Archiving Censorship in Latin America

Brasil (1964 – 1985)

Carne Em Delirio book cover

In Brazil’s history, we can observe what scholar Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro refers to as a “gagged or smothered culture.” This culture is characterized by the constant presence of literary censorship, which can be traced back to the Portuguese Holy Inquisition and persisted through the Estado Novo of Getúlio Vargas (1939-1945) and the 1964 dictatorship, the latter represented in this exhibit. During the 1964-1985 civil-military dictatorship, the level of control over the production of magazines, newspapers, and books varied. In 1972, the police force, operating under the new title “Public Entertainment Censorship Division” (“Divisão de Censura de Diversões Públicas” – DCDP), continued to ban books, aligning with a longstanding tradition of government and elite institutions claiming to safeguard the morals and traditions of the Brazilian people.

Amidst such cultural oppression, scholar David Blackmore observed a mini-queer boom in written fiction in the country between 1975 and 1976. Some of these books were showcased on shelves 1 and 2, predominantly featuring short stories with queer male characters, published by independent and small presses that managed to evade the reach of censorship (Gasparino Damata, Os solteirões (1976); Caio Fernando Abreu, O ovo apunhalado (1975); Aguinaldo Silva, Primeira carta aos andróginos: romance (1975) and República dos assassinos: romance (1976); Darcy Penteado, A meta (1976); João Silvério Trevisan, Testamento de Jônatas deixado a David: [contos] (1976)).

Shelves 3 and 4 contained the books Minha metempsicose, A borboleta branca, and Tessa: a gata, authored by Cassandra Rios -Odete Rios-, a bestselling writer whose career was marked by 36 banned books. Rios was among the first Brazilian authors to pen erotic novels featuring sapphic characters, resulting in the confiscation of her books from bookstores and libraries. The final shelf contained additional banned books due to their content related to poverty, politics, violence, or sexuality, written by Rubem Fonseca (Feliz Ano Novo) and Adelaide Carraro (O estudante, Asco, Na hora do sol, A mãe solteira, and Eu e o governador).

Book Covers Displayed on the Exhibit