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Brazil, Mirror of Cape Verde: the case of the São Vicente carnival1 1 This text is based on chapter VI of my doctoral dissertation in Anthropology (Daun e Lorena 2018) defended at the ICS - Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and whose research was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (SFRH/BD/77522/2011). The translation of this article was also funded by FCT under the scope of the strategic plan of CRIA - Centre for Research in Anthropology (UID/04038/2020).

ABSTRACT

The São Vicente carnival is a symbol of the island’s identity and, at the same time, a field that evokes and intersects several identity referents, with Brazil being the main one. This article revisits the long history of discourses and representations about the identitarian relation between Cape Verde and Brazil, through the case of the São Vicente carnival. Based on archival and ethnographic research, the article presents several Brazilian cultural influences that over time marked the island’s carnival and discusses this supposed relation, proposing the mirror metaphor to better illustrate this unilateral identification and identity demand.

Keywords:
Brazil; Cape Verde; Carnival; Ethnography; Identity

RESUMO

O carnaval de São Vicente é um símbolo da identidade da ilha e, simultaneamente, um campo que evoca e intersecta vários referentes identitários, sendo o Brasil o principal. Neste artigo, revisita-se a longa história de discursos e representações acerca da relação identitária entre Cabo Verde e Brasil, a partir do caso do carnaval de São Vicente. Com base em pesquisa arquivística e etnográfica, apresentam-se várias influências culturais brasileiras que, ao longo do tempo, marcaram o carnaval da ilha, e discute-se essa suposta relação, propondo a metáfora do espelho para melhor ilustrar essa identificação unilateral e demanda identitária.

Palavras-chave:
Brasil; Cabo Verde; Carnaval; Etnografia; Identidade

RÉSUMÉ

Le carnaval de São Vicente est un symbole de l’identité de l’île et, simultanément, un champ qui évoque et croise plusieurs référents identitaires, le Brésil étant le principale. Cet article revisite la longue histoire des discours et représentations à propos de la relation identitaire entre le Cap-Vert et le Brésil, au travers du cas du carnaval de São Vicente. À partir d’une recherche archivistique et ethnographique, cet article présente plusieurs influences culturelles brésiliennes qui, au fil du temps, ont marqué le carnaval de l'île, et discute cette relation supposée, proposant la métaphore du miroir pour mieux illustrer cette identification unilatérale et demande identitaire.

Mots-clés:
Brésil; Cap-Vert; Carnaval; Ethnographie; Identité

Introduction

The Cape Verde archipelago consists of ten islands grouped into two main regions: the Barlavento islands (Windward islands), with the Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boavista islands; and the Sotavento islands (Leeward islands), with the Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava islands. This division is not merely geographical, it also configures a framework of historical and cultural differences that have repercussions at the level of constructions and identity claims of each island.

It's outside the scope of this article revisiting the extensive bibliography on Cape Verdean identity, but it should be noted that Cape Verdean identity has been repeatedly defined by mixture, without ever ceasing to reproduce the “pure categories” of that creolization (Vasconcelos, 2007aVASCONCELOS, João. Filhos da terra, ou Lamarck em Cabo Verde. In: CONGRESSO DA ASSOCIAÇÃO PORTUGUESA DE ANTROPOLOGIA, 3., 2006, Lisboa. Actas [...]. Lisboa: ISCTE; ICS, 2007a.). In very general terms, the two archetypes constantly present are Africa and Europe (or Portugal, colonizing country), which, according to historical and political conjunctures, have been more or less valued. And these two archetypes are represented internally by the Sotavento and Barlavento regions, and very concretely by the Santiago island (and the Praia city) and the São Vicente island (and the Mindelo city), respectively.

As I have discussed (Daun e Lorena 2015DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Ambivalências identitárias em Cabo Verde: da história à etnografia. Análise Social, n. 217, p. 784-808, 2015.; 2018DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Classe, memória e identidade em Cabo Verde: uma etnografia do carnaval de São Vicente. 2018. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2018.; 2020DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. À sombra do passado: memória, identidade e cosmopolitismo insular em São Vicente In: CHAVES, Duarte Nuno (Ed.). Questões de Identidade Insular na Macaronésia. Açores: Santa Casa da Misericórdia das Velas & CHAM - Centro de Humanidades, 2020. P. 85-101.), Cape Verdean identity is a widely debated topic among Cape Verdeans, both in academic circles and outside them. In the field of Social Sciences, there is abundant literature on the subject, which would be impractical to list here. The purpose of this article is a different one. Instead of carrying out another bibliographical survey into the numerous existing publications, I intend to adopt a different approach to this issue, working on materials that have been neglected. The survey is mainly archivist and ethnographic2 2 The ethnographic fieldwork was conducted between 2012 and 2015 in several extended stays and is presented in detail in the doctoral dissertation (see Daun e Lorena, 2018). . Moreover, I focus on Brazil, thereby dedicating myself to a central element of that identity construction, concealed by the Africa/Europe archetypes.

The São Vicente island is proud to have the largest and most beautiful carnival in the country, which is one of its main tourist attractions (Daun e Lorena, 2019DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Carnaval de São Vicente: um produto turístico entre o cultural e o económico. Pasos. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, v. 17, n. 3, p. 583-594, 2019.). However, this epithet implies some controversies. One of them is related to its Brazilian appearance. Nevertheless, this approach to Brazil is not fortuitous. It is part of a history of discourses and representations that have been produced and reproduced in the last century about the supposed relations and similarities between the two countries and that have fostered identity constructions and claims in Cape Verde. Brazil, which constitutes a symbol of carnival by itself, is a more general identity referent, which has marked the Cape Verdean identity demand from an early stage and which remains well present in the archipelago. This article aims to discuss this identification with Brazil through the case of the São Vicente carnival.

Instead of a rhetoric of flows and intersections, which has prevailed in the approach to this subject, I propose rather the mirror metaphor. The mirror, only used by Cape Verde, and very particularly by São Vicente, returns an image that is not always sharp, but which invariably features Brazil.

For this reflection, I present varied sources (literary works, periodical press, archival documentation) that provide the foundations for a multifaceted analysis and historically situate the subject. I also resort to ethnographic data that elucidate these discourses, representations and materialities in current times. Thus, I intend to interrelate past and present, stressing that identity is always built in a dynamic, relational and contextual manner, albeit some referents remain.

Going back in history, what immediately emerges as a link between Cape Verde and Brazil is the fact that both were Portuguese territories. However, the most significant phenomenon that united, economically and culturally, the two latitudes was the slave trade. The slaveholding society that the Portuguese imperial system built had Cape Verde as stopover, a major hub of enslaved Africans, who were then taken to the plantations in the Americas. This is the genesis of a relationship whose outlines gradually changed over time. That is the foundation of the notion, much widespread in São Vicente, of Cape Verde as a miniature replica of Brazil. More concretely, the notion of a similar social formation, derived from the same ethnic-cultural matrix, is the founding element of a supposed common identity. Like Brazil in part, Cape Verde is also a Creole society. That is, for many, the main uniting bond. This notion is based on the simplistic assumption, which describes but only a detail of the formation processes of each of the societies, that both were born from the contact between white masters with black slaves, thus giving rise to similar cultures. Accordingly, it is alleged an almost umbilical relationship between these two “sibling countries”.

