Week One in Sao Paulo

It’s been a busy week in Sao Paulo. My arrival coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian Association of Historians (ANPUH). To commemorate their anniversary ANPUH is hosting a mega-symposium at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) with some 7000 participants – grad students, professors, archivists, bibliographers, etc. It’s a week-long symposium with over 100 concurrent panels everyday covering every possible subject matter. To make things more manageable I decided to narrow my options to three general topic areas: slavery, urban history and U.S. Studies (yes, Brazilian Scholars who study the United States). The discussions have been very stimulating. Some of the issues that have come up include the benefits and challenges of oral history as well as inter-disciplinary approaches to Urban History. Interestingly, there has been a new found interest among historians on the origins and consequences of the 1831 law that officially made the African slave trade to Brazil illegal. Traditionally the 1831 law has been treated as a quintessential example of the “para ingles ver” – for the English to see – whereby slavery was officially outlawed but never actually enforced by the Brazilian authorities. Scholars are now looking both at the local impact of the illegal slave trade – for the enslaved as well as the formation of the new Brazilian independent State – as well as its Atlantic dynamic. Finally, I have been struck by the truly national scope of ANPUH – there are scholars from all over Brazil at the symposium!

As for my archival research, due to the symposium I only spent one day at the Archivo Publico do Estado de Sao Paulo. It was my first experience working in a public archive in Brazil, and despite the fact the building where the archives are located is not in the best shape (its been under construction – “reforma” – for over three years) the experience was a very positive one. The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful! I am researching the urban renewal program that the U.S. born urban planner – Robert Moses – did for the city of Sao Paulo in 1950. I spend my first day at the archives looking at magazines (particularly one called O Cruzeiro) from the late 1940s and early 1950s looking for articles related to Robert Moses’ trip to Sao Paulo. Since O Cruzeiro was owned by Assis Chateaubriand, a pro-American media mogul, I though I would find some reference to Robert Moses’ Program for Sao Paulo. I have yet to find anything so far!

Posted by Marcio Siwi — PhD Candidate in Latin American History at NYU

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