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  • Gustavo Driau

Oswald de Andrade, Brazil: Geronimo

Oswaldo de Andrade was part of the modernist’s artists movement of São Paulo —a group of artists and writers active in the 1920s and 1930s. They worked about the Brazilian national identity looking to include the black population of the country in its artistic and literary production

They were opposed to the Brazilian artists and intellectuals who had developed a national narrative attributing the paternity and genesis of the nation only to indigenous and the Lusitanians descendants, marginalizing systemically the afro-descendants.

The purpose is to understand the way like the art elaborates the concept of Brazilian official history which allows a critical reflection on Brazil of twentieth century and of our times.


Geronimo was on another farm

Grinding flour in the kitchen

They came in

They got him

The pestle fell

He tripped

And fell

They got on top of him


O Jerônimo estava numa outra fazenda

Socando o pilão na cozinha


Grudaram nele

O pilão tombou

Ele tropeçou

E caiu

Montaram nele

Geronimo was enslaved person escaped from his possessor. We can assume that he was in a community of slaves who run away, he was in a quilombola community.

Geronimo has name and an identity. The poem revives the memories of a country that wants to forget it, a society that ignores its destructive effects in the life of the black generations of the past and also the way that affects the future of so many other people.

After the escape, Geronimo is found and treated like an animal by other subjects, treating him with violence. He stumbles and falls, as well as the pestle that falls due to the violent action, transforming the person into an object.

Geronimo is also animalized, because the verse that closes the poem says, “they got on top of him”; “they mounted him”. The action transforms man into an animal to be mounted, which, ultimately, it reveals domination.

Geronimo, lying on the ground, with his pursuers on top of him, squeezing him, drowning him, couldn't breathe either.

People say they heard Geronimo saying: I can't breathe.

Slavery, therefore, is denounced as a way of converting persons in objects and animalization of the human being.

This critical concept was totally out of the perspective of the Brazilian society of those times. Slavery in Brazil began long before the first Portuguese settlement was established in 1516. Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery. By the time it was abolished an estimated four million slaves had been taken from Africa to Brazil, 40% of the total number of slaves brought to the Americas.

Oswald de Andrade was born in Sao Paulo; he is regarded as one of the most controversial figures in the Brazilian literary world.

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