The State and Brazilian literature: A Retirada da Laguna

Map of Brazil courtesy of Gualberto107 at
Map of Brazil courtesy of Gualberto107 at

In the early 1990s, when I was doing fieldwork on the history of military terror in Brazil, an academic told me about his “projetos da gaveta.” I didn’t understand this term, which he explained referred to projects that one starts but neither completes nor abandons, hence the term “projects in the drawer.” I think that most people, and certainly not only academics, have such a project. One of mine was a study of a Brazilian book about a disastrous retreat during the Paraguayan war called A Retirada da Laguna. I started this project perhaps 15 years ago, and now realize that I’m unlikely to ever finish it for publication in an academic journal, especially as I am happily working on the second edition of this textbook. But for anyone curious to learn more about this marvelous book, and the film that it inspired, I’m posting a copy of my paper below:

Patriotism and Brothels: Nationalism and a Forgotten Brazilian “Classic.”

In 1871 Alfredo d’Escragnolle Taunay published A Retirada da Laguna: Episódio da Guerra do Paraguai, which told the story of a disastrous Brazilian retreat during the Paraguayan War (1865-1870).  His book appealed to the patriotism of Brazil’s civil-military elites, who ensured both the book’s publication and its success.  Taunay went on to become a major figure in Brazil’s romantic movement in literature, as well as a successful politician.  He would not be remembered, however, for this initial work of non-fiction, but rather for novel Inocência, which was published in 1872.  While well received A Retirada da Laguna (the Retreat from Laguna) did not enter the canon of Brazil’s literary masterworks, nor did it achieve the fame of other historical accounts, such as Euclydes da Cunha’s Os Sertões.[1]  Although Brazilian publishers have reissued A Retirada da Laguna at least sixteen times over the ensuing one hundred and thirty-one years, they have mainly done so because of the patronage of the Brazilian state. The Brazilian government also encouraged sculptors, filmmakers, musicians, and authors to adopt this work as a source of inspiration because it formed part of a larger cultural project, which ensured that the book was not forgotten.  While important in itself as a powerful historical narrative, in some respects what is most remarkable about A Retirada da Laguna is what its various interpretations tell us about state’s involvement in artistic patronage, as part of a larger project of nation building.  By using Taunay’s work as a historical lens, we can see the tension in Brazilian politics between nationalist mythologies and regional identities, as the state sought to use the memory of the Paraguayan War to its advantage.

A Retirada da Laguna


Alfredo d’Escragnolle Taunay’s work, A Retirada da Laguna recounted a terrible event that occurred during the Paraguayan War (which is sometimes also called the War of the Triple Alliance).  Although the origins of the war are complex, the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López began the fighting by invading Brazilian and Argentine territory.  The ensuing conflict pitted Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina against Paraguay, in a hopeless struggle that cost the lives of between sixty and sixty-nine percent of Paraguay’s population.  The Paraguayans fought so fanatically that by the end of the war for every man in Paraguay, there were four to five women.[2]  During this conflict, the Brazilian emperor, Pedro II, dispatched a column to invade Paraguay through the neighboring Brazilian province of Mato Grosso.  Shortly after entering Paraguayan territory, enemy troops forced this Brazilian force to retreat.  Among the members of this retreating army was Alfredo d’Escragnolle Taunay, whose father had personally petitioned the Brazilian monarch to ensure his son a place in the expedition.[3]

Taunay witnessed the suffering of not only the soldiers, but also the many women and children who had accompanied the column as camp-followers, as they fell to cholera and other illnesses, hunger, exposure, fires and enemy forces.  The expedition’s leader Colonel Carlos de Moraes Camisão died, as did its guide, José Francisco Lopes.  The expedition had taken two years to organize and was destroyed in little more than a month. By the time it reached a place of safety thirty-five days after beginning the retreat, approximately 700 soldiers were still alive of the 1,680 men who had set out.[4]  There are no figures for the losses among the women and children.


