Brazilian modern architecture was widely celebrated in the 1940s and 1950s as a tropical branch of Corbusian architecture. While there is truth and depth to the influence of Le Corbusier in Brazil, the architecture of this country is much more than simply an application of his principles to a warmer climate. Moreover, Brazilian 20th-century architecture cannot be defined only by a few decades in which their buildings coincided with and reinforce northern expectations. Many contemporary authors have explored the pervasive nature of such ethnocentrism in architectural history, which denies agency and initiative to anyone outside its intellectual borders. A more adequate analysis must give proper emphasis to Brazilian architects’ motivations and agency, exploring in their main buildings how they struggled to express themselves and their societal aspirations by skillfully manipulating a formal and spatial vocabulary of international modernity. A contemporary study of Brazilian 20th-century architecture would not be worthy of its title if it did not address similar double standards that have been applied domestically. It is paramount to understand that the influence of modernism in the built environment reached way beyond the well-known centers of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and its manifestations go way beyond the high modernism of the 1940s and 50s. The ethnocentrism of the global North Atlantic repeats itself in Brazil, with the architectures of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo overshadowing all others. If Brazilian architecture in general is not well known, notwithstanding its extraordinary achievements, still less known are the buildings erected in Recife, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador, to mention only four other major urban centers, or the hundreds of buildings in medium-size cities with as much quality and intentionality as those of Rio and São Paulo.
Fernando Luiz Lara
As the number of favelas and poor residents of Rio de Janeiro grew quickly by the mid-20th century, they became the object of policymaking, social science research, real estate speculation, and grassroots mobilization. After a decade in which local authorities recognized the de facto presence of favelas but without legally ascertaining the right of permanence, the 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the era of mass eradication. Seemingly contradictory—but complementary—policies also included the development of massive low-income housing complexes and innovative community development and favela urbanization experiences empowered by community organizations with the assistance of experts committed to improving the lives of poor Cariocas (residents of Rio). Favelas in Rio were at the crossroads of a particular interplay of forces: the urgent need to modernize Rio’s obsolete and inadequate urban infrastructure; the new administrative status of the city after the inauguration of Brasilia; and the redefinition of the balance of power between local, municipal, and federal forces in a time of radical politics and authoritarian and technocratic military regimes, Cold War diplomacy, and the transnational flows of expertise and capital.
Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto
Brazil had the largest population of free and freed Black people on the continent, starting in the early 19th century, despite being the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. The 1872 General Census of the Empire reported that six out of every ten Black or brown people could claim a series of rights associated with citizenship by virtue of not being enslaved. These included some individuals who were literate and active in the cultural and political spaces in which plans for the country’s present and future were drawn up. Especially in the second half of the 19th century, a time of deepening crisis for the slaveholding system, individuals such as José Ferreira de Menezes, Luiz Gama, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocínio, Ignácio de Araújo Lima, Arthur Carlos, and Theophilo Dias de Castro, all of whom were born free and resided in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, invested in their individual aspirations but also joined groups that defended the citizenship rights of free, freed, and enslaved Black people. Facing daily experiences of “color prejudice,” they not only participated in debates waged in the abolitionist, Black, literary, and general press, but they also played leading roles in the creation of mechanisms and instruments of resistance, confrontation, and dialogue. Although this aspect has not received much attention in recent historical accounts that recognize their existences, these and other Black intellectuals developed bonds of affection and solidarity over the course of their careers. To reflect on the scope of this shared racial identity in the latter 19th century and the possible impact of these ties on public positions taken by Black intellectuals, the demonstrations of friendship and companionship experienced by these individuals are traced, as well as by some others. An exercise in approaching the traces of different practices surrounding the politicization of race is given, and paths for future research on the social history of ideas and antiracism in Brazil are suggested.
When Brasilia was inaugurated in 1960, the Serviço de Documentação (Documentation Service) in the Brazilian president’s office published a multivolume compendium of collected and annotated excerpts from historical antecedents that had considered the idea of relocating Brazil’s capital. Based on this publication, in addition to archival material from other sources, a history can be traced of a long-standing, even if discontinuous, desire to locate a capital in Brazil’s interior. It is a desire that can be framed within disparate political projects, such as the shifting away from Lisbon as the center of the Portuguese empire, the transformation of a colony into a kingdom, the liberal repudiation of an ancient régime monarchy located in South America, or the construction of a unified and modern Brazilian nation. Not only was a capital finally built in Brazil’s central plateau, but also the very architectural and urban form of Brasilia is today legally protected in perpetuity and on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. As a companion to the article, the reader can consult the website pilotPlan, a searchable digital atlas that illustrates the urban and architectural evolution of Brasilia, as it existed and as it was imagined.