Unlike most of the Cape Verdean population, writer Germano Almeida (2003ALMEIDA, Germano. Cabo Verde. Viagem pela história das ilhas. Lisboa: Caminho, 2003., p. 19, our translation) has another opinion on this established notion:

There are people who arrived on our islands, visited them à vol d’oiseau, found this true mosaic of races and colors that is the Cape Verdean nation, and hastily compared us to Brazil. […] I prefer, however, to say that if we resemble Brazil it is in the way of celebrating Carnival in São Vicente.

Nevertheless, the writer shares the opinion of the general population of Mindelo about the carnival of the two lands. This comparison between the Brazilian carnival and the São Vicente carnival has often served to compare the two countries and is a central topic when we propose to analyze the Cape Verdean carnival.

The connection between Cape Verde and Brazil has been approached by several authors and fundamentally related to cultural influences, be it as to musical, literary, intellectual or even religious aspects3 3 Varela (2000) presents a good review of Brazil’s cultural influences on Cape Verde, namely literary and musical influences. See also Vasconcelos (2007b), Dias (2011), Pereira (2011). . The most widely debated identity formulation with profound repercussions on the islands was Luso-tropicalism, an issue that I will not delve into here4 4 For their study, indispensable works include: Freyre (1953), Lopes (1956) and Ferreira (1985). , although it is central to a better understanding of what follows.

In this text, my focus is the carnival, a framework that enable us to problematize and challenge some of the interpretations that have been made about the relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic. And, more than a field that evokes discourses, representations and materialities related to Brazil, carnival is also in São Vicente - as in Brazil - an identity symbol.

At carnival time, the small island of São Vicente, with its 75.000 inhabitants, concentrates on the streets of the capital, the city of Mindelo, and lives the most long-awaited days of the year5 5 For a detailed description and analysis of the São Vicente carnival, see Daun e Lorena (2018). . Nevertheless, carnival is not just about party and revelry. It is the expression of a sense of collective belonging and of São Vicente and Mindelo identity. Let us examine in what ways.

São Vicente is a Brazilim [little Brazil]

When talking about the relationship between São Vicente and Brazil, it is almost protocolary to quote the lyrics of the song Carnaval de São Vicente [São Vicente Carnival], which Cesária Évora (1999ÉVORA, Cesária. Carnaval de São Vicente. Álbum: Café Atlântico. Paris: Lusafrica, 1999., our translation) internationalized singing that São Vicente is a little Brazil6 6 Correia e Silva (2004, p. 66, our translation) counterargues: “In good histori-cal rigor, it is the opposite. It is Brazil that is an immense, continental and rich Cape Verde” and this is related to the fact that “[…] before becoming a type, the Creole slaveholding society was a case, the Cape Verdean case. The societal model traveled afterwards from here to there […].” Still regarding the trope, see the reflection of Furtado (2017), who deconstructs it, exposing the so often biased and essentialized conceptions of one as to the other. :

São Vicente is a little Brazil

Full of joy, full of color

In these three days of revelry

There’s no war, it’s carnival

In this unique morabeza [creole word for hospitality, friendliness affability].

The identification with Brazil was very evident in this song by Pedro Rodrigues. And if there is an occasion that demonstrates well that São Vicente is a little Brazil, it is undoubtedly the carnival. This song is an unavoidable reference, but there are more choices possible.

Jorge Barbosa’s poem (1951, p. 16-17, our translation), Você, Brasil [You, Brazil], is another iconic example, which I will revisit further in the text. For now, let me just show a short excerpt:

I like you, Brazil.

You’re like my land.

The difference is that everything there is big and here everything is smaller…

What these two poetic compositions have of added interest is that they both have references to carnival. However, one describes the carnival of Cape Verde and the other alludes to the carnival of Brazil. And there is another considerable difference. Barbosa’s poem was written in the 1950s and Rodrigues’ verses were written in the 1990s. Despite the time gap, the imaginary remained. And at one point it was almost obsessive. There was a favorable context for this, especially with Claridade7 7 Claridade was a magazine created in São Vicente and of which only nine issues were published between 1936 and 1966. However, it had a tremendous impact beyond the island’s boundaries and over generations. It had several collaborators, but its hard core consisted of Baltasar Lopes, Jorge Barbosa and Manuel Lopes, who, influenced by other literary movements, namely the Presença of Portugal and the regionalist novel of Brazil, launched this movement, which would be decisive in the formation of a new conception of Cape Verdeanity. The pages of the magazine contained both literature (from poetry to short story) and essay. Both genres were animated by the denunciation of problems of the land and the affirmation of a Cape Verdean regional identity. , when this generation of intellectuals reflected on the social situation of the archipelago and its identity roots in the light of the Luso-tropicalist ideology. In their opinion, Cape Verde was a successful, exemplary case of the Luso-tropical world. However, it is important to note that Jorge Barbosa wrote Você, Brasil (in which, among many other things, he refers to carnival) in an even more particular context, shortly after Gilberto Freyre’s visit to Cape Verde8 8 This poem was dedicated to the writer Ribeiro Couto, but Barbosa wrote ano-ther one, Carta para o Brasil (Letter to Brazil), addressed to Gilberto Freyre. . The poet also focused on carnival in two other poems, Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro [Rio de Janeiro Carnival] and Terça-feira de Carnaval [Carnival Tuesday], the former about the Rio carnival, the latter about the Mindelo carnival.

Mindelo is a city that grew up around its bay and harbor. From the late 19th century to the mid-1950s, there was an era of prosperity that brought to the port city travelers from the four corners of the world and that led the Cape Verdean land to receive influences from various places. Porto Grande provided a context that inspired carnival celebrations. It was also through the port that Brazilian winds arrived bringing, in the baggage, literature, music, ideals.

As early as the 1910s, the Couraçado Minas Gerais group appeared in the Mindelo carnival. And the following decade saw the appearance of the Floriano and Belo Horizonte groups.

The Floriano group had B.Léza as main mentor. B.Léza, or rather Francisco Xavier da Cruz (1905-1958), born in Mindelo, is one of the most prestigious figures in Cape Verde’s music scene. Composer and instrumentalist, he was the author of the most acclaimed stanzas of Cape Verdean music. He introduced in the way of playing the morna the so-called “Brazilian halftone”, an innovation at the level of the passing chords, which resulted from the influence of Brazilian players, with whom he mingled in the bohemian Mindelo that Porto Grande engendered9 9 The speculations that try to explain the reason for the pseudonym are also elu-cidating. It is said that a Brazilian, upon hearing him play a morna, fascinated, exclaimed: “Qui beléza!” Although contested, this version is widespread. Whether a legend or not, this story says much about the representations of the relationship with Brazil. Another justification is based on the fact that B.Léza pronounces many terms with a Brazilian accent and this is one of them (see Baltasar Lopes’ account to Laban, 1992, p. 17). . Brazil was an inspiration for B.Léza in the most varied ways, especially in musical terms, but not only, and this consideration was well expressed in his carnival group with the suggestive name of Floriano and whose motto was “order and progress” (Moacyr Rodrigues, 1998MOACYR RODRIGUES, Gabriel. Carnaval. Mindelo de Cabo Verde. Mindelo: Edições Calabedotche, 1998., p. 24).

B.Léza’s participation in the Mindelo carnival was not limited to his group. He wrote and composed music for other carnival groups. When we read the lyrics of the march of the Estrela da Marinha group, written by him, it is not possible for us to capture the sonority of the music, certainly revealing, but we can feel the ambiance experienced in the port city through the samba rhythm played with the appropriate instruments:

Carnival has arrived

Everybody will play

Samba la-la, samba yo-yo,

Who stays at home

It’s for crying.

Here it is, here it is.

