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

By Hendrik Kraay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
War, Patriotism, and Politics, 1865–1870

From late 1864 until 1 March 1870, Brazil (along with its allies of Uruguay and Argentina) struggled to defeat Paraguay and remove its president, Francisco Solano López. The war’s relationship to Brazilian nationalism has long been the subject of debate, with some presenting the war effort as a patriotic national campaign and others focusing on the limits of that patriotism, quickly crushed by the violent impressment that fell disproportionately on the nonwhite lower classes.1 An examination of wartime days of national festivity and the extended victory celebrations from February to July 1870 offers new evidence to address these questions. Surprisingly, the war years saw a marked decline in the celebration of days of national festivity. To be sure, as we saw in Chapter Five, the popular celebrations of 7 September had already diminished before the Paraguayan invasion of Mato Grosso in November 1864, but they continued their decline; more important, official celebrations also diminished during the war. The National Guard parade was effectively eliminated in 1865, thus dramatically reducing official civic ritual’s visibility. The end of theater subsidies and government support for national opera meant that the theater galas lost much of their former importance. Furthermore, the celebrations of 25 March, 7 September, and 2 December that took place contained very few allusions to the war. Instead, they continued to focus on the institutions of the constitutional monarchy that the days of national festivity commemorated.

Of course, there were other ways for Brazilians to manifest their patriotism, and the enthusiastic celebrations with which they saw off their battalions in 1865 stand in sharp contrast to the diminished days of national festivity. This bellicose patriotism, already presaged during the Christie Question, faded after midyear, as eager volunteers gave way to

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