The Battle of Maria Antonia



Comment on the newly released "White Book of the events of Rua Maria Antonia – October 2nd and 3rd, 1968"

In good time, the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of USP decided to undertake a comprehensive re-edition. It's about the White Book of the events of Rua Maria Antonia – October 2nd and 3rd, 1968.

To the exquisite graphic design, the organizers, Irene Cardoso and Abílio Tavares, added a history of the book itself, stamping the documentation in annex. To such an extent that the volume doubled in size.

The Introduction, authored by the organizer and the greatest authority on the subject, changes the circumstances in minuscules, but also advances an interpretation of the avant-garde role of the Faculty of Philosophy, since its foundation by European masters, in 1934. all dedicated to knowledge, to overcome the idea that knowledge was only useful when applied to Engineering or Medicine.

For non-applied knowledge, theoretical disciplines such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, etc., of pure research, were now offered. All of this joined to the humanities, in the same Faculty of Philosophy. It was, in fact, an unprecedented conception in the country, ideally multidisciplinary and breaking down walls that divided knowledge. In defense of all this and a few other democratic principles, the students had occupied the building.

This reissue brings together testimonies themselves, by witnesses who were inside the building when it was bombed and set on fire: among them are some of our greatest intellectuals. Apart from that, the path taken by the book alone gives a good idea of ​​the horrors that this country has already experienced.

The Faculty Congregation immediately appointed a commission of professors to prepare the documentation, hearing witnesses and taking depositions. Antonio Candido was elected rapporteur – and how he carried out the task is what will be seen below.

The battle of Maria Antonia took place on the 2nd and 3rd of October 1968, and a little over a month later, on the 6th of November, the report was written and presented. And the seriousness of what had happened demanded it: how many times has it been heard in Brazil of a respectable institution of higher education being bombed and set on fire?

However, afterwards the record becomes hazy. Everything was fast and efficient so far. But from then on… The rapporteur delivered the finished book to the Congregation that had commissioned it. Some time later, as the book did not appear, the news spread that the originals had disappeared. And nobody knew what had happened – such were the seizures at the time.

Soon, close to a thousand delegates from all over Brazil were arrested at the UNE congress in Ibiúna, thus decapitating the student movement that had its headquarters in Maria Antonia. And also the invasion of Crusp, the residential complex of USP, by the armed forces, arresting and expelling the residents.

Crowning everything came the AI-5 mutilating the University, expelling some of its most renowned professors. The Faculty itself would be banished to the confines of São Paulo, where the future Cidade Universitária was then – a quagmire without paving, without gutters, without lighting.

Fortunately the rapporteur, who had a keen sense of history, had kept a copy, as well as all the supporting material. Thus, exactly 20 years later, when the dictatorship was gone and democracy was reinstalled, the book would finally be published, in 1988.

Maybe it fell into the void. The fact is that little has been heard of him.

In the meantime, when Irene Cardoso was willing to dedicate herself to the field, Antonio Candido sent her everything: the copy of the originals and the supporting material. Including a tear gas bomb, which for a long time remained in the professor's hand, in full view of everyone who came to his house. It was a very serious item, evidence of the intervention of the police-military apparatus in the battle of Maria Antonia, which was absolutely not what the authorities and the media labeled as a mere fight between students on both sides of the street, the leftists of Maria Antonia and the rightists from Mackenzie.

Irene Cardoso became a great specialist: she did a doctoral thesis in Sociology, The University of the Paulista Communion (1982), and wrote For a critique of the present (2001), books that are still of unique importance, with in-depth inquiries about the occupation and the battle, about the role of the University, about the progressive thinking of which the Faculty of Philosophy has always been a beacon. He had the courage to speak about pain, tragedy, terror and interdiction of the past, aiming at the history of the University, but also that of the 68 Generation.

This re-edition was, quite by the way, published in the company of another, the book Maria Antonia: a street against the grain, organized by Maria Cecília Loschiavo dos Santos (1988), in a lineage that has multiplied both in books and films. There are 31 texts of the greatest interest, written by people who reflected both on their participation and on the “phenomenon” Maria Antonia. It brings a seminal and often republished text, which is Antonio Candido's, “The world covered with young men”.

Always lucid, the professor realized that a paradigm shift had taken place around the world, according to which young people in rebellion wanted to take the vanguard of the historical process. Under the sign of anti-authoritarianism at any level – family, work, school, knowledge – it was in the planetary trenches of 68 that the discretionary power of the adult-white-heterosexual man was contested for the first time. Such contestation would only grow over time, the flag of the Other being wielded by young people, by women, by non-whites in general (blacks, Asians, Arabs, indigenous peoples) and by homosexuals.

The reissue was organized by Maria Cecília Loschiavo dos Santos and Abílio Tavares, with the same graphic design as the White Paper, so that, when twinned, they can be visually recognized as a pair.

Both constitute unavoidable documents of the perpetual struggle against obscurantism in the country, which never fades.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (SESC-SP/Ouro sobre azul).



Irene Cardoso and Abílio Tavares (eds.). White Book of the events of Rua Maria Antonia – October 2nd and 3rd, 1968.

São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, 2020.

Maria Cecília Loschiavo dos Santos and Abílio Tavares (eds.). Maria Antonia: a street against the grain. São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, 2020.


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