Matthias Röhrig Assunção
Capoeira is a martial art that developed from combat games enslaved Africans brought to Brazil. It is systematically documented since the beginning of the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro and later in other port cities. During the 19th century capoeira was increasingly practiced by the poor free people, black and of mixed ancestry, and also by white immigrants. Capoeira gangs controlled their territories against intruders and allied with political parties until the Republican purge of 1890. Capoeira survived best in Bahia, where it remained more associated with other forms of Afro-Brazilian culture and acquired many of its features still extant in present-day capoeira. From the 1930s onward, capoeira masters such as Bimba and Pastinha modernized capoeira, leading to the emergence of the Regional and Angola styles. Bahian capoeiristas migrated to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in search of better opportunities during the 1950–1970s. There they and their students developed what later became known as “Contemporary capoeira” (Capoeira Contemporânea) which is the most practiced style today. Capoeira was and is practiced in various ways: as a friendly game or as a fight, as a combat sport, or as an Afro-Brazilian cultural activity. Since the 1980s, capoeira has undergone a process of globalization and is now practiced in many countries around the world. Capoeira is the only martial art of the African Diaspora that is known and practiced worldwide. Writing on Capoeira has rapidly grown in a number of disciplines, leading to the constitution of its own interdisciplinary field of study.
Álvaro Pereira do Nascimento
At least four major periods help to understand Brazilian history from pre-contact until modern times: the era of indigenous societies prior to 1500; the Portuguese colonial period (1500–1808); the experience of the Monarchy (1808–1889); and the Republic (1889–2019). Although the expanding and varied repositories offering digital resources do not necessarily cover these four highlighted periods thoroughly, researchers should still know them before navigating through the documents and images such repositories are making freely available to the public. Historical Brazilian digital holdings can be grouped into nine broad areas: (1) documents produced by national, state, and municipal governments; (2) records relating to specific historical moments; (3) sources for immigrant, indigenous, and African and Afro-Brazilian studies; (4) collections helpful for examining labor, industry, and plantations; (5) sources relevant for sex and gender studies; (6) materials for the history of science; (7) personal and private collections; (8) periodicals (newspapers and magazines); (9) and sources related to artistic, patrimonial, and cultural production. Researchers will find abundant sources about Brazilian society, political changes, the economy, education, commercial relations, wars and revolts, urban reforms, companies, violence, customs, and values, among many other topics and issues. Scholars and students can access interviews, photographs, newspapers, magazines, books, civil and parish records, laws and reports from government institutions, correspondence, music, movies, documentaries, maps, and much more.
Carlos Sandroni and Felipe Barros
Samba schools are musical and recreational associations linked to carnival, created in Rio de Janeiro between 1928 and 1932 approximately. The first competitive samba school parade was held during the 1932 carnival, and since then they have held annually, always during carnival. Samba schools were also created in São Paulo later in the 1930s and gradually spread throughout Brazil, expanding internationally from the 1970s onwards. Since the end of the 1950s, the samba school parade has been recognized as the principal event in the Rio de Janeiro carnival. It is characterized as a performance involving music, dance, costume, and artwork. In the 1930s, each school sang up to three different sambas: the rule of just a single samba per parade was established later. Instrumental accompaniment is produced by the bateria, a set of membranophones and idiophones, which is perhaps the most the most characteristic element of a samba school. In addition, a small group of guitars and cavaquinho (a type of ukulele) provide the harmonic base for the singing. A group of judges mark the competition: points are organized by theme, music, dance, and outstanding features. The parade has gone through numerous transformations over the years. One such was the growing importance of the enredo, the central theme or story guiding the parade as a whole. In the 1950s, the composition of the sambas for the parade came to be driven by the need to present each aspect of the enredo in the music and lyrics, which led to the creation of a new type of samba, the samba-enredo. At time, the sambas performed in the parades were not very different from the sambas released on records and sung in different contexts in festivities. In the 1960s, the coordination of all aspects of the parade, with the aim of showing the enredo in the best manner possible, led to the emergence of a new role, the carnavalesco, who is charged with choosing the theme and designing and planning everything related to the parade’s visual and scenic dimensions. Increasing public interest in the samba schools was accompanied by the growth of the parade itself, implying ever greater costs, connections, and conflicts with the public authorities and with different private economic agents, including in some cases illegal economic activities, such as gambling. The importance of the parade of the samba schools for the city of Rio de Janeiro was expressed in the construction in 1983–1984 of a new and immense urban structure, known as the Sambódromo. Designed to shelter the parades without disturbing urban circulation, as had happened until then in the mounting and dismantling of stands, the Sambódromo is used throughout the year. Its open spaces host various festive events in the city, while the closed ones are used for activities linked to public education.