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Luso-Brazilian relationships

One of the greatest achievements of the first half of the twentieth century was the crossing of the South Atlantic by aircraft in 1922. Connecting Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro by air for the first time, Portuguese navy officers Gago Coutinho (18691959) and Sacadura Cabral (1881-1924) provided a metaphor for the closer relationship between Portugal and Brazil during that period. While scholars generally agree that this was a goal shared by both sides of the Atlantic, different authors offer contradictory interpretations of the outcomes achieved during the first decades of the century. For Carvalho (348), the establishment of the first Portuguese

Republic in 1910 was a particularly determining factor in paving the way to a closer Luso-Brazilian relationship. Paula Santos, on the other hand, claims that the instability that characterised the first Republic and the First World War period in Portugal did not allow the bilateral relationship to be reinforced before the 1930s. Both authors agree that efforts were made, as shown by, for instance, reciprocal presidential visits and the tightening of diplomatic links. However, Paula Santos (7), and Jose Calvet de Magalhaes (84) argue that, until the end of the Portuguese first Republic (1926) at least, the practical effects of these and other attempts to strengthen the relationship between the two Lusophone countries were negligible.

A distinction can therefore be drawn between those first two decades and the period when the two countries were ruled by similar ideological projects - i.e. Salazar’s Estado Novo regime, from 1933 onwards, and Era Vargas in Brazil, from 1930 to 1945, including its own Estado Novo period, from 1937 to 1945. Although it appears that, similarly to the period until the 1930s, the bilateral relationship was not a priority for either Portugal or Brazil in terms of their respective foreign policy, a visible effort was made to strengthen mutual links, particularly by Salazar, who considered that the reinforcement of the bilateral transatlantic ties was crucial “in order to preserve the cultural and historical links at a moment when Brazil was being influenced by others, and to enable the strengthening of the lusophone ability to make claims from its peers in a worldwide context” [“para salvaguardar os elos culturais e historicos existentes face a outras influencias no territorio brasileiro, mas tambem para permitir que a voz da lusofonia ganhasse maior poder reivindicativo inter pares no sistema mundial”] (Santos 8).[1]

For Portugal, it was important that Brazil was seen as its greatest expansionist success because this perspective served as a justification for the whole Portuguese colonial endeavour, particularly after the Second World War and while the country was facing growing international pressure to decolonise. In strict political terms, the Luso-Brazilian relationship only gained importance after the end of the international conflict. In economic terms, between the 1930s and the 1950s their link was equally irrelevant. Gonsalves (15) explains that, despite ideological similarities, the political and economic projects and structures of each country were very different, as were their respective approach to and position in the international system. In fact, until the 1970s, the relationship between the two countries as far as those two areas are concerned is normally characterised by historians by a lack of practical results, because the final outcome of several attempts aiming to improve ties turned out to be disappointing (Santos 8; Cervo; Gonsalves 15).

However, a consideration of other aspects of the Luso-Brazilian relationship during this period may provide an explanation for the Brazilian scholar Maria Carvalho’s claim that

[w]hen the historiographical assessment is undertaken by historians outside the literary studies remit it generally leads to the conclusion that relations between the two Brazilian and Portuguese historical and cultural moments were of little intensity. Literary historians [...] take the path opposite to the widespread lusophobia felt by the Brazilian modernists and recover evidence of several affinities

[Quando a avalia^ao historiografica e efetuada por historiadores externos aos estudos literarios, no geral a aprecia^ao conduz a constata^ao de relates de pouca intensidade entre os dois momentos historico e cultural brasileiro e portugues. Os historiadores da literatura [...] apostam no sentido contrario a propalada lusofobia dos modernistas bra- sileiros e recuperam provas de afinidades varias.] (353).

For Schiavon (87-8) and Paula Santos (6), links between the two countries during the Portuguese Estado Novo period not only became stronger but also resulted in a bilateral cooperation that catered for a transatlantic community based on cultural links and ties of affection. As a result, a permanent linguistic unity materialised and the two countries were able to support each other in ideological and operational terms. Particular examples of some of the measures taken are the 1931 Agreement between the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon and the Brazilian Academy of Letters determining the unity and expansion of the Portuguese language, the privileged legal treatment accorded by Brazil to Portuguese nationals arriving in the country as part of the intensified emigration movement from Portugal to Brazil, and the improvement of transatlantic communication and transport links through the approval of bilateral agreements.

  • [1] Underlining according to the original. My translation; henceforth all translations willbe mine unless otherwise stated.
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