From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral: memorial conflicts in the construction of the hero of a centenary revolt - PDF

From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral: memorial conflicts in the construction of the hero of a centenary revolt Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida* Resumo Este artigo discute a consolidação da Revolta

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From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral: memorial conflicts in the construction of the hero of a centenary revolt Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida* Resumo Este artigo discute a consolidação da Revolta da Chibata (Rio de Janeiro, 1910) como um tema da memória nacional brasileira, através da análise de diferentes momentos e tentativas de recuperação, apropriação e de comemoração do levante. Discuto como a edificação do marinheiro negro João Cândido como um herói nacional foi, ao longo do século XX, um processo complexo, que revela valores de diferentes temporalidades, contextos e lugares sociais. Analisando três níveis de memória coletiva, nacional e individual, busco compreender como as celebrações relacionadas a essa revolta revelam também violências, silêncios e esquecimentos, ao mesmo tempo em que embates são travados na procura por reconhecimento e legitimação de um ícone na época da celebração de seu centenário. Palavras-chave: Revolta da Chibata; memórias; Marinha; Herói Nacional; questões raciais. Abstract This article discusses the consolidation of the Chibata Revolt ( The Revolt of the Whip ) (Rio de Janeiro, 1910) as a theme in Brazilian national memory, through the analysis of different moments and attempts at the restoration, appropriation and commemoration of the rising. I discuss how the building of the black sailor João Cândido as a national hero was a complex process during the twentieth century, which reveals values of different temporalities, contexts and social places. Analyzing three levels of memory collective, national and individual, I seek to understand how the celebrations related to this revolt also revealed violence, silence and forgetfulness, at the same time that clashes occur in the search for the recognition and legitimacy of an icon in the celebration of its centenary. Keywords: Chibata Revolt ( The Revolt of the Whip ); memories; Navy; National hero; racial questions. * Université de Paris , Rue Auguste Poullain Saint Denis France. Revista Brasileira de História. São Paulo, v. 31, nº 61, p Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida May President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, at the end of his mandate, celebrated the launching in Pernambuco of the oil tanker João Cândido. 1 The Petrobras ship was applauded as a symbol of national pride and received, against the wishes of the Ministry of War, the name of first class seaman João Cândido Felisberto ( ), leader of a revolt of sailors which had occurred one hundred years before. The black sailor João Cândido continues to be the most remembered figure in this movement, while at the same time the history of his life reveals different memorial combats, involving the adhesion of politicians, different currents of social and black movements, but also controversies, especially in relation to the institution of origin, the Brazilian navy. The construction of the personality of João Cândido dates to the events of the night of 22 November 1910, when a group of more than one thousand enlisted sailors from the Ministry of War rebelled in Guanabara Bay, taking control of the most important ships in the fleet at the time, notably the battleships Minas Gerais, São Paulo and the scout Bahia, directing the guns of these ships against the federal capital. The sailors, most of whom were black, pardos and from the North and Northeast of Brazil, demanded better conditions and the end of corporal punishments, especially the abolition of the whip (chibata). 2 The rebellion last approximately five days and mobilized society and the opinion of the time. Parts of the press were sympathetic to the sailors, as well as certain parliamentarians, and the government ended up giving an amnesty to the rebels. 3 Nevertheless, a few days later the state authorized the publication of a decree that allowed the removal from the Navy of persons considered harmful to discipline on board ships (Decree 8400, Nov. 28, 1910). Approximately one thousand sailors were dismissed from the Navy by the beginning of December causing an atmosphere of suspicion among the subalterns and officers on navy ships. In this context, a second rebellion broke out in the Naval Battalion, which was rapidly massacred by the official forces of the Brazilian republic under the power of a state of siege. Various arrests were made and the ship Satélite was prepared to deport 491 people to the north of Brazil, amongst whom were sailors and other representatives of the poorer classes, identified as vagabonds, prostitutes and army soldiers, many of whom died during the journey because of bad conditions or were executed. In another measure aimed at extermination, Navy authorities incarcerated sailors and naval marines in prisons in naval complex on Ilha das Cobras during Christmas Most of the prisoners died within three days due to the lack of fresh air, aggravated by the adding of a lime 62 Revista Brasileira de História, vol. 31, nº 61 From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral solution in the cells, and from dehydration due to the heat. In one cell which contained 18 people, only two men survived, the naval soldier João Avelino Lira and the seaman João Cândido. Two years later a Council of War was formed to verify the participation of the November rebels in the December 1910 revolt. 