The Pernambucan Revolution

This is a cross-post from Eyes On Recife.


“The Pernambucan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of the Priests (due to the participation of the heroic monk, Frei Caneca), was an emancipation movement that emerged on March 6th, 1817, in what was known at the time as the Province of Pernambuco. Among the causes for wanting freedom from Portuguese rule, the main ones were: the regional economic crisis, the Portuguese monarchical absolutism and the influence of the Enlightenment ideas, propagated by the masonic societies.” [1]

Their Own Republic

“For 74 days, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba and Rio Grande so Norte were a republic with their own government, army, navy, constitution, flag and even ambassadors abroad. This short period enforced the recently promulgated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the French Revolution’s defining documents. And the flag that was used in the most important libertarian war of the then-republic is the same that Pernambuco uses today” (minus two of the stars). [2]

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 7.27.23 PM(the republic flag that inspired the current flag)

“On March 29th, a constituent assembly was convened, with elected representatives from all the counties (now known as states), establishing the separation of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers; catholicism was maintained as the official religion (however there was freedom of religion); freedom of the press was proclaimed (a new idea for Brazil); some taxes were abolished; slavery was kept alive.

As the fervor of discussions and revolt against Portuguese oppression increased, Pernambucan patriotism also increased, to the point of using cachaça (instead of wine) in church and a wafer made of manioc (instead of wheat), as a way of marking their identity.” [3]

American Aid?

In May of 1817, Antônio Gonçalves Cruz landed in Philadelphia with 800,000 dollars in his bags. His mission was three-fold: to obtain arms to fight Dom João’s army, to convince the US government to support a Brazilian republic in the Northeast, and to recruit some ex-French revolutionaries living in the US to go to Brazil, make a plan to free Napoleon from jail and bring him to Pernambuco to lead their revolt. They agreed but arrived in Pernambuco too late, the revolution was ending. [4]

The End

The fight came to an end when the revolutionaries started finding it hard to fight such a powerful enemy, especially one that was slowly surrounding them. The other “counties” (Alagoas, Ceará, Rio Grando do Norte, etc) started to back off and revoke their support and the Pernambucan supporters started in-fighting due to disagreements on the topic of slavery. In the end, what remained was a single idea, that the Portuguese crown could never again be certain of its strength, loyalty and effectiveness in the Americas.

Interested in Brazil’s cultural powerhouse?

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 7.54.26 PM

I’ve mentioned Eyes On Recife a few times on this blog before and I thought once more couldn’t hurt. As it stands, I’ve got over 100 posts about the city and the local culture, and 50 people receiving each post in their email box!

So if you want to know why many people, Brazilians and foreigners alike, mention Recife (and Olinda) as one of Brazil’s cultural hotspots, reading Eyes on Recife does a good job on telling you why. In the meantime, academic types should feel free to check out the Research Papers page for downloadable PDFs on Recife, while others can check out a biologist who brings color and life to the caatinga, the history behind Casas Pernambucanas (and why Pernambuco isn’t home to one), the legacy of the multi-talented Mestre Salu, Olinda’s mamulengo museum, Black Tuesdays celebrating Afro-Brazilian culture, what made the Boa Viagem neighborhood so coveted, or why Recife is called the Brazilian Venice.

I’ll leave you with Master Spok’s frevo concert.

And then came Recife

With the full realization that I’ve previously introduced you to Eyes On Belém, Eyes On Rio, Eyes On Salvador, Eyes On Colombia, Eyes On Portugal, Eyes On Portuguese and surely a few others (Eyes On Acre, anyone?), here’s a project I’m currently working on in an effort to teach myself about a place I’ve never been, Recife….here’s Eyes On Recife.

Brazil’s Northeast Gets Its Boom – LA Times

Just a throwback to how I used to post…If you are interested in Recife, check out my new blog, Eyes On Recife.

“RECIFE, Brazil — The Brazilian state of Pernambuco was once known for its vast plains of parched dirt and roving bandits called cangacos, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

For later generations, escaping the widespread poverty of the northeast customarily meant moving to livelier southeastern cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, though many migrants still ended up living in favelas, or slums.

Today, an economic boom has given locals good reasons to stay put, and large numbers of Brazilians are even making their way north in search of a better life.

The area around Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, has benefited from huge government and business investments such as the expansion of the port of Suape, a new shipyard and an oil refinery project. Government aid has also helped struggling families improve their lives, which has lessened the need to move elsewhere.”


Italy in Pernambuco

Too early for Carnival? Afraid so. Too early to dream (and possibly plan)? Of course not!

My last mention of the party of all parties revolved around the city of Recife but I´d bet that few have heard of the Italianesque Carnival of inland Pernambuco. A little more than 60 miles from Recife lies the city of Bezerros, often called the Land of Papangus. A Pap-what, you ask? A Papangu! Its a person that disguises themself with a Venetian-like mask and a long tunic, among other things, during Carnival-time across Pernambuco, especially in the city of Bezerros where such traditions are strongest.

The unique custom dates back to around 1880´s when the “papa-angu” was born from tomfoolery instigated by the relatives of sugar cane barons during Carnival celebrations. There, they would eat “angu”, (a coarse polenta) which is a typical food of the semi-arid regions of the Northeast. The verb papar, in kid-speak, means to eat, thus the name papa-angu. Tiny tikes, as it turns out, don´t always take a liking to the costumed crowd. Looking at the picture below, I can see why.

Generally, nothing can be discerned from seeing a papangu on the street, aside from their height and manner of movement. Who they are, whether they be male or female, old or young, is unknown. The revelers even go so far as to hide their costumes as they are being created in order to provide complete anonymity. One would think that such secrecy would presumably make it hard for groups to form, or in the very least, to know who is who, though hitting the streets with friends and family is quite popular..

If you´re interested in a visit next year, be mindful that the 2011 version attracted 200,000 people just on Carnival Sunday, the most popular day during the festivities and also when best costumes are chosen. Although it is likely you´d never be able to tell in the midst of all the costumed fun, residents of Recife are said to “religiously” attend during the weekend and it´s not even uncommon for some families to have a country house there as well.

Hopefully, Carnival revelry isn´t all you carve out for your trip inland. The beautiful vistas of the Serra Negra Ecological Park can be appreciated nearby, too.

Roosters in Recife Sing Frevo

The largest Carnival bloco in the world is said to be in Recife and you can find it on Saturday during the week of Carnival in the central neighborhood of São José. It goes by the name of the Galo da Madrugada (The Early Morning Rooster) and it’s pretty hard to miss, just find the giant shiny rooster towering above thousands of people. If you’re more of an observer, perhaps you can find a seafaring local to let you board their boat to watch from the sidelines on the Capibaribe River. However, it’s wise to be aware of what you’ll be missing out on.

The passo is the dance of the frevo, an accelerated polka-like dance best associated with Recife’s Carnival. While there’s no fighting involved in the modern-day frevo-de-rua, its origins point back to the time when knife-carrying capoeiristas traded fighting for dancing and knives for umbrellas. The frevo then spent an entire century marinating under the Pernambucan sun and eventually amalgamating with other styles such as the maxixe, the marcha and elements of capoeira.

If you find luck on your side and end up in Recife during Carnival this year, welcome the weekend with a different kind of rooster and let the frevo give you fervor…which should be easy enough since the two words are related.

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

Escola do Frevo – Pernambuco

In the comments of my recent article on Carnival and Frevo in Recife (you can find a link to it a few posts down from this one), a video was posted about a Frevo school in Pernambuco which won 2nd place at an international dance contest in New York. Excellent stuff!