Amácio Mazzaropi in
Amácio Mazzaropi in "Jeca Tatu" (1959)

CWith the exception of Manoel Querino (1851-1923), the intellectuals who wrote about the visual arts during the First Republic started from the following assumption: a branch of European art was developing in Brazil.

Some would try to propose or detect singularities in the art produced here, while others would pay attention to the cosmopolitan dimension of the art practiced in the country. For such reflections, it was decisive that they all conceptualized the Brazilian man, ethnically and culturally. Reflecting on how these authors thought about Brazil and Brazilians, it will be possible to understand what type of art they thought was most appropriate for the country, and what tactics were used to achieve it.

By studying the flow of ideas that passed through São Paulo in the years around 1922 Modern Art Week, I identified connections between the thoughts of the then young intellectual Menotti Del Picchia (1892-1988) – the first generation of Italian immigrants – and those expressed by Monteiro Lobato (1882-1948), another intellectual active in São Paulo, ten years older, and of traditional family. This issue had already been addressed by Annateresa Fabris, in a book published in 1994[2], but there was still data to be further explored.

Thus, studying the production of the two intellectuals, I realized that, initially, there is an identification between Del Picchia and Lobato's thought, which over time will be overcome and replaced by other positions. It is significant to study this issue as it will show the birth and/or consolidation of certain idealizations of Brazil and Brazilians that will play an important role, not only in the art and literature produced in São Paulo, but also in other areas.


In 1920 Menotti published a series of articles called Letters to Chrispin, dedicated, each of them, to a “new” intellectual. Among others, Menotti will profile Guilherme de Almeida (1890-1969), Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), Mário de Andrade (1893-1945) and Lobato.

Coming to the end of the elegant and complimentary text dedicated to the latter, Del Picchia concludes: “You already know what he is: one of the most formidable designers of my time. And, as he is already consecrated by the holy oils of national admiration, it is time to push him into the Academy…”[3]

In July 1921, commenting on the election that would take place at the Brazilian Academy of Letters, Del Picchia suggested the name Lobato, despite saying that he did not appreciate or agree with everything the older writer produced. This position, however, did not prevent him from stating:

Monteiro Lobato was – in the new sense given to the term – one of our first futurists. With his admirable articles he crumbled with epic blows the honeyed styles that prevailed around the world; With his diabolical, arrogant and corrosive writings, he put an end to the sugary and mellifluous prose, which had the soporific ability to compete with chloroform or poppy infusion.[4]

Del Picchia may not agree with everything Lobato wrote, but he considered him an intellectual who broke with tradition, and therefore qualifies him as “one of our first futurists” – demonstrating how fluid he was still at the beginning of the 1920s, the boundaries between “futurists” and “pastists”.

Also in his criticism, Del Picchia took Lobato into account, stating more than once how much he allowed himself to be carried away by the older author's thoughts. This adherence, among other examples, can be found in his article about Victor Brecheret (1894-1955): “I, who have placed all my chimes […] at the service of Brecheret's glory, could not, however, fail to try my final peal, since the great patrician sculptor is on the eve of 'stopping messing up'", in Lobato's phrase – and 'committing the right first act', that is, taking a steamship and setting sail for Paris"[5].

More striking is the text in which Del Picchia writes that, for a while, he thought he didn't like the painting of Anita Malfatti (1889-1964), following only what Lobato had published about the exhibition held by the artist, in December 1917. Del Picchia comments on how much that article had shaken not only the artist, but the entire public. Wanting Lobato to review his positions on Anita, he declares:

I, also suggested by Lobato's artifice, without even having seen Malfatti's work, except distorted by some terrible reproductions in magazines, had included myself among the deniers of the gallant painter from São Paulo. One of these days, however, I visited her studio. I left there enchanted. And, as I am rudely sincere and have the illusion of being vigilant, I don't mind doing my public penance here.

In doing so, I leave to Lobato the responsibility of putting the wrong way in the judgment of my illustrious patricia's paintings, certain that the author of the Patchwork As soon as he recognizes his error, he will do his public penance as well..[6]

Having established this evidence about how Del Picchia had Lobato as a parameter, I now raise other texts in which we note the permanence of this paradigmatic dimension assumed by the author of Emília, for Del Picchia - paying attention to how the first texts about Brazil and Brazilians, written by Del Picchia, echoed the older intellectual's thoughts.