The Creole girls of the Estrela da Marinha

They’ve got the tambourine

To play the Carnival

With the tambourine and passion (B.Leza apud Titina, 2013TITINA. Titina canta B.Leza. Haarlem: Astral Music, 2013. 1988., our translation).

B.Léza’s admiration for Brazil is well known and was eternalized in the morna he composed with the simple name Brazil, also alluding to Gilberto Freyre’s visit to Cape Verde in the 1950s.

In the 1930s, Cape Verdean composers began to create the first chords of the island sambas. Carnival groups in Mindelo adopted Brazilian names and rhythms, but also apparel and costumes. It should be noted that, in the 1930s, São Vicente saw the impetus of the Claridade movement, whose foundations were the supposed brotherhood between the two countries; concomitantly, the identification with Brazil gradually grew and was legitimized with the seal of the Luso-tropicalist ideology.

In 1935 - the year before the first issue of Claridade magazine was printed -, Delfim de Faria writes a short article with the suggestive title Caboverdeanidade [Cape Verdeaness] in the Boletim da Sociedade LusoAfricana do Rio de Janeiro [Bulletin of the Luso-African Society of Rio de Janeiro], where he comments on his trip to Cape Verde. On the island of São Vicente he stayed three days and spent them with the Claridade group, which he praises immensely and about which he says: “these boys cultivate Brazilian things”. His impression was that he was in Rio de Janeiro. The chronicler, inquiring about the reasons for the affinities between Cape Verde and Brazil, received a lapidary response from the Claridade group: the ethnic formation (Afro-Black and European). But the group, conscientious, clarified: “The problem for us is an elite problem. This acute feeling of Brazilian affinities in Cape Verde is in an inorganic state in the mass” (Faria, 1935FARIA, Delfim de. Caboverdeanidade. Boletim da Sociedade Luso-Africana do Rio de Janeiro, n. 13, p. 113-115, 1935., p. 113, italics in the original, our translation).

Among others, one of those affinities experienced by the “mass” was music and dance. António de Almeida (1938ALMEIDA, António de. Monografia-Catálogo da Exposição de Cabo Verde. Lisboa: Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, 1938., p. 55, our translation), a professor at the then Colonial Higher School, wrote a short monograph about the archipelago, where he noted that “[…] Cape Verdeans, like Africans, are fervent enthusiasts of dance […] preferentially appreciating Brazilian sambas and maxixes”.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider the influence of Brazilian music, both on the anonymous mass and on the Cape Verdean composers of this generation, who were part of the carnival groups and who were inspired by the marches and sambas of the Brazilian carnival to compose those of the Mindelo carnival (see Varela, 2000VARELA, João Manuel. Le Brésil et les îles du Cap-Vert. Aspects d’influences culturelles. Diogène, n. 191, p. 118-142, 2000.). As informed by Moacyr Rodrigues (1998MOACYR RODRIGUES, Gabriel. Carnaval. Mindelo de Cabo Verde. Mindelo: Edições Calabedotche, 1998., p. 12, our translation): “Music that was successful in Rio de Janeiro one year, the following year was used in Mindelo. The figure of the Brazilian “malandro” [hustler], wearing a straw hat, a black and white shoes, with a scarf around his neck, is brought by those returning from trips or by magazines”.

This traffic of influences was more one-sided than reciprocal, but there are some exceptions to this rule. This is the case of Cabo Roque, Eugénio Pedro Ramos (1903-2003), a Cape Verdean from São Nicolau, who emigrated and worked as a kitchen helper in the Brazilian navy. In 1922, he stopped in São Vicente, having watched the carnival of the island. In 1925, he landed in Recife, passing through S. Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Santos, where he settled and where, in 1944, the first samba school, X9, was born. From the following year, Cabo Roque and his wife will be its promoters, becoming the duo that marked the Santos carnival (Nogueira, 2007NOGUEIRA, Gláucia. Notícias que fazem a História. A música de Cabo Verde pela imprensa ao longo do século XX. Praia: Edição do autor, 2007., p. 41-43). In this case, the traversal is from Cape Verde to Brazil.

In Mindelo at this time, there are several groups that participate in carnival celebrations, among them the Garibaldi and the Nacional10 10 In 1939, the group left with a float representing the seaplane Lusitânia, which transported Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral to Brazil in 1922. . In these times, the carnival was already a party that attracted much of the population of the island. This is evinced not only by the various groups that existed, but also by the journalistic reports or even literary accounts that depicted the carnival of the time. In his famous novel Chiquinho, the Claridade member Baltasar Lopes (2006)LOPES, Baltasar. Chiquinho. Lisboa: Nova Vega, 2006. (1947). describes it thus:

Carnival parades through the streets. Groups pass at the hurried pace of marches. Cowboys. […] The Floriano block took on the head of the party. They’re all dressed as officers of the Brazilian navy. […] Crowd of people to listen to the Belo Horizonte group in a samba (Lopes, 2006LOPES, Baltasar. Chiquinho. Lisboa: Nova Vega, 2006. (1947)., p. 131-132, our translation).

At the Derbians’ ball, the party boils. The carnival ended up there. Causes furor the new samba that came on the records. […] There are costumes of various tastes, but they all have to bear the label of the Derby. A great rivalry has arisen with the Baiano Group (Lopes, 2006LOPES, Baltasar. Chiquinho. Lisboa: Nova Vega, 2006. (1947)., p. 133-134, our translation).

This description of the frenzy experienced in the Mindelo carnival of the 1930s gives us an account of the Brazilian signs of this celebration in Creole lands. We can check the close interaction between uniforms of the Brazilian navy, samba and the Floriano and Belo Horizonte groups. We can also confirm the impact of the novelties brought by the records newly arrived from Brazil, and discover that a Baiano can be born far from Bahia…

In the transition to the 1940s, an important event takes place. The presidential trips of General Óscar Carmona constitute a historical milestone, especially because they were the first visits of a Portuguese head of state to the colonies. The second trip, in 1939, whose route included Cape Verde, was accompanied by a vast entourage. Brazilian Arnon de Mello was part of this entourage as a delegate of the Brazilian Press Association. As he did elsewhere, he wrote about what he observed in Cape Verde. Regarding the São Vicente island, he stated: “I came to find here a distinctly Brazilian settting” (Mello, 1941MELLO, Arnon de. África: Viagem ao Imperio Portuguez e à União SulAfricana. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio Editora, 1941., p. 67, our translation). He said it supported by the established belief that Cape Verde had the same formation base as Brazil (Portuguese and African) and therefore had the same characteristics of race, culture and civilization. The similarities he points out are thus summarized: “[…] the same people, the same music, the same language, the same physical aspect”. And finally, he says: “As for music, it can be said that the music of S. Vicente is samba. Here they have the “morna” […] But what really seduces and touches the sensibility of Cape Verdeans is samba” (Mello, 1941MELLO, Arnon de. África: Viagem ao Imperio Portuguez e à União SulAfricana. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio Editora, 1941., p. 68, our translation)11 11 Twenty years later, in 1959, Claridade member Manuel Lopes would make a similar observation: “The sambas from Brazil have the preference of the public” (Lopes, 1959, p. 11, our translation). . The author continues with his impressions and refers to the carnival through accounts of locals:

In Carnival, we organize our parties like the parties of Rio, giving the groups names such as Copacabana, Bahiana, Floriano. In any competition that your country participates in, everyone already knows who our candidate is. The city is vibrant, thrilling, it’s crazy. Not only the city, no; the whole island, the whole archipelago (Mello, 1941MELLO, Arnon de. África: Viagem ao Imperio Portuguez e à União SulAfricana. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio Editora, 1941., p. 82-83, our translation).

