The Farroupilha Controversy

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The Farroupilha myth and its narratives continue to be founding beacons of the culture of Rio Grande do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil

185 years after its outbreak (September 1835) and almost 176 after its end (February/March 1845), the “Farroupilha Revolution” was back in the headlines. This time, through his anthem, accused of being racist by several personalities, due, above all, to the verses “people who have no virtue/end up being slaves”. The controversy was triggered by the attitude of the PSOL bench, in possession of the current City Council in Porto Alegre, not getting up when the anthem was played.

First, I must make some clarifications. I have nothing to do with the attitude of councilwoman Comandante Nadia, scolding the PSOL bench for what she considered a “disrespectful attitude”. Much less with the absolutely idiotic bill presented below, forcing everyone to have an “attitude of respect” when playing the anthems of the State and the Country. I believe that each person should be free to behave as they wish during the performance of hymns: get up, remain seated, turn their backs, leave the room, stand on their hands, etc., as long as they don't harm anyone. During the years of the military dictatorship of 1964, I refused to sing the National Anthem, only returning to do so on the day of the first major demonstration by Diretas Já, in Vale do Anhangabaú, in São Paulo, on January 25, 1984.

That said, I proceed to consider the terms of the controversy, and its historical framework. I agree with the argument of the article by Florence Carboni and Mario Maestri, “The enslaved language”, published here in this article, for whom the accusation of anti-Afro racism in the hymn’s lyrics is anachronistic, taking into account its composition in the first half of the XNUMXth century. This does not prevent me from respecting the position of those who do not want to accept it as representing their anti-racist sentiment.

It should be noted that the controversies surrounding the official lyrics of the hymn are old and very varied, even involving its authorship, attributed to Francisco Pinto da Fontoura, son, because there was the father. Over the years, the son was nicknamed Chiquinho da Vovó.

The official adoption of the hymn's lyrics took place in the 1930s, after a controversy surrounding three versions of it. And the lyrics were modified during the civil-military dictatorship of 1964, removing a stanza that spoke of tyrannies, “Greek” glories and “Roman” virtues. It is still debated whether the withdrawal of the stanza was due to dictatorial reasons, given the word “tyranny”, or due to regionalist outbursts, given the mention of Greek and Roman “foreigners”. This mention, however, rhymes with the “Zeitgeist” of the time of its composition, the “spirit of the time”: in this, romantic raptures were mixed with an intellectual framework with traces reminiscent of a late neoclassicism, heir to the XNUMXth century. As happened with all Brazilian Romanticism.

What I intend is to see the present controversy within the framework of the varied interpretations of the uprising against the Brazilian Empire in Rio Grande do Sul, which led to the longest civil war in our history. In these interpretations, what I have often seen is a frequent attempt to reduce their complexity to linear, one-dimensional readings, which lead to a positive or negative simplification of their meaning. And who despise their longevity as something important for their understanding.

It is good to remember that the definitive enthronement of the “Farroupilha Revolution” as a relevant and positive historical event only took place during the republican movements towards the end of the 1889th century and later, with the proclamation of the Republic, in XNUMX.

Before, there were sporadic manifestations about its relevance, such as the publication of Memories of Garibaldi in newspapers in Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro, still in the middle of the XNUMXth century, with the “blessing” of none other than Alexandre Dumas, Father, depositary and editor of the manuscript by the Italian caudillo.

The book, presented as a somewhat romanticized autobiography, definitely praises the moral profile of the Rio Grande rebels, with whom Garibaldi maintained some correspondence after his return to Europe, albeit sporadic. Published in serials in Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro, these “Memoirs” had great repercussions, for being their author (although the seal belonged to the father of “The Three Musketeers”, of great prestige in Brazil) and a character already a caudillo of international renown, promoting the effigy of the gaucho thanks to the white poncho he used to wear, both in military campaigns and in political demonstrations.

Another important milestone was Alencar's novel, “O gaúcho”, published in 1870, which praises Bento Gonçalves, although it remains critical of the rebel movement. I believe that the character Loredano, the villainous ex-Italian priest of “O Guarani”, published in a serial in 1857, must have been inspired, even if from afar, by the Italians who fought with the Farroupilhas, “foreigners” who were famous of corsairs and bandits. This was the case of the novel “O corsário”, by José Antonio do Vale Caldre e Fião, from 1851. Even in the novel “A divina pastora”, by the same author, published in 1847, although the central character is a farroupilha, the revolt is viewed critically.