Published by Del Picchia on Commerce Newspaper, in January 1921, the article Let's kill Peri is ambiguous: sometimes the author appears to refer to the character in the novel the guarani, by José de Alencar, paying attention to its false and arbitrary character, based on European romanticism. However, at other times, Del Picchia clarifies that Peri is false, not only because it represents a foreign literary fashion, but because it refers to a type of Brazilian that simply did not exist:

I never believed in the real existence of Indians, with whom Europeans think our squares and avenues are full. The news I have about them, in ethnographic treatises and museum documentation, makes me think of them as in the vague legend of primates, anthropothecos [sic] of megatheria and other twilight things. Sometimes I even imagine that Peri [...] was never more than a literary fiction by Alencar.[7]

He continues:

However, what did this cost us? joke put into opera […], not even the diplomacy of a hundred White Rivers dismantles. Peri was a naked, tanned stain soiling national dignity. This lyrical lie […] came to disturb our sociologists. This romantic hypothesis was accepted as a formative element of the race, attributing to the stray, stupid and useless Indian a high role in the melting of our national type, coming to believe that native bravery, the spirit of independence came from him. wild, the reactionary haughtiness with which we are endowed.

Nothing more fake. I have never seen Indians, but what I seriously read – […] – about the nature of these people with carpeted complexions, flat noses, questionable hygiene, was just a psychological statement that turns into a serious accusation against their ethnic inferiority and absolute social inadaptability [ …][8]

The figure of the indigenous person was unbearable for Del Picchia in two senses: firstly, because, being an animalistic creature, he should not have served as the basis for the constitution of the Brazilian “race”. On the other, transformed into a symbol of Brazil, he spoke out against the country and “real” Brazilians. It was necessary to kill Peri so that a new Brazil could finally emerge:

Let us free ourselves from these bands that hold us back, these suggestions that tear us apart, these reverential fears that nullify us. We gave our desire for originality, our desire for liberation, all the prestige. Nationalities are just like individuals, which are only valid when they assert themselves, personal and rebellious, acting in all parts of their personality-revealing forces. We gave Brazil – freeing it from Peri's incubus – its appearance as a modern, avant-garde people, creator and thinker, liberated and original, a chrysalis exit from the cocoon for the great flight into space and light. For this, the emergence and wandering of the new miracle is summarized in this prophetic and symbolic formula:

Let's kill Peri![9]

Del Picchia's position on the real indigenous person and the indigenous person represented in fiction is based on the texts that began the recognition of Monteiro Lobato as one of the most significant intellectuals of his generation.


Lobato published the article An old plague em The State of S. Paul, on November 12, 1914, and Urupes, the following month, on December 23, 1914, in the same newspaper. Note that the two articles will be republished in 1918, in the book of stories Urupes[10]

An old plague talks about the annual fires that occurred in the forests of São Paulo. Lobato compares the devastation caused by these fires to the destruction that Europe was going through, devastated by the First World War. And he goes further: he proposes that Brazilians in the city stop worrying about the catastrophe that was occurring in Europe to reflect on the one that was happening in the interior of the country: “Let a voice from the backlands come and tell the people of the city that, if Out there, the fire of war rages relentlessly, no less destructive fire devastates our forests with no less Germanic fury…”[11] His voice, therefore, is the “voice of the backlands”.

Only after speaking out about the fires and their harm will Lobato denounce the person responsible for those fires: the caboclo, the “redneck”. The author, therefore, when he pronounces himself as the “voice of the sertão”, is, in fact, the voice of the owner of the sertão and not of everyone who lived there. He perceives himself as separate from the caboclo, as he is responsible for his ills. For Lobato, that addition to his farms was nothing more than a parasite, capable of destroying its host.

At the same time that the intellectual disqualifies this figure hitherto idealized by literature – the “caipira”, the caboclo, a mix of indigenous and Portuguese – he also points to the existence of two types of white Brazilians: those from the city, alien to the Brazilian reality, and the rural landowner, perhaps the only one with a more structured awareness of reality. Therefore, we can see a first division of the Brazilian population: on the one hand, the landowner and the citizen, all white; on the other, the hillbilly, the parasite, the “earth louse”.

