Category Archives: Class Notes

Class Notes: 5/1

Today, we started out by reflecting on I.S symposium. There were a lot of good presentations that people went to, and it was good to hear that people were able to experience I.S presentations inside and outside their majors. The bulk of the class discussion revolved around the reading of two chapters from, Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela, by Ben Penglase.

Discussion of Reading + Main Questions:

Drug Trafficking discussion: Who is receiving the profits? what effect are they having on the community? Drugs more often than not can become a “stand-in” for something else (race, class, gender) easy way to attack certain communities.

Q1: What was the author’s goal?

A: To provide and perhaps stoke a further conversation about people who live in the favelas

Q2: What about the question of violence?

A: Violence, just like any other issue is deeply complex. It can extensively shape a community and become a part of the day to day life. Just because individual lives in an area that is consumed by violence, does not mean that they or the rest of their community is inherently violent.

Differences between what was described in the article vs the documentary “Wasteland”

The sense of pride exuded in Wasteland was big difference identified by the class. Those who were interviewed saw drug dealing and prostitution as “caving in” and that even though they knew they stunk and weren’t making money, there was some pride in the fact that they were doing “honest” work.Penglase is less performative than Vik was in the documentary. Penglase is more invested in the actual people and their conditions, more than Vik appeared to be.

Major Themes: 

Police/Drug Trafficking/ Police Tactics/

Customs, culture, attitude: race + social class (interpersonal relationships)

Penglase’s Overall Research Question: What are the sources of insecurity in the favela? (Religiosity Masculinity)

Term: Religiosity Masculinity: Refer’s to how men in the favelas have to constantly try to find ways to hold onto their masculinity, particularly when police invade their homes, which is considered highly disrespectful for men specifically, due to the prevalent link between a man’s honor and his control over his home.


Concluding Thoughts: What I thought was really interesting was how at the end we could relate what is going on in Brazil to similar problems that exist in the United States, particularly our discussion about ways one can “move up the social latter” in the United States.


Additionally Sources:

Here is a link to a review written by Erika Robb Larkins on the book

Below is a link detailing a recent crime wave in Rio, I think it’s worth to look at the language being used to describe what is currently going on



Class Notes 4/17

Todays class was started by two book presentations. The first of which was by Danny which discussed the impact of the Olympics and what the damage of having all the abandoned stadiums. The impact and money spent on the olympics and the stadiums was massive and now these stadiums are not being used. This causes a lot of issues in Brazil. The second book presentation was Woo. This went more into the football aspect of the sport. Talking about the issues of race in football as well as what makes Brazilian football so special. The style of play is unique to brazil as well as having an international impact as many Brazilian players don’t actually play in the Brazilian League. Both of these presentations went well with both of the readings. Going into depth about the slums of Brazil and the idea of sandlot football where you see poor Brazilians play football. This is where the style of Brazilian football comes into play. Because of their playing conditions you see this flashy play as they literally grew up playing on the streets of Brazil. The game continues to be this way as all Brazilian talent goes and plays overseas. This has been an issue for Brazil but as long as the pay does not change in the Brazilian league you will continue to see this.

Key Terms

Mestizo- Term for Brazilians with African American Heritage. This was prevalent today as this was a common term used in the reading as well as in our discussion.

Neymar- Most famous Brazilian Footballer who plays abroad at PSG


Explaining where Brazilian soccer will go from this point on.

Goes into Brazils past and shows the beginning of football.

Shows the issues with hosting the Olympics and what Brazil is doing now to solve the problem.

Class Notes, April 5

Assignment Reminders:

Due Friday, April 6: Post a complete draft of your iMovie script/storyboard to Moodle by noon. Be sure to upload your document as a pdf. If you finish the draft and have questions for reviewers, include that information at the top of the script. Please be sure to post on time!

Due Monday, April 9: Review two of your peer’s scripts and post comments on each by noon.

Class Announcements:

  1. Sunday 7pm in Scheide: Pop Opera performance (25-30 min) Spoon is catering the reception afterwards
  2. Saturday 3:30-5:30: Pride Fest in Babcock formal lounge, there will be a food and performers
  3. WGSS Edit-a-thon next Thursday

Historical Question of the Day:

How do historians use popular culture and artistic production to better understand a political moment?

