Juca Pato – The Politics of Humor

(His slogan: “Podia ser pior” – “It could be worse”)

Juca Pato was a creation of the cartoonist, illustrator, painter, historian and journalist Benedito Carneiro Bastos Barreto, known by his pseudonym Belmonte. From the 1920’s to the 1940’s, he had his satirical illustrations shown in the newspaper Folha da Noite (later called Folha da Manhã and now known as Folha de São Paulo). From the start of the 30’s and the coup d’etat led by Getúlio Vargas, the DIP (Dept. of Propaganda) prohibited Belmonte from critisizing the Brazilian government through the use of humor, something he had been doing quite successfully throughout the 1920’s (and which was ironically also temporarily prohibited in the current 2010 Presidential race in Brazil).


Belmonte’s signature caricature was Juca Pato and the only role that characterized protest for more than 20 years. Juca Pato was the voice of the non-conformists, of the ‘Zé Povinho que sempre paga o pato” (Joe Blow that always gets blamed for everything), he was the common citizen, the worker, the honest one, the tax payer. Juca was often perplexed and irritated at the cost of life, at bureaucracy, political corruption and the exploitation of the people.

The well-humored figure known as Juca Pato spoke the language of the people – he became the name of a race horse, brand of notebook, cigar, bleach, coffee and the unforgetable Juca Pato Bar, in downtown São Paulo, the meeting point for the bohemians of the city, mainly theater actors, radio personalities and soccer players. Back in the late twenties up until the 1940’s, one could ask popular opinion on the streets of São Paulo who best represented them and the answer was likely to be ‘Juca Pato’. I think it’s time Juca gets brought into the 21st century.

Short Documentary (in PT)
Article on Belmonte & Juca (in PT)
Archive of Belmonte texts (in PT)
Banning Political Humor in Brazil – Time