Gay Rio

    Gay Rio

    By Brazzil Magazine

    Pleasures in the Parks of Rio de Janeiro during the Brazilian Belle
    Époque, 1898-1914

    As Brazil entered  the twentieth century, Rio de Janeiro, nestled
    among towering granite hills and surrounded by a broad bay on one side and the Atlantic
    Ocean on the other, underwent remarkable transformations. For a decade after the abolition
    of slavery in 1888 and the declaration of the Republic a year later, the nation had been
    enveloped in political turmoil. According to one historian of this period, “[i]n
    1898, with [President] Campos Salles’ assumption of power and the reassertion of a
    calm dominated by the regional elites, the Carioca (from Rio de Janeiro) belle époque begins. That year there was a
    noticeable change in the air which soon affected the cultural and social milieu. The
    revolutionary days were over. The time for stability and urban life of elegance was at
    hand again.”

    While the urban elite looked
    forward to political and social stability, impoverished Afro-Brazilians continued to pour
    into the capital from the surrounding countryside and other states in search of
    employment. Likewise, as a part of the tidal wave of European migration to the Americas in
    the late nineteenth century, foreign immigrants, especially Portuguese, contributed to the
    city’s dramatic growth. Between 1872 and 1890, Rio’s population almost doubled,
    jumping from 266.831 to 518.290. Sixteen year later, in 1906, it had increased to more
    than 800.000, and by 1920, the capital had 1.157.873 residents. During this period, men
    outnumbered women in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1890 census, the new republican government
    registered 238.667 males and 184.089 females residing in the nation’s capital. Among
    the native-born population, there was a relative gender balance of 159,393 men to 151,428
    women. However, among foreign immigrants, men surpassed women 79,374 to 32,561. Amid the
    bustle of everyday life in Brazil’s largest urban center, thousands of young, single
    men roamed the streets in search of work, entertainment, company, and sex.

    Rio’s demographic boom also
    placed enormous pressures on the city’s infrastructure, housing supply, and public
    health. In 1902, the federal capital’s mayor, Francisco Pereira Passos, with newly
    elected president Rodrigues Alves’s backing, ordered a radical urban renovation
    project that would transform much of the city center. Rio was to be heralded as a tropical
    version of modern Paris. Illuminated broad boulevards lined with fashionable beaux arts
    buildings replaced dark, narrow, crooked streets and modest structures. Public health
    officials campaigned to improve sanitation and eliminate yellow fever through a program
    that, among other requirements, involved the obligatory inoculating of the entire
    population. The municipal government condemned more than sixteen hundred buildings,
    including many tenement housing units, and forced almost twenty thousand poor and
    working-class residents of Rio, many of whom were Afro-Brazilian, to find new housing.
    Some moved close by, while many others were forced to relocate to outlying suburban
    districts to the north of the downtown area. Although protests and riots against new
    public health, sanitation, and residential removal programs revealed a deep resentment
    toward the government’s overall plan, officials carried on with determination. In
    1906 they declared their project complete, and Rio de Janeiro soon became known as a cidade maravilhosa (the marvelous city). The
    press boasted that the nation’s capital had become a bourgeois urban public space
    comparable to any of Europe’s modernized cities.

    The forced removal of poor
    inhabitants from some of the downtown districts and the new French-influenced
    architectural facades lining the city’s main new thoroughfare, Avenida Central (later
    renamed Avenida Rio Branco) produced an environment more pleasing to Rio’s elite.
    However, the renovation plan did not eliminate all overt evidence of chaos, poverty, and
    urban decay deemed inappropriate by Carioca high society. Prostitution continued in parts
    of the downtown area. Crime remained a threat to those who frequented the newly renovated
    areas of the city’s center. Poor men and women, especially people of color, still
    peddled their wares on the streets. And men who enjoyed sex with men tenaciously clung to
    several sites in the city center that they had appropriated as public places to find
    sexual partners and socialize with friends.

