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...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Top 15 Brazilians of All Time

This topic started on a soccer forum where I asked Brazilian posters, would Pelé be the Top Brazilian of all time?

The impetus was a list of Top French, Germans, and Canadians as voted in recent television polls by the populace of said countries.

The results often have that overweeningly populist, Top of the Pops quality to them, but are fun nonetheless, don't you think? It's always interesting to see just how people rank saints, sinners, pols, molls, and nerds.

Below is my Brazil list, which neatly reunites two common sayings in Portuguese:

Lists are "coisa de Americano" and "Brasileiro não tem memória".

Well, that's as may be, but I'm neither American nor Brazilian. I am just anal, and love history -- so there.

Top 15 Brazilians of All Time

1- Edson Arantes do Nascimento dit Pelé
2- Dom Pedro II
3- Getúlio Vargas
4- Carlos Drummond de Andrade
5- Machado de Assis
6- Rui Barbosa
7- Heitor Villa-Lobos
8- Oscar Niemeyer
9- Carmen Miranda
10- Dr. Carlos Chagas
11- Visconde de Mauá
12- Juscelino Kubitschek
13- Antonio Carlos Jobim dit Tom Jobim
14- Alberto Santos-Dumont
15- Candido Portinari

Reason #1: The choice of Pelé as Top Brazilian of all time would seem like a no-brainer. In terms of sheer impact on the world stage by a Brazilian, no one can touch him. He IS the face and embodiment of most things Brazilian (elegant, talented, and black). Such was my surprise though, when I asked my dad, that Brazilianist par excellence, who furthermore worships the ground Pelé walks on, about putting Pelé so high. He was aghast. "Put him somewhere in the middle". 'Are you serious?', I thought. No way. Pelé is Number 1.

Reason #2: Because Brazil has a checkered past politically (not so much non-important, as problematic), you won't find lots of statesmen in many Top Brazilians lists. But Dom Pedro II, that singularly enlightened, cultured monarch of the 19th century, practically dragged Brazil into the modern-age himself -- when he wasn't travelling to World Fairs, that is. He founded the modern University and educational systems, he opened Brazil's huge continent-like landmass by building bridges, railroads, and general infrastructure, trying to industralise it, all the while begging the General Assembly to abolish slavery, which his daughter, Regent Princesa Isabel, finally did in 1888. Only in a country like Brazil, though, would their Abe Lincoln be asked to leave it.

Reason #3:
If you were to take Franklin D. Roosevelt, Juan Peron, and Henry Ford, mix them all up by cloning, you might just get a prototype for Getúlio Vargas. This was the quintessential Brazilian politician, bluff, enterprising, conniving, and a hyper-nationalist, that Brazilians of all political stripes recognise as extraordinary. His death by suicide has long been rumoured to have been an expedient murder by his rivals. To Brazilians he's known, simply, as Getúlio.

Reason #4: Brazil is known for three things -- its soccer, its coffee, and its culture, and if there is a Pelé of literature, it is Drummond de Andrade. This poet and man of letters captured the essential spark of what Brazil is, and what Brazilians feel. His "E agora, José?" and "No meio do caminho" are my personal favourites. It is a cultural crime that neither he nor #5, ever received the Nobel Prize, although he must've been short-listed many times...

Reason #5: You can call his book, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, the beginning of the Brazilian cultural experience -- the first non-derivative, post-colonial ushering of the Realism movement led in Europe by Flaubert, Zola, and Balzac. Check out his Don Casmurro and see if you can't hear every Brazilian artistic "voice" that followed, in it.

Reason #6: This jurist and diplomat was the first non-European to serve in the World Court at the Hague, being first appointed in 1899, later ruling on the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Not only did he help to write one of the most long-lasting Brazilian Constitutions, but he also ran for President in 1910, 1914, albeit unsuccessfully. Some people are just too intelligent to make good politicians, you know.

Reason #7: This textured composer of Brazilian music belonged to School of Franz Liszt, Georges Enescu, or Jan Sibelius -- each of whom drew from their countries' folkloric traditions, often derided as peasantlike or too unrefined as compared to the more classical strains of music. Before Villa-Lobos, many Europeans didn't give Brazil much credit artistically. After his Bachianas Brasileiras, Brazil was a force in world culture -- that's how important he was.

Reason #8: Next to Frank Lloyd-Wright, the most original of 20th century architects, for his futurist vision of boundless possibilities. It's not often many architects get handed to them carte blanche to create an entire CITY out of nothing, but he (alongside Lúcio Costa) was. The result was "the city of the future", Brasília. Damn difficult to walk it, though, since I suppose he had bargained on jet-packs being the normal transport of the future.

