DE CAPANEMA, de Simon Schwartzman, Helena Maria Bousquet Bomeny, e Vanda
Maria Ribeiro Costa. Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1984, 388 pp.
Pubished in the Hispanic American Historical
Review, 66 (2), May 1986, 423-424.
By Michael L. Conniff, University of New Mexico.
Simon Schwartzman has emerged as one of the finest writers on twentieth-century
Brazilian history. His latest work draws on the Gustavo Capanema papers
left to the CPDOC research center in 1978. Correspondence, photos, clippings,
and other materials comprise this huge collection.
Capanema, the quintessential Mineiro politician, served as acting governor
of his state in 1933 and then as minister of education and culture from
1934 to 1945. An action-oriented intellectual who surrounded himself with
like-minded men, Capanema both reflected and helped shape Brazil's intellectual
environment of the 1930S and early 1940s. Essentially conservative, traditional,
and Catholic, this group kept national educational and cultural policies
on the right end of the ideological spectrum. Their style has been termed
conservative modernization. Because President Vargas cared little about
educational and cultural matters, Capanema and his collaborators enjoyed
carte blanche powers. They, like their liberal rivals, believed that education
would permanently alter the course of Brazilian history by shaping future
generations, and they approached their work with a zeal that sometimes bordered
on fanaticism. They were right about their impact, though they did not foresee
the survival of some and importation of other alternative philosophies in
This volume is neither a biography nor a history of Capanema's term as minister;
rather, it is a fascinating sampling of his multiple activities as revealed
in his correspondence during these years. Schwartzman and his co-authors
knit the material together with subtlety, yet allow Capanema and his generation
to speak for hemselves. Their motives and personal hopes for Brazil take
precedence over their actual accomplishments in this treatment. The narrative
is followed by about a hundred letters to and from some of the most renowned
figures of twentieth-century Brazil. All students of modern Brazil will
wish to peruse this book, and intellectual historians will devour it.