In the following article, Urupes, Lobato will express his prejudices in relation to the artistic and cultural potential of the caipira. Before getting to the subject, he gives a quick history of how the local white intelligentsia was thinking about Brazilian rural men:

Alencar's balmy Indianism crumbled with the iconoclastic arrival of the Rondons who, instead of imagining Indians in an office reminiscent of Chateaubriand in their heads [...], set out to traverse the backlands of Winchester with their fists.

Peri died, the incomparable idealization of a natural man like Rousseau had dreamed of, the prototype of so many human perfections who, in the novel, shoulder to shoulder with high civilized types, surpasses everyone in beauty of soul and body.

The cruel ethnology of modern sertanists contrasted with a real savage, ugly and brutish, angular and uninteresting, as incapable, muscularly, of uprooting a palm tree, as incapable, morally, of loving Ceci[12].

Here, therefore, lies the origin of the argument that, almost a decade later, Del Picchia would use, when writing his Let's kill Peri!. In Urupes, Lobato states that the actions of the Brazilian Army – mentioning Rondon – had “killed” the idealized vision of the indigenous person, showing what he really was like: “ugly and brutish, angular and uninteresting”[13]. For the author, Indianism is no longer fashionable, but has transformed itself. So he follows:

Indianism is once again taking over, with a changed name. He confirmed himself as a caboclismo. The macaw feather headdress became a straw hat held low on the forehead; the ocará became a thatched ranch; The club tapered, created a trigger, became heard and is now a shotgun […]

[…] But the psychic substrate has not changed: indomitable pride, independence, nobility, courage, heroic virility, the whole rock, in short, without missing an olive from the Perís and Ubirajaras[14].

After stating that the fashion for caboclismo would also pass, Lobato continues:

[…] Today there is still danger in stirring up the hornet’s nest: the caboclo is “Oh Jesus! National".

[…] Years ago, pride was in an ascendancy in loincloths, covered in toucan feathers, with intimate dramas forced by arrows of curare.

The day will come when we will see, withered with prosapia, confess the true grandfather: – one of the four hundred of Gideão brought by Tomé de Souza on a boat of exiles from those times, our very noble and fruitful Mayflower.

Because the naked truth says that among the races of varying shades, forming nationality and placed between the recent foreigner and the aboriginal with a tablet on his lip, one exists vegetating on its haunches, incapable of evolution, impenetrable to progress[15].

From then on, Lobato would conceptualize the man from the interior – the one “incapable of evolution, impervious to progress” – as incapable of expressing himself even on the political issues that affected him. Lobato states that, when the Golden Law “barely flutters the Princess's flowery decree, and the exhausted black man leaves in a uff! the handle of the hoe, the caboclo looks, scratches his head, imagines and lets those who pick it up again come from the old world.”[16]. In other words, not even the liberation of the enslaved would lead the caipira to rethink his situation, allowing, instead, a new wave of workers – European immigrants – to occupy the field.[17].

Lobato continues to remove any quality from the caboclo. He ends the text by demonstrating that the caboclo was also incapable of producing art. Here are the last paragraphs:

The caboclo is somber.

He sings nothing but mournful prayers.

There is no dancing except the winged cateretê.

It does not carve the handle of the knife, like the Kabyle.

He does not compose his song, like the fellah of Egypt.

In the middle of Brasília's nature, so rich in shapes and colors, where the ipe trees cast spells on the environment and the inflorescence [sic] of the cedars, at the first rains of September, the dance of the manakins opens, where there is sun beeing, live emeralds, cicadas, thrushes, light, color, perfume, Dionysian visage in a permanent, swarm, the caboclo is a gloomy urupês made of rotten wood, slumbering silently in the recesses of the caves.

Only he doesn't speak, doesn't sing, doesn't laugh, doesn't love.

Only he, in the midst of so much life, does not live...[18]


Later in the 1910s, Lobato apologized to Jeca Tatu for the fact that, when writing Urupes, I didn't know that the country man was sick. This retraction came in 1918, when the writer, more familiar with the situation of basic sanitation in the country, launched a series of articles on the subject that, later that year, returned to the surface with the publication of The vital problem, bringing together those articles.

It is possible to affirm, therefore, that, between 1914 and the end of the decade, Lobato will oscillate in relation to the figure of the peasant and the rest of the Brazilian population. At first, he sees the caipira as responsible for the country's ills and blames him for – acting like a parasite – not having been able to create any usable index of art and culture.

