In the Shadow of the Casa Grande and the Senzala - Meeting with Gilberto Freyre

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 22

The Journey - Recife -  July 28 - August 13, 1980

August 11 On bus again! Left Recife last night for 33-hour trip to Belém. Longest haul to date made longer by one hour roadside delay. We've run of gas — eventually bought from a passing truck.

Missed August 8-10 entries. Stayed to await interview with Gilberto Freyre. I was able to bounce most of my ideas off him and with no exception, they were sound. Pleased that some of the more controversial leads I suggest did not put Freyre off — “No evidence of that but not totally unlikely.”
For example, my suggestion that there could be a link between Pernambucanos ("Cavalcantis") and Inconfidência Mineira (Da Silvas). Look to a Masonic link, Freyre suggests. And, for example, the suggestion that there were black slaves present from the beginning, brought from Portugal. He likes the idea though, of course, stressed early importance of the Indians, especially the women.
(c) Gilberto Freyre Foundation  Professor Freyre in Private Study in 1980s
Professor Gilberto Freyre
Image courtesy Joaquim Nabuco Foundation

At 82, Freyre is a sprightly man, quick-witted, especially against the onslaught of ELU. I see no reason (as some do) of revising his theories, update yes, but if Pumaty is any example, the Case Grande idea holds up today as ever. What criticism I did hear from Freyre was either irrelevant or only related to small issues. [Note: This journal is, of course, separate from my interview notebooks that go into far more detail about my meeting with Professor Freyre and others. In many instances, too, major sources like Freyre were given a copy of my Outline for Brazil in advance and had a good idea of my thinking.]
Keeping this journal is a habit I am beginning to see as indispensable. The images and experiences are so different, so much a shock of the new or the familiar refound — that without recording them it would be impossible to remember all. In Brazil, each new day is one of discovery!
On Saturday night, a 9.30 visit with Amalia and her vast family, ten brothers and sisters, all older, twenty-eight nephews etc. Afterwards to a music bar and home by 4.30 a.m. Looked to quiet Sunday and started out Boa Viagem Beach Recifeat Boa Viagem beach, then to Olinda but on way back to hotel bumped into my friend Black Jimi and got home 2.30 a.m. Afternoon interview with Freyre and on bus at 6.15 p.m.
Amalia's family represent the ultimate extended family and, with experience of Antonietta in mind, typical of the grand old families of Brazil. Something I need to create for the Cardosos (Cavalcantis) of 1960/1970. Amalia's family is not only a patriarchal but a political unit with connections at every level, federal, state, local. Her references to various members invariably brings up one or another coronel- type connection.
Won't forget entering house and meeting family, seemed to be dozens of them, including Lima Filho. It would've been impossible to remember all their names. Event was the birthday of one of the twenty-eight nephews and nieces. Head of the family is mother, 82, and Amalia at 37 is the youngest child. Amalia's father was a prominent opposition member and owner of five farms, plus Lord knows what more. — All gathered round on patio after dinner for sing song to accompanied by an excellent guitarist.
What some had to say was often directly out of a South African situation: members of a privileged class and their involvement that would fit perfectly into a Progressive Party mold. Some liked to distance themselves from the diamond-bedecked Dona of Pumaty but were really speaking the same language. Too much pobre (poverty) agreed, but as I've seen so many times in Brazil, such social consciousness is voiced in one breath and in the next, they go on to tell you about a) the beach apartment b) the beach house c) the farm in the sertão, replete with many jokes about the people there, not racialistic though in similar vein.
As I told Gilberto Freyre, one of these days someone should do a comparative study between South Africa and Brazil. Could be illuminating.

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