Ferreira de Castro's Emigrantes: An Anarchist Portuguese Novel Responds to the Myth of the 'Brasileiro'.

Author:de Goes, Plinio, Jr.

Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro was born in a rural town in Portugal in 1898 and left his village to work as a labourer in Brazil in 1911 (Pandeirada, 'Testemunhos do oceano', pp43, p48). He worked as a warehouse employee in the Amazon forest, near a rubber plantation, for four years (48). After leaving the warehouse, he began authoring articles for the periodical Portugal in the Brazilian state of Para in 1917, beginning his career as a writer (p51). Destitute, Ferreira de Castro returned to Portugal in 1919 (p52). In Portugal, he wrote over a hundred articles for two anarchist publications: A Batalha (The Struggle), the official publication of the union Confederacao Geral do Trabalho (General Confederation of Labor) or CGT; and Renovacao (Renewal) (Cabrita, 'No rasto da passagem', p123). The CGT was formed at a worker's conference in the city of Coimbra on 10 September 1919, and presented itself as an organisation dedicated to a revolutionary form of unionisation (Sousa, O Sindicalismo em Portugal, pp112-115). Although the precise form of revolution advocated by the CGT was open to interpretation given that the union included both radical and less radical elements, the radical presence was sufficient that the CGT actually formed committees to study industries and prepare for the expropriation of all factories and farms by workers (pp122-126). When, as in Italy, Spain and Germany, fascist elements began to assert themselves in Portugal during the 1920s and 1930s, the CGT became one of the primary organs of resistance, calling for the people to take up arms and for a general strike on 1 June 1926, leading the already repressed organisation into a clandestine existence (Guimaraes, 'Cercados e Perseguidos', p3).

Ferreira de Castro was not only affiliated with A Batalha, the official organ of the CGT, but he also associated with well-known Portuguese anarchist journalists such as Pinto Quartin, as well as other influential figures in radical circles (ibid.). In A Batalha and Renovacao, another publication divulged by the CGT for the purposes of commentary on culture, including art and literature, Ferreira de Castro proclaimed his love of liberty and 'o futuro' (the future) over the course of 134 articles (Cabrita, 'No rasto da passagem', pp119, 123). His articles not only focused on workers' rights and political occurrences--the need for workers to obtain paid vacations or the need to oppose the rise of fascism in Europe in the early twentieth century, for example--but on what he termed 'arte social' (social art) (pp124, 126, 131). A 'literatura vermelha' (red literature) had to be developed to divulge the value of liberty and the struggles of working people's lives (p127). During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Portuguese had colonised significant parts of Africa as well as South America, and, as discussed by Jesuit Priest Andre Joao Antonil in an early-eighteenth century account, had imported slaves into Brazil and generated a domestic caste system comprised of 'negros' (blacks), 'mulattos' (mixed-race), and 'brancos' (whites) (Antonil, Brazil at the Dawn, pp39-40). In the pages of A Batalha, Ferreira de Castro rejected colonialism, dubbed as pirates Portuguese explorers considered national icons by much of the Portuguese people, and lauded revolts against colonial powers in India and Africa (Cabrita, 'No rasto da passagem', p134).

Perhaps the experience of having lived in Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, shaped his views. Ferreira de Castro's time in Brazil clearly influenced his trajectory as he transitioned from journalist to novelist. Two of his novels fictionalised his experiences residing in northern Brazil: Emigrantes (Emigrants), published in 1928, and A Selva (The Jungle), published in 1930 (Abreu and Guedelha, 'A Selva, de Ferreira de Castro', pp225-237). A Selva, the story of a conservative young law student from Portugal who dreams of making a fortune in a rubber plantation in Brazil and experiences a softening of his views after exposure to the harshness of plantation life, is Ferreira de Castro's most widely read and renown work--it not only resulted in Brazil nominating Ferreira de Castro for a Nobel Prize in literature but in a well-received film adaptation in 2002 (Coelho, 'A Selva', p17, pp19-20, pp22, 44).

Emigrantes, far less analysed in academic publications, merits the same level of scrutiny and praise because it is innovative in its attempt to unravel popular myths held to be truths in Portuguese society. It is the story of a poor Portuguese man from a rural town who seeks manual work in Brazil to improve his fortunes. While A Selva tells the story of a well-educated emigrant who is confronted with the reality of a different country and changes as a result of his new environment, Emigrantes is a novel with a different moral: the same fundamental problem affects the emigrant in his native country as in the host country, the concentration of power in the hands of the few. The relationship between immigrants, emigrants and Brazilians in the novel is one of common suffering without an element of otherness imposed upon the new environment or its culture. Afro-Brazilian, indigenous Brazilian, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese workers find themselves in the same situation, without caste distinctions.