Prompted by his father, Taunay wrote the first draft of his book in twenty days based on entries in his diary.  The final result was only fifty pages long, and it attracted little attention when it was published in 1868.[5]  At the insistence of the Minister of War, however, Taunay published a complete version of his work in 1871.[6]  The book’s reception and longevity can be credited not only to its literary merits, but also to its political value.  As José Murilo de Carvalho has argued, the Paraguayan War did more than any other event during the Empire to create a sense of national identity, as the mobilization of the troops and the cost of this conflict reached all corners of Brazil.[7]  As Taunay recounted the extreme suffering endured by officers and men from all regional and racial backgrounds, he created a sense of common national purpose, in a country that still lacked a powerful national identity.

The Weakness of Brazilian Nationalism


After Brazil achieved independence from Portugal in 1822 it had only a weak sense of nationhood.  In 1824 the province of Pernambuco had rebelled against central rule, and between 1832 and 1845 Brazil endured five major rebellions, some of which had a strongly regional character.  During these conflicts three provinces –Bahia, Pará, and Rio Grande do Sul– declared their independence.[8]  Although such rebellions faded once Dom Pedro II ascended to the throne, Brazil remained a country divided into powerful provinces that commanded deep loyalties.  Only the figure of the emperor held Brazil together in the face of regional sentiment, but the first Portuguese monarch in Brazil, Dom João VI, and his son, Pedro I, had both proved to be bitterly unpopular.  Dom João’s rule had been rocked by scandal, particularly the outrageous behavior of his wife Carlota.  Pedro I declared Brazil’s independence, but he then plunged his country into debt with Great Britain, led Brazil into a disastrous war with Argentina, and scandalized Brazilians with his affair with the Marquise of Santos.  By 1831 there were street demonstrations against his rule and he abdicated the throne and returned to Portugal when his son was only five years old.  Given the Brazilian perception that João VI and Pedro I were pro-Portuguese, and the youth of Pedro II during the regency, the figure of the emperor alone was not enough to create a strong national identity.  It was not until the Paraguayan War that a nationalist project became important to either the Brazilian state or the oligarchy.

As Francisco Alembert has argued, the Paraguayan War had an immense cultural impact upon Brazil. Intellectuals such as Machado de Assis interpreted the war as a struggle between civilization and barbarism (and indeed in 1928 the Brazilian intellectual Baptista Pereira wrote a book on the Paraguayan War with this title), although they also perceived the contradictions and ambiguities in such nationalistic and civilizing narratives.  Taunay himself had been struck by the extent to which many Brazilians in Mato Grosso had been indifferent to the war.  He wrote his work in part to show Brazilians that in a dangerous world it was important for people to have the protection of the nation-state, and that they should therefore not take the existence of a national identity for granted.[9]  This message resonated with both the elites and the army in the post-war period.

Throughout the Empire (1822- 1889) Brazilian elites wished to ensure the power of the state governments that they dominated.  For this reason they traditionally sought to keep the central state weak, while they also tried to check the power of the army, which they feared as an agent of the national government outside their control.  Given this conservative world-view, the rural oligarchy embraced the Emperor as a symbol of Brazil, while rejecting policies that strengthened the national state.  Nonetheless, Brazilian elites embraced Taunay’s work upon its publication, because his nationalist vision meshed with their own “civilizing” and “European” narrative, which defended the oligarchy’s privileged position in society.  For this reason they were not offended that that the book was originally published in French (a Portuguese version was published in 1874), or that Taunay initially sought a European audience for his work.[10]  Brazilian elites were ashamed of their nation’s cultural and racial heritage and looked to Europe — especially to France— for a cultural identity.[11] Taunay stated that he drew inspiration from Xenophon’s Retreat of the Ten Thousand, and other accounts of great retreats, including the flight of the French from Moscow in 1812.[12]  This approach matched the racial and cultural context that shaped the cultural life of the Empire. In a nation that did not abolish slavery until 1888, many inhabitants were not citizens, and many free people were held to be inferior.  Brazilian slave-owners sent their slaves to fight during the Paraguayan War, while worrying that the lack of troops at home might encourage a slave uprising.[13] Taunay’s depiction of a united Brazil struggling to overcome a despotic enemy was a reflection of the fears of the Brazilian upper class, which was concerned about maintaining its “European” identity in the tropics.  Accordingly, Brazilian politicians and intellectuals who mistrusted the power of the central government in Rio de Janeiro nonetheless embraced A Retirada da Laguna as a great national work.