However, before discovering him sick and unassisted by the State, Lobato, when comparing the caipira with the man from big cities, will realize that the former, at least, should be recognized as a defender of local traditions, as opposed to the man from big cities. , more concerned with the latest European fashion and not with Brazil's problems.

The intellectual will realize Jeca's authenticity in the same period in which he launches a series of articles in which he shows himself engaged in the configuration of a typically Brazilian art, based on the representation of the country's physical and human geography. For Lobato, fighting for Brazil to join the great tradition of European art was to adhere to naturalism, for him the only strategy capable of introducing a characteristic accent into the art that Brazil had inherited.

This new stance led him, in 1919, to publish a book with a series of nationalist articles previously published in the press – among them, the one in which he criticized the modernity that the exhibition starring Anita Malfatti brought.[19]. The title of the book, as we know, was: Ideas by Jeca Tatu. In other words, if in the mid-1910s, Lobato excoriated the figure of Jeca Tatu – a caricatural synthesis of the Brazilian country man, responsible for the fires in the interior –; towards the end of the decade, the creator begins to identify with the creature. Jeca's ideas become his ideas, as he begins to project into Jeca Tatu the entire idea of ​​creating an art and culture, undoubtedly of European tradition, but shaped to the physical and cultural reality of Brazil, freeing of artistic production that prevailed in large, featureless cities.

I believe that the Lobatean experience once again defines the division that will remain within the São Paulo and Brazilian intellectuals in relation to local art and culture throughout much of the 20th century: having as a common basis the belief that we were heirs of the artistic tradition European, on the one hand we will have Lobato and his followers, concerned with the production of art with precise signs of Brazilianness; on the other, the “internationalists” or “cosmopolitans”, seduced by the tradition and sophistication of European art and culture.


The importance of the myth of Jeca Tatu will be so great that, in 1919, the young Menotti Del Picchia will gain recognition when he releases his poem Juca Mulato – a reinterpretation of Jeca Tatu or, at least, a poem that could only have been conceived after the advent of the figure of Jeca.

The work tells the story of a country man – Juca Mulato – who falls in love with his boss’s daughter. Juca becomes confused with the very nature of which he is the fruit, and his life begins to gain meaning from the love he dedicates to the white girl. Dissatisfied, the protagonist tries to create conditions to fulfill his dream of conquering her, but, in the end, he realizes that he cannot leave his destiny already set: a simple and simple life in the countryside.

Em Juca Mulato, unlike Jeca de Lobato, the figure of the caboclo is once again idealized, having been configured as a character subjected to the circumstances of rural life. His supposed inferiority (social and racial) in relation to his beloved is due to these “fatalities” and not to the social and cultural circumstances that could be overcome. Juca Mulato accepts this determination of destiny, giving up on the woman he loves because he knows he is “inferior” to her.

If Jeca Tatu seemed oblivious to his own life, Juca Mulato appears aware of his inferiority in relation to the white girl. On the other hand, he also differs from Jeca, in that he brings to the scope of São Paulo literature from the mid-1910s, the figure of the mestizo between black and white and not that of the mestizo between indigenous and white.

Juca Mulato It will not be the only text by Del Picchia dedicated to the country man. If in it, the character is thought of as a hero who represses his feelings, because he knows he is inferior, in other texts the author will be ironic and often sarcastic towards his characters. Menotti perceives them – like the indigenous people – as symbols of backwardness, figures that should be erased from Brazilian reality, as well as from literature and art.

In 1920, Del Picchia published the article Because I'm Jeca Tatu, a humorous and cynical reference to the recently released book by Monteiro Lobato, Ideas by Jeca Tatu. In the text, Menotti also embodies the hillbilly and compares him to men who work “like slaves”:

My route is a walk along the road to the sale of Belarmino. My chic club is the circle of my companions, where I hear and tell hunting lies... Why, then, should I ruin my life, killing myself with a hoe, if I pull the cassava with my fingernails and if I don't need to pay for the gas for my stove, which is powered by kindling?

A day will come when the needs of others, of the new bandeirantes, will compete for the abundance of my lands. On that occasion, I will fight.

For now, I do the three things that Raimundo Correa taught me: I sing, I sleep and I play the viola. The rest is for later...