Presentations and Class Discussion:

Class began today with a Brazil history and culture blog presentation about soccer and politics. The presentation was based on an ESPN article which focused on the political implications for low numbers of Brazilian players on the 2018 World Cup team. This article brought up discussions in class on playing style, the use of sport as a tool for social and political control, modernization, money, and notoriety. Class continued with a presentation on Andrew J. Kirkendall’s book, Paulo Freire & the Cold War Politics of Literacy (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010). The book, broadly speaking, is about how literacy was an important political issue during the Cold War. It focused on Paulo Freire’s role in literacy programs in Central America with themes on consciousness raising (the need to teach political awareness) and the influence of the Cold War. Professor Holt expanded on the presentation by introducing Freire’s work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. This opened up discussion on the idea that a student should have ownership of what they learn as a vehicle for empowerment and links from literacy to suffrage. For the rest of class, Marina presented her IS on women’s political activism and Brazilians’ political expression through gender. The presentation began with the 1964 Military Coup, focusing on civilian support by Catholic, white, and middle-class women who were charged with protecting the country’s morals and values. This theme of protection continues after the establishment of the regime and AI-5 in the creation of martyr (Edson Luis) and Mother Courage to facilitate maternalist arguments for political amnesty. The mentality here follows the logic of “my child could get swept up in this,” and creates a political image of a woman trying to save her country by saving her son. The argument is ultimately that these women, while political activists, were not feminist because of the emphasis on highly masculine qualities. This presentation led to a discussion on populism and anxiety about who is being represented in the political sphere.

Application of the Readings:

Marina’s presentation complemented the reading from the Brown online textbook on student movements. The Brown reading went into AI-5 and the establishment of the regime in 1986, providing a foundation for the student protests that was helpful for understanding the presentation. Marina expanded on the Brown reading, adding an example from the University of Brasilia, which was completely taken over with undercover soldiers planted in classrooms monitoring discussions and taking students who opposed the regime. In the Brazil history and culture blog, soccer was discussed as a political act. This connects to Dunn’s “The Tropicalist Movement” as it shows that not only music and art, but also sport can also be politicized. Expanding on the discussion of politicized acts, Dunn writes on the political implications of music written in and about struggles of urban citizens saying, “for artists and intellectuals situated on the periphery of global political and economic power, the dialectic between sense of place and cosmopolitan affinities is often simultaneously a source of anxiety and inspiration.”  In Dunn’s chapter, it is clear that people absorb inspiration and motivations from their experiences, which appears, albeit sometimes subtly, in their work. Today’s class showed some of the different ways that politics enter other social and cultural spheres. As historians, this means we can (and should) question why and in what contexts artists produce their craft, and what implications those answers have for politics and culture.

Key Terms:

  1. “Samba Soccer” is a focus on the skills of individual players.
  2. Mysticism has a complicated definition, but broadly speaking refers to an experience of uniting with a divinity and can be spiritual and/or material.
  3. Another complicated concept, maternalism centers around the normative conception of women’s concern for children, motherhood, and morality.

Potential exam questions:

  1. How is “cannibalism” used as a political statement in Brazil? Consider Patricia Seed’s chapter “Cannibals: Iberia’s Partial Truth” and Christopher Dunn’s “The Tropicalist Moment” in your answer.
  2. Why do the class, race, and gender matter for the “face” of a social movement?
  3. What are the social and political implications of a Brazilian soccer team that is predominantly comprised of players from non-Brazilian leagues?

Additional Reading:

  1. This is an NPR article from the 2014 World Cup on the Germany v. Brazil game that was mentioned in class. It also includes some ties to political themes and actors.
  2. For coverage of the game that is a bit more raw, here are the goals. Watch at your own risk.
  3. Below are two book reviews of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. For anyone interested in reading Freire directly, the book is available through the library. ;
  4. There was a lecture series on mysticism this past fall at Wooster. Below is a pamphlet from the series and an interesting NYT article on mysticism and democratization in the United States. ;

3/29 Class Notes

Carmen Miranda “The Gang’s All Here”

We started class today watching a section of a musical with Carmen Miranda entitled “The Gang’s All Here.” In this section of the musical Miranda sings “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat”. This scene is representative of how Brazil is seen by America, as producing agricultural exports, beautiful sexually available women. The Brazil that is depicted in this scene is highly romanticized, and as stereotypical “island life.” As this movie scene allowing us as a class to see how Carmen Miranda was seen in America. That she is a not Brazilian just as an “exotic island woman.” There is nothing in the video that is strictly Brazilian, only things that could be applied to many different countries.

