Carlos Rodrigues Brandao (1940-2023)



Carlos always knew how to temper sacred and profane, word and silence, agitation and calm

Coming from afar like the wind, and whence?
I brought my body, mere allegory
And the opaque mirror that hides
Half, the clay mask of my face
Half of what's left of what I invent
With a bit of mauve and rock salt
And some scraps of chance and revelry.

With nothing, I'm rich, and I'm a juggler
I set up a circus tent, I party
And, pilgrim, I want zero in my pocket.
What I didn't have, now I have: time
And that's why I write this slowly…slow.
Time is what sifts through a sieve,
And this moment is all I have left.

What I was, what I made is now an invention
Of spelling oblivion in the notebook
Until the slate of memory remains clean,
As in flight the bird forgets the nest
As from a boat the land disappears little by little
Like someone who closes the house and goes along the path
And forget the key as you walk away.

Forgetful of myself I today, now,
I no longer know what I knew:
If that all happened in a while.
What if it was all my plot, the story
What would anyone ever believe
Or if it was all a dream, memory myths
Stories, song, tale, shadow, fantasy
And it's truer that way, that's why
(BRANDÃO, 2013, p. 12-13)

If my memory serves me right, I first met Carlos Rodrigues Brandão through his writings. It was 1981, he was in his first year at the Faculty of Education, at Unicamp, in a class of around 60 students. We attended classes in the basic cycle auditoriums, as the faculty did not have its own building. The book what is education, from the First Steps collection, released in 1981, came into our hands perhaps in the classes of teacher Silvia Maria Manfredi. In the subjects we read about the school, the classroom, teaching and learning methodologies, the teacher's work, the structure and functioning of the school, educational policies, the ideological apparatuses of the State, the psychologies of cognition and development.

However, we were fascinated with the anthropological approach that Carlos Rodrigues Brandão's text brought us. Thinking that we are human not just because we are rational and live in society, but mainly because we are learning beings who build material and immaterial realities that it was necessary, therefore, to think about education immersed in the universe of culture and overcome the perspective of pedagogy that confines education in the dominated field of modern teaching-learning institutions.

The anthropological vision provided us with explanations about the representations of alterity and/or the practices of the “other”, producing humanist meanings for our experiences in the world, based on the details of everyday life. In this way, the meaning of education went beyond the dichotomous borders of formal and non-formal school, institutional and non-institutional contexts, relationships between teachers and students, school administrators and administrative agents and dilated us into the multiple interactions established routinely, marked by reciprocity, disputes, recognition, estrangement, belonging...

As an example, Carlos Rodrigues Brandão describes the peace treaty that the states of Virginia and Maryland signed with the “Indigenous Peoples of the Six Nations”, in the United States, and highlights the heuristic value of education in sealing good neighborly relations. The political leaders of the two states suggest that the indigenous leaders choose some of their young people to study in the whites' schools, to which the chiefs respond with a letter, thanking, refusing and justifying: “We are convinced, therefore, that you want the well for us and we thank you with all our hearts. But those who are wise recognize that different nations have different conceptions of things, and that being so, you will not be offended to learn that your idea of ​​education is not the same as ours.”

“Many of our brave warriors were formed in the schools of the North and learned all your science. But when they came back to us, they were poor runners, ignorant of forest life and unable to withstand cold and hunger. They didn't know how to hunt the deer, kill the enemy and build the hut, and they spoke our language very badly. They were therefore totally useless. They did not serve as warriors, as hunters or advisors”.

“We are extremely grateful for your offer, and although we cannot accept it, to show our gratitude we offer the noble lords […] to send us some of their young men; that we will teach them everything we know and make them men” (BRANDÃO, 2020, p. 26).

The perspective of inserting education in the context of culture provoked us. We found out that the author was a professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences at Unicamp, so we organized ourselves through the Academic Pedagogy Center and the course coordination, at the time under the responsibility of Professor Sergio Goldenberg, and we invited Carlos Rodrigues Brandão to offer us a discipline that did not exist in our curriculum: the Anthropological view of Education.

In 1983, he came to the Basic Cycle to introduce us to Bronislaw Malinowski, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz and Marcel Mauss. With him, I understood that fieldwork and ethnographic experience were controversial resources for learning with otherness, recognizing in the other, senses and meanings of lived, felt, reflected, shared and disputed humanities.