These are also “Jeca Tatu’s ideas”. As I find them reasonable, I subscribe to them.[20]

Therein lies the irony: if Lobato sought to merge with Jeca Tatu, understanding him as a symbol of traditional Brazil, Del Picchia subscribed to Jeca's words, because – like the character – he didn't like working.

More circumspectly, in the following article, Menotti will draw attention to the fact that Brazil was then experiencing a period of intertwining of races, “creating a new human type, tempered by the climate and our physical environment”[21]. In this cosmopolitanism that would characterize the country, immigrants who arrived from all over would find ways to become fully Brazilian, becoming “living extracts of our nationality”[22]. So:

Nowadays it is a derisory illusion to believe in the legend of the caboclo... The caboclo, a pure racial background, starts to constitute a vague literary fiction, which lends itself to the laughter of chalaceiros or the screams of romantic nationalists.

Today's caboclo is a patchwork of nationalities. There are caiçaras, morphologically and psychically caiçaras, coming from Germans, Italians, Spaniards and even Turks! They preserve, through the force of environmental heredity, traditions, superstitions and the country way of life. These legacies – psychic contagion of a kind – reach language and diction. There are Italian caboclos who, whether due to their complexion or speech, can be taken by the curious as the most expressive exponents of our national type. [...]

[…] This heteroclite and tumultuous mixture is, therefore, what we should currently call our race.

[…] This does not mean that Brazil will stop being increasingly Brazilian; perhaps it has never been more so than now that it is beginning to create its industrial and economic independence. In the last ranches that collapse, the last Jecas agonize[23]


In 1923, Del Picchia released a book of stories and chronicles, entitled Cleopatra's nose[24]. If in Juca Mulato, he granted Jeca a minimum of dignity; in these texts, the hillbilly appears as a crude figure. Having made clear his aversion towards the character – who should never count towards the basis of nationality – it now remained to trample on him critically and ironically.

The first text of Cleopatra's nose, Nhô Nito-Mintira, for example, tells the story of Nito, a persistent liar. This disguised person ended all his cases by proposing that the listener ask “the deceased so-and-so” whether what he said was true or not. The text, amusing at times, presents lying as a character deviation, proof of the unreliable essence of the hillbilly who, in addition to not liking to work, also didn't like to tell the truth.


Em Wow!, the main character says that, during a trip to the interior, alongside a man from the region who served as his guide, he was amazed at the amount of land left unoccupied. He then establishes the following dialogue with Nhô Nico, the “hillbilly” who guided him:

How sad this is, Nico... All without plantation.

And he, like an echo:

AND. All without planting…

We continue. And me:

– What strange lands. This doesn't do anything, Nico?

– That's how you see it. It doesn't do anything...


Suddenly, like a miraculous green oasis, I saw in the corner of a hill, a green, rich coffee plantation [illegible], beautiful orange trees, full of fruit, a field of corn already harvested, signs of vast rice fields, recently harvested.


And I asked Nico, worried:

– What the hell is this, Nico. How is it that the land there is so fertile and the coffee plantation is so beautiful, and behind everything is shallow, like a cursed field?

The man sighed, very surprised, and replied, as if he were saying the most banal thing in the world:

– That's because they cry, wow![25]

An interesting fact is that it is clear in this text how the caipira – who plants nothing because he does nothing – begins to be replaced by another type of peasant: the European immigrant. The latter transforms the land into a territory of wealth while the caipira resigns himself to the false infertility of the soil. Consciously or unconsciously, Del Picchia uses this strategy to remove the hillbilly from the scene, so that new characters could star.


This same positioning is evident in other texts by the author in which he, step by step, continues to try to remove the importance of indigenous people for the formation of the Brazilian population. In the year before the launch of Cleopatra's nose, Del Picchia publishes a text in which he discusses the aesthetic and ethnological issues that would affect the Brazilian population and culture:

Our debated ethnological question is framed in a unique phenomenon, each day more appreciable: in the agony of ancient racial backgrounds diluted by miscegenation and the fusion of the elements at play in the ethnic chessboard of our nationality.

