Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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Brazilian aircrafts raid on Monte Castello

February 21, 2010

Today is the 65th anniversary of one of the main campaigns ever promoted by the Brazilian Army and Air Force – the takeover of the inexpugnable fortress of Monte Castello, close to Bologna, in Northern Italy. World War II was in its final months and 25,000 Brazilian soldiers were sent to Italy fight alongside with the Allies to stop the German advances. Under the leadership of general Mascarenhas de Moraes, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira or FEB)  promoted a series of combined air raids and artillery and tank attacks.  Around 440 Brazilians died during the three-month operation.

Check this American propaganda that shows the Brazilian troops deployed in Italy in 1944.
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Brazilian Baroque

February 17, 2010

Igreja de São Francisco, Mariana, in Minas Gerais state

When you think of Baroque, you probably remember the curvy, exaggerated, passionate form of art that  blossomed in Europe since the 17th century.  You may think of Caravaggio and Bernini in Italy, or the rococo in France, or Bach and Handel in Germany. Less known but equally important was the Brazilian Baroque, that dominated the art scene in the country between the end of the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Although both literature and music incorporated baroque elements, it is in architecture that Baroque really excelled.

Most baroque churches have sober exteriors that contrast with very ornate interior decoration, including chubby angels, birds, vines and a profusion of color.  Cities that were rich at the time, thanks to diamonds, gold or sugar trade, such as Salvador, in Bahia, or Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais, could afford to use gold leaves and noble materials and to hire the best artists of the time. Among them, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho (The Crippled, a nickname given in less politically correct times), and Manoel da Costa Athaide (or Mestre Athaide). Read the rest of this entry ?

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São Paulo, 456 candles

January 25, 2010

Favela do Moinho, a downtown shanty town

Happy anniversary, Sampa.

A few pictures to sum up the highs and lows of my hometown. Plus, images produced in 1929 by Rodolfo Lustig and Adalberto Kemeni, when São Paulo, then the coffee capital of the world, was transitioning into a huge industrial and financial hub. It was also the eve of the so-called Revolução de 30, when its  historical alliance with the state of Minas Gerais collapsed, and São Paulo lost a political battle to define who the next president would be. The main outcome of the conflict was the rise of Getúlio Vargas, that commanded the country for most of the following two decades.

Postscript – I did a lot of reflection after receiving Ray’s comment and seeing, at least partially, his point, decided to remove the homeless boy’s pictures from my original post. I appreciate my readers help. This blog is still trying to find its voice and its right tone

At Araçá Cemetery

Teatro Municipal

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The day I saw Mengele

December 28, 2009

Mengele (left) and colleagues relax between torture sessions

It was the mid-seventies and the military rule was beginning to decline in Brazil. I was nine, traveling with my parents from Rio to São Paulo. We stopped for lunch at Itatiaia, a beautiful national park with a very European climate. There, on the top of a mountain, you can still find a German restaurant that is popular among those who visit the region. We chose a table and I went by myself to the bathroom, in the back of the house. I was walking through a hallway when I noticed, to my right,  a meeting room with a long table surrounded by old men discussing in passionate German. It looked like some sort of reunion. I continued towards the bathroom and, on my way, I bumped into a classy wood cupboard displaying a collection of swastikas. Embroidered, painted, carved, in iron, in wood. I returned to our table livid. I knew that symbol very well.

When I was a kid, I had nightmares with the Holocaust, that killed several great-uncles and half of  my grand-grand-parents. I also received this anonymous phone call from someone menacing me for being a Jew. Living in a dictatorship helped to build up the terror. My family told me not to discuss this subject in public – we knew the government accepted, and probably stimulated, the presence of Nazis in hiding. And let´s not forget that Brazil almost sided with the Germans during World War II and only supported the Allies in the end of the conflict.

Many years later, in 1985, it was revealed that Joseph Mengele, the doctor that performed all sorts of horrendous medical experiments in Auschwitz, lived in Brazil since 1969  and died of drowning in the ocean, in 1979. He spent that last decade in the surroundings of São Paulo, my hometown. It was also revealed that he attended frequent Nazi meetings at the restaurant in Itatiaia.

A picture taken in one of these meetings – one celebrating Hitler´s birthday – helped Nazi hunters to identify Gustav Wagner, an Austrian SS official that was the sub-commandant of the concentration camp of Sobibor, in Poland. Wagner was condemned to the death penalty by the Nuremberg court but fled to Brazil with another official, Franz Stangl. Wagner was arrested in Brazil in 1978 but the country refused to extradite him and he committed suicide.

The memories of that day in Itatiaia still give me chills.

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Colonial beauties

December 25, 2009

Paço Imperial, Rio

Santo Antonio do Carmo church, Olinda, Pernambuco

Paraty, in Rio state
Paraty, in Rio state
Carmo church, Mariana, Minas Gerais

Macau, China
Macau, China

Panjim, Goa, India

The Portuguese colonial style is very consistent – you find its characteristics in houses and churches constructed between the 16th and the 18th centuries wherever Lisbon established its governors. Naturally, early colonial houses are very different from more recent ones. It is almost impossible to compare a baroque church of Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais) and a house in Paraty (Rio). In some cities you can see buildings built with hand painted tiles, soap stone and gold. Others adopted only modest materials. Yet, they have a few common characteristics, such as the doors and guillotine windows – generally framed and rounder on the top -, the contrast of white and bright colors, the iron balconies.These same features can be seen in other former Portuguese colonies, such as Goa, in India, and Macau, in China. By the way, Goa reminds me a lot of Salvador – beautiful coast of white sand, lined with coconuts; a few dishes vaguely similar; some wonderful baroque churches; and, of course, poverty. Not your average Indian poverty, but still.