1935-1938: culture in the democratic future

Image: Stela Grespan


The trajectory of the public servant Mário de Andrade in the government

This is an advertisement for a work in the process of being published, the result of a few years of work with the Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros and the Mindlin Library (USP), as well as the Municipal Archive Magazine, RAM, belonging to the Secretary of Culture of São Paulo.

The cultural revolution that took place in São Paulo with almost 1 million inhabitants, led by the modernist leader Mário de Andrade, took place as a projected bridge for democratic times, in which citizenship matters and decides. The explosion was experienced in the “concentration city” of São Paulo, 1935-1938.

The critic and professor Antonio Candido observed that the experience under the municipal government of Fábio da Silva Prado and, in the State of São Paulo, of Armando de Sales Oliveira, was such that the best work later followed or considered the cultural-educational feat from 1935-1938, leaving the worst for the “changes” sponsored by the intervenor Prestes Maia.

Act 861, from the first months of 1935, appoints Mário as director of Culture and Recreation and assumes a complete project of service in favor of the human universe composed mostly of immigrants and migrants, succeeded by their descendants. In this, the priority subjects for Mário and his workmates are the children and teenagers of the city that spread across the floodplains of Tietê, Tamanduateí and Pinheiros, forming the living spaces of workers and men and women of trade.

What is most impressive about this public-social management, which combines the work of government and the active presence of organized society, is its scientific basis, its qualitative-quantitative research work, a phenomenon strange to governments of yesterday and today.

The quote that follows helps to understand who Mario's team worked with and what public service would come to mean:

“We obtained information on the income and expenses of 221 families, and not all of them were asked for information about nationality and illiteracy, which was done with only 151 families. However, this group of 151 families is probably characteristic of the total group. Eighty families said that the chief was born in Brazil, and the other 53 came from: Italy (32), Spain (12) and Portugal (9). Three families of Japanese immigrants were also analysed, three from Lithuania and three from Austria (probably from Austrian lands according to pre-war limits), and the rest who provided information came from England, Youguslavia, Poland, Germany, from Syria, Russia, Argentina and Hungary. If the figures we obtained on literacy are characteristic of the entire working class, they indicate that São Paulo has achieved considerable progress, since 1920, in the path of instruction. Among 151 families who informed us about it, only 21% of the people aged 13 or over were illiterate. We observed that in Spanish and Lithuanian families the proportion of illiterates was higher, while in Italian, Portuguese and Brazilian-born families, it ranged from 16,4 to 18%”.

“Surveys” like this one provided the direction for public-social management. They revealed the children scattered throughout the neighborhoods, showed the condition of the families, their origins, their speeches and their cultural and educational involvement (or the inertia and alienation in the “concentration” in São Paulo); by yes and no, they formed a scientific basis for the cultural operation.

Mário’s surprising team had a history, that is, the sensitive and courageous learning of Modernism in the 1920s, then transformed into principles and strategies of public-social management of culture and its interactive network (today called integrated government policy): education, health, recreation, gastronomy, applied research, hygiene, sanitation, library development, discography, sports, international relations, cinema, music and poetic arts.

Without a doubt, all this happened in the former city of drizzle between 1935 and 1938, until the Estado Novo created the necessary intrigues to subdue São Paulo, the rebel state and liquidate the experience through puppets, whose only understanding of culture lay in occasional performances of sleepy imported operas for the wizened elite with binoculars in their boxes.

How could it not happen if the genius worked night and day, wrote, produced relations between cities (whether Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Belo Horizonte, whether São Luiz do Paraitinga or Araraquara), followed opinion polls, financed trips to the hinterland in Collection of songs and narratives Were you looking to hire a chef for a school lunch experience to suit children from different backgrounds?

A significant part of the folkloric material found in the competent section of the American Library of Congress was produced in those three years, under the baton of Mário and Oneyda, with the support of Rubens Borba and Paulo Duarte. Likewise, the municipalities of Paris and Prague sent emissaries to learn about the cultural action undertaken in São Paulo. From then on, there were missions and exchanges between Europe and small São Paulo.

Well, the team (hired to the horror of the political parties on duty) was made up of Oneyda Alvarenga, Rubens Borba de Moraes, Paulo Duarte, Luiz Saia, the Lévi-Strauss family, educators and recreationists, the best workers, technicians and intellectuals tanned in the difficult crossing of the modernist explosions to the service of the common good and utopia, that is, the unprecedented, but feasible fact of doing it via culture.

