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La fabrique transnationale de la « science nationale » en Italie (1839-fin des années 1920)
Construire la science italienne depuis l'étranger

An Italian mission at the University of São Paulo

Science and education issues in the diplomatic relationships between Italy and Brazil in the 1930s
Luciana Vieira Souza da Silva et Rogério Monteiro de Siqueira
p. 407-419

Résumé

Soon after the foundation of the University of São Paulo in Brazil in the 1930s, a group of Italian professors was invited to teach at its Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters. The professors were responsible for organizing the mathematics and physics departments, and for teaching Greek and Italian languages. History, geography and other human sciences were under the responsibility of invited French professors. German professors were also invited by the new University, and were directed to organize the natural sciences. The path of the Italian mission in Brazil involved different social agents, such as politicians, journalists, scientists, professors and ambassadors acting in a mobilization network, which encompassed different public and personal interests. The main focus of this paper is to discuss the diplomatic relationships between Italy and Brazil in this decade from a transnational perspective, while highlighting the recruitment process of professors between 1934 and 1939, and up to the end of the Italian mission in 1942 when Brazil joined the Axis powers in World War II.

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Notes de l’auteur

The results presented in this paper are part of a research project that was supported by the grant 2012/24076-3, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

Texte intégral

  • 1 Cunha 2007.
  • 2 Schwartzman 1991; Siqueira 2010.

1There is a very distinct chronology in the history of Brazilian universities, when the general framework of South America is analyzed. Although most Latin American countries founded their own universities in the first half of the nineteenth century, along with the independence process from Spain, similar projects in Brazil failed to do so, and the system remained organized as colleges of medicine, engineering and law1 until the 1910s when the first universities were founded. However, these first universities were short-lived; they did not last as long as those founded in the 1930s, such as the University of São Paulo (USP) and the University of Brazil. Thenceforth, mathematics, physics, geography, and literature, among others, could be studied as separate disciplines, a turning point in Brazilian scientific practices according to the succeeding generations of Brazilian scientists.2

  • 3 Getúlio Vargas (1882-1954) was a Brazilian politician, born in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. In  (...)

2At first, it might be said that it was just a domestic achievement. However, the foundation of new universities, especially USP, marked the end of a longstanding issue that involved negotiations and disputes among various diplomatic bodies in European countries, such as France and Italy, and the Government of the State of São Paulo, as well as the projects of interest of the president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas.3

  • 4 Fausto 2014; Schwartzman 1991; Cardoso 1982.

3São Paulo state, reacting against the autocratic federal government of Vargas, started a war against him in 1932. Defeated and under a nationwide intervention the São Paulo government founded USP as a cultural counterbalance to compensate its weak political representation in the national debates. Their founders believed that the new institution would create a new generation of intellectuals to oppose the dictatorial political positions of the federal government in nationwide debates. With this aim they created new departments in the university, and hired foreign professors with the intent of establishing a new framework for the sciences in São Paulo state. The support of the state governor, Armando de Salles Oliveira, was very useful for this purpose since he worked to accommodate the postulations of both sides involved in the dispute.4

  • 5 In the sense developed by Saunier 2013; Saunier 2016; Turchetti – Herran – Boudia 2012.
  • 6 Petitjean 1996.

4The prospect of having professors from foreign institutions working in São Paulo turned a local issue into a transnational process5 that included at least three different agendas: the postulations of the elite in São Paulo state, national political issues defended by the autocratic president Getulio Vargas, and France and Italy’s plans for Latin America. Concerning the latter point, France held an important place in Brazilian elite culture due to its earlier cultural policy for Latin America. Furthermore, some French professors were well-connected to the local elite,6 and therefore it was relatively easy to granted professorship positions for France in the new university. However, the presence of Italian immigrants among the nouveau riche families of São Paulo, previous connections of Italian institutions with medicine and law colleges, and the substantial number of Italian workers in the city were relevant factors to assure the presence of Italian professors at USP.

5In this paper, we analyze the negotiations between the Italian government and the founders of USP for Italian professors to set-up new areas of knowledge at the new university in the 1930s. We use diplomatic and academic papers as primary information sources. Such documents were provided by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive (Archivio storico-diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri – ASMAE), in the Central State Archive (Archivio Centrale dello Stato – ACS) located in Rome, Italy, the Public Archive of São Paulo (APESP), and the Archive of the College of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of the University of São Paulo (CAPH/FFLCH/USP). Complementary sources were found in some newspapers of that period, namely Estado de São Paulo and Folha da Manhã.7 Despite the chronological differences among Latin American universities, the presence of foreign actors in science and education in the region from the beginning of the twentieth century is well-documented.8 In this context, the case-study of Brazil should be considered as part of a set of actions that included some negotiations between Latin American and European groups.

6In addition to exploring the specific interests of the Italian and Brazilian governments, we will also take in account the circulation of scientists. The foundation of USP is an interesting example of a transnational process in which foreign demands in Latin America were absorbed and adapted to the local agendas. A significant presence of Italian professors in the first mathematics and physics sections held at USP was fundamental in integrating the first generation of professional mathematicians and physicists into an international network of academics. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1940s, World War II had had a significant impact on diplomacy; the Italian mission ended and this result in the territorial dispersal of professors. As we will see later, the identification of science and nation controlled by the fascist government in the Italian mission during war times was replaced by personal projects developed by its members, who, in some cases, rejected fascist nationalism and their own Italian citizenship.

Fascist cultural policies in Latin America

  • 9 Ottaviani 2008.
  • 10 Rocher-Tanugi 1982.

