Vargas and Carmen Miranda: The Opposing Forces of Brazil
Vargas was viewed as the “father of the poor”, a real misconception, but then again, Carmen Miranda sailed the ocean with the goal of representing Brazil, which was yet another failure for the nation with an identity so complex that not one thing could be said to represent it or one of its peoples.
Of course Vargas was seen as a favorable person by those less fortunate. He had implemented legislation that boosted income for both middle class and working class Brazilians. Moreover, he spoke a lot in favor of the poor. His propaganda, speeches, and other remarks are recorded as being groundbreaking, such as his statement that teachers were the “overshadowed heroes of daily life” (TBR 153). Nonetheless, his practice failed, and more importantly, worked only to cover up the foundational problems with Brazil’s national identity. He did not, for instance, raise the meager wage teachers were paid. And in this same way, his public support for those who made up the lower classes showed the same old favoritism, those who live in the less populated and underdeveloped areas, the real poor, the dark skinned peoples of Brazil, forgotten in sertaos “were benignly neglected in favor of those he considered to have the potential to carry out his dreams of national construction” (TBR 155). The father of the poor was in reality the father of the light skinned poor. Vargas was standing with one foot on one side of an issue and the other foot on the other, appealing to the poor, but also being dictated in practice by Brazil’s skin hierarchy, appealing to the left and to the right, a contradictory position indeed.
The case was the same with Carmen Miranda, who sailed to the US saying that she carried the great burden of representing Brazil. How could a white Portuguese woman ever be a representation of Brazil, a land that housed an incredible diversity of mixed race and Afro-Brazilian culture? Moreover, her mere depiction of the women from Bahia, whose clothing she appropriated along with their practice of selling fruit for survival, was a contradiction. A white woman with a turban and fruit on her head, it is no wonder she was a hit in the United States, but fell flat before Brazilian audiences, who understood the distinction between races and saw Afro-Brazilian culture and the Samba as a practice of the poor.
Regardless of these failures and contradictions, Vargas and Carmen Miranda continued to try to promote their goals. Vargas eagerly sent Carmen overseas with the intentions of promoting Brazil as a nation not so much to the left, not so much favoring the poor. With growing tension against communist regimes throughout the world, he understood that some kind of distraction was needed to show that Brazil was going to cooperate with the most powerful player, the United…