The autochthonous element is today just a quasi-memory; is heading towards becoming a vague and literary mythology, in which they will remain, like the book of Edda and the Nibelungen, Confederation of Tamoios, by Durão; the lyrical Guarani, by Alencar, and the heroic and Homeric Y-Yuca-Pirama, by Gonçalves Dias.[26]

The echoes of what Monteiro Lobato wrote in 1914 on the issue of indigenous people and Indianism are evident again. And the “presence” of Lobato at the base of his text is denounced by the author:

Monteiro Lobato, in his raseante [sic] and caustic style, noted the death of the “Peris” and “Moemas” cut out by the romantic molds of the Chateaubrianesque “Abencerrages”… He ironized, with wise truth, the ineffective and fake Indianism of a country with customs and Western culture, which we only know about Indians, chiefs, shamans through engravings and news from anthropology treatises and through some loincloths and pots on display at the Ipiranga Museum.

Del Picchia, who had already published Let's kill Peri! the previous year, he understood Brazil as “a country of Western customs and culture”, that is, heir to European tradition, which would explain why white Brazilians perceived indigenous people as exotic beings. He continues:

The soft and nostalgic caboclo replaced the wild and epic Indian. Jeca Tatu beat Peri and his other brothers in headdresses and clubs. The “cry of the nambu”, taken from the chirp of bamboo, replaced the warrior inúbia: the spear of the aimoré was transformed into a trochada woodpecker. The stupid caiçara, tinkling [sic] with amulets and bentinhos, with a belly swollen by ankylostomosis [sic], inherited the suzerainty of the land from the Indian, as an ethnological exponent of our true racial background[27].

If the indigenous people agonized, Jeca followed the same path, giving way to a new type of Brazilian:

Under the last crumbling walls, the last remains of the Emboabas and Mamelucos are pulverized. Cosmopolitan infiltration, driven by the modern industrialist and practical spirit, drives away and crushes these remains of racial sediments in a quick and definitive victory. Aboriginal blood no longer enters – as a necessary chemical ingredient for the establishment of our ethnic type – into the blood of the Brazilian novel, a complex result of an amalgamation of races. It is the climate and environment, the miracle of language and the contagion of national traditions, with which the foreign waves that arrive here are imbued, that Brazilianize the new race, which gives a profound nationalist, almost Jacobean, spirit to its offspring.

It is this intertwining of human types – which are generally syngenetic […] – that shapes the new exponent, that is, the current Brazilian, nothing like the prognathous and aloof Indian, nor the tanned, loitering caboclo. Active, intelligent, beautiful, today's Brazilian is, ethnically, one of the most expressive and complete representatives of today's victorious race[28].

Menotti Del Picchia denies the indigenous Brazilian not only ethnic protagonism, but also that of an aesthetic nature. For him, we should look for the artistic traditions that we lack in the new immigrant waves, because:

The aesthetic performance of the aboriginal is null, for one simple fact: because it never existed.

When Menes, in Egypt, founded Memphis, he built a great temple to [illegible]. The Chaldeans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Israelites, all peoples, in the nebulous germination of their culture, always manifested their instinctive aesthetic concerns. The Indian, wanderer and warrior, never worried about ornamental and decorative motifs; the language, living through oral tradition, did not leave engraved on a [illegible], on a tree foreshortening, a rudiment of a poem. He didn't even attempt the iconographic attempt to anthropomorphize his Manitôs, Tupãs, Anhangas with a stone splinter or with the chisel made from the bone of a beef cattle. There are, therefore, no appreciable traces of art in the ancestors of the Mamluk. And Jeca Tatu, useless and without fantasy, did not, like the Etruscans, paint their primitive pots, nor carve the rustic tripods on their stools with a knife handle.[29].

For Del Picchia, neither the indigenous nor the mestizo – the black is outside this discussion – were able to produce art in the country, thus: “Our art is, therefore, logically, a secular representation of the most improved Western culture, brought entirely on ships that set sail from the European continent, representing the finesse and refinements of his thought”. And he continues:

It is a common mistake to believe that we are servile tributaries of French, German or Italian art, because even these cultural manifestations, which reflect the flavor of these origins, are spontaneous fruits of our race, made up of a promiscuous checkerboard of emigrant races.

It is possible, however, the slow elaboration of a national aesthetic, made up of what is most crystal clear in this culture, modified and removed by the action of ambient motifs. The European soul, transplanted to the tropics, will feel and perform with the powerful force of its atavistic sensitivity, but it will inevitably strain these emotions through the influences of the climate and the landscape. This, in short, will be the “true national art”. He will resent the Babelic tragedy of the diversity of races syncretized in the complex organism of each artist. It will therefore have a new, different flavor, as it is the polymorphic irradiation of several temperaments amalgamated into a unique sensitivity and imagination.[30].


