Publicada nos Estados Unidos uma nova biografia da Redentora

O Prof. James McMurtry Longo, do Departamento de Educação de Washington, lente no Colégio Jefferson, publicou há dois meses seu sexto livro, Isabel Orleans-Bragança, the Brazilian Princess who freed the slaves, pela Editora McFarland.

Dois exemplares foram enviados ao IDII pelo sócio correspondente norte-americano Mark E. Andersen, de Chicago, Illinois, a quem agradecemos a gentileza.

Impressiona o quanto as pesquisas de Longo por vários arquivos brasileiros não ressoaram em nenhuma instância administrativa das associações de historiadores brasileiros (institutos históricos, Anpuh etc.).

Por outro lado, o trabalho de James Longo se insere no quadro de pesquisas acerca de D. Isabel que se operaram da década de 1990 em diante. Sobre as biografias da Redentora e, especificamente, essas pesquisas, vale a pena ler o terceiro capítulo de nosso livro D. Isabel I a Redentora, onde o Prof. Bruno de Cerqueira aborda os trabalhos do canadense Roderick Barman, do juiz-forano Robert Daibert Jr. e dele próprio.

Até então (2006 – 160 anos da Redentora), não havia chegado ao IDII nenhuma notícia sobre as buscas do norte-americano James Longo. Do contrário, ele certamente teria sido contatado e ajudado, no que pudesse ser feito.

Segue abaixo a íntegra do prefácio de Isabel Orleans-Bragança. Texto extremamente elucidativo do quanto representa a Princesa Imperial Regente, seja na História do Brasil, seja na História Universal.

Há frases inteiras nas linhas de James Longo que se assemelham ao que proclamamos no trabalho cotidiano do IDII e isto é algo que não deixa de causar impacto…

Preface:  Introduction to a Princess

In the summer of 1995, I was sent by Michigan State University to São Paulo, Brazil, to teach a graduate course in education at the international school there. Four days a week I taught my students, many of them Brazilian, in modern classrooms that looked out on gardens filled with flowers and large hummingbirds. On three-day weekends my wife and I explored the Brazil that the school’s high walls and armed security hid from us.

One of our weekend excursions was to Rio de Janeiro, and Petrópolis, a resort in the mountains north of the city. My fourth grade geography teacher first had introduced me to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and Petrópolis by describing a palace in Petrópolis that had been borne to Brazil’s last emperor. Her story of a European royal family fleeing war and then peacefully ruling the largest country in South America captured my young imagination and never let it go.

Our mountain trip up the winding razorback roads to Petrópolis was an adventure in itself; but the fairy tale City, with its pink palace and picturesque gardens, were just as my fourth grade imagination had pictured it. A short walk from the palace stood a large Gothic Church promising shade from the warm sun. In its cool, darkened interior we found the impressive tombs of Pedro II and Teresa Cristina, last emperor and empress of Brazil.

A steady stream of visitors made their way in and out of the church. They didn’t stop at the altars or light candies or linger in front of the statues of Catholic saints. Instead, they quietly walked past the tombs of emperor and empress to a smaller tomb almost hidden in the shadows. There they prayed, laid flowers, and lovingly touched and kissed the carved figure on the sepulcher. Most of the pilgrims seemed to be poor and black, but all ages and shades of skin were represented.

When there was a small break in the procession, I walked back to the tomb. In marble almost obscured by flowers were carved the words “Princesa Isabel Christina Leopoldina Augusta, a Redentora” I had no idea who this woman was or why she was the object of so much veneration. Outside the church I found a street vendor selling post cards and cornstalk doll souvenirs. I asked him about Isabel. He smiled and told me, “Isabel is our redemptress.” My confused expression must have told him 1 still didn’t understand. He patiently explained in broken English, “In North America Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, but in South America Princess Isabel freed us. She is Brazil’s Abraham Lincoln.”

The next Monday my students wanted to know where we had traveled over our three-day weekend. I told them about our excursions to Rio de Janeiro and Petrópolis, and shared my story about our visit to the palace and church, and my conversation with the street vender. My mention of Princess Isabel’s name immediately sparked a strong emotional reaction among my Brazilian students.

“She was a bad woman! … No! No! She was a good woman hut didn’t know her place… She was a teci of the Church and the Pope… No! No! Her French husband, not the Church, used her… She pretended to be a friend of the slaves and the poor, but used them to gain power for herself… No, she was an enemy of the army and wanted Brazil to be weak and powerless… Isabel championed the constitution, but was used by others to destroy it!”

