right to memory

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By MAYRA LAUDANNA*

The memories that the monuments carry are missing. At least they remind us of what we once were, what we've been through and what we should try not to be.

Almost two years ago, we mourned the fire of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, managed by the Federal University (UFRJ) and a few days ago, the flames that partially destroyed the Museum of Natural History of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

This last institution, although housed in an unsuitable building, also had collections of mammal fossils and archaeological artifacts that will never be recovered. Perhaps because its installations were not as “historic” as those of the Rio Museum – the building alone was already a monument –, the press paid little attention. But both had their headquarters and their collections destroyed due to lack of care for their preservation.

Amazing thing, no doubt, but everything in this country seems to cause astonishment. However, what causes even more shadows is knowing that the Federal Constitution of 1988, including the Constitutional Amendment of 2012, undertakes to protect the diversity of the Brazilian cultural heritage, in a collaborative, therefore, decentralized regime, aiming at “human development , social and economic with full exercise of cultural rights”. Even more, it undertakes to expand, according to Art. 216-A, § 1, XII, progressively the “resources contained in public budgets for culture”.

Despite these many commitments, our assets continue to sink due to lack of interest – oops! funds – from the governments, or from the federal autarchy of the government of Brazil, which is intended to promote and protect the “permanence and enjoyment” of the country’s cultural assets “for present and future generations”. – http://portal.iphan.gov.br/pagina/detalhes/872

As is known, “cultural heritage” is a set of movable and immovable property, the conservation of which should also be of public interest, given their archaeological, ethnographic, biographical, artistic value, but also because they are linked to the so-called “history”, in this case that of Brazil, although this one is not always memorable.

A record of information, such as laws, reports, meetings, graphed, recorded on video or fixed on any other support is also a monument, such as the meeting on April 22 pp, which discovered Brazil, “two months after Carnival” – Lamartine Babo. A cultural heritage, no doubt, and this one was produced by those in power.

Like every monument, a video-document necessarily implies evaluations and criticisms, as it is memory. However, the disdain of public bodies does not seem to be enough here, as part of the Brazilian population also wants the destruction of historical and cultural memories. Either for simple vandalism, for financial reasons or simply for not agreeing with the story. Destroying monuments is reducing criticism, or at least trying to eliminate it.

The emblematic character of monuments, whether written or otherwise, serves to remind us of what we were, even if we hate it. Statues are memories, monuments that, most of the time, arouse criticism. Acts of governments, letters from kings, various correspondence, drawings, paintings, sculptures from any collectivity, buildings, such as the Ipiranga Museum or the ruins of Abarebebê in Peruíbe, in short, many are the monuments of this Brazil that serve to understand how much we are still far from a democracy.

To eliminate them is to erase the imaginary of how history was built, knowing that the determination for the erection of public monuments, such as the Bandeiras that is in Ibirapuera, falls, in general, to agents who legitimize values ​​according to certain criteria. The work executed by the sculptor Victor Brecheret is a tribute to those who “brought out the sertões” during the 50th and XNUMXth centuries, erected to commemorate the XNUMXth Centenary of the City of São Paulo. At that time, the bandeirantes had already been a kind of Uncle Sam for at least XNUMX years.

It is true that the depredation or the intention to eliminate these symbols from memory should bring about a discussion about the city, citizenship, responsibility for the public good, etc. etc. However, these issues seem to matter little to any “sphere” of our society.

Making use of my freedom, while that is possible, I recall here that the initiatives that sought to institutionalize official protection for historical monuments in Brazil date back to the beginning of the XNUMXth century. By the way, the habit of erecting monuments in this land also dates back to the beginning of the last century. Are there previous monuments? Yes, but very few. Young constructions compared to other nations, but, as in any country, these stories-tributes-monuments have always been curious or, at least, should arouse curiosity: that desire to know and learn, because their stories are always surprising, since they are always tied to the power of the time.

As in the present day, the “heroes”, the “defenders of the homeland”, the “noble men who must be remembered” were raised from a carefully articulated imaginary to build a single history of the nation. Thus, in the 1910s, considering the proximity of the celebrations of the centenary of Independence, several projects were launched for the construction of the Brazilian “homeland”. Despite the 100 years after Princess Leopoldina had signed the Declaration of Independence of Brazil, and that, as they say, in the building of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo still didn't have a face, although it ascended economically.

The city of São Paulo had to show the nation its place, but it did not have a past that would elevate it, although it was no longer an agricultural warehouse, but the “coffee capital”. So, why not highlight this voracious growth of recent years based on the figure of “fearless heroes”, “adventurous men”, with “athletic” build, immune to illness, as they say nowadays? In the wake of what was discussed and written at the Historical and Geographical Institute of São Paulo (IHGSP) since the end of the 1890s, the figure that would symbolize São Paulo would be the bandeirante. Nothing is simpler, therefore, or more appropriate, from this point of view, than associating the figure of the so-called “pathfinders” of the sertões, who contributed so much to the Crown's donkeys, with the economic undertakings of the city. Invention of a tradition? Undoubtedly, like every tradition.

