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The Estado Novo: Politics and Political Propaganda in Brazil, 1937–1945  

Maria Helena Capelato

The Brazilian Estado Novo (New State) emerged from a coup led by then-President Getúlio Vargas with support from political and military groups. It was an enduring dictatorial regime (1937–1945), characterized by two distinct political moments. In the first phase, sympathy for European totalitarian regimes was evident. In addition to the violent repression of communist/socialist movements and other opponents, political propaganda—inspired by the Goebbelsian model—was put into practice: civic and sporting events, posters, and films encouraged patriotism and a cult of personality. In this period, because of the promulgation of an array of labor laws demanded by workers since the beginning of the century, Vargas was given the epithet “Father of the Poor.” The second phase began in 1942, when Brazil entered World War II in support of the Allies who fought against Nazi-fascist regimes. The contradiction of a dictatorial government in Brazil struggling for democracy abroad was patent, which contributed to the delegitimation of the regime and, consequently, the end of the dictatorship.


Vargas Era and the Politics of Cultural Production, 1930–1945  

Daryle Williams

Short and stout in physical stature, Brazilian statesman Getúlio Dornelles Vargas (1882–1954) still stands as an outsize figure in modern Latin American history. The politician’s long political career began in the 1910s and spanned terms as state deputy, federal minister, state governor, chief of state four times over, and federal senator. Vargas spent nearly two decades in the presidential palace, the longest of any figure during the republican period. By the time his second democratically elected presidential term (and his life) ended on August 24, 1954, Vargas had been dragged down by personnel scandals, factionalism, and economic destabilization. He likened the political climate of the final months in office to a “sea of mud.” Yet in his sudden death the president was able to free himself from the muck. Among adherents of the Brazilian Labor Party and key sectors of the working poor, “Getúlio” was elevated to the status of civic sainthood. Even after military rule dismantled the Brazilian Labor Party and banished Vargas’s political heirs to exile, the Vargas state managed to endure. Forty years after Getúlio’s death-by-suicide, president-elect Fernando Henrique Cardoso imagined the state interventionism of the Vargas years to be finally over. In reality, Vargas and his era still survive in the enduring Brazilian vocation for statism. Reminders of Vargas and his era are found in the innumerable streets, plazas, and commemorative plaques that bear the name of a politician of enigmatic charms and confounding contradictions. This complex, resilient legacy draws in part from the bold accomplishments and ambiguous outcomes of the robust cultural policies of Vargas’s successive terms as chief of the provisional government (1930–1934), president (1934–1937), and president-dictator (1937–1945). Federal cultural policies during these fifteen years collectively known as the “First Vargas Regime” were innovative and far-reaching. Reversing decades of elite reverence for imported standards of civilization, official culture after 1930 was unapologetically and self-consciously nationalist. Policymakers, culture critics, entertainment entrepreneurs, and key figures in the arts and letters associated with the first Vargas regime self-presented as advocates for the cultural needs, aptitudes, and aspirations of the Brazilian povo (people). The central state, correspondingly, played a principal role in consolidating a canon of artistic and architectural treasures that endure in global imaginaries of Brazil and Brazilianness. Paradoxically, the democratizing impulses of cultural management during the first Vargas regime drew their legitimacy from state authoritarianism and anti-popular politics. Most notably during the Estado Novo dictatorship (November 10, 1937–October 29, 1945), cultural policy and programming worked in tandem with censorship and manufactured paranoia. State agents orchestrated acts of violence against ideas, symbols, and creative expressions branded inimical to national interests. “Subversive” books were burned; dissidents confronted silencing. Some authors went into exile and novelist Graciliano Ramos (1892–1953) spent ten miserable months on an island penal colony for unproven charges of participation in a Communist insurrection. The oppositionist newspaper O Estado de São Paulo was outright expropriated by the state. Although the Vargas era included the official elevation of Carnaval, samba, and capoeira as authentically national cultural idioms, Afro-Brazilian popular culture remained under the watchful eyes of local police. Numerous cultural expressions vaunted as organically democratic were, in fact, shaped by regime demagoguery, symbolic violence, and, ironically, internationalism. The bold, sometimes mystifying contours of state- and culture-making in Brazil during Vargas’s first regime are explored here.