Patricia, the youngest and quietest student in my class, a nineteen-year old teacher’s aide, surprised everyone by offering her own opinion. It was nearly the first time we had heard her shy voice since the class began weeks earlier. In slow, halting English she declared Isabel “the greatest woman in Brazilian history.” Her bold statement momentarily silenced her more talkative senior classmates.

Seizing the moment, she explained, that like many others in the class, her first introduction te the princess was in school. Then she added, “People who learned about Isabel before Brazil’s last military dictatorship viewed her one way; those who learned about the princess during the dictatorship years [1964—1985] saw her differently.”

Patricia continued. She had been a student after the fall of the last military dictatorship. Government-selected textbooks had always taught about the past through the lives of powerful men, but her teacher taught differently. She was a woman who taught history through the experiences of women, and the poor and powerless. As part of Patricia’s course of study, she had to interview people from all walks of life to learn about Brazil through their eyes.

In a voice that grew stronger, Patricia shared what she had learned from her interviews: “To many Brazilians who would never attend school or have their own stories appear in history books, no man or woman was greater than Princess Isabel. They learned of the princess not through books, but through the memories and hearts of their ancestors.”

I don’t think Patricia’s statements converted any of her classmates to the “Isabelist” cause, but her bold words transformed her in the eyes of her classmates. By the end of our heated discussion, I was happy to see that she had become a respected, valued, equal member of the class.

Patricia’s minority position on Isabel further aroused my curiosity about the princess. I visited the international school library, then the library of the university of São Paulo, and many bookstores to learn about Isabel but found little if anything about her. I was told most books on Princess Isabel had been removed during the twenty-one years of military rule and never replaced.

Back at school, one of the administrators heard of my interest in Princess Isabe1 and asked if I would like to meet Isabel’s great-great-granddaughter, an alumna of the international school where I was teaching. I quickly accepted the invitation and met Anna Luísa Orleans-Bragança on July 29, 1995, the only day we both had available. It turned out to be the one hundred forty-ninth anniversary of Princess Isabel’s 1846 birth. Anna Luísa was an intelligent, attractive, modern career woman who edited one of Brazil’s leading interior decorating magazines. I invited my class to join us and we spent a memorable afternoon s Anna Luísa shared family stories about her great-great-grandmother, who had died in 1921.  The first person I introduced Anna Luísa to was Patricia.

At the end of our visit Anna Luísa gave me the telephone number of her brother Luís Felipe in Boston and urged me to visit him if I wanted to learn more about Princess Isabel. That January, Luís Felipe and I met. I discovered his love of history and storytelling matched his sister’s. By the end of the Boston visit, I knew I wanted to tell Isabel’s story. At the time I had no idea it would take over ten years of research, hundreds of hours of interviews, another trip to Brazil and two trips to Portugal before I would be able to piece together Isabel’s story and those of other royal women who played significant roles in the rise and fall of Brazilian slavery.

In a biography of Anna Roosevelt Cowles, Teddy Roosevelt’s remarkable sister, her friend Henry Adams wrote, “American history mentioned hardly the name of a woman, while English history handled them as timidly as though they were a new and undescribed species.” He might have also been speaking about women in Latin American history. 1 discovered in many ways their influence was as difficult to discover as someone in North America looking for the heavenly constellation of the Southern Cross. The stars of the constellation can’t be seen by most people in the northern hemisphere without travel, effort, and a willingness to go above or below the familiar horizon.

Women, even royal women, are often invisible, just beyond the surface of history. If they are featured, they are too often dismissed or portrayed as caricatures in historic narratives. Most of the scant references I initially found on Isabel turned out to be distorted by a biased perspective or factually wrong. She and other royal women were often mentioned only in footnotes, even in describing historic events in which they played the major role. My research revealed time, and again that women, are the nearly invisible strands holding the tapestry of history together.

On a recent trip to Brazil I visited dozens of large and small, modern and antiquarian, bookstores searching for anything 1 could find on Princess Isabel. I discovered dozens of books on the men in Isabel’s royal family — even books on their mistresses — but only one Isabel biography, and it was critical and dismissive. Yet, Princess Isabel served as Brazil’s head of state three separate times and was the national leader who signed the law abolishing slavery. Everyone there knew her name and seemed to have a strong opinion about her, but few had any facts to support that opinion. She may be one of the best-known invisible women in history, the most famous of her family’s invisible royal women.

