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  • Inventing a Lusotropical Father, or, The Neurotic Legacy in Germano Almeida’s O Testamento do Senhor Napumoceno
  • Phillip Rothwell

Lusophone genealogies always trace back, either confrontationally or in acquiescence, to the discourse of the lusotropical. When turning our focus to the relationship between Cape Verde and Portugal, the controversial theories of the Brazilian sociologist, and their even more controversial and imperially haunted application, stumbles across troubled ground. The archipelago nation should have been the perfect graft, endorsing Gilberto Freyre's lusotropical apologetics. However, the sociologist saw fit to deny Cape Verde the same mythical status as his edenic Brazilian cultural melting pot, precisely because of a lapse in his Boasian training that allowed him to confuse race and culture, and effectively to lament the lack of whiteness on the islands.1 Nowhere in the Portuguese empire was Gilberto Freyre's theory of the lusotropical more heartily revered than within the cadres of Cape Verde's Claridoso generation.2 Yet those same Claridosos would express regret at Freyre's failure to see that the society they imagined Cape Verde to be was the natural and obvious embodiment of a theory he had initiated in Brazil of the 1930s as a means of valorizing mulattos treated with contempt by society at large.

By the time Freyre visited Cape Verde in the 1950s, he was already compromised by the Salazar regime that appropriated a theory it initially disliked. The basic premises of lusotropicalism were that the Portuguese colonized in a manner distinct from other imperial practice because they had the historical consciousness and phylogenetics of mixed blood due to the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, their adventures overseas where ones of discovery and love, a special kind of love whereby the Portuguese male fell for the woman of color and together they procreated a new strand of humanity: the race of the future.

Cláudia Castelo has documented the extent to which the Portuguese New State's appropriation of lusotropicalism omitted aspects that did not serve its imperial apologetics in its diplomatic buttress against growing international pressure to decolonize following the Second World War.3 Miguel Vale de Almeida, for his part, has demonstrated clearly both the rupture in dominant political and academic discourse that the adoption of lusotropical superficialities for expediency represented—the Portuguese semantic correlation between monstrosity and [End Page 95] hybridity was recodified as the Portuguese gift to the future—and the postcolonial inheritance of a propaganda that so penetrated the Portuguese psyche that traits of it continue to surface in the thinking explaining sociological patterns in contemporary Portugal.4

Like many before me, not least, or rather the least of whom was the Salazar regime, I intend to appropriate Freyre in this article, or his terminology, to analyze the role and inheritance (both as recipient and donor) of what I will term the lusotropical father, particularly as he manifests himself in the Cape Verdean writer, Germano Almeida's 1989 novel, O Testamento do Sr Napumoceno.5 The lusotropical father is a phenomenon that arises in certain nineteenth-century Portuguese literature, particularly by Romantics like Camilo and Gomes de Amorim, who show the obverse of what Freyre saw as Portugal's gift to a new universal world culture. Those potential fathers who sailed away on voyages of discovery had the unfortunate effect of evacuating the imperial center, in a maneuver which in the nineteenth century always echoed the displacement of the imperial court to the Brazilian periphery. The lusotropical father gives children to other nations, and is felt as an absence in the land of his birth. If he returns to Portugal, it is a Portugal he no longer knows, and that has celebrated him as an absence. He becomes part of a spectral and bogus justification, whose aim is to conceal an accelerating decadence in a has-been center.

In Germano Almeida's novel, the specter of an absent father who returns to make his presence felt as a recreation of his posthumously acknowledged daughter, haunts what David Brookshaw has signaled as one of Cape Verde's first postmodern texts (Brookshaw 189). Several critics have made the comparison between Brazil's Machado de Assis and...


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