The Brazilian army had even more powerful reasons for adopting this book for political ends. Army officers believed that they had saved the nation from disaster, despite the corruption and treachery of the rural elites.  They seized upon Taunay’s work as evidence of the military’s patriotism.[14]  The nationalist projects of both the elites and the army contained contradictions.  Despite these tensions, however, both the elites and the army found material to support their political goals in Taunay’s history.

The Political Significance of Taunay’s Work


Although Taunay’s work was embraced by the elites when it was published in 1871, it assumed the status of an important icon in political culture only during the waning days of the Old Republic (1889-1930), when nationalism began to acquire a new character.  Rapid urbanization, industrialization, and the creation of new transportation networks profoundly altered Brazil’s older, rural lifestyle.  Large-scale immigration and foreign investment encouraged a new kind of Brazilian identity.  Nationalism became an increasingly powerful discourse that Brazilian elites used to attack the labor movement, which was portrayed as being somehow “foreign” and dangerous.[16]  The army also manipulated nationalist rhetoric to challenge its opponents among the regional oligarchies, and to advocate increasing its power within the state.

Even though one author (Eduardo de Noronha, O Guia de Matto Grosso) had reworked Taunay’s story to create another novel early in the twentieth century, it was only with these profound social changes in Brazil that Taunay’s work became a major artistic motif.[17]  Since the 1920s sculptors, filmmakers, authors, and musicians have sought inspiration in this story.  Because Taunay’s work proved to be an effective vehicle for those with nationalist goals, the Brazilian state acted as patron for artists reinterpreting his narrative.  The case of one particular monument illustrates the political significance that Taunay’s account acquired.


In 1920 students at the Escola Militar do Realengo decided to raise funds for a monument to commemorate the heroes of the Paraguayan War, in particular those who died during the retreat from Laguna.[18]  They chose to build this memorial at the military base of Praia Vermelha, in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, near iconic Sugarloaf.  The huge granite monument was surrounded by sculptures in bronze depicting the scenes described in Taunay’s work, such as the forced march, the saving of the cannons, and the evacuation of cholera victims.  The bronze for this relief came from cannons used during the war itself.  The key theme of the monument was patriotism and sacrifice and the artist who constructed it, Antonino Pinto de Mattos, carried this theme into his choice of the three individuals whose sculptures encircled the base of the obelisk.  One soldier, lieutenant Antônio João Ribeiro, had died during a small skirmish in the war and the other two individuals were José Francisco Lopes and Colonel Carlos de Moraes Camisão, the two central figures in Taunay’s story, both of whom died during the retreat.

It took nearly twenty years for the memorial to be completed, in part because of its scale.  Throughout this period, different regimes seized upon the monument to promote a specific form of state-controlled and pro-regime nationalism.  In particular, the memorial became a potent political symbol during the administration of Getúlio Vargas (1930-45).  After leading an uprising that ended the Old Republic in 1930, Vargas maneuvered through years of political crisis.  He seized upon a Communist uprising within the army in 1935 to justify the introduction of harsh measures to silence political dissent.  He then brilliantly neutralized his political opponents through a complex series of maneuvers, which allowed him to ultimately found the authoritarian Estado Novo (1937-1945) in alliance with the army.[19]  This regime strongly favored political centralization, and a powerful role for the state in society, the economy, and culture.


Vargas also sought to use nationalism to legitimate his regime, to strengthen the state, and to undermine the power of regional leaders.  As a populist, he was sensitive to rhetoric that would rally the masses.  One of his first acts as the head of the Estado Novo was to set fire to all the state flags in a public ceremony on November 29, 1937.[20]  This political theater proved to be popular with the army, which during the early 1930s had feared that Brazil’s lack of a national identity might cause the nation to collapse into warring republics.  In 1934 General Pedro Aurélio de Góes Monteiro had warned Vargas that the Brazilian nation was in danger of “disappearing.”[21]  The President assuaged the army’s concerns by placing the state militias under the military’s control, and by launching a propaganda campaign to promote Brazilian nationalism, in the context of a strongly centralizing regime.  For this reason, Vargas’s administration gave unprecedented attention to cultural policy.