History and Culture post: Abby “Michel Temer”

Abby read and discussed an New York Times article discussing a recent interview with Brazil’s president Michel Temer. Temper has a very low approval rating and that the Brazilian public is portraying their disapproval. One way the public has done this is during carnival one of the floats depicted Temer as a vampire. Temer is going to run for president again even though he is being impeached. These efforts to run again could lead to leanly in the corruption charges against Temer. After Abby’s talk it lead to a discussion of how political campaigns occur in Brazil specifically that campaigns occur over a much shorter period of time and that adds can only be played on public TV stations and time is divided between parties and then by all the candidates. This is a stark contrast to the American system, with extremely long campaigns and number of ads being dependent on number of funds raised by candidates.

History and Culture post: Natalie “Three Killings”

Natalie informed the class about three killings that occurred over spring break in Brazil and their connection to a recent enacting of a constitutional provision by Temer. Temer gave the military the power to act against the people of Rio. Temer justifies this that it is to target gangs, however, it has been affecting more than just gang members it affects people in favelas, poor people of color. A councilwoman, Marielle Franco, who was responding to a recent death was killed along with her driver. It is believed that she was killed in relation the work she was doing in calling attention to the violence in Rio. There is some media attention that has reclassified this crime as some of the violence that Franco was fighting against. The government has used this to justify the increasing military presence in Rio, even though this is what Franco was fighting against her death is being spun by the media as such (see link below for more)

History and Culture post: Andrew “Yellow Fever”

Andrew discussed the current outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil. There has been a state of health emergency and a major effort to vaccinate the public. Once reason the outbreak is so large is because the health officials underestimated how much the virus would spread. The spread of mosquito borne diseases is greatly affected by transportation technology. The faster technology has allowed mosquitos to survive journeys to new areas which they would not survive the trip if the journey was longer.

“50 Years in 5: Brasilia” Dr. Holt

The study of the creation of Brasilia allows historians to raise the question how city planning can shape a society. Juscelino Kubitschek(JK) was the President of Brazil after Vargas he was a populist. JK created many developmental projects during his term which in order to fund he took out many IMF loans which in order to pay off lead to inflation. When JK was president there also was great fear around the spread of communism.

Book Presentation: Jordan The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia

Jordan gives an overview of James Holston’s book allowing us as a class to have a further understanding of Brasilia and the goals of creating it. Jordan discussed the goals of creating Brasilia, that it was a way to make Brazil what it could be and how it fell short of that goal. When designing Brasilia, the architects attempted to create a classless society where everyone lives in harmony. That is a fairly lofty goal and they did not even come close to reaching that goal. Brasilia was successful in marking the creation of a new Brazil. The modern architecture of Brasilia was an attempt to change how the citizens live and interact with the city. Jordan has also updated The Modernist City’s Wikipedia page if you are interested in learning more.


Ades aegypti: the species of mosquito that spreads yellow fever along with dengue fever, chikungunya, zika fever, and mayaro.

Further reading:

“The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” video: 

“Neoliberal vampire” Paraíso de Tuiuti float: 

On Brazilian Campaign ads: 

Police Militarization: 

Effects of Marielle Franco’s death: 

WHO report on Yellow Fever outbreak: 

The Modernist City: 

3/27 Class Notes

Happy IS Tuesday!

For class today here’s what we did and what you hopefully learned!

Brazilian History & Culture Blog Post: presented by Nasua, we learned about the Natural Hair Movement in Brazil. Recently, Brazil held the first natural hair empowerment march celebrating the various styles and braids worn by Brazilian women!

Book Presentations: presented by Natalie and William, both books were concerned with music, society, producers, and the long term impacts it has had in Brazil.

Following the presentations we viewed and listened to music by Luiz Gonzaga and discussed various genres including Sertaneja, Forró. Later Dr. Holt presented and showed us a few videos concerned about Carmen Miranda.  Our discussion talked about symbols and clothes used as a way to identify as a Brazilian woman, if her dress is cultural appropriation or not, and her appeal to the various social classes. In this class we briefly touched on the readings that needed to be done prior to class and thus can’t tie them back into the class notes.

Key Terms from today:

  • Forró: a genre of Brazilian music that originated from Northeastern Brazil which incorporates various dance styles and beats.
  • Carmen Miranda: Portugese born Brazilian samba singer, dancer, and later Broadway performer famous for her role in the short film Banana’s is My Business as well as The Gang’s All Here.

