Brazil pays tribute to heart of emperor who declared independence in 1822

Brasilia, Aug 23 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday paid tribute to the embalmed heart of Emperor Pedro I, a relic with great symbolic significance on loan from the city of Oporto, Portugal, for the 200th anniversary of the Brazil’s independence from that European nation.

In a ceremony analogous to the kind held to honor heads of state, with the playing of martial marches and an exhibition by the air force’s drill squad, the heart – reposing within a golden urn – was received by Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle at the Planalto presidential palace in the capital.

The organ, which arrived in Brazil from Oporto on Monday evening aboard a Brazilian air force jet, has been preserved in formaldehyde within a glass container for 187 years.

This is the first time that the heart of Brazil’s first emperor has left Portugal, where five keys are needed to access it and it is in the custody of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Lapa and the Oporto City Council.

After arriving at Planalto Palace, the heart was transferred to the Itamaraty Palace, the seat of Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, where it will be displayed until Sept. 7, when Brazil celebrates its 200 years of independence.

On that day in 1822, the then-prince regent of Portugal, at age 23, on the banks of the Ipiranga River in Sao Paulo declared that the huge South American colony could no longer remain a dominion of Portugal and was proclaimed as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil.

The emperor’s decision not to return to Portugal to assume the throne in the European country enabled Brazil to obtain its independence without needing to spill any blood in a revolution, in contrast to the other Latin American nations’ struggles to obtain independence from Spain.

The temporary loan of the reliquary was requested by Bolsonaro’s administration as part of the bicentennial celebrations.

The costs associated with transporting the emperor’s heart to Brazil, housing it there and ultimately returning it to Portugal have not been announced.

Sept. 7 has been embraced by Bolsonaro and his supporters, and the ultrarightist president has promoted demonstrations of support all around the country whereby he is seeking to gain voters’ backing with an eye toward the Oct. 2 presidential election, even while he is casting doubt on the transparency of Brazil’s electronic voting system even though no complaints of election fraud have been made since 1996, when it was adopted.

In fact, Bolsonaro has been the target of criticism for the alleged political usage he is making of the heart of Pedro I so near the election, where he is running for a second four-year term against the heavily favored leftist former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is leading in the voter surveys with 45 percent support to Bolsonaro’s 30 percent.

“Who cares about the arrival of the heart of Don Pedro that is preserved in formaldehyde in the city of Oporto? What kind of morbid story is it to hail the pieces of bodies of people who have been dead for so long?” historian and anthropologist Lilia Schwarcz rhetorically asked.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time that Brazil has asked Portugal to turn over the mortal remains of Pedro I, who died of tuberculosis in his country of origin on Sept. 24, 1834.

In 1972, during the country’s military dictatorship, the government at the time engaged in tough negotiations with Portugal to try and acquire the remains of Pedro I for the 150th anniversary of independence.

At that time, portions of Pedro’s skeletal remains were placed on display in several cities around the country before being interred in the Monument to Independence, located in the Ipiranga district, where the young prince had cried “Independence or death” to break Brazil’s colonial bonds with Portugal.

EFE ass/ed/eat/bp

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