The monument at Praia Vermelha proved to be politically useful for Vargas’s government.  Vargas attended the memorial’s official inauguration on December 29, 1938, in a carefully choreographed piece of symbolism meant to appeal to the military.  He was also present on November 15, 1941 when the army entombed the remains of many of the heroes of the Paraguayan War (most of whom had participated in the retreat from Laguna, such as Colonel Camisão and the guide Lopes) within a special crypt at the monument’s base.  Significantly, the remains of several soldiers had been brought to the memorial from Mato Grosso, a fact which has since caused resentment, and a call for their return.[22]  Much like Vargas’s earlier public display with the state flags, this crypt and its decoration depicted the power of the central state and official nationalism.

Alma do Brasil


The new forces in Brazilian politics created tensions between older regional loyalties and the newer vision of a unified nation.  These contradictions posed a serious problem for a director named Líbero Luxardo, who seized upon the nationalist symbolism surrounding Taunay’s work to make a film.  In 1931 he and the producer, Alexandre Wulfes, had begun to film the maneuvers of General Bertoldo Klinger in a remote area of Mato Grosso.  Luxardo then decided to seek General Klinger’s assistance to create a film based on Taunay’s work, which would be called Alma do Brasil.  Klinger readily agreed, and with his support the film cost very little to make, because he furnished “almost everything,” including “men, horses, lances, rifles, and even I think cannon.”[23]

The filmmakers used nationalist sentiment to appeal not only to army generals, but also to the ordinary people who would be the extras in their production.  The day before shooting was to begin, Luxardo needed to find extras for his film and he went to a “cabaret” (brothel) called Fecha Nunca (Never Closes).  He ordered the musicians to stop playing and prepared to speak to the assembled crowd, as he later recalled:

. . . I climbed onto a raised part where the orchestra played music, and I began to speak to those people, and I spoke, spoke, spoke.  I don’t know what happened, and I think that I was reaching them, because when I stopped speaking, I said this: the path is there outside.  Whoever wants to serve this Brazil, whoever wants to work for the greatness of our country, bringing life to the most brave, the most heroic page in the history of this country, will take this path and follow me.  Well, no-one remained in the cabaret.  Even the owner of the establishment closed it and left.”[24] This rhetoric proved to be highly effective.  About four hundred people joined the cast of the film, including forty women, many of whom had worked as prostitutes at Fecha Nunca.[25]


It is difficult to tell what motivated these people to accept this unpaid work.  Alexandre Wulfes made it clear that they expected food, alcohol, and entertainment.  Every day during filming, in the small hours of the morning, he traveled to town to buy bread and a supply of cachaça (sugar-cane rum) for the crew: “Because if they arrived in the morning and didn’t see the big jar of cachaça there, ready for them to drink, the group wouldn’t have wanted to work.”[26]  Many people probably chose to participate because the film brought excitement to a remote area of a rural state.  But these were not wealthy individuals, and they were not paid for their labors.  It also seems plausible that Luxardo’s nationalist appeal also struck an emotional chord, and that some people wanted to participate in a project that they believed it was important.

The Filmmakers Face a Crisis


Yet in many respects the nationalist image that the film projected was false.  Even today separatist ideals survive in southern Brazil that are a cause for concern for the army.  According to a poll taken by the Bonilha Institute in the early 1990s, “41% of southerners, including (the state of) São Paulo, would vote in favor of a Brazil of the south.”[27]  Until the establishment of the Estado Novo in 1937, the Brazilian government had been controlled by a handful of powerful states, which defended their independence using powerful state militias.  Rio Grande do Sul in 1930 had a better-armed brigade than any similar force in the federal army.[28]  In the early 1930s this situation threatened Vargas’s government because many states were angry that they had lost the power and privilege that they had held under the Old Republic.  Nowhere was this more true than in São Paulo, which on July 9, 1932, rose in revolt against the central government.  The rebellion appealed to separatist sentiments, but the federal government successfully put it down after three months of fighting.  Nevertheless, the uprising revealed the weakness of the bonds that united Brazil and it also created a crisis for the filmmakers, because the military leader of the rebellion was General Klinger, the patron of their film.[29]

Luxardo and Wulfes were trapped between the myth of nationalism that they had tried to create in the film, and the true power of regionalism in Brazilian politics.  In 1932 the filmmakers were showing the film at the Cinema Eldorado in Rio de Janeiro when, in the midst of the presentation, government censors arrived and seized the film.  The filmmakers immediately appealed against the government’s actions, but they were told that they would have to cut out all the scenes in which General Klinger appeared.  They argued that they could not do such editing because the film had a sound track on a phonograph record, to which no adjustments could be made.  The filmmakers solicited help from Filinto Muller, the head of the police and fortunately for them, he was from Mato Grosso, so they could appeal to his regional allegiance to gain support for their film.  It was perhaps only because of this regional tie that this “nationalist” film was shown.