Thus, I continued accompanying the professor in the undergraduate, master's and doctoral disciplines taught in the Social Sciences course and I got closer to a welcoming person who lived with a book, notebook, pen and in search of popular, sacred and profane cultural manifestations, aiming to understand the process of constitution of the nation and the Brazilian people.

Marilena Felinto says: “I really admire anyone who doesn’t write” […] “we were five siblings in my house, four women and one man, and none of them needed to write to elaborate any trauma […] I was the only one left in this ambivalence of a writer on the threshold, inside and outside literature, inside and outside journalism, social circles […] an incorrigible outsider” (Folha de S. Paul, Illustrated, 08 Oct. 2022.).

Maybe, like Marilena Felinto, feeling the need to write about Carlos Rodrigues Brandão to elaborate the trauma of his death. In any case, writing was a habit that permeated Carlos's life. He wrote letters, notes, diaries, articles, books – by hand, on a typewriter and later on a computer – and perhaps one of his last academic works was the Preface to my book, Paulo Feire, culture and education (MAZZA, 2022). He was unable to attend the launch (27/04/2023) as he was fighting leukemia and was very weak. his foreword was posted on the website the earth is round, on 04/05/2023.

Maybe you want to exorcise my pain by recording experiences you live in some fields of research that Carlos Rodrigues Brandão pioneered in this delirium of going to meet the people and their cultural matrices and, in a generous and pedagogical way, extended his excursions to students, researchers if friend(s). It was October 1985, we went to the feast of São Benedito, the patron saint of people of African descent, cooks and housewives. It was a Sunday and the streets around the main church were taken by devotees, tourists and revelers, who came to accompany the groups from Congada and Mozambique formed by singers, dancers and players, dressed as kings, clowns, bastions that distributed blessings to the earth , the fruit of work, the living and the ancestors.

The presentations featured songs, violas, guitars, cavaquinhos, tambourines, bass drums, accordions, boxes and the flag of Saint(s) protectors of the people. It was a mixture of colors, smells, ribbons, banners, dances, clothing, rhythms and verses. Carlos, as well as his team, on his advice, equipped ourselves with a sapiquá with a camera, recorder, pencil, pen and notebook and we mixed with the people on the sidewalks and streets following the celebration and talking to the participants. The idea was to understand the place occupied by that manifestation in that cultural system.

There was a platform with the lay authorities of the state and the sacred authorities of the church, the rotten powers as Caetano Veloso would say, and near the end of the revelry, a repentista stopped in front of the platform and began to make verses with the names of the authorities represented there and left something like:

Come on, Bullfinch, what are you going to sing for us?
Come on, Bullfinch, what are you going to sing for us?
You say you're a deputy, but I know you're a major
You say you're a deputy, but I know you're a major

The company was applauded by those present as many knew that it was a direct reference to Deputy Sebastião Curió, born in the city, present on the platform, who participated in the repressive apparatus of the military dictatorship, responsible for torture, murders and concealment of corpses. It was a general discomfort on the stage and Carlos Rodrigues Brandão vibrated with joy and told us: “the people's party is like that, behind the apparent conformism erupts volcanoes of resistance”. Who knew that in the middle of a Congada we would have a politics class?

Another opportunity to accompany Carlos Rodrigues Brandão's insertions in research fields was in Catuçaba, a district of small farmers, close to São Luís do Paraitinga. It was November 1986 and we went to participate in the celebrations for the dead. We arrived days before the festivities to follow all the activities involving the community in the preparation of the “festival of the dead”. We were six or seven graduate students welcomed by some families – I remember Andréia, Adriano, Cristina, Oscar and Renata. I stayed at Dona Cida's house and Mr. Joseph.

Our meeting point was the parish hall where we gathered to discuss texts, records, testimonies collected and understandings achieved. We follow the whitewashing of the graves, the picking of wild flowers, the decoration of the tombs, the procession carrying the altar of the patron saint, the mass, the prayers, the songs, the candles, etc. The idea was to raise the function that manifestation occupied by reconnecting material and immaterial worlds, human and non-human, symbols, signs and meanings. Much research learning resulted from these popular festival days.

