Guerra Sem Guerra: A Mobilização e o Cotidiano em São Paulo Durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial.


RONEY CYTRYNOWICZ:  EdUSP, 2000.

It is a curiosity of Brazilian popular memory that among residents of São Paulo, the Constitutionalist Revolt of 1932 –in which Paulistano rebels took a drubbing from Getúlio Vargas's federal government, sacrificing all their objectives in a quick surrender– has a cherished place in local lore, while World War II, in contrast, is remembered as someone else's fight, despite the fact that thousands of Brazilian soldiers, many of them Paulistanos, fought on the side of the victorious allies. The strongest memories of World War II in São Paulo tend to concentrate on the shortage of common white bread and the federal government's largely unsuccessful attempt to convince the population to eat an unsavory substitute called "war bread."

Cytrynowicz undertakes a thorough and creative project of research and interpretation in order to discover and explain why this is the case. This book is distinguished by both its extraordinarily wide range of source material –including private diaries, popular and high-cultural iconography, popular music, and legal documents– and by the author's willingness to study the same problem from many sides. This occasionally leads the author down side paths that take us away from São Paulo, far into the Amazon, but such apparent digressions ultimately prove not only illuminating but crucial in explaining metropolitan reactions to the war.

Cytrynowicz has two primary goals: first, to unmask the uses made of wartime mobilization by Vargas's dictatorial Estado Novo and the widely-varying popular responses to that project, and second, to restore to their rightful place in the popular memory those who mobilized in good faith for a distant war, as well as those who suffered the consequences.

It is in the first aspect that Cytrynowicz is at his best, breaking the recent historiographical deadlock between those who emphasize the growth of state power and its abuses under the Estado Novo, and those who emphasize popular negotiation. Cytrynowicz transcends this duality by showing with great specificity the degree to which the federal government successfully used the context of war to strip away workers' rights, to step up industrial production (thereby enriching key allies), and to channel pressure for democratization into acceptable outlets. With equal specificity, he reveals a sharp Paulistano skepticism for government propaganda, evidenced in humor magazines and popular song lyrics, and informing public reaction to campaigns like that for "war bread." (In this case, Cytrynowicz convincingly argues that scarcity was more a government ruse to increase export profits than a real threat.)

Lamentably, the general public did support one of the most pernicious Estado Novo wartime initiatives, that limiting the rights and activities of Japanese Brazilians. Cytrynowicz demonstrates that a sharp increase of anti-Japanese racism during the war went hand in hand with forced relocation of Japanese Brazilian citizens and repression of any Japanese expression (including landscape painting by Japanese artists in São Paulo). This reaction far outstripped restrictions placed on Italian and German Brazilians, which were comparatively mild, despite greater evidence of Nazi activity within São Paulo. The story of the Japanese in Brazil during World War II deserves a book of its own –Cytrynowicz provides an excellent start with the two chapters included here. (One wishes that EdUSP had found a way to reproduce the Tomoo Handa paintings which the author analyzes so cogently.)

If the second of the book's goals –that of reviving the memory of home-front veterans– appears less consequential historiographically, the author's careful reconstruction of wartime sentiment is to be admired, and his close work with the quotidian meaning of the war in the city of São Paulo gives his analysis much of its richness and texture. Without a doubt, the avenues opened by A Guerra Sem Guerra will be further explored by subsequent scholars, and the work will remain a key reference in the historiography of Vargas period Brazil.

Bryan McCann University of Arkansas




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