Days later, also in São Paulo Post Office, Del Picchia deepens his thoughts on the Brazilian “race”, praising the Portuguese in the colonization process. For him, we Brazilians are what we are because of the Portuguese, 'a vigorous and prodigious people who in little more than four centuries [illegible] brought the world one of the most powerful countries in the universe'”. Quoting José Pires do Rio (1880-1950), he also states: “Other tropical regions, with an inclement climate like ours, conquered by Anglo-Saxons, Germans, etc., are nothing more than simple colonies, where the autochthonous element and races considered inferior constitute the mechanical part of the work.”

We cannot deny that, since colonial Brazil – going back to the first dawn of the geographical fixation of our borders – the action of the Lusitanian element was to absorb the aborigines and, through miscegenation, through the slow formation of the new race, to destroy even those ethnological elements brought from Africa. This providential action did not create, within our ethnic organism, those strong barriers of different races, which are easily observed in certain countries of recent colonization or conquest. And these antagonistic races are now almost insurmountable obstacles to the formation of a single human neotype, causing true internal disturbances in the ethnic plasma of these nationalities.[31]

After highlighting that in Brazil, unlike the United States of America – a country that we admire – we do not have the apartheid of the African-American population, he states:

Brazil […] is a masterpiece of colonization and a miracle of progress. With such a short past, with a gigantic territorial extension, with a hostile climate, with a geological environment that was difficult to master, it represented an almost inaccessible stronghold.

It is therefore necessary that the Portuguese people be given the justice they deserve. Only a race with the vigor of the Lusitanian […] was capable of generating the [illegible] titanicism of the bandeirantes, cyclopean demigods from the dawn of nationality, who renewed the exploits of the Olympic companions of Jason and Hercules {…}

[…] A people of warriors, adventurers and traffickers, they were not limited to the exploration of gold and diamond deposits, in the adventurous trade and wandering from mine to mine: they stabilized themselves, formed the initial plantations of the mills, organized themselves in a solid context political-social, until creating, with astonishing speed, an autonomous national consciousness that resulted in our political independence[32].

And he does not fail to compare the Portuguese to the ancient Romans who, in the past, dominated Europe:

What miraculous virtue made such wonders happen? The virtue of the lineage. It was that same constructive tenacity that led the Romans to overflow Latium to go from Brittany to Baetica, from Mauritania to Mamitânia, implementing their language, their laws, their agricultural processes and their military and political organization throughout everything.[33].

After comparing Brazil with the United States again, the author ends the article:

Brazil, however, unquestionably represents the most beautiful standard of the formidable and victorious constructive virtues of the Latin race. Having meditated on these brief notes on the Brazilian miracle, few will certainly renew the injustice of forgetting the magnitude of the work of the Portuguese, re-editing an absurd pessimism about our racial qualities, virtues so prodigious that, without them, today we would be just an informal tax colony. of a decorative metropolis.[34]


In short: Del Picchia starts from Monteiro Lobato's considerations about Brazilian indigenous people and about the mixing of indigenous people with white people to begin to establish his own parameters for thinking about the Brazilian “race” and its artistic and cultural production. He accepts the criticism made by Lobato about the indigenous, produced in 1914, but – despite the respect he maintained for the older intellectual's ideas –, he does not allow himself to be carried away by him, when Lobato, from the end of the 1910s, concedes to the caipira the role of bastion of Brazilian tradition.

As scholar Annateresa Fabris recalled, Del Picchia needed to connect his European, Latin and Italian ancestry to the Brazilian reality. Such an action would be impossible if, like Lobato, he recognized the descent of indigenous and Portuguese people as the basis of the Brazilian man. That is why he overcomes the myths of the indigenous and the caipira to establish as a “new bandeirante” the immigrant ideally tied to the origins of Brazil through the Latinity he shared with the Portuguese.

Placing the immigrant and his son as the protagonists of the new, modern and cosmopolitan Brazil, Del Picchia also resolved another fundamental issue at that time: the specificity of Brazilian art. For him, it was impossible to think about specific characteristics of art produced in Brazil, since immigration flows towards the country still continued. Thus, and for a long time, the art that immigrants brought to Brazil became Brazilian art.