7Official negotiations relating to the organization of the Italian mission and issues in Latin America during the 1930s have their origins in earlier cultural policies enforced by the Italian fascist government. These exchanges should be viewed as part of the international propaganda of the Italian fascist government aimed at extending its previous cultural policies to the Italian people. Various reports, letters, and other documents relating to this subject can be found in the archives of the Ministry of Culture of Italy (MinCulpop). The strategies implemented by the regime to manage its public image ranged from prohibiting newspapers opposed to its positions9 to massive Italian propaganda aimed at spreading the fundamentals of fascist ideology and symbology.10

  • 11 Noether 1971.
  • 12 Ventura 1996.

8Scientific activities were also part of such strategies. In fact, besides controlling the press, the alliance between the fascist regime and the Italian intellectual class was fundamental in constructing and diffusing fascist ideology. In spite of this, political orientation was controversial at the time, as some intellectuals were openly antifascist, while others were aligned and worked for the regime, such as the philosopher Giovanni Gentile.11 For other academics, the adhesion to fascist policies was slow and circumstantial, and aimed, for example, to advance their own careers.12

  • 13 Giuseppe Bottai was Ministry of Education between 1936 and 1943. See Ventura 2013. Besides Critica (...)
  • 14 Hoche 1982.

9Among the activities carried out by these intellectuals, notable magazines were founded, such as Critica Fascista that was directed by Giuseppe Bottai13 from 1923 to 1943. Other activities included the “Congress of the Fascist Intellectuals” that took place in March of 1925, when the Manifesto of the Intellectuals of Fascism was written, and the National Fascist Institute of Culture that was founded by Gentile in June of 1925, that aimed to shape a new Italian citizenship by implementing popular education and cultural propaganda.14

  • 15 Charnitzky 1996.
  • 16 Ventura 2013; Avagliano – Palmieri 2013.

10The regime also paid special attention to Italian teachers and professors as they dealt directly with the education of children and young people. In this sense, the employment of antifascists was strongly opposed by the Fascist National Party (PNF) from the 1920s.15 After the implementation of racial laws in 1938, Jewish teachers and professors started to be persecuted, and they lost their positions at schools and universities.16

  • 17 Bertonha 2017.
  • 18 Orsini 1996.

11The success of fascism was also due to strategies that crossed Italian boundaries and the reestablishment of alliances with Italian citizens who were living abroad. The number of foreign consulates was increased, and the Italian diplomatic service was remodeled to comply with the fascist ideology.17 From 1927, access to a diplomatic career was no longer only reserved for individuals with the required accomplishments; fascist officials were also made diplomats. Orsini18 suggested that, in the years following the issue of the law there were 70% more fascists than career officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  • 19 Mugnaini 2008; Bertonha 2017.

12In addition to these administrative measures, the fascist regime created the so called “fasci all’estero” which were PNF cells outside the country. Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND) promoted big cultural, sport and leisure events, and “Casa d’Italia” offered many public services, including healthcare, even in other countries. These new approaches encompassed old institutions, such as the Società Dante Alighieri, from the very beginning of the regime.19

  • 20 Savarino 2002.
  • 21 Fotia 2015.

13In Latin America, where a huge number of Italians had immigrated in the last decades of the nineteenth century, important events were organized. The most emblematic was the Crociera Italiana nell’America Latina, in 1924, when the ship named Italia sailed alongshore South America stopping at Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. Over six months, nearly sixty Italian communities settled in Latin America were visited by Italian authorities.20 Additionally, many Italian intellectuals visited these countries, namely Giovanni Giuriati, Franco Ciarlantini, Luigi Federzoni, Francesco de Pinedo, Carlo del Prete, Margherita Sarfatti, Carlo Foa, Gino Arias, Alessandro Pavolini, Giovanni Indri, Mario Puccini, Massimo Bontempelli, Giuseppe Ungaretti, and Filippo Marinetti, who stayed in Argentina between 1923 and 1939.21

  • 22 Araújo 2003; Fotia 2015; Savarino 2002.
  • 23 De Caprariis 2000.

14Despite these efforts, historians and academics, who have studied Italian fascism, have pointed out that the circulation of Italian intellectual and cultural ideas in Latin America also underwent some adaptations and was not limited to fascist ideology. In these countries, the concept of being a fascist was related to being an Italian citizen belonging to a distant and often unknown motherland, rather than being a fascist in a political and ideological sense.22 According to Caprariis,23 in Latin America a kind of pragmatism and ideological syncretism prevailed.

  • 24 Bertonha 2017.
  • 25 Alvim 1986; Lesser 2001.
  • 26 Gomes 2000.
  • 27 Carelli 1985; Petrone 1991.

15Traces of diplomatic relationships between Brazil and Italy have been documented since 1870, when Brazil started to hire people to work on coffee plantations.24 Historiography states that the recruitment process was also associated with racial whitening policies for the Brazilian population.25 From 1870 to 1920, 1.4 of the 3.3 million people who had immigrated to Brazil were Italian.26 In the 1930s, with the demise of the coffee plantations, many of them migrated to São Paulo city to work in industrial plants. According to observations from the period, it was possible to hear Italian dialects throughout the city due to the significant presence of Italian immigrants.27

  • 28 Bertonha 2017.
  • 29 Società Amici del Brasile, in Italy, and Sociedade Amigos da Itália, in Brazil.
  • 30 Trento 2005.
  • 31 Bertonha 2017.