Mello reiterates the bond and favoritism of Cape Verdeans in relation to things of Brazil and refers to literature, including Jorge Amado and Gilberto Freyre. He also reinforces the claim about the music: “But the morna is not the strong characteristic of the parties here. At parties, if there is no samba, there are complaints and there is no excitement - the musicians inform me” (Mello, 1941MELLO, Arnon de. África: Viagem ao Imperio Portuguez e à União SulAfricana. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio Editora, 1941., p. 92, our translation).

Brazil was still very close. Groups such as Fluminense, Bota Fogo and Lloyd do Mindelo are from the 1940s. We are in the midst of World War II, but that is seemingly no reason to reduce carnival festivities on the island. And on the other side of the Atlantic, Orson Welles was filming the Rio de Janeiro carnival. The year was 1942 and it is natural that, sooner or later, images and news would reach the island of Porto Grande.

In the early 1950s, when Gilberto Freyre visited Cape Verde in 1951, there was an episode worth noting, not only because it was a propaganda act that involved the carnival, but because of the person to whom it was addressed and the comments it raised. When the Brazilian master was in São Vicente, he was shown an out-of-season carnival, in October. The show did not please everyone:

We highlight the parade of groups and clubs at the Fontinha Stadium. […] They are imitative and non-creative organizations, but these are imperfect imitations of Brazilian carnival troupes and, naturally, in order to impress the observer, they would have to possess the local characteristics of the set and its power of adaptation. It is precisely in these particulars that I believe this important exhibition has failed. […]

The hymns of each group, made from pastiche of other songs, at the time of Carnival we find them delicious, but in the present case being a man that is blasé of all kinds of sensations, it would be enough to give an idea and not saturate […]12 12 Lopes Filho (2007, p. 208-209), originally published in 1955 in the newspaper Notícias de Cabo Verde. .

The Claridade member João Lopes, author of the chronicle, refers, without any hesitation, to the imitation of the Brazilian carnival, a curious opinion, at a time when the intention was to affirm the brotherhood and similarity between Cape Verde and Brazil.

The Éden Park cinema showed inspiring films. And their reels also contained Brazilian movies. It wasn’t just Brazilian films, some were stories around the carnival: Aviso aos Navegantes (1950) and Orfeu Negro (1959), to name two classics. Sitting in the audience, the Mindelo people listened to emblematic songs and watched, between confetti and streamers, the parade of Rio’s carnival blocks. Nothing that wasn’t familiar to them. The relationship with Brazil was longstanding and part of it had been built through a direct experience, on Cape Verdean soil, with Brazilians who arrived on the pier. This vibrant and eclectic atmosphere comes from far away. When describing the cosmopolitan ambiance of Mindelo in the late nineteenth century, Correia e Silva (2005CORREIA E SILVA, António. Nos tempos do Porto Grande do Mindelo. Praia e Mindelo: Instituto Camões - Centro Cultural Português. 2005. (2000)., p. 128, our translation) also says that “Its carnival becomes more Brazilian by influence of Rio sailors who enrich it with marches, chorinhos and samba-enredos”.

In fact, it is not only Brazilians who bring with them the melodies; music from Brazil is also requested directly from Cape Verde. In May 1960, the chairman of the municipal council of São Vicente wrote a letter to the Lisbon store Custódio Cardoso Pereira expressing interest in acquiring, through them, from Casa Bandeirante Editora in São Paulo, the following printed songs: three marches, three sambas, three mambos, three baiões and three choros13 13 Archive of the Municipality of São Vicente. Letter dated May 23, 1960. I do not know the reason for this request or the destination to be given to these musical notations, but it is reasonable to speculate that they had something to do with the carnival celebrations. .

The comparison of Cape Verdean carnival with Brazilian carnival appears in the press from an early stage. As we have seen, already in the 1950s there were mentions to imitation. In 1965, it could be read in the newspaper O Arquipélago (1965O ARQUIPÉLAGO. Cabo Verde, n. 133, p. 2, 25 fev. 1965., p. 2, our translation): “Mindelo a city that seems to imitate everything that goes on outside, and in the special case of Carnival, there is a tendency for the Brazilian”. A similar idea appears in another issue of the same newspaper that states that: “[…] the carnival balls have started […] However, enthusiasm is diminishing from year to year […] with characteristics similar to the Brazilian carnival” (O Arquipélago, 1966O ARQUIPÉLAGO. Cabo Verde, n. 182, p. 2, 3 fev. 1966., p. 2, our translation).

In 1972, the newspaper O Arquipélago published some statements by the Brazilian journalist Almyr Gajardoni, which reveal this imaginary of similarity between the two countries, which Cape Verde cherished. The attractive headline appears right on the cover of the weekly publication, where the following statement of the Brazilian visitor is quoted: “It is a place where, practically, I feel in Brazil”. At the time of the 150th anniversary of Brazil’s Independence, the journalist had been assigned to cover the transfer of the remains of D. Pedro IV of Portugal (D. Pedro I of Brazil). Returning to Brazil, he had to interrupt the trip, disembarking on the island of São Vicente. In passing, he is surprised by the similarities between the two lands:

The contact with the residents of S. Vicente further highlights this aspect […] of similarity with my country. With Brazil. Especially in the way of talking, in language. Sometimes it seems that the resident of S. Vicente speaks more like the Brazilian than like the Portuguese of the Metropole. […] the similarity with Brazilian popular music becomes really astonishing. The ‘coladeira’ is typically a samba of the Brazilian carnival. If we take it to a radio station in Brazil […] surely the Brazilian listener, especially from the city of Rio de Janeiro that is the capital of our carnival, will take it as carnival music […] And the other type of music - the ‘morna’ - is in everything similar to our samba-canção (O Arquipélago, 1972O ARQUIPÉLAGO. Cabo Verde, n. 506, p. 4, 20 abr. 1972., p. 4, our translation).

The interesting thing here is that, instead of identifying sambas as the song of choice of the Cape Verdean, the journalist compares the coladeira to the Rio de Janeiro carnival samba and the morna to the samba-canção. The similarities between Brazil and Cape Verde were confirmed by the Brazilians, certainly influenced by the opinions they heard from the people of São Vicente.

Still at that time, about the Mindelo carnival it was said that “It hears carnival rumors from Brazil to transport them to our streets” (O Arquipélago, 1971O ARQUIPÉLAGO. Cabo Verde, n. 444, p. 2, 11 fev. 1971., p. 2, our translation), although it was already trying to counteract this orientation. In 1974, it could be read in the same national newspaper that “Here in S. Vicente, in an attempt to imitate the Rio carnival, the party has already had its golden times” (O Arquipélago, 1974O ARQUIPÉLAGO. Cabo Verde, n. 604, p. 2, 7 mar. 1974., p. 2, our translation). Concerning the preference for things from Brazil in the same period, Ti Goi (Gregório José Gonçalves, 1920-1991), a very popular musician in Mindelo, left us the following statement in the newspaper Voz di Povo: “In 1971 I was called to the administrator who asked me why I put Brazilian words in the lyrics. I replied that if I did not put them, it would sound like a Portuguese marchinha and Carnival was Brazilian” (Voz di Povo, 1984VOZ DI POVO. Cabo Verde, n. 381, p. 6, 14 abr. 1984., p. 6, our translation).

