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

By Hendrik Kraay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Questioning Official Ritual, 1870s–1880s

After the noisy and enthusiastic popular celebrations of the Paraguayan War’s end and the fiasco of the July 1870 official ceremony, civic rituals resumed the decline that had begun before the war. The war itself was almost never mentioned on days of national festivity in the 1870s and 1880s, and Pedro continued to dismantle the ritual apparatus that surrounded his persona, most notably with the beija-mão’s abolition in 1872. The theater galas, once key barometers of the political mood and widely discussed in the press, lost much of their former importance. Although galas were still held, fewer and fewer especially commissioned works were performed, newspapers paid less attention to them, and the emperor did not always attend. This simplification of official ritual coincided with what historians generally see as the imperial regime’s drawnout decline.1

Alongside this decline in official rituals, the debates about the constitution, independence, and the monarchy continued and even intensified. Editorials usually followed predictable party lines, but the Republican Party founded in 1870 offered more fundamental criticism of the imperial regime. Critics increasingly sought to incorporate the antimonarchical movements of 1789 and 1817 into their interpretations of independence, and in the 1880s republicans sought to make Tiradentes, executed for his role in the 1789 Inconfidência Mineira, into a national hero, greater than Pedro I, as Teófilo Otoni had already attempted at the time of the equestrian statue’s inauguration. The result was a lively debate about the origins of independence.

Finally, this chapter examines a few nonrecurring civic rituals and the debate about them in the 1870s. Pedro’s April 1872 return from his trip to Europe reprised many aspects of the 1846, 1860, and 1865

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