This article suggests that Emigrantes is an anarchist-influenced response to the image of the 'brasileiro' (Brazilian) in the novels of Camilo Castelo Branco and other authors. As discussed below, the 'brasileiro' is a Portuguse-born man who returns to his home country from Brazil a wealthy patriarch. While, in Camilo Castelo Branco's work, emigrants to Brazil return as part of the elite, Ferreira de Castro asserts that the possibility of ascension through access to the global market is chimerical. To Ferreira de Castro, the global capitalist system cut the ground from under the 'brasileiro' myth. 'Brasileiros,' like Brazilians (also dubbed 'brasileiros') and Portuguese, are overwhelmingly poor, tortured souls.

The first section of this article discusses the history of anarchism in Portugal to provide a summary of the ideas Ferreira de Castro encountered in radical publications such as A Batalha. The second section presents a summary of novels describing the Portuguese experience in the Americas in order to situate the figure of the 'brasileiro' within the context of a body of literature. The third section presents the narrative of Emigrantes and discusses the unravelling of the 'brasileiro' myth within that novel, asserting that Ferreira de Castro deployed anarchist concepts in his mission to unravel the ideology behind this figure.


During the period lasting from the mid-eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, anarchism transitioned from virtual non-existence as a political movement in Portugal to the primary strain of radical leftist thought in the labour movement in that country.

The first Portuguese worker's associations were not anarchist in nature: the Associacao dos Operarios (Worker's Association) was formed in Lisbon in 1851 as a mutual aid society with workers paying into a common fund to secure themselves against sickness and old age; the Centro Promotor dos Melhoramentos das Classes Laboriosas (Center for the Promotion of Betterment for the Laboring Classes), created in 1852, not only managed a similar fund but provided education courses and advocated for specific legislation; the Associacao dos Trabalhadores da Regiao Portuguesa (Association of Worker's of the Portuguese Region) was formed in 1873 and, while serving many of the same purposes, led strikes and helped divulge a new party, the Socialist Party (Sousa, O Sindicalismo em Portugal, p27, p28, pp44-45, p47).

Explicitly anarchist groups began to appear in Portugal at the end of the nineteenth century. The anarchist Uniao Democratica Social (Union for Social Democracy) and Grupo Comunista-Anarquista (Anarchist-Communist Group) were formed in the 1880s, while the Grupo Revolucionario Anarquista II de Novembro (Revolutionary Anarchist Group of the 2nd of November) was organised in the 1890s (p48, p59, p64). By 1902, the anarchist Federacao Socialista Livre (Free Socialist Federation) was attempting to coordinate action between many different anarchist groups in Portugal (Freire, Anarquistas e Operarios, p302).

Anarchist libraries began to open their doors to the working classes in the early twentieth century. The Grupo de Propaganda Libertaria (Libertarian Propaganda Group) in the city of Porto, a group formed in 1904, not only published its own newspaper but provided reading materials at its Centro e Biblioteca de Estudos Sociais (Center and Library of Social Studies) (p297; Sousa, O Sindicalismo em Portugal, p80). A number of anarchist publications were available to workers, including such titles as O Protesto-Guerra Social (The Protest-Social War), A Comuna (The Commune), O Libertario (The Libertarian), and Comuna Livre (Free Commune) (Freire, Anarquistas e Operarios, p343, p354).

Portuguese immigrants to Brazil participated in the simultaneously expanding anarchist movement in that country. The Portuguese immigrant Jose Marques da Costa published anarchist articles in the northern Brazilian periodicals A Revolta (The Revolt), O Trabalhador (The Worker), Voz do Povo (Voice of the People), and Renovacao (Renewal) (Rodrigues, Os Companheiros Vol. III, 33-34). Neno Vasco was born near the city of Porto and immigrated to Brazil at a young age, returning to Portugal to attend university and then resettling in Sao Paulo, launching the anarchist newspaper Terra Livre (Free Land) in 1905 (Samis, Minha Patria e o Mundo Inteiro, p22, pp28-29, p67, p70, p72, p171). In Brazil, he worked with Italian immigrants and was exposed to the ideas of classical Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, subsequently dedicating himself to translating and...

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