November 15, Brazil’s Republic Day, is far from being highly celebrated. Schools and military academies hold parades on September 7, our Independence Day, but most people pass on any celebratory activities on November 15. The date takes a backseat to regional holidays that celebrate local rebellions, like July 2 in Bahia (the expulsion of the Portuguese from Salvador), March 13 in Piauí (Jenipapo battle, one of the bloodiest for the Independence), September 20 in Rio Grande do Sul (the secessionist Farrapos War), or July 9 in São Paulo (the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932).
Part of that is due to the fact that the Republic was not the result of a popular uprising. It was instead a military coup d’état staged with the support of economic elites. In the last Parliamentary election under the Brazilian Empire, the Republican Party had won the hearts and minds of less than 15 percent of the electorate – enough to elect two congressmen, but no senator.
It didn’t help that the promise of a more democratic country never translated into reality. Brazil’s early presidents behaved like monarchs, and our second head of state was known as the “Iron Marshal.” The first years of the young republic were marked by two civil wars, not to mention a handful of secessionist movements. These conflicts killed roughly 35,000 people, far more than the 3,000 slayed during the independence wars.
The Brazilian press and the Republic
In her book Da Monarquia à República: momentos decisivos (From Monarchy to the Republic: deciding moments), the Brazilian historian Emília Viotti da Costa, of the University of São Paulo, discusses conflicting accounts of the events by the winners and losers of the process. We have selected newspapers of the time to observe how the press – by the elites and for the elites – dealt with the proclamation of the Republic back in 1889.
A Província de São Paulo (currently Estado de S. Paulo)
“Long live the Republic”
“We’ve received yesterday the following telegraph: Brazil’s Republic has been proclaimed […] Never a Republic has been proclaimed with such brilliance and in such peaceful terms.”
In an editorial called “The new regime,” the newspaper idealized a process that occurred with no popular participation: “The government of the Federative Republic receives adherents from all parts of the country, with an enthusiastic, spontaneous, true, and unconditional popular support.”
Correio do Povo
“Long live the Brazilian Republic! Long live the Army! Long live the Navy! Long live the Brazilian People!”
A Pátria Mineira
“Long live the independent state of Minas Gerais”
O Estado de Minas Gerais
“Proclamation of the provisory government”
In an editorial: “The Brazilian people exercise their sovereign right to adhere to the grandiose movement operated on November 15, 1889. The Federative Republic of the United States of Brazil is proclaimed!”
“The Republic, the only form of government that fits us, was proclaimed.”
A Gazeta (Cuiabá, Mato Grosso)
It took 24 days for the news of the proclamation of the republic to reach Cuiabá, in the central state of Mato Grosso. The city’s newspaper, A Gazeta, praised the event:
“Long live the United States of Brazil”
Gazeta de notícias
In addition to publishing sketches of the main characters of the coup, Field Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca (who would be Brazil’s first president) and Republican activist Benjamin Constant, the newspaper published a statement on its front page from the provisory government.
Cidade do Rio
“Long live the liberating army”
“Long live the Republic”