Cape Verdeanity and Brazilianity: imitation and origins

However, the political and ideological context had changed. After the Independence of Cape Verde, in 1975, the motto finca pé na tchón [root your feet on the ground] reigned in the country, which presupposed not only a nationalist identity claim, but also a cut with external references.

In a 1989 article, it was written that the Cape Verdean was able to create, not being necessary to copy from other cultures, and this creative spirit was evident in the carnival. Hence the motto: “What is this but the expression of a cultural identity? What is Carnival if not a formula to add more forces, more positive elements to Cape Verdean social cohesion?”, concluding: “And so, Carnival is the strong feature of Cape Verdean culture. Even if it did not originate in this environment, it has already impregnated in itself the ritual of the islands” (Voz di Povo, 1989VOZ DI POVO. Cabo Verde, n. 786, p. 2, 4 mar. 1989., p. 2, our translation). There are several important considerations to retain in the postIndependence period, well presented in this newspaper page: a) the copy, which must be dismissed, because there was b) sufficient creativity, as carnival already demonstrated and which was, moreover, the reflection of c) an expression of Cape Verdean cultural identity, which found its strong point precisely in carnival. According to the reinterpretation of the time, even if its origin is recognized in Brazil, this did not prevent carnival from being an expression of Cape Verdeanity.

Regarding music, and given the fact that carnival marches had been composed with lyrics in Creole, in 1987 it was argued that:

[…] we must stop once and for all with these exaggerations of saying that our carnival is very close to this or that one! Will we have any chance of imitating the Rio carnival? Only if we all became second-class ‘Brazilians’! No, to each their own! We also have carnival in our blood! […] What we have to do is, first, not compare and, second, develop our own carnival.

We have enough creative capacity and tenacity to make an increasingly Cape Verdean carnival. […] And batucada, does it have to be like samba? It even seems that, to play carnival, everyone from this world has to go to Rio to take a Samba course! […] Therefore, in order for our carnival to advance, it will be necessary to establish good special prizes for the best compositions in Creole and for the groups with the greatest national allegorical motifs. […] and there you go: a way open for a Cape Verdean carnival appreciated by all tourists (Voz di Povo, 1987VOZ DI POVO. Cabo Verde, n. 619, p. 6-7, 25 fev. 1987., p. 6-7, our translation).

Unlike previous times, Brazil is no longer the model to be followed and it is no longer appropriate to compare the local carnival to the Brazilian carnival. An affirmation of a specificity of its own was necessary to galvanize national identity and highlight Cape Verdean culture. Times were different, with other ideologies. A Cape Verdean carnival should be launched. And this required Creole lyrics and allegories with national motifs, which, in turn, would attract tourists - who seek, as is known, the cultural ‘authenticity’ of the destination they visit14 14 About the São Vicente carnival as a tourist product, see Daun e Lorena (2019). .

However, this intention to establish a local carnival, with its own identity, was not always of a strictly nationalist penchant. The Cape Verdean identity that was intended to be proclaimed faced two obstacles. One obstacle was the denial of any external heritage - with the exception of the African heritage -, which demanded a contraposition against other nations or their resources and which, in the case of carnival, was made in relation to the Brazilian creative capacity and influence. The other obstacle was the primacy that one island, São Vicente, had over the others and that depended on and was legitimized precisely by the affinity that related it to other latitudes. The close relations and similitudes that São Vicente had or desired with Brazil were the ground that enabled it to claim this carnival primacy over the other islands. Paradoxically, this was now an inconvenient heritage, which undermined the full claim of a genuine Cape Verdean carnival.

The debate about the “true” Cape Verdean carnival being that of São Vicente still fuels many debates today. In a comical tone, the issue was commented on in 1989 in the following terms:

To me, when it comes to talking about carnival, it has to be in Brazilian Portuguese […]. So, let’s tune the accent (soap opera training for everyone) and read the ABCs of this ‘89 carnival. […] Brazilian mulatto woman. Really? […] Heck, we need to start believing in ourselves a little more, don’t you think? […] The Mindelo carnival, although very Mindelo-like, would be felt by everyone as The carnival of the country, just as the carnival of Rio is The carnival of Brazil […] (Notícias, 1989NOTÍCIAS. Cabo Verde, n. 15, p. 21, 1 abr. 1989., p. 21, our translation).

This excerpt, more than thirty years old, could have been written nowadays. Mindelo continues to have the largest carnival in the country and continues to claim for it the status of national carnival, even if this is a “very Mindelo-like” carnival. Therefore, the fact that carnival is Brazilian does not inhibit another carnival, with its own characteristics (confirming the authenticity and creativity), nor does it invalidate that the São Vicente carnival establishes itself as a national symbol (responding to the nationalist challenge of celebrating the Cape Verdean cultural identity). The 1990s arrive with these issues in effervescence. However, none of that prevented the rise of another group with a Brazilian name: Vindos do Brasil.

The themes related to the history of the island and with Cape Verdean cultural features begin to be present in the carnival after the Independence. But it is in the 21st century that this trend gains another projection. In 2003, Mindelo was the Lusophone Capital of Culture. The chairman of a carnival group, when presenting the theme for that year, wrote the following:

We seek to get closer to our reality and free it from the imitation and import of the Brazilian carnival. Come and support our originality, creativity and simplicity by enjoying the floats […] With simple costumes, made with genuine materials from our land, such as animal skins, ropes, bags, horns, tree leaves, reed flowers, sea shells, we managed to bring to the street a carnival that we think is accessible to all of us […]15 15 Archive of the Instituto Camões-Centro Cultural Português. .

The import of the Brazilian carnival is not limited to its inspiration. Even today, the official groups exhibit very elaborate costumes, only possible to manufacture with imported raw materials. Continuing with the same chairman, she told me: “Feathers always have to come from Brazil […] those feathers that the Chinese are bringing are not Brazilian feathers, they are very small feathers. Feathers have to come from Brazil” (São Costa, 2015)16 16 All interviews were conducted in Cape Verdean Creole. This and the following excerpts were translated into Portuguese by the author. .

After Independence, Cape Verde distances itself from the colonizing country and, in this process of “returning to the origins” (i.e., African), accidentally ends up also distancing itself from Brazil. In the nation-building and cultural affirmation endeavor, the references change. Cape Verde must be, more than ever, Cape Verdean. Despite the discursive demarcation in relation to Brazil, in another political and ideological phase, of economic liberalism, in the 1990s, carnival again assumed, albeit otherwise, a “Brazilian” profile. This was not a turn in the nationalist paradigm, as the promotion of Cape Verdean cultural identity continued, but rather a reconfiguration of carnival, at the aesthetic level, which resulted, among other factors, from the opening to international markets.

Nowadays and since then, the carnival parade of the official groups has undoubtedly a Brazilian inspiration and aesthetic, from clothing to props, from music to dance. All groups have Porta-bandeira [female flag bearer], Mestre-sala [male dancing partner], Rainha [Queen], Rei [King], Rainha de Bateria [Queen of Drums], batucada [drummings] and several alas [sections]. The parade traverses a route in the urban center that has its peak in the main street of the city, Rua de Lisboa, which is locally called the sambadrome of Mindelo. The samba, played and danced, the costumes, the formal organization of the parade, everything is reminiscent of the Rio carnival. And there are other symbols that refer to another Brazil. This is the case of the alas of the Baianas [Bahian African-Brazilian ladies’ sections] of the Samba Tropical and Monte Sossego groups, a differentiating feature of both. The name of the first, Escola de Samba Tropical, is inspired by Brazilian samba clubs. All these elements give to the current São Vicente carnival a Brazilian appearance. And I say appearance, because its essence continues to be declared by everyone as being typical of Mindelo. For this and other reasons (among which the changing contours of this relationship according to historical periods and ideological contexts), the Brazilian appearance of the Mindelo carnival must be interpreted with caution. Mindelo’s emulation of the Rio carnival must be analyzed in depth when we seek to examine Cape Verde’s relations with Brazil, not automatically making this sign an unequivocal proof of an alleged relation of affinity, exchange and, above all, identification or common identity.