The República Rio-Grandense, its official name, was also known by the initially pejorative names of “República de Piratini”, an allusion to its first capital, presented as a village on the confines of the winning Empire, and “República dos Farrapos”, an allusion to the idea something misleading that their leaders and men wore rags. One of the works that consecrated the name “República de Piratini” was the book “Guerra Civil no Rio Grande do Sul”, by the historian Tristão de Alencar Araripe, published in Rio de Janeiro in 1881, very critical of the rebel movement. A Liberal Party politician, Araripe governed the province from April 5, 1876 to February 5, 1877, appointed by the Emperor.

It was only after the positive enthronement of the rebel movement in the historiography of Rio Grande do Sul, as in the extensive work of Alfredo Varela, History of the Great Revolution, from 1933, that terms such as “Piratini” and “Farrapos” came to be seen as true “Lieux de Mémoire”, in the sense of Pierre Nora, naming the first the Palace of the State Government, from 1955, and the second giving its name to one of the main avenues of the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, inaugurated in 1940. Another pejorative name given to the Republic was that of “Republic of Carts”, an allusion to the itinerant character of its capital, which roamed between the municipalities of Piratini, Caçapava (today called do Sul) and Alegrete.

After the proclamation of the Republic, a highly simplified version of the movement was created, presenting it as an anticipation of the republican and even abolitionist movement, due to the formation of its squadrons of “Black Lancers”, with slaves who were promised freedom. As for the anticipation of the proclamation of the Republic, there is something very true in this. After all, General Netto, who proclaimed it, did so in front of the troops formed after the battle of Arroio Seival, on September 10, 1836. And Netto was not, originally, a republican. If he proclaimed the Republic, he did so under pressure from lower-ranking officials, such as Lucas de Oliveira and Pedro Soares. In the same way, in 1889, Marshal Deodoro, who was also not a republican, would proclaim the Republic in Campo de Santana, in front of the formed troops, and also pressured by soldiers of lower rank than him. Sick, feverish, he thought he was just deposing a ministry... And the military trace remains burning – not to say incandescent – ​​in our “republican” history until today.

The farroupilha uprising was an extremely complex phenomenon, and it continues to be so, thanks to the breadth of historical interpretations of it. Despite its variety, it can be said that there are two major beacons that guided these interpretations. On the one hand, there is the “euphoric” interpretation: it was a republican movement, democratic in its essence, thanks to the “democracy” that characterized the Brazilian frontier resort. Ultimately, it was a movement that anticipated abolitionism in Brazil, a movement that only gained strength after the Paraguayan War, although literarily it had been vigorous since before. One of the best testimonies of this interpretation, without prejudice to others, is the book “Garibaldi e a Guerra dos Farrapos”, by Lindolfo Collor, released in 1938 by Editora José Olímpio.

There is something exaggerated in declaring the whole movement abolitionist. If it is true that there were abolitionists in it, its financially hegemonic sector, that of border ranchers and charqueadores, coexisted very well with slavery. It is true that one cannot directly compare the universe of Rio Grande ranches, which were a mix of productive units with military defense units, with the coffee or sugar plantations in the far north of the country.

In those times, it was not uncommon for slaves to be armed, in addition to the peonada, in view of the needs of defense and border attacks. But from there to saying that the estancias were “democratic” goes a long way.

On the other hand, there is the “dysphoric” interpretation, which characterizes the movement as completely reactionary, completely dominated by the landowning oligarchy of the Rio Grande do Sul border, slave-owning and authoritarian, based on the economic disputes between this class and the authorities in the center of Rio Grande do Sul. country around issues such as taxes on the production of national beef jerky, which favored the importation of platinum beef jerky (which is true). This interpretation gained momentum among younger generations of historians, some influenced by Marxist ideas, others by Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s doctoral thesis, “Capitalism and slavery in southern Brazil”, from 1961.

In my opinion, both coordinates tend to leave a fundamental aspect of the Farroupilha Revolt in the background, namely, the political implications. The first diminishes this aspect in the name of an aura of “moral superiority” of the southern rebels, based on ideas that today we can consider ghostly, such as that of “democracy” in the militarized ranches that occupied the border with the Platine territories. The second, placing economic aspects in the foreground, and there is something true in this, fails to value the political intrigue that ended up sustaining the longest civil war in Brazilian history.

I take into account that the history of this XNUMXth-century uprising in Rio Grande do Sul is inseparable from a chapter that is still insufficiently delineated in Brazilian historiography, that is, that of Freemasonry – as indeed in all of Latin America and even in the United States.

