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The Baroque Culture of Brazil

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"The Baroque Culture of Brazil"

From Brazil: Body & Soul
Affonso Ávila
Published in 2001
13 pages, fully illustrated

Affonso Ávila discusses the origins of the term Baroque and the spread of religion and education along the coastal region of Brazil, building systems of ethical, moral, and recreational standards starting with Minas Gerais. The essay explores the impact of the four cornerstones of Baroque ideology, what Ávila identifies as persuasive intention and impact, primacy of the visual, geometry of the curve, and rebellion through play.


When, as a youth, dissatisfied with empty truths and rebelling against nebulous questions, I directed myself toward the open field of study that was the Baroque. This implied using the peaceful and accommodating approach of the researcher, who, especially in the spheres of Brazilian academia and preservation, almost instinctively maintains a scrutinizing gaze only when faced with an artistic monument's interior and surroundings, its environment. I may have rebelled against this confining academic approach more as a result of my own multicultural background than because of mere intellectual censure. That approach, perhaps as a result of critical or historical shortcomings, ignored the broader horizons of cultural phenomenology. Within the privileged scenario of Baroque monumentalism, where was I to place humanity and society's active and participatory organism of rituals, dramas, and leisure activities, as well as privations. Should not "environment" also involve spirit, intellect, and lifestyle? I conducted factual research in a localized manner, focusing on churches and convents, and concluded—with the support of those rare studies that fortuitously provided traces of the literary Baroque, the musical Baroque, and the Baroque of theater and ritual—that the Baroque, either at its European source or in its Latin American or Brazilian tropicalization, was a culture of original and intrinsic breadth.

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