16The large Italian population living in São Paulo was certainly an important factor that determined the future Italian cultural policies for the region. Some institutions were created by the Italian government to keep close ties on Italian immigrants who had settled in Brazil.28 Over the interwar period, Colombo Institute, the Society of Friends of Brazil and Italy,29 and the Italian Brazilian Institute of High Culture were created, firstly in 1933 in Rio de Janeiro, and later in other Brazilian cities. Cycles of lectures on fascist culture and politics were promoted in these institutions. Moreover, Brazilian cultural publications were exported to Italy after being translated into Italian.30 Therefore, fascist policies only reinforced the bilateral exchanges between Brazil and Italy, exploiting previous Italian collectivity for spreading fascism throughout Brazil.31 At this time, discussions regarding the foundation of USP had started, and Italians relied on the many connections and institutions that had already been established in São Paulo to secure some positions in the new university.

The circulation of Italian intellectuals in Latin America and the Italian mission in São Paulo

  • 32 The professorship of Greek literature became under control of the Italian professors only in 1938. (...)

17The University of São Paulo was founded by merging three existing faculties in the city of São Paulo, namely the Polytechnic School, the College of Medicine and the Law School, and by founding a higher education center named the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters (FFCL). Subsequent to the foundation of USP at the beginning of 1934, the director of the FFCL, engineer and professor at the Polytechnic School Theodoro Ramos, traveled to Europe to select and hire new professors and specialists. After some negotiations, the FFCL departments were divided between France, that was responsible for human sciences, Germany, responsible for natural sciences, Italy responsible for mathematical and physical sciences, and additionally, for Italian and Greek literature related subjects.32

  • 33 Wataghin 1992; Silva 2015.
  • 34 D’Ambrosio 1987.

18The Italian mission was composed of Luigi Fantappiè and Giacomo Albanese (mathematics), Ettore Onorato and Ottorino De Fiore Di Cropani (geology), Luigi Galvani (statistics), Francesco Piccolo and Giuseppe Ungaretti (Italian literature), Attilio Venturi and Vittorio de Falco (Greek literature), and Giuseppe Occhialini and Gleb Wataghin (physics).33 Some years later, Gabriele Mammana, Luigi Sobrero and Achille Bassi were hired to work at the University of Brazil, a branch of the Italian mission in Rio de Janeiro city.34

19According to the documents produced by the diplomatic institutions of both countries, the Italian mission was jointly carried out by the Brazilian and Italian governments between 1934 and 1939, together with the Italian Fascist National Party (PNF). Therefore, the Italian mission should be understood as a set of Italian cultural policies that relied on intellectuals to spread their propaganda.

  • 35 Silva 2015; Bertonha 2017.
  • 36 Goodstein – Babbitt 2012, p. 1068.
  • 37 Glick 1996.
  • 38 Carauso – Marques 2014.

20Beyond the general Italian cultural policies set for Latin America that were described in the first section of this paper, the PNF relied on intellectuals committed to its ideology to spread Italian culture throughout Latin America by making use of the sciences and higher education.35 In 1930, the mathematician Francesco Severi, a supporter of the fascist regime and author of the book Fascismo e Scienza published in 1933, lectured in a series of conferences in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The purpose of his travels was “to civilize and teach mathematics”.36 Other Italian mathematicians also gave short courses in Argentina, such as Federigo Enriques in 1925 and Tullio Levi-Civita in 1937.37 In 1934, the physicist Enrico Fermi made a series of conferences in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil financed by the Italian government. In Brazil, Fermi went to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where he was welcomed by Brazilian scientists and intellectuals, and also by Italian and Brazilian diplomatic authorities.38

  • 39 Pretelli 2008.
  • 40 Bertonha 2017 ; Silva 2015.

21Sometimes, these exchanges were bilateral. Brazilian intellectuals and scientists were invited to participate in various events in Italy, and Italian intellectuals were invited to Brazil.39 An example of this policy was the circulation of Brazilian students from USP in Italian educational and fascist circles in the 30s and 40s.40

22As previously noted, these exchanges helped PNF to enhance cultural ties with Italians living abroad. However, they also redesigned the Italian cultural identity for the local elite. From then on an Italian citizen could be regarded as a scientist or intellectual, beyond the peasant or industrial plant worker who used to live in São Paulo city.

  • 41 Petitjean 1996.

23France was also involved in the political and university systems in Brazil. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the founders of USP were in contact with French cultural bodies due to the work developed by the Groupement des Universités et Grandes Écoles de France pour les Relations avec l’Amérique Latine of which the main representative in Brazil was the French physician and psychologist, George Dumas.41

  • 42 Ibid.

24When USP was founded, Dumas quickly looked for French candidates willing to come to Brazil under a contract of at least three years. Dumas’ concerns for this project were so extensive that he traveled to Italy to meet Theodoro Ramos to ensure that many positions were assigned to French citizens at the new university. The professorship of physics-mathematics was disputed by Italy and France, but George Dumas was not able to find a suitable candidate to compete for the position against the Italian mathematician Luigi Fantappiè and the Italian-Russian physicist Gleb Wataghin.42

  • 43 Ibid.

25Disagreements between Italy and France did not cease there. Francesco Piccolo was hired to teach Italian literature; he criticized the work of French professors and the disciplines coordinated by them, and he secured new positions for Italian intellectuals. For him, the history of civilizations was meaningless, very vague, and only Latin civilization deserved a professorship, obviously to be entrusted to an Italian professor.43In doing so, members of the Italian mission strove to represent Italy and its plans for Latin America for at least the first years of the mission.

