20th Century Dictators & Homosexuals

  1. “Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in 20th Century Brazil”

In a heavily anti-lgbtq country, when most people think of the lgbtq community, they think of Carnival, a special festival and celebration held in Rio known as the one place where homosexuality is socially accepted. They do not think of the many other public displays of specifically male homosexuality that took place in Rio outside of Carnival. One example of this was public squares, Gay sex and public displays of affection would take place on a regular basis, often leading to arrests. Another popular place for gay sex was movie theaters, as it was seen as a dark place where people only paid attention to the movie. Gay brothels would even take place in male homes. These public acts included more than just sex. These even included gay friends getting together on the beach. However, while the settings of homosexuality in 20th century Brazil set quite a definition of the male lgbtq community, they were not what truly defined it.

In 20th century Brazil, public male homosexuality, despite being solely between males, seemed to center around rather misogynistic ideals. These ideals even influenced the roles that male gay couples believed each partner should play. The two standard roles in male homosexual Brazilian society were the Homen and the Bichai. In sex, the Homen were the givers. Because of this, they were considered the definition of masculinity, a definition that even included racial undertones. The Bichae were the receivers. Because of this, they were considered to be more feminine. These misogynistic ideals were also exposed in popular preferences among homosexual men. An example of these preferences is that men with less body hair were considered to be more feminine, just as those with more hair were considered to be more masculine. Sometimes, these ideals resulted in outright sexism, such as in the exclusion of the female lgbtq community. In addition, gay men claimed themselves to be stronger than lesbian women.

These ideals appeared not to extend into the 21st century, as unfortunately the modern ideals of homophobia seem to center around murder. This would arguably account for the lack of public displays of homosexuality outside of Carnival in the 21st century. The modern murders of lgbtq people in Brazil documents a power struggle. The victims of these hate crimes are often poor and of color. White homosexuals with higher incomes are less likely to be targeted.

  1. “Father of the Poor: Vargas and his Era”

Throughout history and particularly in the modern era, dictators and authoritarians have risen to power on platforms of populism, nationalism and anti-elitism. The Brazilian dictator Getúlio Vargas was no exception to this rule. Like the rise of any great dictator, there was a political and economic backstory that led to Vargas’ rise in the 1930’s. Brazil’s first republic had been decentralized and destabilized. In addition, Brazil was currently suffering from “the great depression,” during which the price of coffee, the key export of Brazil, skyrocketed, creating an even bigger blow to the Brazilian economy. The depression led to the decline of the first republic. This decline led to a major revolution in which Brazil’s current leader was gruesomely murdered in a coup. During this long era, from 1914 to 1945, Brazil’s working class doubled in size. Despite this political and economically instability, Brazil was also experiencing an industrial revolution. Unfortunately, this growing working class was failing and struggling to integrate into this new ever-changing society, leading to anger, frustration, desperation and nostalgia for the old days. It was in the midst of this political and economic instability that Vargas was able to rise to power.

However, while Vargas rose to power on the same populist and nationalist platforms of other dictators and authoritarians, he stood out from others of his kind because he worked both in the interests of nationalists and populists as well as those of the common people, marginalized groups, and non-elites. Working in the interests of the common people and the working class, Vargas was the first to give Brazil universal access to health care and education. He also made an effort to help workers in different industry fields. He even declared war on Nazi Germany and reinstituted democratic practices. Working in the interests of the nationalists and elites, Vargas established Portuguese as the national language. He sympathized with fascists in order to maintain his respect. Despite his war on Germany, he also sent Brazilians to the camps in Nazi Germany.

Vargas served nineteen years in office and two terms: from 1930 to 1945 and 1950 to 1954. He was incredibly popular and titled “the father of the poor.” The news of his suicide in 1954 caused much upset and even tears, particularly from women. To this day, people still own and keep pictures of Vargas in their homes. Even today, Brazilian’s progressive movement continues to advance thanks to him. However, it is quite intriguing that despite his major popularity that Vargas did a mix of good, bad and even horrific things during his presidency. The misdeeds of his presidency seem to be overlooked by many Brazilians.

In a historical and international context, the Vargas era has much potentially for intellectual discussions and debates on the implementations of his era, such as the institutions and principles of populism, the implications of such a long term in office, and even leftist ideologies such as socialism. In the realm of populism, the implications and dangers of populism can be equally discussed, as well as the movements that it forms. Populist leaders come from both the working class and the elite class. The danger in populists is that they favor top down power, and will campaign on and say anything to obtain and maintain just that. Populists tend to build mass movements, in order to increase and maintain their power, while simultaneously giving the illusion that these movements are being started in order to change the systems in place. In the realm of socialist institutions, there is a great discussion to have had about the public state school system, first established in Brazil by Vargas. While there are definitely benefits to having a state-run school system, such as universal access to education and the lowering of costs for the state, there are always signs of indoctrination and institutionalizing. People are taught a certain type of method of education. When budget cuts are made, education is often the first to be cut. There are much longer conversations that can and need to be had for all of these political ideologies and institutions. These conversations can best be sparked, led and influenced by these historical events and parallels when put in both a historical and international perspective.