70 men were summoned, but only 10 appeared, the others were said to be disappeared, shot, dead from sunstroke. João Cândido and his nine companions present were absolved. 4 This set of facts became known to Brazilian historiography as Revolta da Chibata (the Revolt of the Whip in English), the title of the classic work by the journalist Edmar Morel published in 1959 (Morel, op. cit., 2009). It involved an exemplary case of the use of violence by the state to repress rebels, of a revolt that revealed the contradictions of the young Brazilian republic, an attempt by enlisted sailors to gain expression for themselves. This was an event in the historic sense of the word, capable of dividing time between the before and afterwards, revealing social mechanisms that were apparently little visible and becoming remembered and celebrated afterwards in different manners. 5 Its construction as a historic object as well as the recovery of João Cândido in national memory reveals the existence of various memorial layers and forms of appropriating an event. Both the silences and the need to talk are dimensions present in the violence of the event. 6 This article intends to discuss to what extent the need to recall an event and a hero is marked by various forms of forgetting provoked by forms of authoritarianism, by choices or crystallizations. First, I will show how the memory of the Chibata Revolt was present in a series of cultural manifestation at the beginning of the twentieth century, revealing a social need to revive and to understand the events, despite the bad feeling that can be caused. Following this, I analyze the conflict between those who desired to commemorate the revolt and celebrate its greatest hero especially leftwing writers who, like Edmar Morel, tried to give it a new role in the history of Brazil and those who, to the contrary, tried to make it seem as if it had never happened such as police and naval authorities. Finally, I will try to understand the recovery of João Cândido by other more contemporary actors, such as social movements and black movements, and the creation of places of memory. In the same way, knowing that memory is also a form of selection, 7 I listen to the voices contained in the accounts of the descendants of two rebel seamen, the children of João Cândido and Adalberto Ferreira Ribas, as well as the statement of a former navy officer who became interested in the question. The memory of this event thus participates in its own history and there is much to say about June Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida it between its first appearances in popular culture and the most recent speeches of President Lula. From immediate memory to forgetting: the events as celebrated by popular cultural projects at the beginning of the twentieth century Between the end of November and the beginning of December 1910, the black composer and clown Eduardo das Neves ( ), also known as Dudu das Neves and Diamante Negro, wrote the canzonet Os Reclamantes about the sailors revolt. 8 In this the despair of the inhabitants of Rio, who fled from possible bombardments, is portrayed with humor, concretizing a second moment in the reception of the event. The compositor exalts João Cândido, a sailor with an opinion, contributing, along with other organs of the press who called him admiral very early on, 9 to his transformation from someone anonymous into someone famous. Nevertheless, the main moment highlighted in the canzonet is the return to order after the November Revolt, perhaps as a form of avoiding problems with the authorities who at that time used to censor some popular cultural manifestations with police action. 10 The 1910 sailors revolt has also been used as a theme in the Brazilian cinema since its birth. In November of that year three documentary films about the subject were recorded and it also inspired the creation of a short silent fiction film between 1910 and 1912 entitled A vida de João Cândido (The Life of João Cândido). 