[1] – This text served as the basis for the lecture “THE BRAZILIAN AND THE MODERNISTS: QUESTIONS ABOUT NATIONAL IDENTITY IN MONTEIRO LOBATO AND MENOTTI DEL PICCHIA or FROM JECA TATU TO NHÔ NITO-MENTIRA: THE DESTRUCTION OF THE IDEA OF THE CAIPIRA AS THE BASIS OF NATIONALITY”, given during the closing of the III National Meeting of Brazilian Literature and Society, organized by UFPE, UFRPE, UFPB and UFRN (online event) on November 10, 2023.

[2] – FABRIS, Annateresa. São Paulo futurism. São Paulo: Ed Perspectiva Edusp, 1994.

[3] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Letters to Chrispim II – Monteiro Lobato”. Paulista Post Office October 11, 1920. P. 3 IN BARREIRINHAS, Yoshie Sakyama. Menotti Del Picchia, the Gideon of modernism. São Paulo. Brazilian Civilization, 1983. p. 159.

[4] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Monteiro Lobato academic”. Paulista Post Office. São Paulo. July 14, 1921 p. 3.

[5] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Still Brecheret…” Paulista Post Office. São Paulo. April 21, 1921, p. 3. IN BARREIRINHAS, … on. cit.p.207,

[6] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Monday Lecture”. São Paulo Post Office. São Paulo, November 14, 1921, p.3 IN BARREIRINHAS, on. cit. p295.

[7] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Let’s kill Peri!” Commerce Newspaper, n 83, January 23, 1921. P.3. Republished in Barreirinhas, Yoshie Sakyama, on. cit. P. 194.Mário de Andrade will respond to this article, in “Curemos Peri”, published in The Gazette, on 31.01.1921/XNUMX/XNUMX. (Transcribed in: ALVIM, Fernando J. da Silva e. Mário de Andrade and Brazilian romanticism: tradition, imaginary and national historical consciousness. São Paulo. Dissertation: FFLCH, 2012 – I thank my colleague Tâmera Abreu for the recommendation.) It is not my intention to delve into the resonances of the article here, both in relation to the text that Mário de Andrade published contesting it, and in relation to other ceilings in which Del Picchia return to the matter. My intention will be to look for the “antecedents” of this article in texts by Lobato.

[8] – Ditto.

[9] Ditto, p. 195.

[10] – LOBATO, Monteiro. Urupes. 15th. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1935

[11] – Ditto, p. 13.

[12] – Idem, p.21

[13] – Idem, p,22

[14] – Idem p.23

[15] – Idem p. 24

[16] – Idem, p.24.

[17] – It is worth highlighting that in this discussion about the caipira and – ultimately – about the Brazilian man, black people are only mentioned in relation to the Lei Áurea, without any role in the “racial” formation of the country.

[18] – Idem p.36/37.

[19] – LOBATO, Monteiro. “About the Malfatti Exhibition”: São Paulo. The state of Sao Paulo. Republished as “Paranoia or mystification” in LOBATO, Monteiro. Ideas by Jeca Tatu. São Paulo: Edition of Revista do Brasil, 1919. In Ideas by Jeca Tatu. 9th. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1956.

[20] – DEL PICCHIA, Menotti (Helios). “Because I am Jeca Tatu”. Paulista Post Office. São Paulo. March 10, 1920, p. 3. IN BARREIRINHAS p.95

[21] – DEL PICCHIA, Menotti (Helios). “Our race…” Sao Paulo Post. São Paulo. March 12, 1920, p. 3 IN BARREIRINHAS,

[22] – Ditto.

[23] – Ditto.

[24]– DEL PICCHIA, Menotti (Helios). Cleopatra's Nose. Fantasies and chronicles. São Paulo. Monteiro Lobato & C. Editores, 1923.

[25] – Ditto, p. 24.

[26] – Menotti Del Picchia. “The aesthetic problem in the face of the São Paulo ethnic phenomenon”. Paulista Post Office. São Paulo. September 7, 1922.p.2.

[27] – Ditto.

[28] – Ditto.

[29] – Ditto.

[30] – Ditto.

[31] – Menotti Del Picchia. “Brazilian things”. Paulista Post Office. São Paulo. October 24, 1923 p,3,

[32] – Ditto.

[33] – Ditto.

[34] – Ditto.

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