In North America, dozens of books continue to be published every year on Abraham Lincoln, “the man that freed the slaves.” Some are pro and some are con, but they are found everywhere. My search for the story of this Latin American abolitionist has been a frustrating but fascinating hunt for pieces of a surprising puzzle.

Many people I spoke to, interviewed or corresponded with saw different Isabels — some believed her a saint, others a sinner. Some labeled her a traitor, others a dupe, some continued placing the mantle of redeemer on her shoulders. She may be parts of all those things, but mostly the person who emerged from my research was an intelligent, thoughtful and headstrong woman — a daughter, wife, mother and princess trying to balance her responsibilities to family, church and country. Isabel was right about some things, wrong about others. But she was a consistently astute politician — a national leader who placed herself and her government squarely at the forefront of a popular revolution.

To her enemies in nineteenth century politics, Princess Isabel was a dangerous woman — bright, independent and uncontrollable. If she were alive today, opponents would still consider her dangerous. I think that is one of the reasons her legend continues to live in Latin America; and part of the reason the person, the woman and the politician has been hidden or lost.

Slavery in America began and ended in Brazil. To tell the story of Isabel’s role in ending slavery, the roles other royal women played in its beginnings had to also be told. Power brings out the best or worst in human nature. The history of slavery is a history of power — an abuse of power. In many ways slavery is about selective blindness, the coexistence of good and evil within people. Some recognized slavery for the evil it was; others ignored that evil. Some used the power they had to oppose human bondage; but a significant number of princes, priests, popes, kings and queens sincerely convinced themselves slavery was a good thing. They rationalized the good that carne from slavery as outweighing the bad.

Early in my research I discovered the published diary of Thomas Ewbank, a North American traveler to Rio de Janeiro in 1846. His diary provided me with one of my first introductions to Isabel in his record of the joyful public reaction to her birth. “Yesterday a princess was born, and today hundreds are off to the São Cristóvão Palace; not only army and navy officers, priests, monks, and diplomats; but almost all that can raise a suitable dress, and hire or borrow a carriage for the occasion. The road is thronged with parties hastening to leave their salutations for ‘Her Serene Highness,’ the Imperial Princess Dona Isabel Christina Leopoldina Augusta Michaela Gabriela Raphaela Bra1 gança — a lady one day old!

Ewbank’s eyewitness narrative also included a description of Rio de Janeiro’s nearby slave market. The very week the city welcomed the addition of Princess Isabel as a member of Brazil’s royal family, Ewbank wrote of the destruction of a slave family being sold at auction. His description of the appearance and mood of the doomed slaves provides a dramatic contrast to the revelers celebrating Isabel’s royal birth.

They were of every shade, from deep Angola jet to white or nearly white, as one young woman facing me appeared. She was certainly superior in mental organization than some of the buyers. The anguish with which she watched the proceedings, and waited her turn to be bought, exposed, examined, and disposed of was distressing.

A little girl, I suppose her own, stood by weeping, with one hand in her lap, obviously dreading to be taken away. This child did not cry out — this was not allowed, but tears chased each other down her cheeks. Her little bosom panted violently, and such a look of alarm marked her face as she turned her large eyes on the proceedings that I thought at one time she would have dropped.

The head, eyes, mouth, hands, trunk, legs — every limb and ligament without are scrutinized, while, as aught within to be ruptured, the breast and other parts sounded…. One fact was most palpable —no more regard was paid the victims than if they had been so many horses.

Ewbank’s diary provided me with one of the common threads found throughout Princess Isabel’s story. Her own life could not be separated, understood, or appreciated without placing it in the context of Brazilian slavery and the role of slavery in the lives of other royal men and women.

It became impossible for me to understand or appreciate the life, deeds, choices and decisions of Princess Isabel in legally ending slavery in Brazil without also addressing the deeds of those men and women who brought slavery to the “new world”.

How other royals used power and the institution of slavery to achieve their personal and political goals is an important part of her story. This book attempts lo tell some of that history. It begins and ends with exile. There is no other way to write about slavery.

It is my hope this book will foster further interest, research, dialogue and inclusion of women in history so that someday Stendhal’s famous quote, “All geniuses born women are lost to the public good,” can be forever relegated as a footnote in history books. I also hope the lives of the women and men found in these pages will help others like Patricia, my quiet Brazilian student, find the courage to use their own voices in the classroom and throughout their lives.

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