Days of National Festivity in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1823-1889

By Hendrik Kraay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Patriots on the Streets and at Home,
1840s–1860s

Although political questions normally dominated the press discussions about days of national festivity and most of what took place in Rio de Janeiro consisted of official festivities, for a brief period starting in the mid-1850s, so-called popular festivities flourished on 7 September. What made them “popular” in the parlance of the day was their organization by, to use modern jargon, civil society groups known as “patriotic societies” and not the state. These popular 7 September celebrations generally lacked partisan political overtones, although there are some indications that their early organizers had close ties to the Liberals, and they attracted significant participation from a broad range of people, certainly broader than most of the official festivities. The first of these patriotic societies, the Sociedade Ipiranga, began celebrating independence in 1856; by the early 1860s, about twenty such associations had promoted independence celebrations in at least one year. Although this tide of popular festivities ebbed rapidly in the early 1860s, vestiges of these celebrations lingered through the decade, and they resumed in different form in the 1870s.

Public celebrations are inherently political; exclusion or inclusion marks the boundaries that celebrants draw between those who are part of the group—in this case, Brazilians—and those who cannot be members. Such micropolitics gains prominence in this chapter, in contrast to the last five chapters, which focused on the large political questions concerning the nature of the imperial Brazilian state. The popular festivities did not include all residents of Rio de Janeiro, and the celebrants distinguished between themselves and those who could not be part of the nation that they envisaged. They excluded the usual suspects of slaves, Africans, the disorderly, and many of the free poor. The “popular

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