Contracts and travel: Italian scientists as a single entity

26Although Brazil and Italy kept good relationships throughout the 1930s, Italian diplomatic authorities were attentive to the political movements in São Paulo state. They were well aware of the contention between the government of São Paulo state and the autocratic president Getulio Vargas. The main concern of the Italian ambassador Roberto Cantalupo was that the liberal policies of São Paulo could be a hindrance to fascist dissemination in São Paulo that was deemed “the most Italian-like Brazilian city” at the time.

  • 44 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 4, office 5, f. Rapporti Politici. Letter from Cant (...)
  • 45 Ibid.
  • 46 Ibid.

27For that reason, in 1933, right after Armando de Salles Oliveira was nominated to take office as the governor of the State of São Paulo, Cantalupo scheduled a meeting with the new governor as he was expecting some opposition to fascism. However, after talking to Salles Oliveira, he was convinced that São Paulo was open to establish alliances with the fascist Italy. In his own words, “anti-fascism had indeed ceased among democratic parties of São Paulo”.44 According to the ambassador, Mussolini’s positive propaganda could finally penetrate São Paulo and, in his opinion, São Paulo authorities and local newspapers took the chance to “declare themselves as true supporters of fascism”.45 Over the following days, Cantalupo participated in some Italian community events, and lectured at the Municipal Theater about Mussolini’s work in Italy that was, according to him, well-accepted by the audience.46

  • 47 Codato 2010.

28Cantalupo’s critical assessment seemed to be based on the similarities between the Vargas and Mussolini dictatorships, and the opposition of São Paulo to the Brazilian autocratic president. In spite of this, the political position of the São Paulo government was in fact circumstantial, and dependent on their autonomy that was given by president Vargas.47 The appointment of an outstanding member of the local elite by Vargas, Armando de Salles Oliveira, as a state governor in 1933 was a clear example of such state of affairs. Despite their rivalries, both sides overcame their disagreements to favor their personal agenda. At this point, it remained unclear as to why the government of São Paulo hesitated to establish agreements with the Italian government.

  • 48 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 17, f. Mostre – Esposizioni, fasc. 1 Esposizione Co (...)

29Cantalupo strove to persuade the local elite. Salles Oliveira was awarded the title of Grande Ufficiale della Corona d’Italia by the Italian government in 1934. Additionally, the member of the Democratic Party and future Mayor of São Paulo from 1934 to 1938, Fábio Prado, was awarded with the same commendation in 1932. Prado was also awarded with the “Commenda dei SS. Maurizio & Lazzaro” in 1937.48

  • 49 Cardoso 1982; Silva – Siqueira 2014.

30The memories of the USP founders on the hiring process of the Italian professors changed according to the political winds. Some years after the foundation of USP, specially after the World War II,49 the reasons for the reluctance in accepting Italian professors at USP would be the fascism. In his book Politics and Culture, published in 1969, Júlio de Mesquita Filho, director of the newspaper named Estado de São Paulo, and one of the founders of University of São Paulo, stated:

  • 50 Mesquita-Filho 1969, p. 192. The original speech, in Portuguese: “Atravessava o mundo então um dos (...)

The world was in the most critical moment of its evolution. The alliance between Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany established the last strategies of their plans to spread their domains throughout the World. […] Well, we were extremely liberals […] Our position obligated us to avoid the Faculty of Philosophy falling into the hands of the Italian creed supporters, especially the ones who were more able to contribute to the moral formation of our youth. To make things worse, São Paulo had a high number of Peninsula’s sons, whose majority did not hide their inclination to accept the fascist Roman guidelines. […] They [Italian community of São Paulo] intended to impose on us numerous professors from fascist Universities as part of our [university] Congregation. We got rid of this situation by offering to Italy some of the pure science disciplines – Mathematical Analysis, Geometry, Statistics, Geology, Mineralogy and Italian Literature […]. The future “elites” would not be victims of the intellectual deformation resulting from the preaching of aberrant theories in the departments of the Faculty, which are not akin to the character and the innate tendency of our people.50

  • 51 Silva – Siqueira 2014.

31The exhaustive assessment of Mesquita Filho was certainly related to the atmosphere of the Cold War, but it also shed light on the cultural dimensions that encompassed all the process. The restrictions on Italian intellectuals was related to an old and significant French cultural influence on Brazilian elite members, which was decisive in the division of disciplines among the foreign professors.51 By that time, politics were not of much importance. Italian intellectuals could be assigned to mathematical and physical sciences, but not to the various fields of humanities.

  • 52 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 32, 1.15, f. Viaggio (...)

32Diplomatic documentation relating to Consul Giuseppe Castruccio shows the pressure to hire Italian professors by Reynaldo Porchat, professor of Roman Law at the College of Law, and the first president of USP.52 The reason for that was not clear. However, in September of 1939, Porchat also received an Italian award, the “Commendatore dell’Ordine della Corona d’Italia”, when he was still president, which in our opinion indicates his solid relationship with the Italian authorities. Commendations given to the São Paulo elite were means of reconciliation and celebration of political agreements.

  • 53 Wataghin 2010.

33The first professors hired at USP were Luigi Fantappiè and Gleb Wataghin. The engineer Theodoro Ramos, professor of the Polytechnic School of São Paulo, was responsible for the recruitment process in Europe. No document relating to his travel to Italy has been found. Nevertheless, Wataghin stated in an interview that Ramos met the physicist Enrico Fermi and the mathematician Francesco Severi, both responsible for proposing Wataghin and Fantappiè53for professorships at USP. In an interview given to the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Ramos described his agenda in Rome. The journalist wrote:

  • 54 Folha da Manhã 1934, p. 14. The original, in Portuguese: “conferências com altas autoridades escol (...)