Publishing Houses and the 'Discovery' of Brazil, 1930–1950  

Gabriela Pellegrino Soares

The flourishing of the publishing market in Brazil in the first decades of the 20th century is associated with the social, economic, and political transformations that accompanied the advent of the republic and, after 1930, the inflections of the so-called Vargas era. Publishers with growing prestige began to create repertoires that could capture the multiple dimensions of the nation and affirm identarian matrices. Through letters, lively soirées, and political complicities, they constituted solid sociability networks, reflected in the names of the authors in their catalogues. In the presentation and selection of works, they assimilated the impulses of the modernist and regionalist literary movements, revealing talents from various regions of Brazil. They benefited from the expansion of educational policies, the birth of universities, and the maturing of the human sciences. In addition, they made efforts to educate the reading public using rigorously organized collections under the curatorships of renowned writers and bibliophiles. They were aware of the cultural mission they carried out in a country with a still-precarious cultural and educational structure. Among the many collections which appeared, involving the translation of classics of literature or foreign popular science books, a central place was given to the '(re)discovery of Brazil.' In austere or finely made editions, the Brasilianas (works about Brazil), literary collections, individual works by Brazilian writers, poets, and essayists from different generations, and also foreign perspectives of Brazil all gained materiality. Echoing the famous phrase by the Paulista writer Monteiro Lobato, “a country that makes men and book,” the publishers of the period acted in a profound connection—even in positions of confrontation—with the ideas of the nation that appeared on the horizon at that time.


Radical Right Ideologies and Movements in Brazil  

João Fábio Bertonha

Far-right movements, groups, and parties are a constant in Brazilian history. Following the first moment in which we can identify the presence of the radical right in Brazil (1889), its history had several phases and moments: ultraconservative movements and monarchists in the early years of the Old Republic (1889–1930), reactionary leagues fighting socialism and the labor movement during and after World War I (1917–1922) and the first groups and fascist movements (1922–1932). In the 1930s, in turn, the formation of the largest fascist movement outside Europe, Integralism (1932–1938), and Getúlio Vargas’s Estado Novo (1937–1945) represented the peak of the far right in the country, when it almost became a valid alternative to power. Between 1945 and 1964, the far right rebuilt itself in reactionary Catholic and anti-communist groups, close or not to neofascism. Under the military dictatorship of 1964–1985, it was in the fringes of power, remaining in the shadows after the redemocratization in 1985. In the 21st century, in turn, it acquired power and visibility, equaling or perhaps even surpassing that of the 1930s. Recent Brazilian historiography, after attempts to reconstruct the history of the national right wing, has been moving toward a comparative approach in order to understand the dialogue between the national and the international within the specific field of the radical right. Dialogue is a fitting term, since the far right in Brazil was never completely original, but nor was it simply a copy of a foreign model. It is the role of the historian to understand this dialogue through the investigation of the links and mechanisms of transmission of ideas, concepts, and perspectives, the symbolic and material exchanges, between the world and Brazil.


Alberto Santos-Dumont and Brazilian Aviation  

Felipe Fernandes Cruz

Aviation has played a unique role in the history of Brazil, beginning with the life of Alberto Santos-Dumont. Most Brazilians consider him to be the true inventor of the airplane over the North American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Born in the province of Minas Gerais in 1873, he became a global celebrity in the early 1900s when he designed, built, and piloted several of his dirigibles and airplanes in Paris. He won major prizes for his aeronautical feats, such as the Deutsch de La Meurthe prize for an aerial circumnavigation of the Eiffel Tower. Santos-Dumont is a beloved national hero in Brazil. The potent symbolism of his life was often invoked in calls for the development of Brazilian aviation. Throughout the 20th century, aviation was hailed as a technological panacea for Brazil’s problems. Many Brazilians thought its development could boost homegrown industry and technology, and that aviation would in turn enable Brazil to conquer its frontiers by air. The potential to connect vast and often inaccessible territories by air was very attractive to a state with a weak grip on its frontiers. The dictatorial government of Getúlio Vargas, for instance, used propaganda and cultural programs to engender great excitement among Brazilians for the mass development of national aviation. This notion of frontier conquest by air played a major role in the development of aeronautical technology in Brazil, creating a unique history of frontier expansion and interaction with indigenous peoples. Starting in 1969, Brazil also became a major exporter of airplanes. Originally a state-owned company, the now privatized EMBRAER is one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, selling military, airline and private jet aircraft around the world.