    The most noted urban space for
    male-to-male sexual encounters and socializing was Largo do Rossio, a square at the edge
    of traditional downtown Rio de Janeiro. The area received a facelift at the time of the
    Pereira Passos urban reforms and has remained a location of homoerotic sociability from
    the late nineteenth century until recent years. At the center of the Largo do Rossio stood
    a majestic statue of the Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro I (1798-1834). His son, Dom Pedro II
    (1825-1891) had ordered its erection in 1862 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the
    declaration of Brazilian independence from Portugal. On March 30 of that year, amid
    fanfare and fireworks, the emperor and his entourage dedicated the sixteen-foot bronzed
    likeness of independent Brazil’s first ruler, mounted on a steed and clutching a
    raised scroll representing the nation’s constitution. The equestrian statute, which
    weighed sixty tons, rested on a massive thirty-foot pedestal decorated with bronze figures
    symbolizing Brazil’s major rivers and metal plaques inscribed with the names of the
    country’s provinces. The government subsequently ordered the landscaping of the
    square around the monument with trees, gardens, statutes, and benches, making it one of
    the downtown area’s pleasant open spaces, as well as a public representation of
    Brazilian nationalist sentiments. Located immediately off the plaza was the São Pedro
    Theater, which hosted major cultural events for Carioca high society throughout the
    nineteenth century and helped to draw other entertainment venues to the square).

    Soon after the statue of Emperor
    Dom Pedro I was erected, the site fulfilled another “less patriotic” function as
    a venue for homosexual interactions. So much clandestine sexual activity took place in the
    praça that in 1870 a city administrator sent a
    communiqué to the head of local government operations about the situation. He complained
    that the municipal guard in charge of making the rounds in the plaza gardens had
    “abandoned those same gardens for most of the day to the perversity of boys and
    ill-intentioned people.” His complaint had little effect, however, and the area
    continued to attract men who sought each other out for socioerotic ends. As a result, in
    1878, the secretary of the court police had to take more drastic actions, “seeing how
    there are individuals who go there at late hours to practice abuses against morality,
    forcing this Division to have patrols in those gardens, impairing the police from being in
    other places.” He directed the four entrances to the gardens in the plaza’s
    center to be closed every night at midnight. Two weeks later, in response to another
    complaint that, in fact, the square was not being closed down as ordered, a government
    official assured the chief of police that the gardens were, indeed, being sealed off at
    night. Moreover, the night patrols issued a whistle warning to guarantee that no one would
    remain in the area past closing time. Regardless of police surveillance and control of the
    area, men persisted in using the park as a venue for trysts with other men interested in
    sexual liaisons.

    Legal but Not Legal

    During the post-1889 republican
    regime, homosexuality per se was not illegal. This had not been the case in colonial
    Brazil under Portuguese rule, when the law had defined sodomy as the anal penetration of a
    man or woman. When two men were involved, the Office of the Holy Inquisition, which was
    installed in Portugal in 1553, as well as Portuguese legal codes, considered both the
    penetrator and the receptor to be sodomites. If found guilty of this offense, a person was
    subject to burning at the stake, and his or her property could be seized. Between 1587 and
    1794, the Portuguese Inquisition registered 4,419 denunciations. These included both those
    suspected of having practiced sodomy and those who provided confessions attesting to the
    fact that they had committed the “abominable and perverted sin.” Of the total
    number, 394 went to trial. Thirty were eventually burned at the stake, 3 in the sixteenth
    century and 27 in the seventeenth century. Those not put to death could be sentenced to
    hard labor on the king’s galley ships or to temporary or perpetual exile in Africa,
    India, or Brazil. Often these harsh punishments were enacted after the condemned had
    already suffered seizure of property and endured a brutal public whipping.

    In 1830, eight years after
    independence from Portugal, Dom Pedro I signed into law the Imperial Penal Code. Among
    other provisions, the new law eliminated all references to sodomy. The legislation was
    influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham, the French Penal Code of 1791, the Neapolitan
    Code of 1819, and the Napoleonic Code of 1810, which decriminalized sexual relations
    between consenting adults. However, article 280 of the Brazilian code punished public acts
    of indecency with ten to forty days’ imprisonment and a fine corresponding to one
    half of the time served. This provision gave the police the discretion to determine what
    constituted a public act of indecency. It also gave them the power to extort money from
    those threatened with arrest or detention.