In Italy, he met Ministry Parini, director of Italians Abroad, and with professors Severi and Bertoni, from University of Rome and from the Academy of Italy, and also with professors Levi-Civita and Enriques, from University of Rome and Academy of Luizée. […] He had also a half-hour conversation with Mussolini about several issues. Apart of his main mission, he visited thoroughly the Institutes of Mineralogy, Geology and Paleontology from the University of Rome.54

  • 55 Ministero degli Affari Esteri, in Italian language.
  • 56 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 7, f. Scuole. Telegram from DIE/MAE to Italian Emba (...)
  • 57 However, we did not find the project he was talking about.
  • 58 Trento 1989.
  • 59 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 7, f. Scuole. Telegram from Italian Embassy in Rio (...)

34Whereas Ramos was negotiating professorships in Europe, a new dispute had broken out at USP involving Italian literature. On March 1st, 1934, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE)55 sent a telegram to the Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro with the title: “Italian literature has been excluded from disciplines of the University of São Paulo”.56 According to the MAE, Italian was the second most important language in Brazil, and such exclusion from USP represented the materialization of an old vendetta against the Italian language.57 The ministry was somewhat optimistic about the importance of the Italian language in Brazil, but as a result of massive Italian cultural propaganda the Italian language was an ever-present in the daily life of Italian immigrants and their descendants.58 On the following day, the ambassador Cantalupo informed MAE that he had already spoken about the case with Salles Oliveira, who had promised to solve the problem.59 On April 18th, 1934, the situation was solved; the Italian Embassy was informed by MAE that an Italian professor had been hired to work at USP. Besides Luigi Fantappiè and Gleb Wataghin, the list of hired candidates contained the name of Francesco Piccolo, responsible for Italian literature.

35The detailed description of the recruitment process shows us the extent of the efforts made by both sides. Ambassadors, governors, mayors, and professors exchanging honorary titles, letters, and assessments were in fact, from the perspective of the Italians, forming a new representation of being an Italian citizen in Brazilian territory. For the Brazilians, having outstanding and international scientists from Italy and France at USP helped to improve the symbolic capital of a very young institution. This impact should not be disregarded. The students of these foreign lecturers would comprise the new elite, supposedly recovering the position of São Paulo in the rank of national affairs.

  • 60 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Pao (...)
  • 61 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Pao (...)
  • 62 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 14, f. Propaganda Culturale, fasc. Miscelanea. Tele (...)
  • 63 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – (...)

36Once on Brazilian soil, Italian professors played the role of cultural ambassadors. In 1936, the second group engaged in the Italian mission arrived to Brazil. The statistician Luigi Galvani from the University of Naples and Giacomo Albanese from the University of Pisa were hired by USP, supported by Luigi Fantappiè.60 The following year, the first contracts terminated. Thus, Francesco Piccolo decided to return to Italy, and soon after his departure Fantappiè invited the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti to coordinate Italian literature.61 In the same year the Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro sent a telegram to the MAE urgently requesting the completion of the hiring process of professor Ottorino de Fiori di Cropani62 to work at the Department of Geology and Paleontology.63

  • 64 Universidade de São Paulo 1938.
  • 65 Starzynsli 1994.
  • 66 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Pao (...)

37Sometimes, urgent demands imposed provisionary solutions far from ideal. In 1938, Attilio Venturi, director of the Dante Alighieri School located in São Paulo, was incorporated into the Italian mission as a professor of Greek literature,64 a new position created after the discipline of Greek and Latin division.65 It was an unusual situation as he was the only member of the mission who was already living in Brazil. In fact, Venturi’s position was just temporary. Although the Italian government had Vittorio de Falco in mind to teach the discipline, he was not ready to travel at that time. Fearing to lose the discipline to France or another European country, the Italian government promptly suggested Venturi’s name to take the new position.66 His temporary position ended in March of 1939 when Vittorio de Falco came from Italy to become Greek professor so that he would be able to recover his position at the Dante Alighieri School.

  • 67 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Pao (...)
  • 68 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Pao (...)

38This achievement was celebrated by G. Castruccio: “gradual increasing in the number of Italian professors at USP is the most significant sign of such magnificent mode of cultural interchange”.67 Castruccio’s critical analysis of the whole process continued in another telegram: “No need to say that it was a very important achievement of which merit is mostly attributed to Professor Ungaretti. In so doing, the diffusion of [Italian] culture would be possible among the intellectuals of the city of Sao Paulo”.68

  • 69 Silva 2015.

39The activities of the group went beyond scientific affairs. The mathematician Luigi Fantappiè, for example, strove to disseminate Italian culture in Brazil by attending some Italian community events held in São Paulo, by making public defenses of Italian education,69by supporting bureaucratic issues concerning the arrival of Italians, and by acting as the Italian cultural ambassador in Brazil, like the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. Beyond the national demands of Italy, it is quite certain that they were working in favor of their own careers. As we will see, Fantappiè was highly rewarded by the PNF when he returned to Italy.

War and return

  • 70 Silva 2015; Freire-Junior – Silva 2014; Silva – Siqueira to be published.
  • 71 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paol (...)
  • 72 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paol (...)
  • 73 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paol (...)

