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Wave of Black Politicians Takes Office in Brazil

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BAURU, Brazil—In its 124-year history, this midsize, mostly white city in Brazil’s prosperous farming belt had never had an Afro-Brazilian as mayor. Until now.

The inauguration Friday of Suéllen Rosim, 32 years old, comes as thousands of Black and mixed-race politicians from across the political spectrum take office in municipal governments across Brazil in what is being hailed as a victory for people of color and a big step against racism in Latin America’s biggest country.

A growing appreciation of Brazil’s African heritage and the rising profile of influential Black politicians have fueled the shift. Brazil has the biggest Black or mixed-race population of any country outside Africa, nearly 120 million—more than half the population—but only 4% of politicians in Congress are Black.

A Supreme Court ruling in October that forced parties to allocate a percentage of their state-provided campaign funds to Black and mixed-race candidates also elevated politicians of color and encouraged more to identify as such.

“We’re showing that it’s possible—it’s possible to be a woman, to be Black, and to be a mayor, a state governor or even president,” said Ms. Rosim, a gospel singer and former television news anchor in this city of 380,000 people.

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