Fernando Macedo – a Cordelist economist

Image: Kartick Chandra Pyne


Commentary on the artistic production of the Unicamp professor.


Since 2018 Cordel Literature has been recognized as a cultural heritage in Brazil and has its own literary institution, the Brazilian Academy of Cordel Literature, founded on September 07, 1988, in Rio de Janeiro. However, it was not always like this. In the mid-1930s, this literature was related to incitement to crime and violence, even by intellectuals, such as Rubem Braga and Barbosa Lima Sobrinho (the latter even of northeastern origin). As we can see through the document of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute - Iphan, entitled Registration Dossier: Cordel Literature, 2018: “[…] there was a lot of prejudice on the part of most intellectuals, who did not recognize the poetic production of cordel as a genre of Brazilian literature […]” (DOSSIÊ …, 2018, p. 6-7).

Campo de São Cristóvão, in the center of Rio de Janeiro, was notable for the frequent and constant meeting of repentistas, emboladores and cordelistas, starting in the 1950s, when the movement of migration from the Northeast to the Southeast intensified. However, initially, the presence of such artists and activities was repressed by the city of Rio de Janeiro: “[…] many poets were arrested and had their violas and leaflets seized […] Despite the repression and prejudice, singing and cordel attracted an increasing number of enthusiasts and authors, who began a mobilization process to protect the exercise of poetry in the public space […]” (DOSSIÊ …, 2018, p. 6-7).

In 2003, the São Cristóvão Pavilion, designed by the architect Sérgio Bernardes, inaugurated in the early 1960s, which was once the largest exhibition pavilion in Rio de Janeiro, was renamed the Luiz Gonzaga Northeastern Traditions Center. Space that now houses the former “northeast fair”, considered the largest cluster of northeastern traditions outside the Northeast, formerly located in the parking lot around Campo de São Cristóvão.

According to Dossier (2018), cordel literature was inserted as a cultural expression at the end of the XNUMXth century, even before the designation of the nine states in the northern part of the country as constituents of one of the five major regions of Brazil (the Northeast); especially in the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte. On the one hand, this literature is identified as a written variation of “suddenly” poetry. On the other hand, it is a type of journal of everyday facts, told in a rhyming way, as well as legends, historical and/or anecdotal episodes, as well as great adventures, whether real or from the imaginary of the cordelist. Finally, Cordel is at the same time a form of popular expression, a literary genre and a means of mass communication.

Over time, it gained national scope, because “despite its historical relations with the Brazilian Northeast, cordel literature is currently practiced in all regions of the country, both in small towns in the interior and in large urban centers, and the influence of its language can be recognized in music, cinema, television and the visual arts […]” (DOSSIÊ …, 2018, p. 14).



Fernando Macedo left his mark on cordel production by uniting science and poetry. Economist, professor at the Center for Economic Development Studies – CEDE, at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp, a great scholar of regional development, began his life as a cordelist, in 2020, with the cordel entitled “The professor from Ceará who became a boto in the Amazon”, Published, in 2021, by Aluá Edições, from the city of Quixadá in Ceará. In this string Fernando Macedo combines a legend of Brazilian folklore with the adversities of the teaching profession.

Fernando Macedo also wanders between legends, historical and/or anecdotal episodes, tributes, major regional and national themes and even biographies. Examples are “The history of the Scientific Commission and the camels of Ceará” (in partnership with Bruno Paulino) “Cachaça, national passion”, “The fabulous cases of abduction and UFO sightings in the sertão” (also in partnership with Bruno Paulino) , “The legend of the Falcão warrior against the dragon of catilogência”, “Brazilian tragedy” and “Jáder de Carvalho: his life, his work”, all published between 2021 and 2022, also by Aluá Edições. To illustrate the issue of regional development (and a solution suggested by the aforementioned author) some stanzas of the cordel “National tragedy” are presented below:

“And indigenous people can die
believe to be cool
Why lands stay free
for mineral extraction
Soy can advance
For the world market.”


“But it's not just health.
that things are going wrong
The crimes multiply
In the environmental sphere,
With government support
Everything goes to the capital.”

“The Brazilian Tragedy
Start with the closed
the destroyed wetland
Much of it was burned
Amazon devastation,
Lumberjack reigns.”

“And in the old caatinga,
Things are going bad too
the desertification
It's a real danger
In this single biome
All national.”

“In the south of our country
A truth is stamped
Little by little it disappears
The vegetation of the pampa
Diversity is lost
When the land falls apart.”

In any of the regions
You are losing your place
And have no illusions
nature is ground
To become exports”.


“I now ask you
Is this development?
This economic model
It makes no sense,
deepens the tragedy
With so much deforestation.”


“We don't have to be ashamed
To shout “Revolution!”
deliver to worker
the means of production
Only with a lot of struggle
A nation is built.”




In 2022, Fernando Macedo won first place in the 1st Cordel Literature Contest - Mestre Dila Prize, which had as its theme: "My Northeast - beauties and charms". His cordel is of a unique richness, because in addition to the enormous beauty of the rhyme of this literary genre, it represents at the same time a tribute, a historical, geographical, cultural, social, economic, political and environmental report of the region. “Not to say that I didn’t talk about the flowers”, as sang by Geraldo Vandré, another giant of national culture, I leave you some stanzas from the already famous cordel:

“I beg leave, my people,
to introduce you
The beauties, the charms
From sertões, mountains and sea
who are sheltered
In one place.

The place is my Northeast
land of my passion
in its diversity
I seek all inspiration
To narrate in this string
The forces of the region.

Agreste, Zona da Mata,
Caatinga, Middle North
form subdivisions
Within the same clipping
uniting varieties
The Northeast is strong.

Because there is not a single Northeast
But many within one
of infinite beauties
And with unusual culture
A place of strong people
I speak without any favors.

It's a thing of the past
think that this region
It is a place of drought, famine,
misery, desolation
Here riches are produced
Which saw export.


The region also has
your social problems
Inequality comes
from colonial times
It started with Portuguese
Old feudal lords.

They killed our indigenous people
Trainers of this people
But his legacy lived on
In the shadows of such encumbrance
Producing another culture
It gave birth to a new people.”


This is how I end this record of a goat, so damned, an economist, a cordelist, an intellectual and an artist. A man trained in the science of economics, but who preserves his roots in the art of cordelista. Big name in regional development, found in cordel a new way of publicizing its great wealth. The economy wins, popular art wins, a story that is a true gift to unwind our lives with good rhymes.

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation.


REGISTRATION DOSSIER. Registration Dossier: Cordel Literature. Brasília: Ministry of Culture / National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute – Iphan – National Center of Folklore and Popular Culture – CNFCP, 2018.

MACEDO, Fernando. The teacher who became a boto in the Amazon (then returned to the sertão). Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, March 2021. (Cordel Literature)

________. Brazilian tragedy. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, May 2021. (Cordel Literature)

________. Jáder de Carvalho: his life, his work. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, July 2021. (Cordel Literature)

________. The legend of the Falcon warrior against the catilogen dragon. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, March 2022. (Cordel Literature)

________. Meu Nordeste – Beauties and Charms. 2022st Cordel Literature Contest – Mestre Dila Award. Caruaru-PE: Caruaru Culture Foundation, May XNUMX.

MACEDO, Fernando; PAULINO, Bruno. The fabulous cases of abduction and UFO sightings in the sertão. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, June 2022. (Cordel Literature)

________. The history of the Scientific Commission and the camels of Ceará. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, April 2022. (Cordel Literature)

________. Cachaça, national passion. Quixadá-CE: Aluá Edições, February 2021. (Cordel Literature)


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