10. Heroes

Ever since the 1922 Modern Art Week, Brazil has been creating its own heroes, authentic interpreters of the ethnic fusion of the country, expressed through art, literature and music. And the star footballer also became a national hero. In the 1930s, football became a cultural phenomenon. Alongside Villa-Lobos, Drummond and Portinari stand Leônidas da Silva and Domingos da Guia. This was the era of radio, of idols and the masses. The face of Brazil emerged through music and football. Football tells us about ourselves, lives within us, becomes part of our common history. All this is shown in a remarkable installation where moving trihedrons display 20 heroes, and the life of the period in a 10 minute film. The biographies of the artists are projected onto the front wall.





(Caetité, BA, 1900 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1971). One of the great Brazilian educators, he said that “to learn is to find a way to live one’s life.” His vision of quality public education, which began in the 1920s, encouraged personal judgment instead of rote memorising, calling for a type of full-time schooling that truly educated the student. His ideas, even today, are at the forefront of educational thinking.


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1897 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1976). A painter and one of the key figures of the 1922 Modern Art Week, he spent his time in Rio de Janeiro and Paris, but always kept one eye on Brazil and Brazilian themes: mulattos, Carnaval, the hills of the poor neighbourhoods, scoundrels, fishermen, strolling musicians. At a time when painting was academic, Di Cavalcanti created a vibrant art, full of European influences but made vibrant with the presence of sensuality. He interpreted in paint what Gilberto Freyre revealed in words: the strength of the mixture and the miscegenation of Brazil.


(Recife, PE, 1900 – Recife, PE, 1987). An anthropologist who in the 1920s dared to celebrate miscegenation as a key factor in the development of Brazil and Brazilians when he wrote “Casa Grande & Senzala” (“The Masters and the Slaves” in its English version), a fundamental text of Brazilian anthropology, which analysed the country’s ethnic origins: the white European, the indigenous peoples and the black African. He said: “Every Brazilian, no matter how blonde his hair, carries in his body and soul, a hint of indigenous people or black Brazilians. In our gentleness, our excessive gesturing, our music, gait, way of speaking…” Freyre helped to overturn the theories of the time that believed in the superiority of the white man and explained human development based on racial, climactic and geographic factors.


(Capivari, SP, 1886 – São Paulo, SP, 1973). The “Little Country Girl”, as she was known, spent her childhood on a farm in the São Paulo countryside and brought Brazilian legends and imagination to her painting. Married to the poet Oswald de Andrade, she exhibited her work at the 1922 Modern Art Week as part of the Antropophagic Movement. Created by Oswald and Raul Bopp with the aim of absorbing European culture and transforming it into something genuinely Brazilian, the great symbol of the movement was Tarsila’s painting, “O Abaporu”, a word in the Tupi-Guarani language that means “the man who eats”, or the cannibal. Her work also displays scenes of day to day life and of ordinary Brazilians and Brazilian life.


(Fortaleza, CE, 1910 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 2003). A north easterner of remarkable talent who published her first book when she was just 20. And what a book it was. “O Quinze” (“The Fifteen”), shows the struggle of the poor in the semi-arid region of Brazil. Rachel became the first woman to enter the Academia Brasileira de Letras, the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Staying close to her roots, she wrote a large part of her 43 books at the Não me Deixes farm, in Quixadá, in Ceará. Many of these books were turned into films or TV dramas, such as “Memorial de Maria Moura” and “Dôra, Doralina”.


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1887 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1959). Self-taught in the classical style, he joined a group of “choro” musicians aged 18 and went traveling through Brazil, absorbing himself in the popular rhythms and themes which he would later recreate in classical music. The poet Manuel Bandeira de Villa said: “He was a true genius. The most authentic we’ve ever had, if one day we have another.” Villa-Lobos is the author of over a thousand works, including the nine “Bachianas Brasileiras”, which influenced generations of composers, including Tom Jobim. He was instrumental in establishing the teaching of music in Brazilian education and a master of combining popular and classical sources, bringing miscegenation to the field of music.


