreira
Communication - Lucas Barbosa (coord.), Bruna Pereira e Gabriela Teixeira

Special thanks
Adriano Diogo, Alberto Alonso Lázaro, Beatriz Vannucchi Leme, Caio Túlio Costa, Carmen Prado, Cristina Vannucchi Leme, DCE Livre da USP Alexandre Vannucchi Leme / Gestão É Tudo Pra Ontem, Dirceu Pagotto Stein, João Paulo Teixeira, Juliana Nunes, Juca Varella, Pedro Antônio Chiquitti, Pedro Viegas e Roberto Nakamura. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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