Far be it from me to claim expert status in such a complex subject. But from what I could gather, in the first half of the XNUMXth century there were at least two major tendencies in Brazilian Masonic lodges: the “Blue”, monarchist, and the “Red”, republican. This second trend would have a wide penetration among the young officers in Rio Grande do Sul, contaminated by contact with their Uruguayan counterparts, although many of these contacts took place, first, through military confrontations.

This tendency makes us understand why young officers, like Lucas de Oliveira and Pedro Soares, pressured General Netto to proclaim the Republic, following the victorious battle of Arroio Seival, in September 1836. would help to explain the flag of the Republic of Rio Grande do Sul, enshrined in a military parade in the border town of Piratini, elevated to the status of capital of the Republic, that same year: two triangles, the upper green and the lower yellow, crossed by a red band. , without a coat of arms, something that would only be adopted after the proclamation of the Republic, in 1889. The two triangles came from the Brazilian flag, the green one representing the Portuguese House of Bragança, of which D. Pedro I was a member, and the yellow one representing the House Austrian of the Habsburgs, where his wife, D. Leopoldina, came from, aunt of the future emperor Franz Joseph I (later married to Romy Schneider, oops, I mean, Sissi or Elisabeth of Bavaria) and of the ill-fated and unhappy emperor of Mexico, Maximilian, both cousins ​​of D. Pedro II.

This relativizes, for example, the consideration that the first impulse of the uprising in Rio Grande do Sul would be separatist. It was a dispute for local, regional and perhaps national power. Still, I doubt that the first rebels of 1835 wanted to take power in Rio de Janeiro. They wanted to seize power in Porto Alegre, and that's what they did, starting from Praia da Alegria, on the other side of the Guaíba River, with weapons and barges marked.

The political intrigues involved the militarized frontier ranchers, the charqueadores predominant in the region of Pelotas, and the military and politicians favorable to the Regency governments, during the minority of D. Pedro II. The presence of Freemasonry also helps to understand how and why the rebels of Rio Grande do Sul had connections with the center of the Empire. In any other way, it is impossible to explain the ease with which Bento Gonçalves, taken prisoner and transferred first to Rio de Janeiro, then to Forte de São Marcelo or do Mar, in Bahia, managed to escape from this last prison, in Baía de Todos os Santos, with the help of Dr. Francisco Sabino, later leader of the Sabinada (Bahian revolt between 1837 and 1838), and make the long journey back to the south. There was also some kind of fleeting interface with the liberal rebels of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, in 1842. This revolt provoked enthusiasm among the already exhausted farroupilhas, after seven years of struggle, soon cooled by the defeat of those movements.

In addition to the economically important characters described above, there were other sectors, even if not hegemonic, present in the southern revolt. There was a “small group”, radicalized, like Father Chagas and Pedro Boticário, who accompanied Bento Gonçalves in prison. Trapped in Fortaleza da Laje, he couldn't escape because he was too fat and couldn't get through the escape window. It is said that Bento Gonçalves did not abandon him, and was then transferred to Bahia.

There were young officers of republican leanings, some of them abolitionists. And there was the most curious case: the presence of militants from Giovine Italia, Young Italy, with Giuseppe Garibaldi, Luigi Rossetti and Count Tito Livio Zambeccari at the head, commanded by Giuseppe Mazzini, from London. It is known that it was Rossetti who took Garibaldi to meet the Farroupilhas, still in Rio de Janeiro. Garibaldi would have visited Bento Gonçalves in prison, in the Capital of the Court and of the Empire. How to explain this connection that undoubtedly helped to give a libertarian color to the gauchos rebels? Freemasonry apart, or included, it should be taken into account that Giovine Italia, founded in 1831 by Mazzini, opened a “Lodge”, as it was called, in Rio de Janeiro. He fought the Habsburgs, the Pope and the Bourbons. Those dominated the north of the future Italy; the Pope, the center, and the Bourbons, the south. The Luso-Brazilian imperial family was seen as an ally, albeit by marriage, of the Habsburgs… So, fighting that one was also fighting the latter.

And so we had the whole epic and romantic adventure involving Giuseppe and Anita Garibaldi, proclaimed “hero and heroine of two worlds”. The radicalized image of the rebels spread in such a way that later, the father of the poet Álvares de Azevedo, then a law student in São Paulo, wrote him a letter expressing his concern in the face of his son’s “farroupilhas” (sic) ideas …

That militarized ranchers recruited slaves to fight in their ranks is not surprising; it was the custom of the ruling classes throughout the 26th century, at least until the disastrous Paraguayan War. What draws attention is the close bond that was established between the combatants and their last commander, Major, later Colonel Joaquim Teixeira Nunes, as hated by the imperials as the “Black Lancers” he commanded. So close was this bond that the imperials, led by the implacable Colonel Francisco Pedro Buarque de Abreu, future Baron of Jacuí, called Chico Pedro or also Moringue, it seems that by the shape of his head, they did not rest until Col. Teixeira Nunes, which they achieved on November 1844, 14, in the last combat of the civil war, after the Porongos episode, which occurred on the XNUMXth of the same month.