Three examination questions to think about today post-lecture:

  1. Do you think that the music we listen to today will have a long term impact in our social structures?
  2. What do you think Carmen Miranda represents?
  3. Historical Question for today: How did music in Brazil during the 1930s-1960s impact the social and national identity? In what ways did

Below I have reattached the link from Nasua’s post for people to view if they would like.

40 Incredible Photos from Brazil’s First Natural Hair Empowerment March

Works Cited:

Bryan McCann, Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil (Durham: Duke UP, 2004)

Jack Draper, Forró and Redemptive Regionalism from the Brazilian Northeast: Popular Music in a Culture of Migration (New York: Lang, 2011)





Class Notes 3/8/2018

Why this world: An author biography of Clarice Lispector

Today’s class began with Mia doing a book Analysis on a biography of Clarice Lispector by titled Why this world. Mia’s presentation helped the class have more of an idea of the author of The Hour of the Star which was our class reading. This presentation also helped the class understand what influences she had on her writing. Lispector was a first generation immigrant whose family came fled from the Ukraine when the Soviet Union was persecuting Jews. Her mother died of a disease early in her life. One eerie detail we had learned is The Hour of the Star was published days before Clarice’s death. It was discussed how in a previous book Lispector wrote where a cockroach is slowly crushed and died, that the author of the autobiography believes Lispector made this scene in that book resembles the death of Lispector’s mother who died slowly and painfully. It was discussed how the author of this autobiography mostly tried to make inferences about how certain parts of Lispector’s life were emulated in her books, with no real solid evidence. Lispector did not talk to the public that often, there was only one in-depth interview with her, and she often used pen names. She is a woman that had a lot of mystery surrounding her. This presentation then transitioned flawlessly into the next topic, our class reading The Hour of the Star.

Discussion questions and socratic seminar

Today after Mia’s presentation the class formed a circle and began a socratic seminar style discussion using questions posted on the class blog by students on Wednesday as guides. Such questions delved on themes, poverty, society, beauty standards (Macabea seeing ads with “beautiful” women), and symbolism. One of the major themes discussed in depth was death and the attitude Brazilians hold towards death versus Americans. It was expressed that Brazilians celebrate the person’s past life and burials are done quickly after passing, and life goes on, compared to in America where services take a while to organize, and mourning is usually somber. One question that was discussed was “Why do the narrator and characters constantly berate Macabea?”. This also closely tied with the question “How does the author tell us about different socioeconomic class in the novel and why?”. One such example offered was how, poverty in a class system often has scape-goats. That those that are poor are leeches, not working hard enough, dumb, and other stereotypes. It was discussed how socio-economic class and affects treatment of different people from economic, social, and mentally. It was discussed how although those living in Macabea’s ward of the city were “poor” some were better off than the others. Macabea lacked basic education and was constantly berated by most of those she knew as “slow”. The conversations the class made were productive, and students were not afraid to disagree with arguable statements made, or dive deeper into proposed concepts.


Clarice, Lispector. Translated by Moser, Benjamin.The Hour of the Star. New Directions Publishing. New York, New York, 2011.

Moser, Benjamin. Why this world: A biography of Clarice Lispector. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK, 2011.

Interview with Clarice Lispector with English subtitles. Sao Paulo, 1977, Penguin Books UK.

Class Notes for 3/6/2018

Important Notices: Firstly we have to upload a discussion question on the Blog Post on Wednesday Night. Secondly, we have an assignment for the Research abstract and annotated bibliography due on Friday.


Latin American Culture/History Blog Post:

Today, Tongtong talked about Retirement in Brazil and how it works. She stated 3 categories that characterized the modern Retirement system. Those being the requirement, politics, and controversy surrounding it. The minimum age to retire in Brazil is around 60+ years old. However, the real issue is the reforms instituted by Ex-President Tamen and the economic decline of the state. Pensions from the Retirement are not being paid in full and its made people lose faith in the system. Lots of people have received pensions since the dictatorship era. It goes to show that the issue with pensions is far more complicated than how it works in America.


Notes/Movie Discussion (BRIEF):

Today we also talked about the Movie we watched on Sunday (and Monday for others) about Madame Satã. We discussed important concepts that were presented in the film such as the identity of João, which involves concepts of race, sexual orientation, “queerness.” The dynamic of culture back then was very different from our own and especially during the 1930s. But otherwise, all it really was about the movie and very notable/specific things that we saw and thought about. This even goes to thinking about where the camera shots were taken and thinking how the characters relate to the greater cultural thought at the time.