(Rio de Janeiro, 1913 – Cotia, SP, 2004). Although he emerged a little after Domingos, he soon surpassed his popularity. The top goal scorer and the best player at the 1938 World Cup, he was the perfect striker: intelligent, cunning, agile, flexible (“the Rubber Man”, according to the French press), a great dribbler and clinical finisher. The “bicycle kick” which he invented, became his trademark. He won titles at every club he played for in Rio de Janeiro and in São Paulo from 1934 to 1949. No other player was held in the same regard at the time. For his worth and his ability he was nicknamed the “Black Diamond”.


(São Borja, RS, 1882 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1954). Leader of Brazil for almost a quarter of a century, he assumed the presidency during the 1930 Revolution. He was deposed in 1945 before being re-elected in 1950. During these two periods, he left an indelible mark on the history of Brazil, creating labour laws, building steelworks, and creating Petrobras, the giant Brazilian oil company. He was also the first Brazilian leader to speak to his people via radio. He governed through democracy and dictatorship and brought social and democratic progress, but there were also those who fiercely opposed his ideas. In August 1954, following intense political pressure, Vargas shot himself in the heart, leaving a suicide note that summed up the nationalist feeling of the period: “These people to whom I was a slave, shall be slaves to no one.”


(Recife, PE, 1912— Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1980). He revolutionized Brazilian theatre when, in 1943, his play “Wedding Dress” was staged at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. There for the first time, the day to day hubbub of the streets became theatre. The playwright wrote another 16 plays, such as “Bonitinha, mas Ordinária“(Pretty, but Ordinary”) and “O Beijo no Asfalto” (“The Kiss on the Asphalt”). As a football journalist, he wrote a number of memorable lines: “The player is our society in shorts and boots. He represents our defects and our virtues. Summing up: the player shoots for 100 million Brazilians. And every goal he scores, he scores for all of us”.


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1910-1937). Noel was a songwriter during the so-called Golden Era of Brazilian music. He reinvented popular lyrics, and his words – steeped in storytelling, humour, the mention of popular brands and bohemian philosophy – replaced the more pretentious tone of romantic music. His enthusiasm for composing and playing with black musicians, in the 1930s, helped bring middle class, urban samba, and the samba produced by “the songwriters from the poor neighbourhoods up on the hill” closer together.


(Brodósqui, SP, 1903 – Rio, 1962). The son of Italian immigrants, he helped painters to restore the local church when he was just 9 years old. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts and focused on paintings of Brazilian life – including boys playing football. He painted the masterpiece “War and Peace”, which today hangs in the UN building in New York. His work is a portrait of the mestiço and diverse Brazil, which the extraordinary painter had the courage to reproduce on canvas.


(Taubaté, SP, 1882 – São Paulo, SP, 1948). “I ended up creating books where children might live”. It’s hard to deny: the characters he created in his children’s literature include Little Nose, Emilia the doll and Viscount Sabugosa – who all lived at the “Sítio do Picapau Amarelo” (“the Yellow Woodpecker Ranch”). From 1920 onwards Lobato revolutionised books for children and young people by basing his stories in the small towns of the countryside. As well as this, he was a great nationalist, and was convinced that Brazil possessed large deposits of oil. It turns out he was right!


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1897 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1973). In reality, Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho was the composer of classical works, such as “Carinhoso”, which he wrote when he was just 20 years old. The songwriter was part of the Oito Batutas group, in which he played the flute, in 1919, when they made the “choros” and “maxixes” styles popular in the dance halls. Other songwriters such as Pixinguinha took the music of the time to new heights of creativity, led by: Dorival Caymmi (“O Samba da Minha Terra”), Ary Barroso (“Aquarela do Brasil”) and Noel Rosa (“Conversa de Botequim”).