40Over the first five years of the mission in São Paulo, Italian professors organized the physics and mathematics departments, promoted some research seminars, founded a new journal and provided supervision to new students. Fantappiè and Wataghin strove to send some students to work abroad with scientists in Europe and the United States.70 However, as a consequence of the sudden declaration of war in Europe, they had to reevaluate the Italian government’s plans for Latin America, which triggered the break-up of the mission. In 1939, on October 28th, Castruccio communicated to the Italian ambassador in Rio de Janeiro, Ugo Sola, that the contract of Fantappiè, initially expected to expire on December 31st, had to be interrupted, as he was supposed to go back to Italy. Actually, after some negotiations, Fantappiè finally returned to Italy on October 25th .71 The dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters Alfredo Ellis Junior, in a letter sent to the Italian Consul G. Castruccio, emphasizes “how important the choice of [Fantappiè’s] was to the discipline of Mathematical Analysis, not only due to the excellence of his courses, but also because the constructive spirit that used to come along with his actions”.72 Ellis Junior underlined the importance of Fantappiè’s efforts to teach mathematicians with an international approach and modern perspective, and also his participation in the “discussions about the improvements of educational issues in the country”.73

  • 74 Guerraggio – Nastasi 2006, p. 264. Based on this conviction, important Italian mathematicians were (...)
  • 75 Gambini – Pepe 1982.

41One can infer that Fantappiè and Onorato returned to Italy to occupy vacant academic positions after the racial laws promulgated in 1938. On December 10th of 1938, the Scientific Committee of the Italian Mathematical Union, in which Fantappiè participated, decided to support those laws and claimed that “Italian mathematical school, that has achieved great renown in the scientific world, was almost wholly created by Italic (Aryan) scientists”.74 Although no source describes Fantappiè’s reaction to this issue, he was assigned an important position at the Higher Mathematics Institute in Rome in 1940.75

  • 76 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – (...)
  • 77 Seitenfus 2000.

42Although some professors returned to Italy when their contracts terminated, the Italian mission still continued to operate in Brazil. The program stopped in January 1942 when Brazil engaged in World War II against the Axis powers, after some negotiations and strong pressure from the United States of America. The contracts of the Italian professors should be terminated only in the December of 1942, but they were suddenly interrupted right after the rupture of diplomatic relations between Brazil and the Axis powers in January 1942,76 despite good relations between Italy and Brazil.77

  • 78 Galvani 1948.
  • 79 ASMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 26. office 4, f. Poste telegrafo e radio. Telegram f (...)

43According to the statistics professor Luigi Galvani, German, Italian, and Japanese ambassadors, who had worked in Brazil up to that time, got their passports back and returned to their respective countries. Even the Italian press in Brazil, which was prohibited to publish in Italian since 1938 by the nationalist laws of Vargas, had to stop its activities.78 In March 1942, the telegraphic correspondence between Italy and Brazil was also interrupted.79 The unsuitable working conditions accounted for the termination of the contracts of Albanese, Occhialini, Ungaretti and Galvani. Other professors faced similar situations over the following weeks.

44Despite the interruption of activities of the Italian professors in Brazil, some exceptions should be noted. The most successful case concerns Gleb Wataghin who may have taken advantage of his dual nationality to remain working in Brazil. Thereafter, he presented himself as a Russian citizen, as stated in his contract with USP at the time:

  • 80 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – (...)

The Secretary for Education and Public Health, according to the authorization from Mister President of The Republic […] has decided to extend for one (1) year more, from 1st January 1943, the contract signed [previously] on 29th July 1941 with professor Gleb Wataghin, natural from Russia and with Italian nationality due to naturalization procedures.80

  • 81 Wataghin 1992.
  • 82 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 27, f. Rapporti Politici. Telegram from Italian Emb (...)
  • 83 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 28, f. Propaganda Culturale. Telegram from Achille (...)
  • 84 See the Archives of CPDOC/FGV, specially the Minister Gustavo Capanema Fund.

45In fact, Wataghin had endured all the turbulences caused by the war, and had remained working at USP until 1949, when he finally returned to Italy to work at the University of Turin.81 Achille Bassi, hired to work in Rio de Janeiro for the University of Brazil, was another example of permanence despite the disputes between Brazil and Italy. He requested permission to stay in Brazil from both the Italian and Brazilian authorities.82 For the former, his demand included the wish to continue his scientific mission, working on behalf of Italian culture. The poor health of his wife was also mentioned in the telegram as a reason to stay in Brazil.83 Although Bassi’s extended residence in Brazil was legally authorized by the Minister of Health and Education, it did not authorize him to work at the University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro until the beginning of 1943, when he was authorized to restart his regular activities.84

  • 85 Gariboldi 2007.
  • 86 Ibid.

46On the other hand, Occhialini received authorization to stay in Brazil for a few months due to the intervention of the British Government. According to Gariboldi,85 they took into account his previous collaboration with the British physicist Patrick Blackett at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in 1931, who intervened on his behalf. Even after the suspension of his visa, Occhialini remained in Brazil working as a mountain guide in Itatiaia, Rio de Janeiro, until the end of the war, when he went back to England in January 1945.86

47The legal residence of Wataghin, Occhialini and Bassi, even after the engagement of Brazil in World War II against the Axis powers, contradicted the idea that Italian intellectuals were working solely for the Duce regime. It is also true that Italy was promoting a very specific ideal of being Italian, which excluded Jews and other immigrants. In some way, considering these limitations and the war context, scientific credentials were more useful than Italian citizenship. The defense of Italy became a dangerous cause.