I say murdered because Teixeira Nunes was beheaded after having his horse knocked down, having been seriously speared by the imperial lieutenant Manduca Rodrigues and taken prisoner. The same Moringue commanded the Empire troops, who, however, did not participate directly in the combat.

Teixeira Nunes managed to escape from Porongos with some of the Black Lancers he commanded, and was surrounded with them in the place known as Arroio Grande, today an autonomous municipality close to the border with Uruguay and Lagoa Mirim.

And so we arrive at this episode – Porongos – alternatively or simultaneously called “Disaster”, “Massacre” and/or “Betrayal”. “Disaster”: attacked by surprise, at dawn, the farroupilha force was routed; more than 300 farroupilhas were taken prisoner, among them 35 officers; and the imperials seized the file of the Riograndense Republic, cannons, other weapons and a thousand horses; the farroupilha commander, Davi Canabarro, narrowly escaped, wearing ragged clothes, according to some, or just underwear, according to others. “Massacre”: the imperials fell mainly on the Black Lancers who, although without firearms, were among the few who resisted, commanded by Teixeira Nunes, who managed to escape with some of them. “Treason”: David Canabarro is accused of having “hit” the attack with the imperials to get rid of the Black Lancers.

One thing is certain: there was carelessness and negligence on the part of Canabarro and his officers, animated by the idea that there were already peace initiatives that would materialize in the sending of Antonio Vicente da Fontoura to Rio de Janeiro to negotiate it, in December 1844. It is said that Canabarro was in his campaign tent with his favorite lover, known as “Papagaia”, at the time of the attack.

In 1999, when my novel “Anita” was released in Porto Alegre, a great-grandson of General Canabarro asked me how it appeared in the narrative. He told him, without any pretense, that three adjectives surrounded his great-grandfather's biography: “womanizer”, “rude” and “traitor”. And that I could confirm, from what I had found in research, the first two, but not the third adjective.

Reason: the main source of the accusation against Canabarro is a letter that would have been sent by the Count, future Duke of Caxias, then president of the province, to Moringue, stating that there was an arrangement with the farroupilha commander. This letter – published a posteriori by Moringue itself – was the subject of disputes from the moment of its publication. There are those who accept its authenticity; there are those who deny it, attributing it to a forgery made by Moringue, to defame Canabarro.

In the political struggles that continued after the pacification, with the farroupilha soldiers reintegrated into the Imperial Army, despite receiving the title of Baron, Moringue was not in the foreground. Not surprisingly, he continued his private war against the farroupilhas. I am not aware (if anyone knows, let me know) that a handwriting examination was carried out on the letter, to at least confirm Caxias' signature, since, if it is true, it is very possible that it was written by a secretary.

So, with regard to Canabarro, I maintain the principle of “in dubio, pro reo”. There is also the fact that both met when the Paraguayan commander surrendered in Uruguaiana, in September 1865. The only reason they did not fight in a duel was that they were restrained by the other officers present.

As to the fact that the Black Lancers were disarmed of their firearms, I must say that it was customary - detestable, in any case - to disarm blacks and Indians who fought alongside other regular troops. It was not a peculiarity of Porongos.

It is not my purpose to defend this or that version of the Anthem Rio-Grandense. I consider this thing about hymns to be very complicated. I do want to bring some historical depth to the debate, which will contribute to giving the vision of the past a perception of its complexities.

Furthermore, it is worth emphasizing that it is not because of being criticized that a myth and also its mythology cease to exist. Criticism often renews the perception of myth as a historical reference. I use myth here in the sense of “founding narrative”, off the common preconception that “myth” is synonymous with “lie”. And I emphasize that this has nothing to do with the stupid vulgarity of calling the current occupant of the Planalto Palace a “myth”.

In that more complex sense, dragging with it both euphoric and dysphoric visions, in addition to other possible ones, such as mine, the Farroupilha myth and its narratives continue to be founding beacons of the culture of Rio Grande do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil.

PS – I apologize for not providing proper references for many of the statements I make. I don't have my original notes, kept in a trunk in São Paulo, and here in Berlin the libraries are all closed.

* Flavio Aguiar, writer and literary critic, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Anita (novel) (Boitempo).


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