Writing German in the Time of Brasilidade (1937-1945)
Inspired by Hermano Vianna's 1996 book, O Mistério do Samba, that details the intersection of music, culture and politics, as well as the appropriation and nationalization of Samba in service to Getulio Vargas' government, I was curious as the dynamics of such a convergence. By way of a network of federal cultural institutions, the central government sought to utilize state resources for the purpose of cultural change. Article 128 of the 1937 Brazilian constitution codified the government's reach into erudite and popular culture for use as a vehicle in creating, popularizing, and commercializing a nationalized Brazilian culture and identity. With this information as well as Vianna's book, I was curious as to literature's role in the endeavor to overwrite the cultural memories and identities of its citizens, specifically the German settlements in southern Brazil. I examined the short stories of two German-Brazilian writers, Alfred Reitz, and Gertrud Gross-Hering to sample how the intersection so prominently figured in Vianna's book worked within the space of literature. The expected references to cultural overwrite, acknowledgement of repressive federal government actions, or any refutation of the two did not materialized, instead a different narrative emerged. The language, environment, customs, and experiences expressed in these stories are historical records of life in the settlements detailing land purchases, colony infrastructure, feuds and communal practices, but they also tell of interstitial spaces and liminal identities. A physical space, the pages themselves, where the authors could document and explore elements of these in-between spaces while giving voice to articulations of culture and identity that expand ideas of what it is to be German, Brazilian and also something altogether different.