In This Review

The Brazilian People: The Formation and Meaning of Brazil
The Brazilian People: The Formation and Meaning of Brazil
By Darcy Ribeiro
University Press of Florida, 2000, 376 pp

The late Ribeiro was a remarkably prolific scholar, novelist, and activist for Brazil's indigenous and underprivileged. Upon returning to Brazil in 1974 after a ten-year political exile, he became Rio de Janeiro's lieutenant governor and federal senator. Brilliantly translated by Gregory Rabassa, this book is the decades-old product of Ribeiro's labors as he attempted to come to terms with the complexities of Brazil's national identity. Scholars and other critics have faulted his work, but Ribeiro's enthusiasm and broad interpretation never appealed to academics anyway. More important, as Elizabeth Lowe says in her helpful introduction, this highly readable and enjoyable book marks the end of a grand tradition that encouraged Brazilians to understand their country as a product of its ethnic roots. For Ribeiro, Brazil was the "most beautiful and luminous province on earth" but was cursed by its history of class and ethnic antagonism. Nonetheless, Brazil's strength lay in its people's fundamental creativity and the promise offered by its mixed blood and Latin roots. Ribeiro was confident that Brazil will someday pose a worthy challenge to the United States and Canada-"mere transplants of Europe onto broad spaces overseas ... [that offer] no novelty to the world."