In yet another field, it was February 1987 and we went to attend the Marchinhas festival in São Luís do Paraitinga, hometown of musician and conductor Elpídio dos Santos (1909-1970), composer of soundtracks for soap operas that were successful as Cabocla, King of the Cattle (Globe), Ordersl (TV Manchete/SBT), My orange tree (BAND), and marches like There at the foot of the mountain:

I made a little white house at the foot of the mountains for the two of us to live in.
It is located near the bank of the Paraná River.
The place is beautiful I'm sure you will like it
I made a chapel right next to the window for the two of us to pray
When it's a party day you wear your cotton dress
I break my hat over my forehead to win the gifts at the auction
Satisfied I will lead you arm in arm behind the procession
I'm going with my striped suit, a flower on the side and my hat in my hand

Mr. Elpídio had already died when we passed by, but the band The Parangas, made up of family members, continued to brighten up the village festivities. Dona Cinira, the widow, lived in a big house in the center of the city and always had the doors open to receive the Unicamp professor and the students who accompanied him. It was always a relationship, simple, direct and happy.

I think that in the middle of the same year, we spent a week in the rural area of ​​Itajubá, staying at Eneida's farm, which was located at the beginning of the highlands that make up the geological formation of the Mantiqueira range. Carlos joked that it wasn't the Aenida by Virgil, but the Aeneid by Rubens. We walked through those rocky massifs imagining that perhaps we were following the route of Euclides da Cunha (1866-1909) n'Os sertões, by Mário de Andrade (1893-1945) in the Aspects of Brazilian Folklore or Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) in the Great sertão: Veredas. In fact, there was the company of Eneida, Rubens, the corn and meat pastries and the songs of Ivan Vilela and Priscila Stephan who, at the time, had just recorded the LP Mint and sang beautifully: “the sea of ​​Minas is not the sea. The sea of ​​Minas is in the sky. For the world to look up and sail. Without ever having a port to reach”.

Then came research on rural communities and family farming around Pocinhos do Rio Verde. There Carlos Rodrigues Brandão rented from Marcão, the owner of the Hotel Ipê, the little house no. 6 which became a meeting point for advisees, friends and students. In January 1988 Carlos Rodrigues Brandão went on a long vacation trip with Maria Alice, André and Luciana and learned that he was looking for a quiet place to retire and write the final version of my master's thesis. Carlos Rodrigues Brandão generously entrusted me with the key to the little house and said: “The residents at the front are called Mr. Elias and Dona Rosa, any problem can trigger them”. So it happened, I stayed about forty days alone and concluded the final text of the research.

In the early 1990s, we accompanied the festival of the community of Italian families from Veneto who settled in Quiririm, a district of Taubaté that had, at the time, its own association, the Societá Beneficente Unione de Quiririm. Through Carlos' contacts, we stayed at Meire and Rogério's house and experienced other markers of popular cultural manifestations. Carlos Rodrigues Brandão easily adapted to the simple habits and customs of the communities he researched and his taste easily spilled over into artisanal pinga, homemade wine, rice and beans, chicken with okra, angu and cheese... From the farm. At the bus stations he ate coxinha and didn't feel sick, he said he had an ostrich stomach.

Then came Rosa dos Ventos, the house built in Pocinhos do Rio Verde, MG, among trees, mountains and springs that sprouted from the land he acquired to serve as a meeting point, study, research and accommodation. It received many people big and small, known and unknown like Aldenor, Ana Clara, Analisa, Ana Maria, Carolina, João Bá, Joel, Lidinha, Guilherme, Maria José, Mariana, Raquel, Roderico, Rubem Alves, Tita, to name just a few. . I remember Carlos supervising Jadir's research while they were carrying stones to make the Rosa chapel.

Several times I went to Poços de Caldas with the children and we passed by the house of Carlos, Tita, Joel and Mazé. There was always good conversation and coffee with cornbread and cheese bread.

In November 2010, Carlos Rodrigues Brandão sent an email letter “to friends from near and far” sharing the joys experienced in the 15 years of existence of Rosa dos Ventos and highlighting: the groups, meetings and courses in Solidarity Economy , the trails and hikes in the mountains and waterfalls, the joint efforts of arts and crafts in Jardim das Ervas and Canto das Águas, the soirées at Mãos da Terra and Folia de Reis, experiences of silence and meditation and, finally, the project construction of Cine Paradiso. He invited everyone to visit the address and remembered: “the website doesn’t always work”.

