Brazil to celebrate 200th anniversary of independence

By Alba Santandreu

Sao Paulo, Sep 6 (EFE).- On Sept. 7, 1822, the then-prince of Portugal, Pedro de Braganca, declared Brazil to be an independent nation, a deed that has gone down in history as an heroic act and which, 200 years later, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro intends to capitalize on in the run-up to the October general elections.

In his famous 1888 work “Independence or Death,” painter Pedro Americo created a grand rendering of one of the key moments in Brazilian history: the “Cry of Ipiranga.”

In the painting, restored for the 200th anniversary celebration, Americo depicted a young elaborately dressed prince, holding his sword on high, mounted on a marvelous horse along with his military troops, on the banks of the Ipiranga River in Sao Paulo.

It was at that spot, which today is a polluted network of sewers surrounded by asphalt and cement, where 200 years ago the Portuguese prince declared Brazil’s independence amid separatist movements and a growing confrontation between the colony and Portugal, the mother country.

Despite the romanticism characterizing Americo’s work, writer Laurentino Gomes discusses in his bestseller “1822” (published in 2010) some of the myths surrounding the figure of Brazil’s first emperor, the former prince, who was considered to be a stubborn and authoritarian ruler although he defended the ideals of liberalism on the battlefield.

“Fate marked Don Pedro’s path with unrest and lack of elegance,” says the first chapter of “1822.”

Gomes says that on the afternoon of Sept. 7, 1822, the future emperor traveled on a mule dressed in rags and suffering severe stomach pains, probably from having eaten spoiled food.

According to historian Solange Ferraz de Lima, Pedro Americo does not faithfully depict the historical situation but rather creates a symbolic view of a key moment in Brazil’s past.

“It’s an academic genre to represent a fact without needing to be faithful to reality … He interprets the deed in an heroic and pompous way,” Ferraz de Lima, one of the curators of the Ipiranga Museum, where the painting has been on exhibit for more than a century, told EFE.

Americo did not witness the event depicted in the “Cry of Ipiranga,” and he painted the work in Florence, Italy, it having been commissioned decades later by Emperor Pedro II for display at the Ipiranga Museum, an imposing palace in an eclectic style that he ordered built in the neighborhood where his father had declared Brazil’s separation from Portugal.

The monument constructed in remembrance of Brazil’s independence, however, was only finished in 1890, on the first anniversary of the proclamation of the Brazilian republic, and the government decided to convert it into a museum, which it has remained to this day.

Housed there are the mortal remains of Brazil’s first emperor, which were brought from Portugal to the site in 1972 on the 150th anniversary of independence.

During the country’s military dictatorship, the bones of Pedro I were transported throughout Brazil until they finally were placed in the Ipiranga Museum, which – after being closed for almost a decade for renovation – will reopen its doors to the public on Thursday.

Don Pedro’s embalmed heart is not among the emperor’s remains, given that – at his request – it has been kept at the Lapa Church in the Portuguese city of Oporto.

Bolsonaro negotiated the loan of the heart with Lisbon specifically for the bicentennial, an event which the ultrarightist leader wants to use to his advantage in advance of the Oct. 2 elections, in which he is running for reelection but is trailing his rival, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in the voter surveys.

Bolsonaro has called on his supporters to take to the streets on Sept. 7 to stage a massive demonstration of his electoral power in the final stretch of the campaign.

EFE ass/mp/rrt/bp

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