(São Paulo, SP, 1902 – São Paulo, SP, 1982). A deep thinker about Brazil and its roots. In 1936 he published “Raízes do Brasil” (“Roots of Brazil”), a book that, like “The Master and The Slaves” by Gilberto Freyre, presented an innovative approach to the origins of the Brazilian people. In the book Sérgio Buarque focused on the differences between the colonisation of different parts of America and how Brazil was affected by an Iberian, notably Portuguese, influence. Brazil inherited, according to Buarque, the habits, courageous spirit, ability to adapt to varying social conditions, cordial nature (characterised by intimacy and informality of language such as the use of diminutives), the gestures and the manner of interaction of its colonisers. If these characteristics affected the Brazilian identity in a positive manner, contrastingly, as the author points out, the habit of prioritising personal interests and those of the individual at the expense of the public good is a negative legacy. He had seven children – one of whom was the singer-songwriter Chico Buarque.


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1912 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 2000). The first black Brazilian footballing hero. He had a classical, elegant, languid style, with an awareness of space that allowed him to get to the ball just ahead of his opponent. He created his own way of playing, in contrast to the then typical more limited style of the centre back as a marker and blocker. He was the first to dribble and pass his way out of defence, options that until then had only been open to midfielders and strikers. He played from 1929 to 1948 and was an idol and title winner in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, where he became known as the “Divine Master”. He was also an idol at Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, where he played from 1944 to 1947.


(Portugal, 1909 – USA, 1955). Born in Portugal, she came to Brazil when she was just ten months old and ended up becoming an ambassador for the sounds and colours of the country when in 1939 she moved to the USA to perform in films such as “That Night in Rio” and “Copacabana”. With a towering headdress and bananas on her head, gigantic platform heels and red lipstick, Carmen – the “Little Bombshell” – swayed her hands in her own unique style as she sang and danced “O Que É Que a Baiana Tem?” (“What Is It About Bahian Women?”), written by Dorival Caymmi, another talented Brazilian from this period.


(Itabira do Mato Dentro, MG, 1902 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1987). The poet who wrote “I have only two hands / and all the feeling in the world”. It was this feeling that Drummond put down on paper, changing the way in which we used the Portuguese language and giving a new freedom to the words: “I will not rhyme the word “sono” (dream) / with the altogether different word “outono” (autumn) / I will rhyme it with the word meat or any other / that suits me”. His poems became songs such as: “E Agora, José?” (“What Now, José?”). Drummond also wrote short stories about football.


(São Paulo, 1893 – São Paulo, SP, 1945). A key figure in this period of history. He corresponded with dozens of writers and artists, encouraging their work and suggesting ideas. He created the founding text of the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico Nacional, and was always conscious of what made Brazil. Leaving São Paulo, he travelled around the north and north east of Brazil, a trip that, surrounded for the first time by regional sounds, folklore, habits, dances and sayings, resulted in the book “O Turista Aprendiz” (“The Apprentice Tourist”). He is the author of “Macunaíma”, which later became a film.


(Itabuna, BA, 1912 – Salvador, BA, 2001). One of the great writers of the 1930s, a period in which strong regional literary movements emerged in Brazil, especially in the north east, spawning books such as “O Quinze” (“The Fifteen”) by Rachel de Queiroz from Ceará, “Vidas Secas” (“Dry Lives”), by Graciliano Ramos from Alagoas, “Menino de Engenho” (“Boy From The Plantation”), by José Lins do Rego from Paraíba, and “O País do Carnaval” (“The Country of Carnaval”), by Jorge Amado in Bahia. “A romantic and sensual Bahian”, as he described himself, Amado is one of the Brazilian writers who has been most translated into other languages and is the author of masterpieces such as “Gabriela, Cravo e Canela” (“Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon”) and “Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos” (“Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”).


(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1907 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 2012). One of the most important architects of the 20th century, he explained: “It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free, sensual curve, the curve that I see in the mountains of Brazil, and in the sinuous bends of the river, the waves of the sea, the body of the woman I love. The universe is made up of curves, the curved universe of Einstein”. He created, with Lúcio Costa, the urban plan of the national capital, Brasília, as well as the architectural designs of the regions of Pampulha, in Belo Horizonte, and Ibirapuera, in São Paulo.