Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This is a summary of Gilberto Freyre’s thoughts on the subject of Latin America, with a focus on the cultural anthropological aspects of a hybrid civilization based on a blend of black, American Indian, and European traditions. The author discusses the region’s various forms of acculturation, including cultural fusion and transplants. Freyre discusses questions of identity and hybridism, and analyzes how tradition and modernity conflict and converge to contribute to the culture of Latin America. He identifies sociological similarities in the behavior and culture of caboclos [rural Brazilian peasants] who are assimilated into a Portuguese-Catholic culture, and Mexicans who live in a Spanish-Catholic culture. Freyre observes that the Catholicism brought to the Americas from Latin countries in Europe possessed a “social flexibility” that enabled lower echelon populations in Latin America (including the working class, rural peasants, and even the indigent) to combine Latin values and styles with American Indian values and styles in ways that distinguished them (at a social and cultural level) from those who held socio-political power in their countries. In Freyre’s opinion, the rise of the proletariat and rural peasants (the children of both European and Japanese immigrants, as well as American Indians and blacks) became an axiological source for the revaluing and renewal of the arts, literature, philosophy, and science. Greater importance was given to the visual arts and to the art of construction (among other forms of expression) in which, according to Freyre, “irrational symbolic values from Iberian Europe were not viewed with hostility by American Indians or blacks.” In these phenomena, Freyre detected in the heart of both cultures what he considered a supranational ethos and/or Latin American style which prompted him to admit that, in fact, “the Americas might appear to be more postmodern than archaic.”      

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Synopsis

Gilberto Freire reconhece semelhanças sociológicas de comportamento e cultura entre o caboclo brasileiro, assimilado à cultura luso-católica, e o mexicano, assimilado à cultura espanhola-católica. Nota que a interpretação do cristianismo trazido à América por latinos da Europa mostrou-se "socialmente plástica", ao permitir que populações rústicas de vários países da América Latina, proletários e camponeses, até mesmo miseráveis, viessem unir valores e estilos de cultura latina aos valores e estilos de cultura ameríndia ou afro-ameríndia, levando-os a se distinguir social e culturalmente dos grupos que tinham a hegemonia social e política, nos seus países. Para Freyre, a ascensão de proletários e camponeses, incluindo filhos de emigrantes europeus e japoneses, assim como ameríndios e negros, constituiu fonte de revalorização e renovação da literatura, da arte, da filosofia e da ciência. O autor dá importância à expressão plástica e à arte de construir, entre outras manifestações, nas quais "valores simbólicos irracionais da Europa Ibérica não foram hostilizados pelos ameríndios e negros". Encontra nestas manifestações o que considera, no seio dessas culturas, um etos supranacional ou estilo latino-americano. E admite que "a América possa parecer antes pós-moderna do que arcaica".

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Annotations

The Brazilian sociologist and Congressman Gilberto Freyre (1900–87) was one of his country’s most influential thinkers, particularly in terms of race, during the first half of the 20th century. Freyre was the leader of a group of writers who endorsed his “Manifesto Regionalista” [see doc. no. 1074787] and his retrospective review 25 years later [doc. no. 1110808].

 

In 1933 Freyre achieved international recognition for his great work Casa-Grande & Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves), the first in a series of three volumes that included Sobrados e mucambos [The Mansions and the Shanties] (1936) and Ordem e Progresso [Order and Progress] (1957). The trilogy is a study of races and cultures in Brazil since the colonial period and their evolution into a “racial democracy.” Freyre thus ponders the Afro-Brazilian heritage and describes Brazil in terms of its conciliatory nature. This same idea has been addressed by other Latin American writers, such as the Mexican José Vasconcelos in his La raza cósmica [The Cosmic Race] in 1925, and the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz in Contrapunteo cubano de tabaco y azúcar [Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar] in 1940. Freyre’s version of these narratives introduces the idea of “luso-tropicalismo” [Portuguese tropicalism], a theory which posits miscegenation as a positive force in Brazil’s development. In Freyre’s opinion this is reflected in terms of inter-American relations and the search for unifying categories based on socio-cultural factors. For further information on this subject, see also by Freyre “Interamericanismo” [doc. no. 807911] and “A propósito da política cultural do Brasil na América” [doc. no. 807856].

 

This text was originally published in French in 1963 as a report on Freyre, the writer from Pernambuco, and his international career. It originally appeared as the introductory essay in a special issue on Latin America published in Diogène magazine (no. 43, Paris, UNESCO, July-September 1963, pp. 3-23). The Portuguese version that was published in Brazil appeared in Estudos Universitários magazine (vol. 6, no. 1, January-March 1966, pp. 5-21). The text included here is a revised version that was published posthumously in 2006.

Leia este comentário crítico em português
Annotations

Artigo introdutório de número especial, dedicado a problemas da América Latina, da revista "Diogène" (no. 43, Paris, UNESCO, julho/setembro 1963, p 3-23). A versão original, em português, foi publicada pela revista
"Estudos Universitários" (vol 6, no 1, jan-mar 1966, p 5-21). O texto sintetiza o pensamento de Gilberto Freire sobre a América Latina, com ênfase na dimensão cultural e antropológica, que constitui uma civilização híbrida, formada pela mistura de tradições negras, ameríndias e européias. Registra a existência de diversas formas de "aculturação", fusão e transplante cultural. Seu pensamento reúne a noção de identidade à de hibridismo. Analisa conflitos, assim como reconhece a interpenetração do tradicional e do moderno, na cultura da América Latina.

Ver também:
Freyre, Gilberto. A propósito da política cultural do Brasil na América. In: Problemas Brasileiros de Antropologia, Editora Casa do Estudante do Brasil,1943
Freyre, Gilberto. Interamericanismo. La Nación, Buenos Aires, 8 fev. 1942.

a- Busca de categorias unificadoras baseadas em aspectos sócio-culturais

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Researcher
Ana Maria Moraes Belluzzo
Team
FAPESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Credit
Cortesia de Fundação Gilberto Freyre, Pernambucano, Brasil
Location
Acervo Pessoal Ana Maria Belluzzo