Born as Luiz Inácio da Silva on 27 October 1945 in the rural state of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil, Lula was the seventh of eight children. A few months after his birth, his father abandoned his family to go work in the nearby port city of Porto de Santos. Lula grew up with his mother, first meeting his father when he was five years old. During his childhood years, Lula experienced poverty and dispossession. In 1956, his mother divorced his father and took the children to São Paulo, Brazil's industrial and financial capital. Living in poverty, Lula left school and found a job at a laundry store at age 12. At age 14, he was already working at a factory. In 1964, the military overthrew the civilian government and installed General Humberto Castelo Branco as president. Repression against labor union leaders was common. It was during this time that Luiz Inácio, at age 21, began to work in a steel company where he first became associated with labor unions. Luiz Inácio's older brother, nicknamed Frei Chico, was a labor union leader and convinced Luiz Inácio to run for a leadership position in his local union. Lula was first elected in 1969. Because of his charismatic leadership, he easily won reelection in 1972. As it is common in Brazil, Luiz Inácio adopted a nickname, Lula, by which he became known to others. Because his nickname became so popular, he incorporated it into his full name in the 1980s.
In 1966, he married Maria de Lourdes, who died when giving birth to their first child, who also died. After fathering a boy with Miriam Cordero in 1972, he married his second wife, Marisa Casa, in 1974, a divorcee and mother of a two-year-old son. Together, they have three children, but Lula's and Marisa's children were also officially adopted by the couple. Lula always proudly claims to be the father of five children. In 2002, they ranged in age from 18 to 32.