The filmmakers replaced the scenes that featured General Klinger with black (in this otherwise black and white film they also used just a “little risky” flash of red for these sections) so that people would know when material had been cut by the censors.  When Luxardo and Wulfes exhibited the film, the audience (unfortunately we do not who they were) exploded in applause each time the screen went black.  The filmmakers triumphed, and their film played in both Brazil and Portugal.[30]  Still, their work would know be largely forgotten if it was not for the patronage of the state. FUNARTE, a branch of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, now sells it as part of the “Treasures of Latin American Cinema” series produced in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico.  This effort produces rare works that would not be reproduced without help from the government, and it is this patronage that has kept this film from vanishing.

The Role of State Patronage

The reasons for the film’s survival and success have little to do with its inherent merit.  It was not an artistic masterpiece; it never had a script, and only one actress was paid to star in it.  The film lacked a clear plot, and largely consisted of a series of striking but scattered scenes from Taunay’s book, such as the retreat through the backlands, the Paraguayan massacre of Brazilian cholera victims, and the death of Colonel Camisão.  Yet the film has survived because of its appeal to Brazilians’ patriotism.  In one scene, for example, a tired, elderly white man called to a passing black soldier to help him and the soldier said that yes, “my brother,” he would carry him from there.  This image of unity across racial lines meshed with the vision of racial democracy soon to be articulated by Gilberto Freyre, and which became an important component of Brazil’s nationalist mythology.[31]  In another scene, a Brazilian officer risked the flames of a grass-fire (which had been lit by the Paraguayans) to rescue an abandoned baby.  This image promoted a benign image of the Brazilian military, an important political actor in national politics.  Luxardo and Wulfes’ film typified the nationalist interpretations of Taunay’s work at the time and this imagery has retained sufficient power to be successful today. State patronage now ensures the film’s survival, much as it fostered the film’s creation in the 1930s.

The Reinterpretation of A Retirada da Laguna


The state has continued to aid some recent interpretations of Taunay’s work.  For example, the Brazilian composer César Guerra Peixe has written a symphony titled A Retirada da Laguna, which recounts Taunay’s story in musical form.  Guerra Peixe originally formed part of the música viva movement inspired by European composers, but in 1950 he moved to Recife where he began a careful study of Brazilian folk music.  He then went on to become one of Brazil’s most famous nationalist composers, whose oeuvre was typified by its patriotic appeal.[32]  In his symphony A Retirada da Laguna Guerra Peixe used each movement to represent an event during the retreat.  Movement eight, for example, was “The death of the Guide Lopes.”  In so doing, Guerra Peixe sought to adapt classical music to a more nationalist format; at the same time his work also clearly emulated Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.  Much like Tchaikovsky he drew on a European sources of inspiration to create a nationalist work.  Despite this contradiction his symphony earned government support by appealing to nationalist sentiments, so successfully that FUNARTE (the same government body that has preserved Alma do Brasil) recently issued a CD of this work, in collaboration with the Brazilian bank Itáu.[33]  Guerra Peixe’s success illustrates the continued importance of state support for cultural reinterpretations of A Retirada da Laguna.


The only significant challenge to the dominant interpretation of Taunay’s work along nationalist lines has come from Domingos Pellegrini Junior.  This author has recently written a novel, Questão de Honra, which recounts the history of the retreat from Laguna through the eyes of a fictional participant in the debacle.  Decades after the retreat this character –a pacifist lieutenant named Rufino– recounts the story of his experience to a child whom he met during the retreat and then adopted. The novel is an indictment of the brutality and stupidity of war, which undermines the nationalist symbols that Taunay’s account seemed to advance.  At the same time, Rufino comes to realize his bond with Taunay, which perhaps symbolizes the sheer power of Taunay’s artistic accomplishment.[34]  In choosing to use Taunay’s work as a point of departure for a novel critical of Brazilian militarism and nationalism, Pellegrini himself acknowledged the seductive influence of the ideals Taunay promoted.  His originality lay in the fact that he still succeeded in reinterpreting Taunay’s work in a manner that subverted its usual subtext.