These were the expressed wishes of Carlos Rodrigues Brandão. As time went by, the children grew up, Carlos retired from Unicamp, he worked in other states and other universities, we got older and the meetings became rarer.

About four years ago, Carlos Rodrigues Brandão was fighting valiantly against leukemia and ended up settling in Campinas in order to facilitate treatment and constant trips to doctors, hospitals and clinics. Maria Alice, André, Luciana, José and Denise were tireless warriors in their availability and willingness to take care of him, but along the way he contracted the Covid virus and could not resist, passing away on July 12, 2023.

Thus, we say goodbye to this restless, inventive, aggregating character; professor, researcher, writer and poet named Carlos Rodrigues Brandão, who crossed the lives of thousands of people in Brazil, Latin America and Europe. Many dear people passed by the Adunicamp hall and the “Bom Pastor” crematorium at Campos dos Amarais cemetery to say goodbye to him. The rituals of his passing were accompanied by the Folia of Companhia Reis Ases do Brasil, accompanied by the guitar of Fernando Guimarães and André Luiz, the singing of Master Sebastião Victor Rosa, Tião Mineiro, the viola caipira of João Arruda and the snare drum of Alik Wunder .

The banner of the divine was carried by Maria Alice, her son André, her daughter Luciana and her grandson Pablo. At the wake, cheese bread, water, coffee, orange juice and a cachaça saved by Carlos for 50 years to be drunk at a special moment were served. That day has arrived!

I close this overcoming narrative with some excerpts from the email letter written by Carlos a few months ago.

“Friends from near and far,

After replying with brief messages […] I decided to write a collective letter (an old habit of mine) with more details.

I came back from another journey in the hospital, including days in the ICU. I'm at home [...] between exams, appointments and physiotherapy.

The leukemia is under control, and the last CBCs have been very good. But I continue with a fierce immunotherapy chemotherapy treatment. Of course, at 83 years old, my heart is weakened (only physically) and also my lungs.

I lost 22 kilos, the taste for food (but not for life), and I am very weak. At home I am between the wheelchair and the walker. […] A 20 meter walk at home tires me out […] I, who climbed Dedo de Deus, participated in the team that conquered the Paredão Baden-Powen, in Irmão Maior do Leblon, and I did the Camino de Santiago. […]. I'm old, skinny and ugly. But still alive! […]. I suddenly find myself being taken care of. I depend on other people for almost everything. […] And my gratitude to people ranging from Dr. Gislaine to Maria Alice, André and Luciana, it's limitless.

After the hustle of 2021, with the unending lives around Paulo Freire's Centenary, behold, sick, I live peaceful days. And I take advantage of them to do what has always been my greatest joy: reading and writing. I read and reread books by authors who have always touched me, between poetry, spirituality and anthropology. I'm reading all the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who has been with me since 1962. I listen to music, from classical […] to viola modas.

And I write immeasurably […] I opened up the range of my desires and imaginations, and between poetry and anthropology, I see myself […] as someone who “raises flights of the spirit”. […]

Some writings from 2020 onwards were incorporated into collective books. Others are “solo books” that I gladly announce to you. […] my memoir between student and teacher: I teacher- small inventory of memories […] my little book of poems for young people: Yesterday, Now, Never! […] Craftsmen of the Absurd - human dilemmas on high mountain climbs in the Himalayas […] another book of poetry for young people: Birds' Sky [...] The Primate that Learns – How Education Began to Happen in the World, and […] For a Pilgrim Pedagogy. And as long as I live and the “hand and the head” work, I will follow my fate as a bed and an inveterate scribbler.

This is the moment to put your hands together, bend your body a little and say to everyone: Gratitude.

A friendly hug

Carlos Brandao”.

This was a final letter, but inside me I keep a Carlos who always knew how to mix sacred and profane, word and silence, agitation and calm.

* Deborah Mazza is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Faculty of Education at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Paulo Freire, culture and education (Unicamp).


BRANDÃO, Carlos R. Mailbox - collected poetry 1966-2013. Belo Horizonte: Graphic O Fighter, 2013.

BRANDÃO, Carlos. What is education. Goiânia: Academic Space Publisher, 2020.

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