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

By Hendrik Kraay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Popular Patriots and Abolitionists, 1870–1889

Alongside the decline in official celebrations on days of national festivity and the increasing criticism of imperial institutions during the 1870s and especially the 1880s, there is also considerable evidence that the monarchy—and perhaps even the imperial regime more generally—continued to enjoy considerable popular support. During the 1870s and the first half of the 1880s, popular independence celebrations involved significant numbers of Rio de Janeiro’s lower classes (but few of the middle and upper classes). After the mid-1880s, the abolitionist movement mobilized broad sectors of the population and turned the three days of national festivity into integral parts of its antislavery campaign. Finally, in 1888–89, many blacks and mulattoes, some only recently freed, saw the monarchy as an institution attuned to their interests, or at least more sensitive to them than the major political parties. In this light, the monarchy’s overthrow can be interpreted as the reaction to what some saw as a dangerously populist regime.

Nevertheless, the monarchy’s popularity remains a controversial question. For some, there is no doubt that Pedro and Isabel stood at the pinnacle of their personal popularity in the aftermath of abolition, especially among the Afro-Brazilian lower classes.1 Sidney Chalhoub suggests that the monarchy’s retrospective popularity among the black lower classes was consolidated by the republic, whose first governments deported numerous capoeiras, demolished tenement housing, and instituted urban reforms that constituted an attack on the “black city.”2 Ronaldo Pereira de Jesus, by contrast, argues that the predominant popular view of the monarchy amounted to “indifference,” punctuated by isolated violent outbursts such as the 1880 Vintém Riot and occasional pragmatic individual or collective appeals for patronage.3 Lilia Moritz Schwarcz and Martha Abreu perceive a reciprocal relationship between

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