    The 1889 republican government
    approved a new penal code in 1890 that maintained the decriminalization of sodomy.
    Although not explicitly punishing same-sex erotic activities, the new law sought to
    control such conduct through indirect means and restricted homosexual behavior in four
    distinct ways. Article 266 referred to “assaults on decency of a person of one or
    another sex through violence or threat with the goal of satiating lascivious passions or
    for moral depravation” and was punishable “by one to six years’
    imprisonment.” This article was usually applied in cases involving sexual
    relationships between adults and minors, including men with young boys.

    Adults engaging in sexual
    activities with other adults in a public setting could be charged under article 282,
    “Public Affront to Decency” (atentado
    público ao pudor). The crime was described as “assaults on modesty, offending
    propriety with shameless exhibitions or obscene acts or gestures, practiced in public
    places or places frequented by the public, and which without offense to the individual
    honesty of the person, assaults and scandalizes society. It carried a prison sentence of
    one to six months. This provision, a revised carryover from the 1830 Imperial Penal Code,
    provided the legal basis for controlling any public manifestations of homoerotic or
    homosocial behavior. With catchall wording, the police or a judge could broadly define
    improper or indecent action and punish behavior that did not conform to heterocentric

    Article 379, “On the Use of
    False Names, Fake Titles, or other Disguises,” outlawed cross-dressing by prohibiting
    “disguising one’s sex, wearing inappropriate clothes and doing so publicly to
    deceive. The law carried a penalty of fifteen to sixty days’ imprisonment. Although
    the police winked an eye at cross-dressing during Carnival, throughout the rest of the
    year, they could use this legal provision to arrest homosexuals who liked to wear clothes
    of the opposite sex.

    The fourth method for regulating
    public manifestations of homosexuality was to arrest a person for vagrancy. Article 399 of
    the 1890 Penal Code defined vagrancy as “leaving the exercise of a profession,
    employment, or any service in which one earns a living; not possessing a means of support
    and a fixed domicile in which one is residing; earning a living in an occupation
    prohibited by law or manifestly offensive to morality and propriety. A penalty of fifteen
    to thirty days’ incarceration could be imposed on anyone who happened to be arrested
    without work papers or who was engaged in male prostitution. The person also had to find
    gainful employment within fifteen days of his release.

    Together, these four provisions
    placed legal restraints on those who might congregate in public places in order to meet
    others interested in same-sex erotic activities. They gave the police the power to
    incarcerate arbitrarily those homosexuals who engaged in public displays of effeminacy,
    wore long hair, feminine clothing, or makeup, earned a living through prostitution, or
    took advantage of the cover of bushes or shrubs in shadowed parks to enjoy a nocturnal
    sexual liaison. Sodomy had been decriminalized in the early nineteenth century. However,
    criminal codes with vaguely defined notions of proper morality and public decency, as well
    as provisions that limited cross-dressing and strictly controlled vagrancy, provided a
    legal net that could readily entangle those who transgressed socially sanctioned sexual
    norms. Although homosexuality in and of itself was not technically illegal, the Brazilian
    police and courts had multiple mechanisms at their disposal to contain and control this

    The Crossroads of Sin

    On February 21, 1890, only three
    months after the overthrow of Emperor Dom Pedro II and the Brazilian monarchy, the new
    republican government changed the official name of the Largo do Rossio from Praça da
    Constituição (Constitution Plaza) to Praça Tiradentes in order to commemorate the
    upcoming centennial of the execution of Joaquim José da Silva Xavier commonly known as
    Tiradentes. This leader of a 1789 conspiracy against Portuguese imperial rule was tortured
    and executed near that site in 1792, and the rechristening of the plaza affirmed the
    antimonarchical sentiments of the new republican regime. In spite of the official name
    change, the square remained Largo do Rossio in the imagination and common parlance of
    turn-of-the-century Cariocas and was still associated in the public’s mind with
    same-sex sexual encounters.