11 This film was one of the first Brazilian cinema productions censored. It is believed to have vanished, and there is little information about its content. A note published in Correio de Manhã on 23 January 1912 said that the Rio de Janeiro police chief had: prohibited its exhibition, ordered the advertising posters to be apprehended and gave orders to arrest the distributors of these posters. And with this Sr. Belizário made this his objective, because if he had not done so, perhaps by this moment all of Rio who be in revolution to see the film that was being shown on Rua Marechal Floriano. A year after the banning of the film, in January 1913, the Spinelli Circus organized a session in honor of the former sailor João Cândido (O Paiz, Jan. 24, 1913). One of the principal attractions of the Spinelli Circus was the black clown Benjamin de Oliveira ( ), a slave who had fled at the age of Revista Brasileira de História, vol. 31, nº 61 From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral from a plantation in Pará de Minas, a city of the state Minas Gerais, to join the circus world. 12 However, to continue to exist this type of circus also had to establish good relations with the authorities. Therefore, a few days before the announcement of the organization of the show in honor of João Cândido, the head of police in the federal district, Belizário Fernandes da Silva Távora, the same person who had banned the showing of the film about the life of the sailor, had been in the audience of one of the Spinelli Circus shows (O Paiz, Jan. 21, 1913). The memories of João Cândido, the sailor After the release of João Cândido by the military justice in December 1912, the journalist and writer Paulo Barreto, known as João do Rio, decided to publish a series of articles in the format typical of the feuilletons of the time in the periodical Gazeta de Notícias entitled Memórias de João Cândido, o marinheiro. 13 Although Gazeta insisted on the authenticity of João Cândido s writings, who is supposed to produced his memories when interned in a mental hospital and in the Navy prison while he was awaiting trial, they were presumed to be the work of the columnist. 14 Nevertheless, various things indicate to us that on the one hand João Cândido did without a doubt accompany the production of the chapters, adding to them much important information that only he or a very close colleague could have known, and that, on the other hand, he probably was not the only person responsible for the final text that was published, other people also modified it. 15 We can divide the Memories of João Cândido into three parts. First, he talks about his beginnings in the navy and his international voyages. His memories are thus like a travel diary (first person narrative, chronological time, discontinuities and impressions of the Other). This type of text can be frequently encountered in publications of Navy officers, who usually give their texts, as did João Cândido, with a strong nationalist feeling. The specificity of the Memories nevertheless resides, nevertheless, in the fact that the account is by an enlisted subaltern sailor, to whom very rarely the place of writing is attributed. Second, the Memories narrate the facts of the sailors revolt from its organization to the amnesty. A series of information which only someone who had been on the ships could provide is given to the readers. João Cândido equally reveals various details, such as precise times, the names of the other rebel commanders (as they were known in part of the press at the time) and June Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida the movement of the ships. Here the text assumes the vigor typical of war diaries, another type of narrative generally restricted to officers. Finally, a third moment in João Cândido s story fulfills the function of an accusation: he accuses the government of having contributed to the preparation of the December revolt in the Naval Battalion and as a conclusion he exposes his feeling of injustice in relation to his dismissal from the Navy. Telling, recalling, is also a form of accusation. Some points of the account coincide with other accounts by João Cândido during his life. Nevertheless, these narratives are not identical and we can find moments of discontinuities and the alteration of some references which leads us to think about the authenticity of his account as well as its contradictions and variations. 16 However, shortly after being published by the press, the Memories were forgotten. The first to become silent about this publication was João Cândido himself, who would not mention its existence to any of his biographers or interviewers, also stating that the manuscripts written in the hospital and the Navy prison had been destroyed (Morel, op. cit., p.286). Nevertheless, rewritten and taken up in other discourses, these memories are evidence of the presence of the question in the first years of the twentieth century and collaborated to the construction of the character of the seaman in the collective memory, at the same time that the other leaders began to be forgotten. From the first written works to political uses: João Cândido and the versions of the Chibata Revolt The first works which took the side of the rebel sailors date from the 1930s, such as the book written in 1931 by the communist poet and French surrealist Benjamin Péret ( ). Péret lived in Brazil between 1929 and 1931, for the first time, when he met the principal names of local modernism. However, he