When talking to older people, who experienced the carnival of the 1940s and 1950s, opinions about the Brazilian influence on the Mindelo carnival of the old times are unanimous. No one hesitates to admit that inspiration. This opinion may or may not extend to their assessment of the current carnival, having as reference precisely that past experience. A statement like “Our carnival is an imitation of Brazil, yes it is, it has been, for a long time, since Carmen Miranda…” (Mr. Djita, 2014, our translation) is one of those cases in which the reference to a Brazilian marker of the past leads to an identical evaluation of the present. This extension of the assessment, which interrelates the sambas and the fruit turban of Carmen Miranda of the old times with the feathered costumes and naked bodies of today, does not always apply. There are those who agree with a certain continuity, but they distinguish very well the Brazilianity of former times from the Brazilianity of nowadays. A person 25 years younger than the previous one shared with me the following reading:

São Vicente’s carnival has always been inspired by Brazil.

[…] Lyrics first of all, those Brazilian marches we had […] those sambas… costumes were less rich than now, costumes at that time did not have those sequins and rhinestones, those feathers… our costumes were simpler, beautiful, but simpler.

[…] it is very attached to Brazil, very much. That of diasá [of old times] was original Mindelo carnival, but now it is more Brazilian-like, it is beautiful, undoubtedly, very beautiful, but it is more Brazilian-like (Bia, 2015).

Now, what was Brazilian before (the songs) does not correspond to what is Brazilian today (the clothes). Moreover, before it was “original Mindelo carnival” and today it is “Brazilian-like.”

Imitation and inspiration do not mean the same, as we will see below, but are often used synonymously. The idea of imitation should be carefully considered. The person I mentioned in the previous excerpt is today a mere spectator of the carnival, but still points out the “collage” of the Cape Verdean carnival in relation to the Brazilian carnival. This topic acquires special centrality, and can be delicate, when my interlocutors are artists involved in designing and building the carnival. One of them said:

We are still far from reaching that carnival from Brazil. […] As a matter of fact, one thing I’ve been trying to explain to these people for a long time is that we’ve been imitating Brazil’s carnival a lot in terms of costumes. Two years ago […] two identical costumes coincided in two groups. That’s because a person copies a Brazilian costume from the internet, another person copies the same… When I make a carnival design I do it only from my imagination, I may research something from Brazil, but… (Bitu, 2015).

Other carnival artists confirmed the usual practice of researching costumes of the Rio carnival on the internet and I myself saw these images in some carnival yards. Another artist, involved in the work of making the carnival, detailed:

[…] we have nothing to do with the carnival in Brazil, we have our carnival, now, there is a point here that is important to focus on: in recent years, after the appearance of the internet […] there are many artists imitating Brazil, we have seen a lot.

As in the previous account, this craftsman refers to clothes. And he added:

In terms of floats, it’s very difficult, with the potential that Brazil has […] But when it comes to clothes, it’s easier. For example, if they parade in a red outfit, you can imitate almost one hundred percent and São Vicente has artists for that. As a matter of fact, in terms of artists, here we have skillful hands (Di, 2015).

Their accounts clearly show an ambivalence that must be unveiled: if, on the one hand, the imitation of Brazil appears as something criticizable, which hinders artistic creation, on the other hand, the Brazilian level of quality is a benchmark that is desired (“we are far from reaching” presupposes that aspiration) or even claimed (“São Vicente has artists for that”, with “skillful hands”). And, thus, Brazil serves, as a high bar, to talk about Cape Verde.

Opinions seem paradoxical, but are not. The point is managing a subtle balance between imitation and inspiration. For artists, copy is depreciated, while creation is valued. The inspiration afforded by a model can lead to the improvisation of new models. Evoking Brazil is, first of all, utilitarian, instrumental, as it serves to affirm a Cape Verdean way of being. Imitation would make the Mindelo carnival’s Brazilianity prevail, while inspiration (and with it, creation) rescues it from this burden and converts it into a cultural symbol of Cape Verdeanity.

Another important issue relates to the origin of carnival in Cape Verde. Although carnival is seen today as a “tradition” of São Vicente, there is a widespread notion that its origin, in world terms, is in Brazil.

Widespread, but not unanimous. Some people assured me that the carnival went from Cape Verde to Brazil. When I tried to learn more about this curious statement, I was told that it was written, it was “proven”. I tried to verify this information and find its source. The ‘proof’ is the work 100 anos de carnaval no Rio de Janeiro [100 years of carnival in Rio de Janeiro] whose author is Haroldo Costa (2001)COSTA, Haroldo. 100 anos de carnaval no Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo: Irmãos Vitale, 2001.. In this book, the author refers to Cape Verde in a brief passage: “Entrudo [Shrovetide], which arrived here brought by the Portuguese and, according to information in 1723, by immigrants from the Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde islands, had been prohibited by several ordinances, permits and official notices” (Costa, 2001COSTA, Haroldo. 100 anos de carnaval no Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo: Irmãos Vitale, 2001., p. 12, our translation). This short reference to the archipelago was enough to legitimize the idea that the carnival went from Cape Verde to Brazil. After all, it was the Cape Verdeans who brought the carnival to Brazilians! So much the better.

Final reflections: Brazil as a mirror

Brazil is a referential system that contains a multiplicity of meanings. When my interlocutors talk about Brazil they may be referring to things as different as music, feathers and clothing, techniques and materials, but they are also evoking a much broader cultural dimension, whose symbolic value is deeply rooted in Cape Verdean society.

It should be noted that Brazil’s presence is felt beyond that shared symbolic universe. Average Cape Verdeans know little about Brazil, its real physical size, its geographical location, its social composition, its cultural diversity. However, they have an intense contact, but not for that reason more informed, with some fragments of that other world: through the music that they listen to on the radio, the carnival that they lurk on the internet, the capoeira groups that have multiplied on the islands, and the incessant broadcasting of Brazilian soap operas on television channels. Beyond a very generic and diffuse notion that is conveyed through all these means, they will remember little more about Brazil. I am convinced that one of the first things that would occur to them would be the key idea with which I started this text: Cape Verde and Brazil are Creole societies and have slaves as common ancestors. As Claridade member Jorge Barbosa wrote in Você, Brasil:

I like you, Brazil.

Because you’re like my land.

[…]

It’s your people who look like mine,

that they all came from slaves with the further contact between Lusitanians and foreigners.

But these backward origins were only the starting point. From here, the relation between Cape Verde and Brazil gradually found all the pretexts to become closer. To then grow distant and again become closer. And there were those who managed to give the historical evidence more credibility, building a kind of social mythology around the affinities between the two countries. This was particularly evident in the Claridade movement. Let us continue with Jorge Barbosa (2002)BARBOSA, Jorge. Obra Poética. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional; Casa da Moeda, 2002.:

The taste of your sambas, Brazil, your batucadas, of your cateretês, of your toadas de negros, also came to be appreciated by the people here, who sings and dances and feels them, with the same enthusiasm.