    Stately buildings, in the
    process of being remodeled in the latest French architectural style, surrounded Praça
    Tiradentes. Since the streets next to

    the park were also the termini
    of the streetcar lines that serviced the northern neighborhoods of the city, including the
    areas where many former downtown residents had been relocated as a result of urban
    renewal, this public space bustled with movement. The plaza’s strategic location
    encouraged an eclectic combination of theaters, the brand-new motion picture houses, a
    concert hall hosting musical reviews and vaudeville performances, not to mention cabarets,
    popular cafés, and bars. Bourgeois Rio attended the elegant and spacious São Pedro
    Theater, while middle- and working-class customers had an array of cultural, culinary,
    libational, and sexual distractions close at hand.

    At the turn of the century,
    Pascoal Segreto, an Italian immigrant turned entrepreneur, built his entertainment empire
    at Praça Tiradentes. Among his investments was the Maison Moderne. This urban amusement
    park featured a mini-roller coaster, carrousel, Ferris wheel, and shooting gallery, with a
    small, partially open theater in the back and a café that served beer to working-class
    customers. From this and several other modest entertainment establishments, Pascoal
    Segreto expanded his holdings by purchasing most of the public performance venues in the
    area around Praça Tiradentes. When he died in 1920, the humble immigrant, who had begun
    working as a shoeshine boy, owned most of the theaters and movie houses in the district,
    from the elegant São Pedro that billed top European talent to concert halls featuring the
    latest in risqué entertainment for the popular classes of Rio de Janeiro.

    Nestled among these
    establishments of public distraction in the vicinity around the plaza, one could find
    brothels and boardinghouses in buildings that had once served as expansive dwellings for
    elite families. The city’s demographic imbalance in favor of single young men,
    especially immigrants, and the large number of poor women from the countryside and
    overseas favored this sexual traffic. Prostitutes ranged from high-class francesas, with the allure of their French origins,
    and recently arrived Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, known as polacas, to light-skinned Afro-Brazilian mulatas. Middle- and upper-class men, engaging in
    fleeting bohemian forays in this demimonde, could mingle with prostitutes in popular
    establishments like the Stadt München bar and restaurant, and the Café Suiço, which
    were right off of the Plaza. If not satisfied with the crowd in these meeting places,
    Carioca males could also wander a few blocks away to seek camaraderie or carnal pleasures
    in another vibrant center of nightlife in the Lapa neighborhood. Store clerks, students,
    and modest public servants who were unable to pay for the sexual services of women who
    boasted a French birthright could still find lower-class polacas and mulatas
    working near Praça Tiradentes.

    Although this was not the only
    prostitution zone in downtown Rio, the proximity of so many theaters, eating and drinking
    establishments, and popular entertainment venues provided plenty of customers for women in
    the sex trade, who serviced their clients in nearby bordellos or in the privacy of a
    rented room behind closed Venetian blinds. As has been noted, the Pereira Passos urban
    renovations of the century’s first decade had been designed to modernize downtown Rio
    de Janeiro and place it on equal footing with European capitals. In spite of popular
    resistance, the government successfully forced many poor people, especially
    Afro-Brazilians, out the downtown districts. However, regulation of prostitution in the
    area during the first two decades of the twentieth century remained sporadic. Too many
    journalists, intellectuals, artists, and politicians from well-connected families procured
    women around Praça Tiradentes and other downtown sites for the police to operate
    effectively to rid the area of female prostitution.