was arrested and expelled from the country for being seen as a person dangerous to public tranquility. During the period he collaborated with translations and wrote the preface to a work about the revolt of the Russia cruiser Potemkim in He saw the revolt of the Brazilian sailors as a Tupiniquim (Brazilian) version of the Russian mutiny. However, his book, which was entitled the Black Admiral in honor of João Cândido, was never published because the manuscript was apprehended by Getúlio Vargas police and probably almost completely destroyed. Only four pages were found later 66 Revista Brasileira de História, vol. 31, nº 61 From Seaman João Cândido to the Black Admiral in the 1980s. Péret analyzes the revolt as an expression of the class struggle and calls on Brazilian workers to enter into a revolutionary general strike. In 1934 another clandestine publication was issued in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, following to an extent the same direction as Benjamin Pérets book. The author, using the pseudonym Benedito Paulo, was identified as the doctor Adão Pereira Nunes, also a writer and affiliated to the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro PCB). Brazil is presented as semicolonial country, whose oppressed people needed to know stories such as the sailors revolt in order to form a popular class consciousness. 18 The text was fully reproduced in Jornal do Povo, a periodical directed by the humorist Apparício Torelly ( ), the so-called Barão de Itararé and also a member of the PCB, 19 which indicates that the question interested the intellectuals of this group at the time. As a result of this publication an anecdote was registered which revealed the existence of the repression of this question: a journalist was said to have been kidnapped and physically assaulted by six navy officers. When he returned to the newsroom of his newspaper after recovering he placed a sign on the door of his office saying enter without knocking. 20 Nevertheless, João Cândido would also assume in the period an almost opposite political orientation: he was a sympathizer of Ação Integralista Brasileira (Brazilian Integralist Action), a movement with fascistic tendencies founded in 1932, whose slogan was God, the Patria and the family. 21 João Cândido said that he had been personally approached by its leader Plínio Salgado and that he had joined the organization along with various other sailors and officers from the Navy (Morel, op. cit., p ). The fact that he had participated in a popular revolt which had made him a legitimate icon for leftwing intellectuals and politicians did not signify, however, that João Cândido was an assumed man of the left. To the contrary we should see him in his context and in his complexity as a historic agent. 22 The Chibata Revolt : the journalist and the sailor While it was difficult to discuss the sailors movement until the 1930s, during the Getúlio Vargas Estado Novo ( ) the subject appears to have disappeared from bookshops and public life. However, with the return to democracy, the question returned to the press and animated controversies involving Navy officers. The retired commander Luís Altran de Alencastro Graça reacted in a newspaper with a wide circulation to a report about the June Silvia Capanema P. de Almeida memory of the sailors revolt published by the journalist Raimundo Magalhães Junior in Diário de Notícias in The officer said about João Cândido that: if this unfortunate name belongs to history in the opinion of the illustrious journalist, who has so kindly taken on his cause, it should not be in the guise of a hero. It is better not to possess history in order not to confuse it with the annals of criminology. (Cited by: Arias Neto, op. cit., p.278). In 1949, Commander H. Pereira da Cunha published an official version of the revolt in an issue of Revista Marítima Brasileira. 23 At the end of 1958 a well-known journalist in Rio de Janeiro decided to publish a book detailing his ten years of research related to the question. This was Edmar Morel ( ) who published A Revolta da Chibata (Morel, op. cit.) in Rio de Janeiro. It became a landmark in the memory of the event, baptizing the rebellion and intermixing it at the same time with his own history. The historic themes were frequently chosen by the reporter Morel and he used methods very close to those of the historian, such as printed sources in archives and press collections. However, he always presented himself as a journalist or reporter, assuming more easily the importance of the presence as a starting point. Moreover, while the author s investigation process is close to the historian s method, his writing is very different. While the historian feels it necessary to cite dates, make references to source, to interrupt his text with footnotes, Morel as a reporter prefers to privilege of the fluency of the narrative, which he believed should not be interrupted much by these type of references. 24 Nevertheless, even without showing proof of his relations with other schoo
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