Afonso d'Escragnolle Taunay was a supporter of the idea of ​​configuring this imaginary who, as director of the Museu Paulista, requested and certainly directed the construction of the image of many of these bandeirantes as strong and healthy men, with beards or without them, with large hats and firearms. fire. [At the time of the so-called entries and flags there was no photograph] Borba Gato was one of his commissions. It belongs to the now little-known sculptor Nicola Rollo, but Taunay also commissioned the figures of Antônio Raposo Tavares and Fernão Dias Paes Leme to decorate the Ipiranga Museum, two marbles sculpted by the Italian sculptor Luigi Brizzolara. These two monumentum, as the word indicates, bring to mind, as Taunay writes, two “cycles” of the bandeirante ventures: the first, the “hunting” of the Indian and the search for the sertão, and the second, that of gold and precious stones. The other six bandeirantes who are remembered by the then director point out that other units of the federation also had the “brave” courage of the bandeirantes: Manoel da Borda Gato (Minas Gerais), Pascoal Moreira Cabral Leme (Mato Grosso), Bartolomeu Buenos da Silva ( Goiás); Manuel Preto (Paraná), Francisco Dias Velho (Santa Catarina) and Francisco de Brito Peixoto (Rio Grande do Sul).

Thus, Taunay and all his supporters, at this time of regional pride and arrangements for the celebrations of the centenary of Independence, invented a past for the people of São Paulo, characterizing them as emancipationists and protagonists of the nation's history.

Fantastic! But it is even more extraordinary to know that these figures built as heroes, with some adaptations, still remain a “fact” for the Brazilian Army. This is what is understood when reading the article “Military Aspects of Entrances and Flags” in Brazilian Armed Forces website: “It was mainly thanks to them [bandeirantes] that the country conquered and conserved, in general lines, the current form of its territory.” –

To overthrow Borba Gato, at the request of a petition that circulated just now because he “portrays” a controversial historical personality, that seems absurd to me, since historical personalities, most of the time, are and always will be controversial, if not the result of imagination. Excluding this sculpture from the landscape of Santo Amoro “just because” – as the Globo reporter who flies through this forest of ours says – it is “horrible”, doesn't seem appropriate either. Horrible was the Monument Campos Gerais de Ponta Grossa, the “Cocozão”. Homage by the former mayor of the city to the local rock formations, according to some, and to the representation of the araucaria pine, according to others, whose affectionate nickname for the work aroused so much interest. Yeah... perhaps this monument best represents us today, after all, the araucarias are endangered.

“Cocozão” was demolished, but its story remains in the records of the local city hall and even today on the internet, although the blog about it has disappeared. Tearing down monuments doesn't erase anything, as ruins always remain. Changing their name doesn't help either. Reframing them – an idea that is in fashion – is also of no use. What does it mean to put a necklace on Castro Alves during Carnival or masks against Corona on public statues? Humor perhaps, but not very effective. Graffitiing monuments of bandeirantes in red to remember the blood of the Indians shed by these men does not change history either, nor does it help us to become more democratic. The dictatorship also killed Indians, blacks, whites, yellows, men, women, transsexuals, homosexuals, etc. etc. and is now being asked to return to power by the Brazilian population.

It's… a monument is needed, because it's a memory. The ruins of the concentration camp Auschwitz were kept as a symbol of the holocaust. And where are our DOI(s)-CODI(s), where executions and disappearances of opponents of the military regime installed in 1964 took place? Most are gone, just as most documents from these heinous times tend to evaporate, or are deleted. But some people still remember the building at Rua Tutóia 921 or the DOPS (Department of Political and Social Order) in São Paulo, today Pinacoteca Station. The latter, located at Largo General Osório 66, which was once the station and headquarters of the Sorocabana Railway, became the DOPS headquarters at the time of the intervenor Fernando Costa (1942): a torture center during the Estado Novo dictatorship. With the installation of another dictatorship, that of the sixties, it seems that the place started to have a secondary role, but it did not stop being a place where atrocities continued to occur. However, today we head to the site to see exhibitions and, if anything, we take a look at the three rooms that remain from those repulsive times. Do we remember that?

Yeah…the memories that the monuments carry are missing. At least they remind us of what we once were, what we've been through, and what we should try not to be.

*Mayra Laudanna is a professor at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Alex Flemming (WMF Martins Fontes).

 

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