    Amid the nightlife that
    surrounded the monument to Brazil’s first emperor, in the darkened theaters under
    flickering lights of newfangled cinematographs, and on the benches and among the shrubbery
    in the park, men who sought out other men for sexual escapades took advantage of the
    loosened morals in this part of the city to procure pleasure for themselves. The mounted
    monarch continued to be a reference point for male-to-male sexual and social encounters.
    Rio chronicler Luiz Edmundo recalled a typical scene of 1901: “After eight at night
    lads with feminine airs, who spoke in a falsetto voice, bit on cambric handkerchiefs and
    laid their sheepish eyes on the manly and handsome statue of Mr. Pedro.”

    Both the public spaces and the
    varied entertainment options offered ample opportunities for men to congregate with others
    of like-minded sexual and social affinities. The half-dozen theaters, countless bars,
    cabarets, and music halls also employed some of these men as actors, dancers, singers,
    waiters, and service employees. A favorite meeting place for this crowd was the Café
    Criterium, located immediately across from the park, where “actors and young lads
    with high-pitched voices who wore rice powder makeup and rouge” socialized. One such
    painted youth who frequented the Largo do Rossio was José N., a nineteen-year-old
    Turkish-born street vendor. On April 13, 1905, his neighbor Baudilio G., a forty-five-year
    old Spanish barber, was arrested for calling José N. a puto do Largo do Rossio.

    The police charged the barber
    with violating article 282 of the Penal Code, “Public Affront to Decency.” At
    the court hearing, Maria dos Anaw6kx, a native of Portugal and washerwoman by profession,
    who lived across the street from the defendant, testified that at 10:30 that morning
    Baudilio G. had started fighting with the Turk, José N. She stated that the older man
    called him “a male whore, a depraved one, a male whore from the Largo do Rossio”
    and that these immoral words were heard by many people, including some young girls. Three
    other neighbors, both immigrants and Brazilian-born, repeated Maria dos Anaw6kx’s

    Then the young Turk, who lived in
    the same building as the defendant, was asked to speak. He also confirmed the Portuguese
    washerwoman’s version of events. Jose N. added that Baudilio G. had accused him of
    “taking his wife” and of “having makeup on his face.” The defendant,
    Baudilio G., provided a different version of the verbal exchange. According to the
    Spanish-born barber, he had been angry with José, “for reasons of honor.” He
    further testified that he had indeed called José a
    puto because the Turk had rouge on his face. He added that the young man even had to
    go into the house to wipe it off. The barber was eventually acquitted of the charges.

    Racial and national rivalries
    between immigrants and recently freed slaves in turn-of-the-century Rio de Janeiro
    constituted a conflict-laden backdrop to working-class social interactions. This
    particular dispute, carried out in the public arena of a working-class neighborhood and
    involving Afro-Brazilians as well as Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish immigrants,
    indicates that the accusation of being a puto could
    unite diverse groups against a common moral social enemy—the feminized man who
    allegedly worked as a prostitute. The record does not indicate definitely whether or not
    José, a recent immigrant who still signed his last name in the script of his native
    country in the police record, was in fact a puto, that
    is to say, that he earned money at the Largo do Rossio by having sex with other men.
    However, while Baudilio G. was formally charged with the offense of uttering the
    “indecent” word puto, the young street
    vendor was actually the one on trial. José’s personal grooming and possible
    secondary source of income became the subject of public scrutiny. His use of rouge and
    other feminine markings represented inappropriate and immoral behavior that merited social
    condemnation. The resolution of the altercation exonerated Baudilio even though several
    witnesses, including the defendant himself, admitted that the barber had uttered the
    “indecent” expression. While using the word puto scandalized the neighborhood, being a puto was a much worse offense.

    The term puto, the masculinized version of puta, or female prostitute, was used in colonial
    Brazil and in Portugal to refer to “a boy who prostituted himself with the vice of
    sodomy or masturbation.” It was a popular version of the older term, sodomita, with its biblical origins, that was the
    standard religious and legal way of describing persons who had anal sex with persons of
    either sex in colonial Brazil. During the Brazilian belle époque, the pervasive
    stereotype for men who had sex with other men emphasized their link to prostitution.
    Physicians, politicians, lawyers, intellectuals, and artists portrayed modern sodomites as
    effeminate men who engaged in anal sex as passive partners and supported themselves as
    streetwalkers. As we shall see throughout this work, the connection between prostitution,
    effeminacy in men, and homosexuality remained a powerful representation of same-sex erotic
    behavior well into the second half of the twentieth century, when alternative notions of
    sexual identity emerged that challenged this dominant paradigm.