A Retirada da Laguna met with remarkable success after its publication because it accorded with a broader elite project to define a particular vision of the Brazilian nation.  For this reason, the state has continued to support interpretations of Taunay’s story in public monuments, art, music, and film.  This nationalist project has contained contradictions, which shaped this cultural expression in paradoxical ways.  Just as Taunay consciously drew on European works to create a national masterpiece so too did Cesar Guerra Peixe emulate Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture to compose a truly “national” symphony.  Moreover, even though A Retirada da Laguna formed part of a project to construct a national identity, the directors of Alma do Brasil nearly failed because of regional allegiances.

Despite these tensions, the Brazilian state has continued to promote this work over more than a century with considerable success.  If this story is thought of as a palimpsest, then its various constructions left traces revealing how different artists followed similar lines.  Recently Domingos Pelligrini Jr. reworked this paradigm in a novel, in which he sought to subvert the values conventionally associated with Taunay’s work.  It is perhaps not coincidental that this was the first expression of A Retirada da Laguna that a local power chose to support (a municipal government published the book) as opposed to the national government.  As a more democratic and sophisticated Brazil evaluates its cultural heritage, it will be interesting to see if new expressions of the viscount of Taunay’s work will also play with, challenge and invert old interpretations, and who the patrons of these works will be.


[1]For a discussion of Taunay’s place in Brazilian literature see Wilson Martin, História da inteligência brasileira, vol. IV and Antonio Cândido’s, Formação da literatura brasileira, Vol. 2.

[2].Thomas L. Whigham and Barbara Potthast, “The Paraguayan Rosetta Stone: New Insights into the Demographics of the Paraguayan War, 1864-1870,” Latin American Research Review 34:1 (1999), 185.  For a broad overview of the war see Maria Eduarda Castro Magalhães Marques, ed., A Guerra do Paraguai 130 Anos Depois (Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumará, 1995).

[3].Sergio Medeiros, “Introduction,” in A Retirada da Laguna: Episódio da guerra do Paraguai, by Alfredo d’Escragnolle-Taunay (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1997), 13.

[4].Capitão Cordolino de Azevedo, A Epopéia de Matto Grosso no Bronze de História (Location and Publisher Unknown, 1926), 35.

[5].Medeiros, 10.

[6].The government wished to use art and literature to rally Brazilians behind the war by having artists depict victories over Paraguay. E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 3rd. Ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 194.

[7].José Murilo de Carvalho, Pontos e Bordados: Escritos de História e Política (Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 1999), 246-247.

[8].Carvalho, Pontos e Bordados, 236.

[9] Francisco Alambert, “Civilização e Barbárie, História e Cultura: Representações literárias e projeções da Guerra do Paraguai nas crises do Segundo Reinado e da Premeira República,” 85-96 in Marques, A Guerra do Paraguai, 90-91.  For Alambert’s discussion of Machado de Assis see Ibid., 87-90.  For his discussion of Baptista Pereira see ibid., 92-95.  For the fact that the Brazilian state had also sought to portray the conflict as one between civilization and barbarism see Carvalho, Pontos e Bordados, 248.

[10].Medeiros, 10, 24.

[11].Teresa A. Meade, “Civilizing” Rio: Reform and Resistence in a Brazilian City, 1889-1930 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 9. Taunay himself had family connections with France through both his parents.  His paternal grandfather, for example, was a famous painter who had participated in the French artistic mission to Brazil that began in 1816.  For a discussion of Brazil’s cultural landscape from 1808 to 1930 see Daryle Williams, Culture Wars in Brazil: the First Vargas Regime, 1930-1945 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), chapter one.

[12].Alfredo d’Escragnolle Taunay, “Prologue,” in A Retirada da Laguna (Rio de Janeiro: Comp. Melhoramentos de São Paulo, 1936?), no page number.  See also Alembert, “Civilização e Barbárie,” 92.  In particular, there are many similarities between Taunay’s work and Count Philippe-Paul de Segur’s history. Count Philippe-Paul de Segur,  Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. Trans. J. David Townsend. Intro. Peter Gay (New York: Time Incorporated, 1958).

