In May 1888 the Brazilian parliament passed, and Princess Isabel (acting for her father, Emperor Pedro II) signed, the lei aurea, or Golden Law, providing for the total abolition of slavery. Brazil thereby became the last “civilized nation” to part with slavery as a legal institution. The freeing of slaves in Brazil, as in other countries, may not have fulfilled all the hopes for improvement it engendered, but the final act of abolition is certainly one of the defining landmarks of Brazilian history. The articles presented here represent a broad scope of scholarly inquiry that covers developments across a wide canvas of Brazilian history and accentuates the importance of formal abolition as a watershed in that nation’s development.
Bordering all but two of South America’s other nations and by far Latin America’s largest country, Brazil differs linguistically, historically, and culturally from Spanish America. Its indigenous peoples share the country with descendants of Portuguese conquerors and the Africans they imported to work as slaves, along with more recent immigrants from southern Europe, Japan, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Capturing the scope of this country’s rich diversity and distinction as no other book has done—with more than a hundred entries from a wealth of perspectives—The Brazil Reader offers a fascinating guide to Brazilian life, culture, and history.
Complementing traditional views with fresh ones, The Brazil Reader’s historical selections range from early colonization to the present day, with sections on imperial and republican Brazil, the days of slavery, the Vargas years, and the more recent return to democracy. They include letters, photographs, interviews, legal documents, visual art, music, poetry, fiction, reminiscences, and scholarly analyses. They also include observations by ordinary residents, both urban and rural, as well as foreign visitors and experts on Brazil. Probing beneath the surface of Brazilian reality—past and present—The Reader looks at social behavior, women’s lives, architecture, literature, sexuality, popular culture, and strategies for coping with the travails of life in a country where the affluent live in walled compounds to separate themselves from the millions of Brazilians hard-pressed to find food and shelter. Contributing to a full geographic account—from the Amazon to the Northeast and the Central-South—of this country’s singular multiplicity, many pieces have been written expressly for this volume or were translated for it, having never previously been published in English.
This second book in The Latin America Readers series will interest students, specialists, travelers for both business and leisure, and those desiring an in-depth introduction to Brazilian life and culture.
In the early 1940s as the conflict between the Axis and the Allies spread worldwide, the U.S. State Department turned its attention to Axis influence in Latin America. As head of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, Nelson Rockefeller was charged with cultivating the region’s support for the Allies while portraying Brazil and its neighbors as dependable wartime partners. Genevieve Naylor, a photojournalist previously employed by the Associated Press and the WPA, was sent to Brazil in 1940 by Rockefeller’s agency to provide photographs that would support its need for propaganda. Often balking at her mundane assignments, an independent-minded Naylor produced something far different and far more rich—a stunning collection of over a thousand photographs that document a rarely seen period in Brazilian history. Accompanied by analysis from Robert M. Levine, this selection of Naylor’s photographs offers a unique view of everyday life during one of modern Brazil’s least-examined decades. Working under the constraints of the Vargas dictatorship, the instructions of her employers, and a chronic shortage of film and photographic equipment, Naylor took advantage of the freedom granted her as an employee of the U.S. government. Traveling beyond the fashionable neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, she conveys in her work the excitement of an outside observer for whom all is fresh and new—along with a sensibility schooled in depression-era documentary photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, as well as the work of Cartier-Bresson and filmmaker Serge Eisenstein. Her subjects include the very rich and the very poor, black Carnival dancers, fishermen, rural peasants from the interior, workers crammed into trolleys—ordinary Brazilians in their own setting—rather than simply Brazilian symbols of progress as required by the dictatorship or a population viewed as exotic Latins for the consumption of North American travelers. With Levine’s text providing details of Naylor’s life, perspectives on her photographs as social documents, and background on Brazil’s wartime relationship with the United States, this volume, illustrated with more than one hundred of Naylor’s Brazilian photographs will interest scholars of Brazilian culture and history, photojournalists and students of photography, and all readers seeking a broader perspective on Latin American culture during World War II.
Genevieve Naylor began her career as a photojournalist with Time, Fortune, and the Associated Press before being sent to Brazil. In 1943, upon her return, she became only the second woman to be the subject of a one-woman show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She served as Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal photographer and, in the 1950s and 1960s became well known for her work in Harper’s Bazaar, primarily as a fashion photographer and portraitist. She died in 1989.
In this work Robert M. Levine undertakes two separate and important tasks: to provide the first overview of the history of photography in Latin America until the advent of the cheap cameras that permitted mass photography, and to analyze the photographic record for clues to the use of the images as historical documents. Levine has woven together an account of the development of photographic equipment and processes, with the artists and entrepreneurs who actually took the pictures, and places the emergence of photography firmly in the historical context of Latin American societies. Treating the photographs themselves—some 225 in all—Levine develops criteria for questions we can ask of the photographs in an attempt to extract emotional, psychological, and personal information, as well as the more obvious material evidence. This is an often subjective process, one that can lead to differing results, and observers may well come to conclusions departing radically from those of the author. But this may well be one of the most important functions of an innovative work, the creation of controversy that stimulates forward motion in a discipline.