    At some point in
    late-nineteenth-century Brazil, a new pejorative expression, fresco (fairy, faggot), which literally means
    someone (or thing) that is fresh, came into popular use. Francisco José Viveiros de
    Castro, a professor of criminal law at Rio de Janeiro’s law school and a judge of the
    High Court of Appeals of the Federal District, used the term in an 1894 volume entitled Assaults on Modesty: Studies on Sexual Aberrations. In
    his chapter “Pederasty,” he described Rio de Janeiro’s frescos, referring to the men who in the 1880s,
    during the last years of the empire, invaded the masked Carnival balls at the São Pedro
    Theater in the Largo do Rossio: “One of these
    frescos, as they are known in popular slang, became famous using the name Panela de Bronze (Bronze Buttocks). He dressed
    admirably as a woman, to the point of fooling even the most perceptive. They say that he
    was able to acquire a fortune through his vile industry and that he had so many visitors,
    people of high social position, that they had to request an appointment beforehand.”

    In turn-of-the-century Brazil, fresco, with the dual meaning of a fairy or
    faggot and something fresh, became a common double entendre used to poke fun at effeminate
    men or those assumed to engage in “passive” anal sexual encounters with other
    men. Moreover, frescos were intimately
    associated with the Largo do Rossio. The term’s multiple uses appeared in the Dicionário Moderno, a slim tongue-in-cheek
    compilation of erotic and pornographic slang, published in 1903: “Fresco—adjective meaning cool weather,
    depraved due to modernization. Almost cold, mild, agreeable, that which is not hot nor
    warm. That which is whimsical and breezy. One finds them in the hills and in the Largo do
    Rossio.” Not only is a space associated with the fresco, but the figure evokes a relationship
    between social degeneration and modernization, as if the process of urbanization and the
    transformation of traditional ways were to blame for same-sex erotic behavior. As we shall
    see, medical and legal professionals commenting on the subject during this period drew
    similar parallels between homosexuality and modernization.

    The renovation of the Largo do
    Rossio during the urban renewal project at the beginning of the twentieth century provided
    one cartoonist the opportunity to link frescos
    to the plaza. An ink drawing and a sardonic poem entitled “Fresca Theoria
    (Requerimento)” (Fresh idea [or fairy’s idea] [petition]) appeared in a 1904
    issue of the magazine O Malho, which specialized
    in humor and political satire. In the cartoon, a man in a fashionable straw hat, flowery
    bow tie, short tight jacket, and busy closefitting pants stands with a buttock protruding,
    lending his figure an S-shape, the classical pose of women in turn-of-the-century
    drawings. His index finger is resting pensively on his chin as he ponders his new idea and
    the request that he is going to make to the city government. Behind him is a garden with
    the statute of Dom Pedro I in the background, an obvious reference to the Largo do Rossio.
    Since the recent relandscaping of the park had temporarily diminished access to the
    grounds for cruising and courting, the protagonist, represented by the artist as a male
    prostitute, has found himself out of work. The poem reads: “Given the cruel
    destruction / Of the Rossio of my dreams / The unemployed Muse, / Although in gloomy
    verses, / Will take a risk. / It is a rather hard shock / That constrains one’s
    freedom / In this ungrateful profession, /And from the mayor of the city / I require

    Not unlike the Spanish barber
    who accused José N. of wearing makeup and being a “puto
    do Rossio,” the author of this poem associates the square with male effeminacy
    and streetwalking, as if sex between men could only take place if an exchange of money
    occurred. In the cartoon, the fop even considers petitioning the government for some type
    of financial support because of the temporary unavailability of the plaza. The stereotyped
    welldressed dandy, who lacks manly comportment and entertains foolish ideas, is quickly
    identified with homosexual prostitution. Just as the working-class neighbors of José N.
    linked his use of makeup to the Largo do Rossio and male prostitution, one can assume that
    the middle-class readership of O Malho understood
    the constellation of markers pointing to the ridiculed figure of the fresco.

