Valeria Sena-Weltin, 36, stood in a crowd of students singing Brazil’s national anthem, her teenage nephew alongside her holding a sign emblazoned with Brazil’s flag.
Sena-Weltin is on the verge of getting legal guardianship of her nephew, who used to live in Brazil with the rest of her family.
“I want him to get a better education, to give him a chance,” said Sena-Weltin, explaining how little her nephew was learning at his school in Brazil.
Sena-Weltin and her family joined scores of protesters who gathered near the Washington Monument on Saturday afternoon, wearing yellow T-shirts and waving Brazilian flags to support similar protests that have been taking place in Brazilian cities for more than a week.
Paula Paixao, 30, who lives in Foggy Bottom, said it is disappointing to see the enormous amount of money being spent in preparation for hosting the 2014 World Cup, while the country’s social programs suffer from a lack of funding.
“This is an opportunity to show that we are not only samba and soccer,” she said.
Later in the evening, demonstrators walked to the front of the White House while singing Brazil’s national anthem. Some wore yellow and green paint on their faces.
Maria Aparecida-Sena, 73, from Sao Paulo, was visiting her daughter in the District, but she couldn’t miss the opportunity to show her support while here.
“People are dying in [public] hospitals because there are not enough doctors,” she said. “With a [monthly] minimum wage of $225, there is no way to pay between $150 to $180 for a private doctor.”
In the D.C. area, members of the Brazilian community, especially students, have used Facebook to organize and draw people to the protests.
“We thought nothing was going to happen, and here we are,” said Sheila Antonello, 36, of Arlington, expressing surprise at the turnout.
Her sign read “#vemprarua,”or “Come to the streets” in Portuguese.
Rober Bachinski, 26, moved to the District to obtain a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine two months ago. For him, this protest was his only chance to participate in the movement against the Brazilian government.
“Many students from Brazil are here, thanks to the [Brazilian] government and educational programs,” he said. “Right now, we are seeing how the country is changing, and we want to stop it.”
On Saturday, people also took to the streets in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and other cities in Brazil as part of the ongoing protests asking for an end to corruption and an increase in funding for public services, among other demands.