Feeling the same enthusiasm is not a proven historical fact. However, it is a shared perception. And social representations are as determinant as historical circumstances. Evidently, this and other discursive productions must be interpreted in the historical contexts that generated them, but this does not imply that they are only products of those circumstances, since they persist in current cultural understandings. They are both the reflection of shared representations and producers, or reproducers, of representations. When we sing or listen to B.Léza’s morna Brasil, we are also internalizing what is said and simultaneously spreading the idea that “Brasil… bô ê noss irmão” [Brasil… you are our brother]. The same happens with “São Vicente is a little Brazil” to define the Mindelo carnival.

Brazil serves to speak of Cape Verde, evoking similarities of different kinds. It is not the Brazilianity that is at play, but the Cape Verdeanity. Thus, Brazil is a vehicle of Creoleness, that is, of Cape Verdean identity.

In short, Brazil was and continues to be a benchmark, but the understanding of this model and the uses made of it have varied according to social, historical and political contexts. It is not simply a carnivalesque model, it is an identity model, a mirror into which São Vicente gazes and flatters itself. The Cape Verdean identity demand has always involved the Brazil referent, by attempts of either getting closer or more distant. Those positionalities are situated in the domain of identity ambivalences that I have discussed on other occasions (Daun e Lorena, 2015DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Ambivalências identitárias em Cabo Verde: da história à etnografia. Análise Social, n. 217, p. 784-808, 2015.; 2018DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Classe, memória e identidade em Cabo Verde: uma etnografia do carnaval de São Vicente. 2018. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2018.).

If, in the 1930s, Brazil already served to talk about the country and, in a way, to situate it in the world and build its identity, today this is not enough, even if it is a recurrently revisited identity marker. An excessively linear and crystallized reading of Brazilian influences on Cape Verdean society does not say much about the way the Brazil category is perceived and reinterpreted today, or about everything else with which it concurs. The way Brazil is currently present in the Cape Verdean society, and in particular in the São Vicente society, and the way this identity referent is interpreted and used are different from those of former times. If it is true that literature, poetry and songs produced and reproduced ideas and ideals, and if it is true that there are reminiscences of this ideology even today, we must also consider that there were and there are other narratives and positionalities that, along with the previous ones, gave rise to new nexuses of meaning and identification.

Brazil has served as an identity negotiation arena and, as such, seeing it as a static referent, or transposing, in the same way, the configurations of the past to the present, tells us little about what has been negotiated and disputed. In my understanding, only through a more dialogical approach, that considers co-agency, and therefore a truly dynamic approach to the historical process, will it be possible to avoid a reification of this relation between Cape Verde and Brazil, an undisputed relation, because always taken in the singular and never in the plural.

The representations that Cape Verdeans have of Brazil, or of the relationship between the two countries, are neither static nor monolithic. They have been undergoing transformations, gaining new meanings and distinct symbolic values. As we have seen, depending on the context, so changes the connotation. The representations of Brazil and of Cape Verde’s “Brazilianity” must be approached from an analytical framework that considers when and how they arose, in what political-ideological context, in addition to considering indicators such as social classes, age, professions, which also impact those representations.

Returning to the ethnographic material, it is possible to see that the Brazilian repertoire is managed differently according to the ages, experiences, occupations, and a whole complex of understandings that were forged in the history and social experience of each one. Older people remember Brazil through the contact they had with a country that arrived on the island through the port and cinema, with its songs and costumes:

[…] we would pick up those songs from Brazil […] they would sing only those things. […] ‘Chapéu de Palha’, there was another called ‘Tico-Tico no Fubá’, there were many […] and in the balls we would also sing all those songs (Mr. Djita, 2014).

[…] the people dressed up as Brazilian sailors, that Brazilian fleet passed by, they presented a show in the bandstand […] an idea arises to make that costume, that same style (Mr. Nhela de Tuna, 2015).

The younger ones relate to Brazil through television, the internet, transnational commercial and migratory networks that bring feathers to the archipelago17 17 An important exception is young people who in recent decades have gone to study in Brazilian universities, under cooperation agreements between the two States. Their experiences of Brazil are more profound and also varied, depending on the cities of the country where they studied, and generally divergent from common stereotypes. .

Cape Verdeans’ representations about Brazil and about the bond of brotherhood and similarity between the two countries are underlined by historical memories and effective relationships that were established in the past, but are also based on stereotypes that, by simplifying reality, easily fit into narratives of similarity and transform that relationship into something unquestionable. That idealization - about Brazil and the connection with it - is based on stylized selections that say more about Cape Verde than about Brazil. The representations of this Brazilian ‘other’ are, in fact, self-referential.

In the past, as today, Brazil serves to think and talk about Cape Verde. It is an identity mirror into which many Cape Verdeans gaze, especially in São Vicente. The images shown in the mirror have varying nuances, but carnival is always part of them. Brazil and carnival are commonly imagined as a single thing, and is this metonymy that people also have in mind when talking about Cape Verde’s Brazilianity.

It is not insignificant that, in 2015, an event dedicated to the national carnival18 18 The National Cultural Forum Carnavaleando. had the participation of a Brazilian carnavalesco [carnival director or producer] (from the state of Pará). In addition to his experience, the fact of being Brazilian certainly contributed to the recognition, by the organization and the public, that his presence would be an asset. This was also obvious in other initiatives. Shortly after the 2017 carnival, the official groups began meetings with the objective of creating a League, similar to what exists in Brazil. The starting point was precisely the statutes of the Independent League of Samba Schools of Rio de Janeiro (LIESA).

That same year, Carnaval de Verão [Summer Carnival]19 19 Summer Carnival has been held since 2014, in August, and is a small sample, in number of revelers, floats and carnival revelry, of the customary carnival of the beginning of the year. had the presence of a vast Brazilian entourage, composed of about forty people, who were invited to teach workshops to players, drum queens and carnival producers. The group, led by Brazilian singer Dudu Nobre, consisted of members from several samba clubs in Rio de Janeiro. During the less than two weeks that Dudu and his entourage stayed in São Vicente, there was much talk in the media about the “sibling nations”, Mindelo people being “equal to the Brazilians”, “making millions”, and they even called “all tourists from Europe to come spend their euros here in Mindelo!”20 20 Issue of August 9, 2017 of TCV’s Jornal da Noite. The main points were the tourism development and the brotherhood of Brazilians and Cape Verdeans. They also referred to other important aspects, such as the blood ties that bonded Brazilian singer Dudu to the archipelago (a Cape Verdean great-grandmother). The Brazilians praised the competence and vocation of the Cape Verdeans in the various carnival expressions (music, dance, joy) and repeated that they had not come to impose the Brazilian carnival, but to leverage the potential of the Cape Verdean carnival.

September 2017 saw the formation of the Independent League of the Official Groups of the São Vicente Carnival (LIGOC). In November, fifteen members, including representatives of the League and of the São Vicente municipality, went to Brazil to see up close the preparations for the Rio de Janeiro carnival, establish contacts and continue the exchange.