Class Notes: Mademe Satã

For today’s class session, we viewed the film Madame Satã, a 2002 Brazilian film about the life of João Francisco dos Santos or Madame Satã and how he became the performer he was. This film presented the early life of dos Santos and the struggles he faced in 1930’s Rio de Janeiro. It does so by tracing the life of dos Santos and his associates before his ten-year stint in prison. In doing so, the film shows the difficulties faced by people who did not fit into clearly-defined groups. Madame Satã intersects well with the class themes and historical discussions we have been having, as it involved themes of the construction of race in Brazil and struggles with identity. The major characters in the film all exemplify the difficulty with fitting people into easily-definable categories and shows how people are affected by an attitude of heteronormativity.

The film was made in 2002, which affected the presentation of the characters and likely the reception it received. At the time, Brazilian states had either begun to or had already extended some additional protections to members of the LBTQIA+ community. However, there was not a clear national law at the time. Thus, the film came at a period of rapid change and growing understanding, which likely contributed to how it was perceived. Today, we live in an era where same-sex marriage is becoming more normal across the world, which can have an obscuring effect on some of the other discriminations LBTQIA+ people have, even while incidents of violence against LBTQIA+ people is on the rise. Thus, seeing the events of the film remind us that we are a long way from true equality and acceptance for members of this group. Furthermore, the identities that the characters in the film have are those that still face hate and discrimination today. Thus, this film serves as an important reminder in a modern context.

The film did have several scenes that reinforced the previously-mentioned notion. One scene was when the local police came to arrest dos Santos for “stealing” money from his former employer. We saw the full extent of the alleged crime, but as we watched, we knew that no amount of explaining by dos Santos would prevent him from being arrested, especially because we knew that police routinely raided areas known to contain more Black and LBTQIA+ individuals. Another memorable scene was when at the beginning dos Santos defended one of the women who was working at the bar from an overly-aggressive man. In the larger context of the film, this moment seems almost strange because the woman herself would become a target of dos Santos when she later called him derogatory terms. These two moments lead to the purpose and message of the film, namely humanizing these people on the fringes of society by showing a fuller picture of who they were.

The way the events were portrayed in the film led to our understanding of it. Stylistically, it involved filming techniques that emphasized the shape of the characters through frequent use of silhouettes and close-up shots. Additionally, the use of frequent cuts to correspond with action creates a sense of confusion and uncertainty that I am sure that some of the characters had been feeling. Alternatively, longer sequences force the viewer to pay attention to the events. For instance, when dos Santos is being sentenced, the camera focuses on him as his sentence is being read so the viewer has to listen and watch his reactions. Finally, the use of shadows and low light in the shots leads to a feeling of confusion and uncertainty and an inability to focus throughout the film.

Throughout the film, we see dos Santos struggle with his identity, struggling to define what it means to be a man despite his desire to engage in activities that are considered effeminate. Dos Santos exists in a particular area where he is surrounded by people who present themselves as one gender over the other, like Tabu, and people whose sexuality is clearly discernable like the young man dos Santos frequently encounters. Overall, the director seems to be showing how blurred the lines are when discussing race, gender, and sexuality in this specific time and place. Our inability to easily define the various intersections that dos Santos exemplifies contributes to that message, as we learn about each part of his identity and come to accept those as uniquely him.

This film connects well to some of the readings we have had so far given its exploration of the historic construction of race, gender, and sexuality. For instance, it reminds me of the Weinstein piece, as they both deal with the express construction of an identity group through the creation of societal norms. Interestingly, I also was reminded of the Cannibalist Manifesto, as it too involved an attempt to expressly define an identity for the Brazilian people. So, while the group was larger, working to define an identity is a theme common to both works. Finally, the film brought to mind Davila’s work about race, class, and education in the “Estado Novo.” Just like the other works, this piece deals with intersectionality and how each individual carves out their unique space and identity based on those intersections.


Further Reading:
Performing Race and Gender in Brazil: Karim Ainouz’s Madam Satã (2002)
Lorraine Leu

“Madame Satã: Unapologetically Queer
Jeremy Lehnen

Madame Satã (Dos Santos, João Francisco)
James N. Green

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.

