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date: 28 May 2020

Summary and Keywords

Although his views on the subject were changeable and difficult to define, Gilberto Freyre was interested in politics from his youth onwards. He had a brief political career as assistant to the Governor of Pernambuco (1926–1930) and as a deputy in the Constituent Assembly (1946–1950), where he spoke for the North East. He had what he called a “quasi-political” career as a journalist for most of his long life and he was also a cultural manager who founded or supported institutions that spread the ideas he believed in. More importantly, his central interests and ideas had political implications. He was accused of “Bolshevism” for his emphasis on the African element in Brazilian culture. His regionalism embodied a protest against centralization and standardization. His lifelong interest in architecture included a concern with housing for the poor that was hygienic and environmentally friendly, and also with the conservation of colonial buildings to serve as an inspiration for a Brazilian style of modern architecture. As a scholar, Freyre supported what he called the “tropicalization” of the social sciences, freeing them from generalizations based simply on European and North American experience. His view of Brazil in terms of culture instead of race implied that the government should be concerned with the health and education of the poor rather than with “whitening” the country by encouraging immigration from Europe. His idea that mixture was the core of Brazilian identity was taken up by governments from Vargas to Lula, while his idea of “Luso-Tropicalism,” claiming that the Portuguese were more flexible and benevolent colonizers than other nations, was used as a defense against critics of colonialism by the Salazar regime.

Keywords: culture, ecology, cultural mixture, miscegenation, regionalism, Luso-Tropicalism, tropicalization

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