[13].Thomas Skidmore, Brazil: Five Centuries of Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 61.

[14].The military continues to celebrate this retreat.  For example, the anthem of the Military Police of São Paulo refers to this event with pride.  For the words to the anthem visit the following web address: (, date 5/15/00.

[15].John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 15-46.

[16].Steven Curtis Topik, “Economic Nationalism and the State in an Underdeveloped Country: Brazil 1889-1930,” (Ph.D. Thesis: University of Texas at Austin, 1978), 298-300.

[17].Eduardo de Noronha reworked Taunay’s A Retirada da Laguna to create a popular novel.  His book, perhaps modelled after American Westerns, failed to become artistically influential.  Eduardo de Noronha, O Guia de Matto Grosso (Coimbra: F. Amado, 1909).

[18].Gen. Flammarion Pinto de Campos, Monumento aos herois da Laguna e de Dourados (Rio de Janeiro: Liga da Defesa Nacional, 1963).  My discussion of the monument is based on this work and that of Captain Cordolino de Azevedo, A Epopéia de Matto Grosso no Bronze da História.  To view photographs of the monument visit the following web addresses: (a view of the monument from across a reflecting pool), date 5/15/00; (a detail of the sculpture, “Transporte dos Coléricos,” on the monument), date 5/15/00.

[19].For two studies of Vargas see Robert M. Levine, Father of the Poor? Vargas and his Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); John W. F Dulles, Vargas of Brazil: A Political Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).

[20].Thomas E. Skidmore, Politics in Brazil, 1930-1964: An Experiment in Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 37.

[21].See the letter from General Góes Monteiro to Getúlio Vargas of January 4, 1934, GV 34.01.04, CPDOC, Arquivo da Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro.

[22].For the call for the return of some remains to Mato Grosso see the following web-site: (, date 5/17.00.  Similarly, in 1937 Vargas’s government had repatriated from Africa the remains of the men who had led the Inconfidência,  a failed anti-monarchist uprising that took place in 1789.  For the centralization of Brazil’s historical patrimony during the Estado Novo, and this particular example, see Williams, Culture Wars in Brazil, chapter three.

[23]. José Octávio Guizzo, Alma do Brasil: o primeiro filme nacional de reconstição histórica, inteiramente sonorizado.  (Campo Grande-MS, Brazil: Impr. Universitária da UFMS, 1984), 28. It was Luxardo who understood the political significance of using Taunay’s work as an inspiration (and who as director planned the structure of the film), while Wulfes remained unaware of all but the technical questions involved in the filming.  When Guizzo interviewed him nearly a half-century later, Wulfes could not remember who had written the book upon which the film was based.  Ibid., 17. For the circumstances surrounding the filming see ibid, 18-19.

[24].Guizzo, 91.  All translations by the author of this paper.

[25].Guizzo, 23, 99.

[26].See Wulfe’s comments in Guizzo, 23.

[27].Wilson Choeri, “Separatismo -Balcanização da América do Sul,” Revista do Clube Militar. No. 311 (May-June, 1993), 6.

[28].José Americo de Almeida’s interview, 137: CPDOC, Arquivo da Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro; McCann, “The Brazilian Army and the Problem of Mission,” 115.

[29].José Murilo de Carvalho, “Armed Forces and Politics in Brazil, 1930-1945,” Hispanic American Historical Review. 62 (1982), 200.

[30].Guizzo, 20-21.

[31].For a discussion of Freyre’s argument and its impact see Emilia Viotti da Costa, The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1985), 234-246.

[32].David P. Appleby, The Music of Brazil (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983), 157, 160-161.

[33].Other musicians have also seized upon this historical event as a source of inspiration.  Eleazar de Carvalho, who began his illustrious musical career in a naval band, wrote an opera titled A Retirada da Laguna.

[34].Domingos Pellegrini Jr., Questão de honra: romance intertextual com a Retirada da Laguna de Taunay (Curitiba: Prefeitura Municipal de Curitiba, 1996).

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

1 thought on “The State and Brazilian literature: A Retirada da Laguna”

  1. Pingback: Machado de Assis: a new translation by John Chasteen | Intro to Global Studies

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