Constructions of Brazil

Note Introdução ao Brasil. Um banquete no trópico, by Lourenço Dantas Mota. This book comments on many writings, as does Leslie Bethell’s Ideas and Ideologies in Twentieth Century Latin America.

Paulo Prado’s Retrato do Brasil. Ensaio Sobre a Tristeza Brasileira is one – a text Bethell connects with other famous documents from 1928. It has an epigraph from Capistrano de Abreu, from a letter to J. L. d’Azevedo, saying the JABURU is the bird that symbolizes Brazil. It is a tall bird with thick legs and well feathered wings. It spends its days with one leg crossed over the other, very sad, of an “austere and vil sadness.” Following are chapters on lust, covetousness, sadness, and romanticism – and a then postscript.

The postscript says the book is not regionalist, although it was written in a provincial city. The author isolated himself in the Goethean manner so as to flee the influence of the “Bovarisme” of S. Paulo and create  his work of art in peace. Only in the provinces can one imagine the long, book-lined study Renan dreamed of. Also, in this particular province iBrazilian sadness is very salient (for as Anchieta already realized, S. Paulo is particularly melancholy). This enabled Prado to guard against the assumption that all of Brazil is so sad.

Prado says he wrote this “retrato” like an impressionist painting. This enables him to get to essences. He has considered history not as a romantic resurrection … but as a group of impressions … which allows us to get to what I would call a sediment of Brazilian experiences.

Martius in “Como se deve escrever a historia do Brasil” doubted the importance of repeating facts. Rather, he recommended the writing of a “pragmatic” history of Brazil (says Prado). He and apparently Martius (whom I have not read) emphasize the fusion of the three races so as to produce a new ethnic type. [Note then: once again this is hardly new with Freyre]. Martius, satys Prado, was the first to give importance to the African. And as we know, slaves first came to Brazil with Cabral. There were 20,000 of them by 1600, and there was a great deal of racial mixture by that time.

Page 192 of the 4th edition (RJ: Briguiet, 1931) refers to a “hyperesthesia sexual” that caused more mixture to take place than had done in the United States. Lust brought the races together, from the beginning, slowly. There was intimacy among the races (and there was none in the United States). And North Americans do not like mulattos … whereas in Brazil an octoroon “passes.” And we have seen that mixtures of Portuguese and Indians give strong stock, especially in the first generations (195). It is hard to tell so far how good the mulatto mixture is, but one thing is clear: “Aryanization” takes place. In another five or six generations we will see whether the mixture creates a strong race.

At the end of 197, Prado starts talking about the ways in which slavery weakened Afro-Brazilians and Brazil, again paraphasing Martius. Prado says there were psychological problems: lust and covetousness led to the romantic malady in the Brazilian character. And Brazil is still in a marasmo colonial … it needs to modernize its attitude and stop sitting in the margins.


This entry was posted in Colonialisms, Créolité, Enlightenment, Primitivisms, Race. Bookmark the permalink.

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