A common approach to the Cape Verde-Brazil relationship involves the idea of flow that, from the outset, refers to a movement of people, goods, ideas, values and cultural expressions. These approaches reinforce the belief that there were cultural exchanges (which would imply the existence of movement in both directions, even when this did not happen and what happened were imports or emulations), but do not elucidate their plasticity and modeling, resulting in insufficiency. The idea of flow, so prominent in the anthropological literature on intercultural relations, seems to point to a dynamic reading. However, these flows are eventually demonstrated unilaterally. In particular for the case of Cape Verde and its connection to Brazil, despite the employ of the flow narrative, usually Cape Verde is presented as a repository of Brazilian influences that, at best, the people of the islands managed to creolize. In contrast to this perspective, I maintain that Brazil has been appropriated in São Vicente as a powerful marker of identity - sometimes national, but often regional - that should be analyzed contextually and in its historical dynamics, that should be seen in its various plots throughout a long parade.

Availability of research data:

the dataset supporting the results of this study is published in this article.

This original paper, translated by Roberto Cândido (Tikinet Edição Ltda.) and the author, is also published in Portuguese in this issue of the journal.

Notes

  • 1
    This text is based on chapter VI of my doctoral dissertation in Anthropology (Daun e Lorena 2018DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Classe, memória e identidade em Cabo Verde: uma etnografia do carnaval de São Vicente. 2018. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2018.) defended at the ICS - Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal) and whose research was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (SFRH/BD/77522/2011). The translation of this article was also funded by FCT under the scope of the strategic plan of CRIA - Centre for Research in Anthropology (UID/04038/2020).
  • 2
    The ethnographic fieldwork was conducted between 2012 and 2015 in several extended stays and is presented in detail in the doctoral dissertation (see Daun e Lorena, 2018DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Classe, memória e identidade em Cabo Verde: uma etnografia do carnaval de São Vicente. 2018. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2018.).
  • 3
    Varela (2000)VARELA, João Manuel. Le Brésil et les îles du Cap-Vert. Aspects d’influences culturelles. Diogène, n. 191, p. 118-142, 2000. presents a good review of Brazil’s cultural influences on Cape Verde, namely literary and musical influences. See also Vasconcelos (2007b)VASCONCELOS, João. Espíritos Atlânticos: um espiritismo Luso-Brasileiro em Cabo Verde. 2007b. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2007b., Dias (2011)DIAS, Juliana Braz. Cape Verde and Brazil. Musical Connections. Vibrant - Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, v. 8, n. 1, p. 95-116, 2011., Pereira (2011)PEREIRA, Daniel A. Das relações históricas Cabo Verde/Brasil. Brasília: Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão, 2011..
  • 4
    For their study, indispensable works include: Freyre (1953)FREYRE, Gilberto. Aventura e Rotina. Sugestões de uma viagem à procura das constantes portuguesas de carácter e acção. Lisboa: Livros do Brasil. s.d. (1953)., Lopes (1956)LOPES, Baltasar. Cabo Verde visto por Gilberto Freyre. Praia: Imprensa Nacional, 1956. and Ferreira (1985)FERREIRA, Manuel. A Aventura Crioula. Lisboa: Plátano Editora, 1985. (1967)..
  • 5
    For a detailed description and analysis of the São Vicente carnival, see Daun e Lorena (2018)DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Classe, memória e identidade em Cabo Verde: uma etnografia do carnaval de São Vicente. 2018. Tese (Doutorado em Antropologia) - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2018..
  • 6
    Correia e Silva (2004CORREIA E SILVA, António. Combates pela História. Praia: Spleen Edições, 2004., p. 66, our translation) counterargues: “In good histori-cal rigor, it is the opposite. It is Brazil that is an immense, continental and rich Cape Verde” and this is related to the fact that “[…] before becoming a type, the Creole slaveholding society was a case, the Cape Verdean case. The societal model traveled afterwards from here to there […].” Still regarding the trope, see the reflection of Furtado (2017)FURTADO, Cláudio Alves. A desconstrução de Cabo Verde como um brasilim: um cabo-verdiano em terras brasileiras. Revista de Antropologia, v. 60, n. 3, p. 45-64, 2017., who deconstructs it, exposing the so often biased and essentialized conceptions of one as to the other.
  • 7
    Claridade was a magazine created in São Vicente and of which only nine issues were published between 1936 and 1966. However, it had a tremendous impact beyond the island’s boundaries and over generations. It had several collaborators, but its hard core consisted of Baltasar Lopes, Jorge Barbosa and Manuel Lopes, who, influenced by other literary movements, namely the Presença of Portugal and the regionalist novel of Brazil, launched this movement, which would be decisive in the formation of a new conception of Cape Verdeanity. The pages of the magazine contained both literature (from poetry to short story) and essay. Both genres were animated by the denunciation of problems of the land and the affirmation of a Cape Verdean regional identity.
  • 8
    This poem was dedicated to the writer Ribeiro Couto, but Barbosa wrote ano-ther one, Carta para o Brasil (Letter to Brazil), addressed to Gilberto Freyre.
  • 9
    The speculations that try to explain the reason for the pseudonym are also elu-cidating. It is said that a Brazilian, upon hearing him play a morna, fascinated, exclaimed: “Qui beléza!” Although contested, this version is widespread. Whether a legend or not, this story says much about the representations of the relationship with Brazil. Another justification is based on the fact that B.Léza pronounces many terms with a Brazilian accent and this is one of them (see Baltasar Lopes’ account to Laban, 1992LABAN, Michel. Cabo Verde - Encontro com escritores. Porto: Fundação Eng. António de Almeida, 1992., p. 17).
  • 10
    In 1939, the group left with a float representing the seaplane Lusitânia, which transported Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral to Brazil in 1922.
  • 11
    Twenty years later, in 1959, Claridade member Manuel Lopes would make a similar observation: “The sambas from Brazil have the preference of the public” (Lopes, 1959LOPES, Manuel. Reflexões sobre a literatura cabo-verdiana ou a literatura nos meios pequenos. In: CENTRO DE ESTUDOS POLÍTICOS E SOCIAIS DA JUNTA DE INVESTIGAÇÕES DO ULTRAMAR. Colóquios Cabo-Verdianos. Lisboa: Junta de Investigações do Ultramar. 1959. P. 1-22., p. 11, our translation).
  • 12
    Lopes Filho (2007LOPES FILHO, João (Ed.). In Memoriam João Lopes. Praia: Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro, 2007., p. 208-209), originally published in 1955 in the newspaper Notícias de Cabo Verde.
  • 13
    Archive of the Municipality of São Vicente. Letter dated May 23, 1960. I do not know the reason for this request or the destination to be given to these musical notations, but it is reasonable to speculate that they had something to do with the carnival celebrations.
  • 14
    About the São Vicente carnival as a tourist product, see Daun e Lorena (2019)DAUN E LORENA, Carmo. Carnaval de São Vicente: um produto turístico entre o cultural e o económico. Pasos. Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, v. 17, n. 3, p. 583-594, 2019..
  • 15
    Archive of the Instituto Camões-Centro Cultural Português.
  • 16
    All interviews were conducted in Cape Verdean Creole. This and the following excerpts were translated into Portuguese by the author.
  • 17
    An important exception is young people who in recent decades have gone to study in Brazilian universities, under cooperation agreements between the two States. Their experiences of Brazil are more profound and also varied, depending on the cities of the country where they studied, and generally divergent from common stereotypes.
  • 18
    The National Cultural Forum Carnavaleando.
  • 19
    Summer Carnival has been held since 2014, in August, and is a small sample, in number of revelers, floats and carnival revelry, of the customary carnival of the beginning of the year.
  • 20
    Issue of August 9, 2017 of TCV’s Jornal da Noite.

Referências

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Editor-in-charge: Gilberto Icle

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    06 Oct 2023
  • Date of issue
    2023

History

  • Received
    15 Jan 2023
  • Accepted
    20 May 2023
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