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Brazilian Barbecue O n November 11, 1930, the Provisional Government—established on October 24 following the victory of the self-proclaimed revolution— gave a barbecue for some of the troops in Rio de Janeiro, then capital of the Federal District. The venue was the gardens of Quinta da Boa Vista, headquarters of the National Museum. Director Roquette-Pinto invited the revolutionaries to visit the museum, where three films were screened in their honor: Em pleno coração do Brasil (Deep in the heart of Brazil), Nos sertões do Brasil (In the Brazilian hinterlands), and Carnaúba (The carnauba wax palm), the latter based on a script by Alberto Sampaio. Five hundred and thirty men, probably in small groups, watched these motion pictures in the exhibit hall that the director had built shortly after he came to office in 1926.1 Thirteen days later, on November 24, an even more illustrious guest paid a visit to the museum: Getúlio Vargas himself, “honoring this institute” and “leisurely browsing the collections on exhibit.” Roquette-Pinto recounted the event to Minister Francisco Campos in the annual report of the National Museum, which had been attached to the Ministry of Education and Public Health (MESP) following the Revolution of 1930. The director took the opportunity to express his appreciation for having been retained at his post,which he interpreted as a “lofty vote of confidence.”2 Seven months later, in June 1931, 2 A Miniature of the Fatherland It is not hard to understand the great, generalized esteem in which brasilianos hold the old institute. First of all, it is a miniature of the Fatherland. —Roquette-Pinto, introduction to Uiára, 1937 A Miniature of the Fatherland 65 both Getúlio Vargas and Francisco Campos attended commemorations of the museum’s 114th anniversary, evidence of their continued interest in the institution , which had assumed an important role both in the administration’s strategy to strengthen its own legitimacy and also in its project to shape a “new Brazilian man.”Vargas and Campos, major strategists of this new era, believed the museum would serve them well in the task of deciphering the complex hieroglyphics represented by the land and people of Brazil.The museum could function as a true “map of legibility” in creating mechanisms of control and ho­ mogenization. When they scrutinized the museum’s displays, both men were “seeing like a State.”3 In Roquette-Pinto’s opinion, the main reason everyone admired the museum was that it was “a miniature of the Fatherland.” Few people would ever be able to travel across all of Brazil, but wandering through the exhibit rooms was like gazing upon “the portrait of a loved one.” In a few brief minutes, “the features characteristic of the many regions where our compatriots live, delight, and suffer” unfolded before the visitor’s eyes, “in collections within everyone’s reach.”4 As Vargas browsed the exhibits in November 1930, was it a similar line of thought that prompted him to place the institution under the umbrella of the newly created MESP? It seems likely. The new government encountered a sophisticated structure for educational activities at the National Museum. The building had undergone extensive remodeling in 1927; three new stories housed a library, the hall for conferences and exhibits, and new workshops (drafting and modeling, photomicrography, typography, mechanics and electricity, book binding, carpentry, and painting).The botanical garden had also been redone.5 As argued in chapter 1, the field of biology had been tightening its ties with government since the dawn of the century in Brazil.But this alone does not explain why the Provisional Government valued the National Museum so much. There were other institutes with top-quality researchers,like the Oswaldo Cruz and Butantan Institutes, which had demonstrated their public health policy skills under critical circumstances. What singled out the National Museum at that time was its ability to interweave biology and education. Its scientists were geared to conveying knowledge about Brazil and sharing practices of importance to the nation, not just in the realm of biology—regarding hygiene, flora and fauna,soil,physical anthropology,and nature conservation—but also in the social arena, particularly in educating “the people.” Education was the key for establishing dialogue between National Museum scientists and the Provisional Government; it was the panacea for all troubles, 66 chapter 2 conflicts, and impasses—a “pedagogical illusion.” In the mid-1920s, RoquettePinto had declared that Brazil would not cure its woes “with either the...


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