Reason #9: Oh hush. Don't any Brazilian complain that this lady doesn't belong so high/at all in this list. Or that she was born in Portugal. As the Duke of Wellington once tartly observed about having been born in Ireland, "being born in a stable does not make someone a horse". Quite. Carmen Miranda put Brazil on the world map in the 20th century. Everyone who followed, owes her a tremendous debt of gratitude for giving it a winning, happy face at that.

Reason #10: I reckon when you have a disease named after you discovered it (Chagas Disease or American trypanosomiasis), you done good.

Reason #11: His buddy, Dom Pedro II, counted on him to (1) build Brazil's first railroad (2) lend the State money when it was a tad low on funds (3) be a diplomat, politician, industrialist, and general Brazilian factotum. If you could combine Andrew Carnegie, Count Sergei Witte and Thomas Alva Edison in one person, you could get a Visconde de Mauá.

Reason #12: JK ('zhotah kah'), as he is known in Brazil, ranks so high because he transformed Brazil from almost an entirely coastal country, into one which could finally tap into its enormous possibilities as a nation. What did he do? Well, he just pulled up stakes from Rio de Janeiro, and moved his country's capital to Brasília, is all. Happens every day. Tragically, he died in a car crash under questionable circumstances. If you're a Brazilian statesman, you'd better be prepared to be exiled, die mysteriously, or be laughed out of office. Sometimes all three.

Reason #13: This is Tom Jobim. This is Tom Jobim writing 'The Girl from Ipanema'. Any questions?

Reason #14: Okay, here's a fun exercise if you ever meet a Brazilian. Ask him or her, who invented the modern aeroplane? The answer you will get isn't Orville or indeed, Wilbur Wright, but Santos-Dumont. And they could have a point. See, the Wright Bros. used external assistance to take off from the ground at Kitty Hawk. Santos-Dumont took off by sheer force of the plane's engine, AND he did it in Paris, AND he was half-French. Case closed.

Reason #15: I like the sound of his name, plus he died of lead poisoning. Oh yeah, and Picasso said he was one of the greatest painters ever. 'Nuff said.

...whew, these then are my choices with reasons attached. Who knew there were so many important Mineiros out there.

Now, it's your turn. What is your Top 15, of any nation you want?


  • Not everyone can do a Top 10-15-20 of Brazil, so on the soccer forum, we've moved on to other more accessible countries.

    This one, anyone can do. My personal choices for my Top 10 countrymen.

    Top 10 Britons of All Time

    1- William Shakespeare
    2- Sir Isaac Newton
    3- Charles Darwin
    4- William the Conqueror
    5- Queen Elizabeth I
    6- Lord Horatio Nelson
    7- Sir Winston Churchill
    8- Duke of Wellington
    9- Adam Smith
    10- Queen Victoria

    And this was the result of the BBC1 television vote poll.

    1 Winston Churchill
    2 Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    3 Diana Princess of Wales
    4 Charles Darwin
    5 William Shakespeare
    6 Isaac Newton
    7 Queen Elizabeth I
    8 John Lennon
    9 Horatio Nelson
    10 Oliver Cromwell

    The late Princess Diana ahead of Darwin, Shakespeare, and Newton.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I really hate the democratic process.

    Then I remember that phone-votes are not democratic -- not if you have re-dial. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Jul 29, 01:41:00 am GMT-4  

  • Geez. Despite your professed dislike you must really rate Napoleon -- his enemies occupy two of your British top ten! Neither of them, I think, belong above Churchill.

    Anyway, I wish you could get Nelson Ascher to comment on the Brazilian selections.

    By Blogger JSU, at Fri Jul 29, 03:40:00 am GMT-4  

  • A small correction: Juscelino Kubitschek died in a car crash --- not plane crash.

    IIRC he was traveling between Sao Paulo and Campinas and his car was hit by a drunk driver.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 15, 02:36:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Hey Bordon!

    (Since you've posted, I've had to take away anonymous posting due to pesky reasons -- but it's easy to register without having to make a blog yourself)

    Thanks for the correction, and one which I have changed in the post already.

    Here is a link to the story of his Presidency, which lists his DOD as:

    22 August 1976

    Which is almost 29 years to the day. What a coincidence, wouldn't you say?

    It says he died in Resende, RJ...I always knew that was a bad place.

    How about your own list of Top Brazilians, then? :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Aug 16, 10:57:00 am GMT-4  

  • España: los Reyes Catolicos, FElpe II, Alfredo di Stefano, Jose Castan Tobeñas, Francisco Franco Bahamonde, General Yague,Don Pelayo, Cervantes, Placido Domingo. Eulogio Gomez Franqueira,, Jose Maria Aznar, Antonio Maura, Diego Silva Velazquez, Francisco de Quevedo

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sept 06, 08:34:00 pm GMT-4  

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