The Brazilian Indian that was left out of the Republic
Of the twelve monuments located in Praça da República, seven are busts or references to real people, two do not represent human figures and three are human representations of fictional characters. It is in this last group that, once again, we find an indigenous representation in the city of São Paulo.
The monument designed by João Batista Ferri – an artist who worked alongside Ramos de Azevedo, as master builder, and Ettore Ximenes, as an assistant in the construction of the Monument to Independence – was named Indio Caçador. The bronze sculpture that sits on a granite plinth brings characteristics of the realism adopted by the artist, such as the richness of details in the human form and its near life size. Although it is still possibly an idealized ‘Brazilian Indian,’ whose characteristics beyond the figurative cannot be determined by observing the work.
Índio Caçador was commissioned by the then mayor of São Paulo, Prestes Maia, to decorate the downtown region. Guanabara, another work by Batista Ferri, which is considered by some to be an indigenous woman, was also commissioned in the same context. The location and position of the monument on Avenida Vieira de Carvalho tells us a few things, even though it cannot be said that they were deliberate – as was the case with the Monumento das Bandeiras, in Ibirapuera, fifteen years later. Of the sculptures attributed to Praça da República, this is the only one left outside its perimeter, on the road that begins to the west of the square. The ‘Brazilian Indian’ gazes at the forest located in the square from a distance, with a slightly melancholic look, as if looking for and finding something inappropriate or uncomfortable.
Dating back to 1939, the monument was conceived in the middle of the Estado Novo of Getúlio Vargas, responsible for the March to the West. This project aimed to populate Brazil’s Northern and Central-West regions through a territorialist policy. The construction of highways and the creation of housing colonies in the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso, Amazonas, Pará and Maranhão contributed greatly to the repression of indigenous peoples and their ways of life in the name of national economic development. The invention of Central Brazil once again reproduced the story told about the discovery of Brazil in 1500 – about the Jesuit missions in the 17th century and the bandeirantes in the 18th century – inserted in a broad process of erasure and decimation of the original territory. Like other monuments from the same period in the region, Indio Caçador suffers from the lack of preservation and maintenance by the government and population. There are visible marks of graffiti and abrasions on his body, in addition to urban interventions that often go unnoticed in the eyes of the state.
The name of another work in the group of sculptures at Praça da República makes us wonder if this story will ever be written in the country’s official narrative. ‘Amizade entre of Povos’ [Friendship between Peoples], however, has nothing to do with the native peoples of Brazil.
- ALEXANDRE, Valentim (1993). Ideologia, economia e política: a questão colonial na implantação do Estado Novo. Análise Social, v. 28, n. 123/124, p. 1117-1136.
- Thiago Amâncio. Praça da República de SP tem estátuas de todos os tipos, mas nenhuma da República. Folha de S. Paulo (2018).
- AUGUSTO, Wilian Carlos Batista; DEL LAMA, Eliane Aparecida (2011). Roteiro geoturístico no centro da cidade de São Paulo. Terrae Didatica, v. 7, n. 1, p. 29-40.
- SARAIVA, Márcia Pires (2013). Uma pedagogia para os índios: A Política Indigenista de Getúlio no Contexto do Estado Novo (1937-1945). Revista Margens Interdisciplinar, v. 7, n. 9, p. 213-229.