Class Notes

Today in Modern Brazil, we began with a discussion on modern Brazilian music, talking about many of the countries top artists and their current popular songs. Dr. Holt even ended looked up their top 50 songs on Spotify, letting the class sit back and listen to some of the great music. As a class we noticed the wide range of music within Spotify’s top 50 playlist, recognizing that this was an excellent representation of Brazil’s widespread culture. Additionally, we tied this back to last weeks theme of Brazil’s Carnival Festival, and how the song at the top of the playlist had reached that spot due to its release just prior to Carnival.

We then moved on to William’s History & Culture presentation on Brazil’s corrupt Prison/Justice system. William focused on comparing Brazil’s, and America’s prison systems drawing many similarities and differences between the two. The main similarities he mentioned were the high abundances of black prisoners and the tendency for prisons to acts as a detainment center or “criminal college” instead of a place for rehabilitation. The main difference William focused on was the presence of gangs, such as the PPC, within prison systems, and how this has led to a more violent atmosphere within Brazil’s prison walls. A riot in 1992 was used as an example of this violent behavior, where 102 Brazilian prisoners lost their lives. After William had finished, Andrew presented his Book Presentation on Making Samba: A New History of Race and Music in Brazil by Marc A. Hertzman. Andrew talked about the original foundation of Samba, which was from the Afro-Brazilian community. He continued on explaining how as Samba became more popular in Brazil it began to lose its roots due to the involvement of the white community. Samba only became a national symbol once the white community had molded it into something completely different than what it had started as was a key point within Andrew’s presentation due to how it connects to major themes of the class, such as race, and colorism. Additionally, an interesting question was brought forth on the possible connection between Samba and American Jazz music. However, a distinction was made between the two because of Samba’s inability to be nationally recognized without an influence of the white community in Brazil, and how this was not the case for Jazz. Accidentally, this made a great connection to the difference in racial issues between the two countries, because of the lack of true segregation in Brazil. Lastly, the presentation perfectly incorporated one of the assigned reading for the day, what was about an Afro-Brazilian musician named Geraldo Pereira who struggled to achieve national recognition due to the color of his skin.

After Andrew’s presentation and the conversation that followed it, the class shifted our focus to the day’s assigned readings and what historical questions they might answer. A large focus of the classes discussion involved the urban renewal of Rio De Janeiro throughout the 20th century. We compared the re-building of the city to France’s urban renewal, and how afterward the city looked as though it should be in Europe. Additionally, we spoke of the cultural changes within Rio, as its populations boomed due to the influx of rural Brazilians, and European and Japanese immigrants. I thought this was similar to the great migration of the black community from the south to northern cities in America in the middle of the 20th Century. Both events caused for the mixing of cultures, resulting in violence, and poor working conditions. Although, we also touched on the good things that came about from Rio’s urban renewal, such as financial opportunity and increase hygiene.   Because of this the reading on The Vaccine Riots From Brazil: Five Centuries of Change was a hot topic because of how it provided the class with just how hygiene became an issue within the city due to the citizen’s negative thoughts on vaccination, which resulted in a violent revolt. The text also provides great insight into just how much Rio’s population spiked. Additionally, the excerpt on Geraldo Pereira from Human Tradition in Modern Brazil gave the class a great perspective on the changes that occurred in Rio de Janeiro from the personal view of Pereira. It was also a great reminder of why biographies are fantastic sources due to their ability to provide the reader with a story, personal motivations, and historical context.

What Cultural changes did Rio de Janeiro experience in the 20th Century, and why?

What other Gang’s exist within Brazil, and what are the similarities and differences between them and the PCC?

What type of information would you receive from a biography of a Rio de Janeiro citizen that you might not get from another type of text about Rio?

Key Terms:

  • Samba: A Brazilian Dance of Afro-Brazilian origin that has become one of many national symbols of Brazil.
  • PCC: The Primeiro Comando da Capital (first command of the Captial) is Brazil’s largest criminal organization or gang.  They are known for their infiltration into Brazil’s prison system with 6,000 of their 13,00 members behind bars.
  • Urban Renewal: The redevelopment of areas within a large city in an attempt to modernize, typically involving the clearance of slums.

Check out Rio’s Geography on Google Earth (only works in Google Chrome),-43.22919069,16.863676a,8022.0764203d,35y,154.9154265h,59.93206572t,-0r


Go listen to some of his great music!