On the occasion of the bicentenary of Brazil’s independence, Jair Bolsonaro displays the remains of Emperor Peter I. A celebration far from unanimous on the eve of the presidential election.
All the tact in diplomatic visits is there. Disembarking the plane, the red carpet on the tarmac, a cordon of soldiers at attention, flags and Rolls-Royce to go to the presidential palace. But there is no handshake to memorialize: the head of state welcomed by Jair Bolsonaro died on August 23 in Brasilia. For a long time – one hundred and eighty-eight years, to be exact. This official attention is aimed at bringing a precious container to Brazilian soil. A glass bowl with the heart of Peter IVersethe first emperor of Brazil.
Born into the royal family of Portugal, the king arrived in South America at the age of nine, his parents fled from Napoleon’s invasion of their country to settle in the Portuguese colony. When a revolution in Porto forced the family to return to Europe, Pierre remained in Brazil, from which he assumed regency.
He declared independence on September 7, 1822 and declared himself Emperor.
Surrounded by Brazilian revolutionaries, rebellious colonial forces and the Portuguese parliament who wanted to restore the administration of the territory, he declared the independence of Brazil, on September 7, 1822. He himself was crowned emperor. At his death, as was the custom of some kings of France, his heart was buried separate from his body in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lapa in Porto.
The same brothers still watched the organ, which he kept in a jar filled with formalin, placed in a silver vase, contained in a gold urn, placed in a mahogany sarcophagus, found in a shrine covered with a cloth. Copper plate 3 meters thick.
Five different keys are needed to get to the heart of these Russian royal dolls. The imperial muscle appears to be fake, with its pale color and enormous proportions due to the tuberculosis that killed the Emperor. When the funeral convoy arrived at the presidential palace at the end of winter in Brazil, six military planes drew a heart in the sky accompanied by the words. “Independence 200 years”.
Two centuries after the first declaration of PeterVerse On Brazil’s secession from Portugal, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right president elected to lead the country in 2018, asked the Portuguese authorities to make an extraordinary visit to the heart of the former emperor. It was first presented to the Head of State in Brasilia, and later was shown to the public in the Palace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On September 7, the official Independence Day, Jair Bolsonaro turned national celebrations into giant rallies for his re-election, mobilizing the air and navy and gathering tens of thousands of supporters in the world’s largest cities. And this is a few weeks before the first round, scheduled for October 2, which will oppose him in front of the leader of the left, the former president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
“How does Bolsonaro associate his image with that of Peter I?Verse It refers to the ceremonial rituals that were practiced during the military dictatorship.” Lilia Moretz Schwartz, historian
This approach did not fail to respond to the many Brazilian intellectuals who denounced the sweeping political recovery of a man who had already declared that he would not accept defeat at the polls. The coincidence of the bicentennial of independence and elections is a shocking thing for democracy, Lilia Moretz Schwartz, historian and anthropologist worries. How does Bolsonaro associate his image with that of Peter I?Verse It refers to the ceremonial rituals that were practiced during the military dictatorship, which he was a big fan of. »
In 1972, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of independence, in the midst of years of leadership marked by “dirty war” Against the civilian population, military force had in fact already used the imperial figure by parading its remains across the country (where it is now buried). To promote the submission of the heart henceforth the present government qualifies the Declaration of Independence of the Pierre of A dream is the origin of all Brazilian truths.
“This simplified model of history and fond of great figures, often men, whether white, bourgeois, or royalist, is like a fable. Lilia Moretz Schwartz, historian
Date conversion according to Lilia Moritz Schwartz: “This reading underestimates the role of the Brazilian people in the process that led to independence to reinforce the role of the king. This simplistic model of history fond of great figures, often men, whether white, bourgeois or royalists, is an anecdote and does not represent the complexity of historical processes.”
Peter IVerse He is also far from unanimous among the population: he is a colonial and royal figure, who suppressed his opponents, and was finally forced to leave the country under popular pressure a few years before his death. The story of an emperor who was to unite a plurality of territories has been greatly toned down: the forced coexistence of various indigenous peoples within the borders defined by the Portuguese was often violent and fraught with opposition.
“The Declaration of Independence obscures a conservative project to keep the various provinces under imperial rule and to continue slavery. Lilia Moretz Schwartz, historian
Thus, the numerous and bloody battles for self-government led by the provinces of the north and north-east of the country contradict the thesis of peaceful liberation allowed by the Portuguese hero. This founding myth of a country liberated and assembled by Europeans was developed by the Brazilian elites, who wanted to preserve their advantages and contain local protests, The historian continues. The Declaration of Independence obscures a conservative project to keep the various provinces under imperial rule and to continue slavery. » Between 3.5 and 5 million African slaves, the largest number in all of the Americas, were deported to Brazil during the slave trade.
My best storyteller in this national novel is a painting, one of the most famous in Brazil, Independence or death! Produced by artist Pedro Amerigo in 1888. He was commissioned to open the Paulista de São Paulo Museum, in the context of an extensive sponsorship plan for the benefit of “National Cultural Production” It was demanded by Peter II (son of the first), in order to arouse patriotic feeling when the imperial regime showed signs of weakness.
His father appears there on a horse, a sword raised to the sky, and shouts the cry of independence before his troops, on the banks of the Ipiranga River. The scene does not match any historical event. It is inspired by a European work, a painting by Frenchman Ernest Messonnier representing Napoleon Bonaparte during the Battle of Solferino. “From a work of art born from the imagination of its creator and produced in a precise political context, the painting ended up gaining the status of a document bearing an imagined historical fact,” Art historian Carlos Lima Jr. explains.
A national symbol equivalent to us Freedom leads the people…already in textbooks and on coins, the canvas was reproduced in posters and stamps by the military dictatorship over 150 years of independence, which also supported the production of a film taken from the scene. An official representation of independence, Pedro Amerigo’s painting erases black or indigenous liberation movements in other parts of the country.
As a reaction to this truncated story, part of the art world is now trying to represent this story differently. During the reopening of the Bolsta Museum after ten years of operation, which puts in His Majesty Independence or death! The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro presents an exhibition dedicated to black and indigenous perspectives on the decolonization process.
Like the work of Afro-Brazilian painter Arjan Martins, whose studio in the famous Santa Teresa neighborhood overlooks the megalopolis, representing black men and women, and maps and caravanserais that evoke slavery and colonialism. “My work imposes bodies often excluded from traditional central European representations”, defends.
Over the course of ten years, with the support of culture and art studies, initiated by the left in power then, many young people from the African diaspora or indigenous peoples worked to produce another imagination in the face of official historiography. Watch, plastic artist Paulista Jaime Laureano: Brazil is still a mostly poor country, where the main tools for building political discourse are images. Artists are not there to make history, but they are memory liberators. »
“We must approach history collectively and critically, to rebuild a more just democracy. Jaime Laureano, plastic artist
Working on state-produced images, he shows how, from empire to Bolsonaro’s speeches, the story of a mixed but harmonious Brazilian society has been preserved in a country nonetheless dominated by whites, and It continues to be devoured by racism and inequality. This Brazil does not exist, and the bicentennial of independence is an opportunity to remember, The young artist concludes optimistic about Lola’s victory. It is also an opportunity to approach history collectively and critically, to allow us to rebuild a more just democracy. » His wish: to bury forever the founding myth of Brazil. Why not in formalin, with the heart of its first emperor.