The attentive person (along with the servers themselves) saw the institution of sports coordinated by peers, groups of teenagers in monitoring action in the floodplains, fields and barracks, but also in the Pacaembu stadium. He found the families of children and adolescents being asked about their cultural and educational interests, along with the evaluation of the Department's work. He experimented with circulating libraries, in various formats and new audiences at the Municipal Theater, in addition to the wide circulation of books through loans.

He also saw groups of folkloric research monitors go out into the field, not only from São Paulo but also from dozens of cities in the interior of São Paulo, involved in accompanying, observing, recording and narrating various songs, dances and religious expressions. He accompanied the expansion of libraries in the neighborhoods, children's education (culture-education coordination) and the creation of special lunches.

Among many others, it is impossible not to mention one of Mário's testimonies, in a letter to Oneyda Alvarenga:

“Since a couple of days on June 5th, when I took office, I've done nothing, absolutely nothing but work, dream, breathe, talk, live at the Department. […] But come here, Oneida, think about what it is like, with the national bureaucracy, having to install a Department of enormous complexity, in which, to say the least, nothing had been done!”

The revolution of Mário and his work team created homology between the dream of social change of the previous decade and the revolution in public routine on solid ground, in that São Paulo that seemed like a work camp, of languages, memories and homesickness. Such desires and needs became services. The revolution resided in the irruption of the new consented, invested and assumed in the face of the culture imprisoned by small groups of economic and financial power. The author does not use the word cultural policy for what he describes, analyzes and narrates, as he considers it still foreign to the concrete actions of the public power with the population of that time. The idea of ​​service is present in all manifestations of director Mário de Andrade. The public servant is one who serves. This was the leitmotiv of modernist government apprentices.

Paulo Duarte, a dear friend, confidant and persistent correspondent, did not leave behind Mário's dismissal by Prestes Maia in 1938. For him, it was a matter of forwarding the death of the poet, musician, letter writer, teacher, researcher, cultural activist , storyteller, art critic and everything else that meant a passion for the deep meanings of culture in the life of the world.

While Mário, in several letters, blames administrative mistakes on his shoulders (what is the mistake of someone fired by the authoritarian new state after working day and night?) Paulo directs all his anger at the ignorance and bad faith of the political arrangements assumed by the prefecture of avenues, streets and instigating contractors. He goes so far as to cite the horrors and filth of Dante's inferno to justify his friend's wasting away, who, in fact, roams between São Paulo and Rio, works in historical heritage and at the University of Brazil (later UFRJ), writes and directs research , but his “passion” persists, his nonconformity grows in the face of the violent cut of a project that would later be fulfilled, also via culture, in the government of the Republic placed in the hands of Armando de Sales Oliveira.

The project was sectioned. Nothing strange in the cultural history of Brazil, between ignorance, political bad faith and the power of local and regional elites. However, when this columnist was Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports of São Bernardo do Campo (at the time Marilena Chauí and Paulo Freire were) there was a lot of information about Mariodeandrad's experience, since some theses and dissertations were disseminated in the meetings of secretaries and secretaries. The experience of 1935-1938 was a bridge to the Brazilian times of democracy, in the case of redemocratization after the 1988 Constitution. sometimes tourism, in the exchange between municipalities and in the search to know the interests of sectors of the population that have always been denied the rights to education and culture.

Finally, Mário, who blamed himself for not having “normalized” the department in São Paulo life, had in fact created, not a model, but a critical path of cultural activity in the face of the denial of rights to the city. In this way, for several generations to come, the seeds of 1935-1938, even if less perceived, will be present in citizen society, in the land of guaranteed rights, in the places where the exclusivist trophy of power of command is plucked and transformed into a value that cultivates and educates these generations in their formative journeys, as autonomous, solidary and participatory people.

In addition to all this, this author demands memory of himself. In one of the postgraduate classes at FFLCH-USP, in the 1970s, master Antonio Candido stated “that he was bothered by the fact that future generations might think that Mário de Andrade was the name of a comet that had passed through São Paulo. Paul many years ago.

It won't pass. Mario lives.

*Luiz Roberto Alves is a senior professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP.



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