A provocative analysis of racial identity and nationhood.
"We are a half-breed country . . . We are half-breeds, if not in our blood, then at least in our souls." With these words, the literary critic Silvio Romero summed up the impression of Brazil a century ago as a "festival of colors." The spectacle of a mixed-race society in a world that prized racial purity was horrifying to European travelers as well as to Brazil's intellectuals, who were soon crying out for "one hope, one solution: the whitening of the population within one century."
But however attractive European notions of racial superiority might have been to Brazil's elite, they were not easily adapted into the Brazilian context. In The Spectacle of the Races, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, a leading cultural anthropologist and historian, shows how Brazil's philosophers, politicians, and scientists gratefully accepted social Darwinist ideas about innate differences among the races yet could not condemn the miscegenation that had so long been an essential feature of Brazilian society-and was at the very heart of a new state-building project as the country modernized. Schwarcz shows how the work of these "men of science" became crucial to the development and survival of Brazil's basic national structures, affecting the country's destiny in ways that still apply today, when race remains the basis of Brazil's self-image.