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Bibliographie

Archives

ACS = Archivio Centrale dello Stato

APESP = Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo

ASDMAE = Archivio storico-diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri

CAPH/FFLCH/USP = Centro de Apoio à Pesquisa em História “Sérgio Buarque de Holanda”/Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas/Universidade de São Paulo

CPDOC/FGV = Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil/Fundação Getúlio Vargas

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Notes

1 Cunha 2007.

2 Schwartzman 1991; Siqueira 2010.

3 Getúlio Vargas (1882-1954) was a Brazilian politician, born in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. In 1930 he assumed the presidency of Brazil in a Provisional Government breaking a long period of hegemony of the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais in presidency. In 1934, after the Constituent Assembly, he was elected president. In 1937 he made a coup d’état and remained in the presidency until 1945, in a period known as Estado Novo (New State). See Skidmore 2010. Vargas’ politics were inspired by nazism and fascism, and his government also adopted political propaganda to build a positive image in the Brazilian population. See Capelato 1999.

4 Fausto 2014; Schwartzman 1991; Cardoso 1982.

5 In the sense developed by Saunier 2013; Saunier 2016; Turchetti – Herran – Boudia 2012.

6 Petitjean 1996.

7 These Brazilian newspapers can be consulted online at: http://acervo.estadao.com.br/ and http://acervo.folha.uol.com.br/.

8 See, for example, Petitjean 1996; Pyenson 1985; Pyenson 1989; Pyenson 1993.

9 Ottaviani 2008.

10 Rocher-Tanugi 1982.

11 Noether 1971.

12 Ventura 1996.

13 Giuseppe Bottai was Ministry of Education between 1936 and 1943. See Ventura 2013. Besides Critica Fascista he also created Lo Spettatore Italiano and among his collaborators were d’Ardengo Soffici, Silvio D’Amico, Luigi Pirandello, and Cipriano Efisio Oppo. The poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, member of the Italian Mission, also published some articles about foreign literacy in this magazine. See Hoche 1982.

14 Hoche 1982.

15 Charnitzky 1996.

16 Ventura 2013; Avagliano – Palmieri 2013.

17 Bertonha 2017.

18 Orsini 1996.

19 Mugnaini 2008; Bertonha 2017.

20 Savarino 2002.

21 Fotia 2015.

22 Araújo 2003; Fotia 2015; Savarino 2002.

23 De Caprariis 2000.

24 Bertonha 2017.

25 Alvim 1986; Lesser 2001.

26 Gomes 2000.

27 Carelli 1985; Petrone 1991.

28 Bertonha 2017.

29 Società Amici del Brasile, in Italy, and Sociedade Amigos da Itália, in Brazil.

30 Trento 2005.

31 Bertonha 2017.

32 The professorship of Greek literature became under control of the Italian professors only in 1938. See Cardoso 1982; Petitjean 1996; Silva 2015.

33 Wataghin 1992; Silva 2015.

34 D’Ambrosio 1987.

35 Silva 2015; Bertonha 2017.

36 Goodstein – Babbitt 2012, p. 1068.

37 Glick 1996.

38 Carauso – Marques 2014.

39 Pretelli 2008.

40 Bertonha 2017 ; Silva 2015.

41 Petitjean 1996.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid.

44 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 4, office 5, f. Rapporti Politici. Letter from Cantalupo to the Ministro degli Affari Esteri, 11/30/1933.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Codato 2010.

48 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 17, f. Mostre – Esposizioni, fasc. 1 Esposizione Commemorativa dell’Immigrazione Ufficiale nello Stato di San Paolo. Telegram from São Paulo from the Italian Consul to MAE and to Italian Embassy, 06/01/1937. According to Bertonha 2000, the grant of honor was one of Italy’s strategies to approach itself to foreign intellectuals.

49 Cardoso 1982; Silva – Siqueira 2014.

50 Mesquita-Filho 1969, p. 192. The original speech, in Portuguese: “Atravessava o mundo então um dos momentos mais críticos da sua evolução. Mussolini, na Itália, Hitler, na Alemanha, de mãos dadas, assentavam as últimas medidas que os seus planos de conquista universal impunham. […] Ora, éramos [mentores da FFCL] irredutivelmente liberais […] Essa nossa posição obrigava-nos a evitar que as cátedras da Faculdade de Filosofia pudessem cair nas mãos de adeptos do credo italiano, sobretudo aquelas que mais aptas se mostravam a influir na formação moral da nossa juventude. Concorria para complicar o problema o fato de contar São Paulo um número elevado de filhos da Península, a maioria dos quais não escondia as suas propensões para aceitar as diretrizes da Roma fascista. […] Pretendiam impor a vinda de numerosos membros das Universidades fascistas para integrar a nova Congregação. Contornamos a dificuldade oferecendo à Itália algumas cadeiras de ciência pura – Análise Matemática, Geometria, Estatística, Geologia, Mineralogia e Língua e Literatura Italianas […] As futuras ‘elites’ não seriam vítimas da deformação intelectual resultante da prédica, nas cátedras, de teorias esdrúxulas, que repugnavam à índole e às tendências inatas da nossa gente”.

51 Silva – Siqueira 2014.

52 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 32, 1.15, f. Viaggio in Italia di Studenti in legge (Spencer Vampré). Letter from G. Castruccio to Geisser Celesia, 02/07/1938. See also ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 32, 1.15, f. Viaggio in Italia di Studenti in legge (Spencer Vampré). Report sent from Consul G. Castruccio to Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, with copy to Geisser Celesia, Direttore Generale della Propaganda all’Estero – Ministero della Cultura Popolare, R. Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Rome, 02/07/1938.

