- We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States
When a title like We Cannot Remain Silent is printed on a book cover, it can give clues to the role of speech in the themes addressed as well as in the research process from which the writings derive. Both are the cases of this valuable and exciting book by the prominent historian James Green, which confirms the author's extensive knowledge on Brazilian themes and his undeniable skill in engaging readers in his clear and creative writing. A professor of history and Brazilian Studies at Brown University, standing out as one of the more respected "brasilianists," Green illuminates an important side to Brazil's military dictatorship, initiated in 1964, which lasted for twenty-one years.
This unique and well-researched book identifies the forms U.S. opposition took to the Brazilian dictatorial regime. Brazilians scarcely knew about this opposition, in part because of the nature of a totalitarian regime itself. For instance, little is known in Brazil about the networks of political activism that, from 1968, sought to increase American awareness about the repressive situation of the Brazilian political scene (in terms of suppression of individual liberties and of violence in investigation, persecution, and torture). Likewise, Brazilians have never been privy to how those politically activist networks in the United States tried to encourage the American government to reassess its relationships with the Brazilian military dictatorship. The anti-American bias (still in force in a number of intellectual zones) preferred to privilege the demonized version that shows the support—never denied by Green—offered by the United States to a number of dictatorships in Latin America.
However, after reading We Cannot Remain Silent, it will be impossible for any intellectual committed to scholarly analysis to ignore the efforts and actions of artists, professors, intellectuals, journalists, and even more religious men, Catholics and evangelicals, as well as Brazilian political exiles, against the arbitrariness of the military regime in Brazil. Due to documents released for [End Page 165] consultation in recent years, Green was able to trace the shapes taken by this opposition, ranging from the speeches of prestigious intellectuals to concrete threats of economic retaliation by the then U.S. president, Jimmy Carter.
We Cannot Remain Silent does not utilize oral history as the primary research or analytical choice nor is the book based exclusively on oral memory. Green carried out a monumental research work searching for documents in archives, official publications, newspapers, and magazines, and, of course, in previous scholarly works. However, it certainly would be more difficult for the author to write a history of these opposition enterprises if he had dismissed oral sources. So he conducted more than a hundred interviews (in person and by telephone, in addition to testimonial correspondence) and incorporated oral history and newspaper interviews others had conducted previously. In this usage, Green exemplifies how oral history is a full partner in the historical enterprise, in both research and in analysis.
The people interviewed by the author—in a historical moment in which, yes, they can speak—presumably cooperated in providing evidence for a historical reconstitution. In all chapters, Green provides generous quotations from the interviews, and it is important to note the author's caution when introducing these excerpts, with phrases such as "reminiscing thirty years later about that summer, she commented . . . " (71). It reminds the reader that the interviews are results of a memory work made a posteriori—shattering the criticism usually made to historians who rule out the specifics of each source.
However, what deserves to be highlighted is Green's creativity and sensitivity in encompassing the various dimensions of the oral sources, presenting them not only as sources for a general history but simultaneously as life stories that articulate collective and personal features. In his "entr'actes," the historical narrative gives rise to individual life stories of persons like Zuzu Angel, a renowned fashion designer, whose son Angel Stuart Jones was classified as "disappeared...