Brazil, a bicentennial that passes without penalty or glory | International
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Brazil lives a hectic year. The celebration of the presidential, governor, deputy and senator elections on October 2 in the first round is joined by the commemorations of the Bicentennial of Independence, this September 7. On a day like today, 200 years ago, on the banks of the Ipiranga stream, on the outskirts of São Paulo, the Portuguese Prince Regent, Don Pedro, shouted “independence or death” that gave rise to independent Brazil, the largest country in terms of area, population and GDP in Latin America.
Specialized historiography has questioned the date, the event and Independence itself in such a way that we can ask what independence we celebrate? Unlike the United States, which took advantage of the 1976 Bicentennial to reaffirm and relaunch its hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, the event passes in Brazil without pain or glory, without serving for the “giant lying eternally in a splendid cradle”, as prays the anthem, is consolidated as the political and economic leader of Latin America.
If we remember 1822 for Don Pedro’s proclamation of independence and 1922, another emblematic year, for the celebration of the Modern Art Week of São Paulo (with the brilliant participation of Tarsila do Amaral), it is difficult for 2022 to have more outstanding elements in history than those presidential elections, crucial for the future of the country, unless future generations give it the importance that we do not give currently to the transfer of the heart of Pedro I from Porto to Brasilia, a curious act of veneration of a relic, with Catholic reminiscences, in a country (and a Government) with strong evangelical influences.
Another lost moment for the reaffirmation of Brazil as the natural leader of the Ibero-American continent.
The political moment does not help, nor does that feeling of incomplete or unfinished independence that has lasted in Brazil since the years after 1822. Incomplete because the country was left in the hands of an emperor Braganza with too many ties to the former metropolis (not in vain wore both crowns, like Pedro I of Brazil and IV of Portugal). Unfinished because political independence was followed by economic dependence on England, which immediately began to collect the aid given to the Braganzas in their flight to Rio de Janeiro in 1807-08 (“slow down, anyone would say we fled!” came to proclaim the insane queen Mary I).
The independence of Brazil was always compared to that of its Latin American neighbors. In these fragmentation, warlike chaos, anarchic republicanism was seen. In Brazil, on the contrary: territorial unity, peaceful and agreed independence, constitutional monarchy. These are some of the myths of Independence. Territorial unity was intensely questioned before, during and after 1822. Peaceful independence is one of the most enduring myths: in reality more than 60,000 troops were mobilized and more than 3,000 died in the Wars of Independence. The monarchy, in the long run, was seen as a heavy burden, rather than as an element of progress.
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The coming to power of the republicans in 1889 determined that the elements closest to the outgoing monarchy were eliminated from the national pantheon, and many of them were the men of 1822, with Emperor Pedro I and the minister and hero José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva in the lead.
If in the United States founding fathersand above all George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were the heroes who forged the American nation and its exemplary democracy, the protagonists of the moment 1822 were not considered in the same way in Brazil. Neither Pedro I was a tropical George Washington, nor José Bonifácio de Andrada a Benjamin Franklin, although his scientific training and his brilliant career as an expert in mineralogy brought him closer to the latter than to Simón Bolívar.
Nor does it help to extol this emblematic moment that the way out of the 1808-1822 crisis was conservative, monarchist and slave-owning. The flight of the royal family, the elevation of Brazil to the category of a kingdom in 1815 and its own independence had as a backdrop the unrelenting maintenance of slavery, in force in the country until 1888. The peculiarities of Brazilian liberalism and its conservatism they made the historian José Honório Rodrigues consider this process of Independence as a “counterrevolution”.
Despite our disquisitions as historians, September 7 is indeed a moment in which we can commemorate the brasilidade and the enormous and original legacy that this country has given to the world in its culinary, aesthetic, musical and artistic expressions in general, and in multiple branches of culture and knowledge. Let’s celebrate Brazil. Parabéns seus hairs 200 years.
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