    The conflation of particular
    forms of dress, prostitution, exaggerated unmanly behavior, the term fresco, and the specificity of the Largo do Rossio
    as a privileged space for same-sex erotic adventures occurs in another cartoon from the
    same period also published in O Malho). The
    drawing, entitled “Escabroso” (Unseemly) captures two men in conversation. One
    is a mature male, quite large, almost monstrous in size, with a goatee, walking cane, and
    a rough masculine appearance. The other figure, a man with a much smaller frame and a hint
    of a pencil mustache, is stylishly dressed with a flower in his lapel. He coyly looks
    downward and holds a Japanese fan in his left hand. A curled pinkie suggests effeminacy.
    His other hand caresses the edge of the fan. The more delicate man comments:
    “It’s so hot. Neither cashew juice nor any other refreshment is enough, sir. I
    think that I go out every night in search of some place fresh [or cool].” To which
    his burly companion replies: “Won’t the Largo do Rossio do?”

    Once again a play on words allows
    the cartoonist to portray common held social notions about the fresco and his territory. The corpulent, masculine
    gentlemen is capable of classifying his shy and demurring friend and relegating him to an
    appropriate urban territory where he can cool down while warming up with some sexual
    adventure. The artist operates on the assumption that the average reader will know the
    slang term for an effeminate man and thus understand the double meaning of his remark.
    Interestingly, this cartoon provoked comment in the pages of Rio Nu (Nude Rio), an erotic publication founded in
    1898 that featured seminude women, piquant cartoons, short stories, and gossip columns.
    Referring to the cartoon, the editor of the magazine commented: “Last Saturday O Malho carried
    a drawing showing an old man talking with a small elegantly dressed man with the airs of a
    little missy (of that kind from the Largo do Rossio) After repeating the printed dialogue
    between the two figures, the editor sarcastically noted: “Well, Malho, you, who
    try to be a serious journal and say you are read by families, publish innocent items like
    this? If it were in Rio Nu, it would be
    pornographic, but in Malho it is humor.”

    According to Cristiana Sunetinni
    Pereira, who has studied turn-of-the century Brazilian pornography, Rio Nu’s editor used the cartoon to delineate
    the character of the journal in comparison to its competitors. By imputing a hypocritical
    attitude to the editors of O Malho for
    publishing the drawing with its overt references to same-sex erotic behavior, Rio Nu effectively drew the limits between
    acceptable and unacceptable middle-class morality. In doing so, Rio Nu established its preeminence in the area of
    piquant journalism, and ridiculed its competitors for their middle-class moralism. Jokes
    about frescos, while appropriate in a magazine
    dedicated to pornographic humor, transgressed the boundaries of respectability when found
    in the pages of publications with a family audience, or at least so the editors of Rio Nu argued.

    Excerpted from Beyond
    Carnival by James N. Green, The University of Chicago Press, 1999, 408 pp. Green is
    assistant professor of history at California State University, Long Beach.

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    By investing approximately US$ 305 million, Brazil’s National Health Foundation (FUNASA) hopes to improve ...

    Santos at his corn plantation. By Isaura Daniel

    Africa and the Americas Learn to Farm the Brazilian Way

    Of the 26 Brazilian states, nine have semiarid areas, where rain is rare and ...

    Brazilian currency, the real

    Brazil’s Industry and Labor Unions Decry 11.75% Key Interest Rate

    In Brazil, the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (Copom), for the second time this ...

    Brazil-Arab Trade Exceeding Expectations

    Brazilian exports to the Arab countries grew 18% in the first months of this ...

    Brazil Sees Ethanol as Its New Economic Frontier

    Ethanol is Brazil’s new economic frontier, according to Antônio Barros de Castro, director of ...