Sixth and Final Week in Brazil

For my last few weeks in Sao Paulo I decided to explore other archives around the city as see if I could find new and different kinds of sources that spoke to Robert Moses 1950 “Program” for the city of Sao Paulo and how local paulistas reacted to it.  I spend a few days at two different archives: Arquivo Publico do Estado de Sao Paulo and the Arquivo Histórico de São Paulo.  At the Arquivo Publico I found a good amount internal communications by the organizations like the Sao Paulo Transit Authority (CMTC).  Especially interesting were the communications provided by informants that the administration had implanted to monitor the actions of the labor union, particularly communist members of the unions who were seen as organizer of labor strikes and other subversive activities in the late 1940s.  I am not sure if I will be able to use this material in my dissertation but I certainly hope to.  Reforming the transportation system was a key component of Moses’s “Program”, thou Moses never directly mentioned labor issues or communist infiltration for that matter.  At the Public Archive I also looked at their extensive collection of newspapers.  However, newspaper research strikes me as extremely time consuming and potentially frustrating.   There is just so much material to cover, most of which is irrelevant to my research topic.  Anyone doing research using newspapers I would appreciate some guidance.  At the Arquivo Historico I found out that they hold most of the institutional documents related to the events that the government of Sao Paulo sponsored to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city.  Unfortunately, this was also the most unwelcoming of all the archives I visited in Brazil.  Unlike most other places where photographing is not only permitted but also free of charge, the Arquivo Historico charges quite a bit of money to photograph documents in their collection.  And when I say quite a bit I actually mean quite a lot.  It costs an academic researcher $25.00 Reais (about $15.00 dollars) to take a single photograph with his or her own camera.  If you are a regular citizen (i.e. not an academic) the price tag is $50.00 Reais (about 30.00 dollars) per photograph.  By way of comparison, earlier this summer I had the New York Public Library scan 51 pages worth of documents from the Robert Moses Papers for me.  The dossier cost me $31.50 cents, which I gladly paid since I know it took staff time and equipment to make those scans possible – neither of which are the case in the Arquivo Municipal in Sao Paulo.  I was so disheartened by the price tag (not to mention the sheer disincentive to research) that I did some research on the issue.  As it turns out, the current prefect of Sao Paulo is the responsible party.  By approving decree 52.040 the prefect made it possible for municipal archives to charge that much money for individuals interested in getting a closer look of what is essentially public information.  To make a long story short I contacted someone who writes for one of the main newspapers in Sao Paulo (Folha de Sao Paulo) and on Sunday, Aug. 2011 a short op-ed piece on this very issue was published.  Hopefully others will also be outraged.  Despite this particularly unpleasant experience, I had a very productive time in Brazil this summer largely because of the wonderful  librarians and archivists I met along the way.

Marcio Siwi — PhD Candidate in Latin American History at NYU


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