Celebrations – Then & Now


The Centennial At The Door
Jeca – My lady, the Centennial is already here.
Exposition – Let him in. I will greet him just like this, in a shirt…

In 1922, Rio and the rest of Brazil celebrated 100 years of independence from the Portuguese crown (for which even the Portuguese president was in attendence). The so-called “Exposição Internacional do Centenário da Independência”, which lasted from September of 1922 until March of the following year, included the participation of 14 other countries and still stands as the largest international exposition in Brazil.

But how did the people feel about it? Famed Carioca novelist and journalist Lima Barreto penned a piece in Careta magazine in late September 1922 about his people and their feelings. Sadly, he would die of a heart attack one month later at the age of 41.

If one swaps the word Centennary for Olympics, it could have almost been written today. I apologize beforehand for any questionable phrasing, some parts were tough to parse being they were written almost 100 years ago.

Clique na imagem abaixo pra aumentá-la.

The Centennial
by Lima Barreto

“What one notices, in the current commemorative parties for the passage of the centennial of the proclamation of Brazil’s Independence, is that they are unfolding completely alien to the people of the city. The impartial observer doesn’t see in them any enthusiasm, doesn’t feel in the soul any patriotic vibration. If in our ‘little’ people there is no indifference; there is, at least, incomprehension regarding the date that is being commemorated. Moreover, our Carioca people were always like this: we never took national dates seriously, which always deserved this displeasing attitude that is being taken now with the Centennial, celebrated so pompously with dances and banquets.

There’s a story from a British humorist in which he makes a homeless man in London speak in the following manner: “I am a subject of Your Majesty Britian. I have, aside from the British Isles, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand and I don’t know which other lands; however, I dress myself with rags, I sleep, most times, outdoors, and I spend my days without food. What does it matter to me to nominally have so many lands? Nothing. Before [anything] I would [prefer to] have a few coins per day.”

I believe the Carioca reasons in a similar way. I would say to him: “What’s the point of José Bonifácio, Pedro I, Alvares Cabral, the Amazon, the gold of Minas, the magical Exposition, Minas Gerais, if I have a life of counting coins, to be able to live?”

Such a state of spirit is not favorable for patriotic enthusiasms; on the contrary, it must bring about general impoverishment and dispondency.

Times are tough; Everything is overpriced. A poor head of a family has to thing constantly about tomorrow. Will he have time to be impressed with patriotic festivities which are mostly ball games and other futilities rather than serious protests of a cult for a country and its past?

Brazil is going through a curious crisis that I don’t know how to classify. With these Centennial parties, we see one of its manifestations. Open any newspaper. Pages and pages are filled with news of sportive rivalries that are destined to consecrate the current ephemerality. The date in itself is forgotten; as is everything that can be related to it; but things about balls and boxing are front and center.

So that we don’t celebrate 100 years of our political independence. What we do is to transform Rio de Janeiro into a large field of boxing fights and horse races.

I said at the start of these brief lines that the people didn’t associate themselves with the Centennial parties. I was wrong. The sportive ones willingly do. For them, and for those of lamps and military parades.

The people will understand the relationship they’ve got.”

Careta Sept 1922

Folha published an article about Barreto today also which I was unaware of, but it doesn’t mention the story above. Read it here (PT).

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