53 Wataghin 2010.

54 Folha da Manhã 1934, p. 14. The original, in Portuguese: “conferências com altas autoridades escolares […] Na Italia, conferenciou com o ministro Parini, director dos Italianos no Estrangeiro, e com os professores Severi e Bertoni, da Universidade de Roma e da Academia de Itália e também com os professores Levi-Civita e Enriques, da Universidade de Roma e Academia dei Luizée. […] Teve, ainda, uma entrevista de cerca de meia hora com Mussolini, e que versou sobre assumptos diversos de ordem geral, além do que dizia respeito à missão que o levara à Itália, visitou detalhadamente os institutos de Mineralogia, Geologia e Paleontologia, da Universidade de Roma”.

55 Ministero degli Affari Esteri, in Italian language.

56 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 7, f. Scuole. Telegram from DIE/MAE to Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, 03/01/1934.

57 However, we did not find the project he was talking about.

58 Trento 1989.

59 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 7, f. Scuole. Telegram from Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro to DIE/MAE, 03/02/1934.

60 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Varie, f. San Paolo, Università – Professori Italiani, f. Luigi Fantappiè. Report sent from Fantappiè to the Dean of FFCL, 10/25/1939.

61 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Varie, f. San Paolo, Università – Professori Italiani, f. Luigi Fantappiè. Report sent from Fantappiè to the Dean of FFCL, 10/25/1939.

62 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 14, f. Propaganda Culturale, fasc. Miscelanea. Telegram from the Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro to DIE/MAE, 04/23/1937 and idem, 06/02/1937.

63 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – 1943, p. 2 (verso).

64 Universidade de São Paulo 1938.

65 Starzynsli 1994.

66 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Istituto di Alta Cultura Italo-Brasiliano. Letter from Consul G. Castruccio to Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 03/13/1940.

67 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Università di San Paolo. Letter from Consul G. Castruccio to the Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, with a copy to Ministero degli Affari Esteri, 10/20/1938.

68 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8, 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Università di San Paolo. Letter from G. Castruccio to Ministero degli Affari Esteri, with copies to Ministero della Cultura Popolare and the Italian Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, 11/17/1938.

69 Silva 2015.

70 Silva 2015; Freire-Junior – Silva 2014; Silva – Siqueira to be published.

71 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Varie, f. San Paolo, Università – Professori Italiani, f. Luigi Fantappiè. Letter from Consul G. Castruccio to Ambassador Ugo Sola, with copy to Ministero degli Affari Esteri and Ministero della Cultura Popolare, Rome, 10/28/1939. See also: Idem, letter from the Education and Public Health Secretary to Fantappiè, 10/24/1939.

72 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Varie, f. San Paolo, Università – Professori Italiani, f. Luigi Fantappiè. Letter from Ellis Junior to Consul G. Castruccio, 10/23/1939.

73 ACS/MinCulPopolare. D.G. Propaganda. Propaganda Stati Esteri (1930-1943), b. 35, f. 8 8.7. S. Paolo, f. 1 1940 e prec., f. Pubblicazioni, f. Varie, f. San Paolo, Università – Professori Italiani, f. Luigi Fantappiè. Letter from Ellis Junior to Consul G. Castruccio, 10/23/1939.

74 Guerraggio – Nastasi 2006, p. 264. Based on this conviction, important Italian mathematicians were made redundant from their workplace, such as Tullio Levi-Civita. See Tazzioli 2016.

75 Gambini – Pepe 1982.

76 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – 1943, fl. 38-42.

77 Seitenfus 2000.

78 Galvani 1948.

79 ASMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 26. office 4, f. Poste telegrafo e radio. Telegram from Italcable to MAE, 3/13/1942.

80 APESP/Instrução Pública. EO1145 – Registros de contratos de professores estrangeiros (para USP) – 1943, fl. 51. The original, in Portuguese: “A Secretaria de Estado da Educação e Saúde Publica, de acôrdo com autorização do Excelentissimo Senhor Presidente da Republica, conforme consta dos processos ns. 9.912-43 e 28062-43, que se acham arquivados nesta Secretaria, resolve prorrogar por mais um (1) ano, a partir de primeiro de janeiro de mil novecentos e quarenta e três, o contrato celebrado em vinte e nove de Julho de mil novecentos e quarenta e um com o professor Gleb Wataghin, natural da Russia e de nacionalidade italiana em virtude de naturalização.”

81 Wataghin 1992.

82 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 27, f. Rapporti Politici. Telegram from Italian Embassy at Buenos Aires to MAE, 07/23/1942. CPDOC/FGV. Carta e telegramas ao Ministro da Educação Gustavo Capanema.

83 ASDMAE/Affari Politici 1931-1945 (Brasile), b. 28, f. Propaganda Culturale. Telegram from Achille Bassi to MAE, 03/05/1942.

84 See the Archives of CPDOC/FGV, specially the Minister Gustavo Capanema Fund.

85 Gariboldi 2007.

86 Ibid.

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Luciana Vieira Souza da Silva et Rogério Monteiro de Siqueira, « An Italian mission at the University of São Paulo », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines, 130-2 | -1, 407-419.

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Luciana Vieira Souza da Silva et Rogério Monteiro de Siqueira, « An Italian mission at the University of São Paulo », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines [En ligne], 130-2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 30 juillet 2019, consulté le 23 août 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mefrim/4430 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrim.4430

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Auteurs

Luciana Vieira Souza da Silva

University of São Paulo, vssluciana@gmail.com

Rogério Monteiro de Siqueira

University of São Paulo, rogerms@usp.br

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