Friday, April 9, 2010

Villa-Lobos gets the Congressional Seal of Approval

Here's an interesting story from Brasília. The Brazilian Congress has approved the first steps to adding Villa-Lobos to the Livro dos Heróis da Pátria - the Book of Heroes of the Fatherland.  Representative Dr. Talma presented the motion, which I gather will be debated, and will then go to the Senate once it is approved.

Here is what the article says about the Book of Heroes (via Google Translate):
The Book of Heroes of the Fatherland is a memorial in the pages of steel with the name of Brazilians who, in life, "contributed to the greatness, pride and glory" of Brazil. It is located in the Pantheon of the Fatherland, monument to freedom and democracy, located in the Plaza of Three Powers in Brasília. Tiradentes, Zumbi dos Palmares, Placido de Castro, Santos-Dumont are some of the names inscribed in the Book of Heroes.
One of the pleasurable side-effects of my Villa-Lobos researches is that I'm learning more about Brazilian history and culture. I knew a little about Alberto Santos-Dumont, who made the world's first public flight in an airplane, on October 23, 1906.  This is a very engaging individual.  Though admittedly from a wealthy family, it says a lot about Santos-Dumont that he donated half of a big prize he won in an early dirigible contest to the poor of Paris, and distributed the rest to his mechanics.  It's sad that he ended up killing himself, depressed by his multiple sclerosis and by the use of airplanes to kill thousands in wars.

Zumbi dos Palmares, the "black leader of all the nations", is a fascinating figure from the second half of the 17th century.  From the stronghold of  Quilombo dos Palmares, a republic the size of Portugal near Bahia, Zumbi led a spirited resistance against the Portuguese government.  His warriors were skilled in capoeira, Brazil's home-grown martial art.  Zumbi was eventually captured and beheaded, though his martyrdom was the inspiration for many future struggles.

Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentes, was a revolutionary from the same generation as the American Founding Fathers and the French Revolutionaries. From what I've read in the Wikipedia article, he seems somewhat like the Canadian Louis Riel; both were hanged by their governments, and the names of both have lived on as heroes.

Finally, José Plácido de Castro led the successful resistance of Acre against Bolivia in the late 1800s.  He became President and Father of his Country in 1900, when he was only 27 years old, and Governor of the State when it was annexed to Brazil three years later.  He was only 35 years old when he was ambushed and assassinated by rivals.  Though Plácido de Castro doesn't have his own article in the English Wikipedia, a life like this really deserves one - here is the Portuguese entry.

Here is the Panteão da Pátria (Pantheon of the Fatherland) Tancredo Neves, in the Praça dos Três Poderes (Plaza of Three Powers) in Brasília - home of the Book of Heroes, from the Wikimedia Commons:

This is pretty impressive company, even for a larger-than-life figure like Heitor Villa-Lobos!

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