Memories of a river — Antônio Fernando de Araújo Sá’s (UFS) review of “Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco”, by Antônio Xavier de Assis, organized by Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos

Antônio Xavier de Assis | Image: EvidencieSe

Abstract: Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco is the publication of the manuscript of the same name, written by Antônio Xavier de Assis and organized by Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos. The work, from a geographical and historiographical perspective, addresses life around the São Francisco River between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Keywords: São Francisco River, Lower São Francisco, Colonization.


On the initiative of Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos, the publication of the manuscript by Antônio Xavier de Assis (1870–1939), Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco, by the city hall and Aracaju, capital of Sergipe, through Empresa Gráfica of the State of Bahia, in 2020, represented a tribute from the city to the sesquicentenary of the birth of the journalist, teacher, and printer from Alagoas, who was its steward between 1904 and 1905, after being elected on September 1, 1903. The objective of the manuscript is to biograph the old chico, although the backdrop was to recover the “honorable past” of the Brazilian Northeast in the formation of nationality, “when Brazil most needed to belong to Brazilians” (p. 9, 31).

Born in the city of Pão de Açúcar (AL), on June 15, 1870, the writer can be associated, amid the misery of Alagoas education, with a certain expansion of printing houses in the capital and in the largest cities in the interior, such as Penedo and Viçosa, where more than two dozen newspapers were published throughout the state, such as A Tribuna, Gutemberg, Jornal de Debates, Evolucionista, Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Viçosence, and O Libertador, among others (Barros, 2017, p. 32; Tenório, 2018, p. 34).

According to the author’s own account, his cultivation of graphic arts and journalistic writing arose from his acquaintance with Aquiles Balbino de Lélis Melo (1831–1902), when he collaborated with the newspaper O Trabalho, published by him in Pão de Açúcar (AL), and then, in Penedo (AL), in the newspapers O Estímulo and Tribuna Popular and in the literary magazine A Palavra (p. 20).

In 1899, the writer migrated to Sergipe, coming to work with Josino de Menezes and Padre Olímpio Campos on the official newspaper, O Estado de Sergipe. According to him, it was his involvement with Sergipe politics that prevented him from writing the book about the São Francisco River. In addition to his commercial activities, such as managing the Livraria Brasileira, he assumed a public position as intendant of Aracaju in 1904 and 1905, as well as, in the state’s educational administration, as director of school groups and school inspector (p. 18).

The motivations for writing the book were “to be useful to my homeland” in the sense of being “sincere” and “avoiding literary flourishes.”. As “his life’s work,” his empirical knowledge about the river, which “I have always sailed on,” was fundamental to the construction of the small work on such a vast topic as the São Francisco River. It is against the gap between the south and north of this country that the author placed himself in the recently published manuscript (ASSIS, 2020: p. 9 and 31).

The São Francisco River stood as a representative of “national unity and regional fraternity, as an example of the connection between the sea and the backlands where the most authentic nationality has been forged” (p. 22). Thus, we can insert it in the mapping of the river carried out by several engineers, doctors, geographers, photographers, writers, and military personnel, which produced a significant discursive set of symbols of national and territorial unity.

At the same time, it was associated, in part, with the historiographical and geographical perspective of the first decades of the 20th century by using pioneering authors of human geography, such as João Capistrano de Abreu, and national and regional historians, such as Francisco de Adolfo de Varnhagen, João Capistrano de Abreu, Cândido Mendes, Manuel Diégues Júnior, Hugo Jobim, Aníbal Mascarenhas, Ivo do Prado, and Francisco A. de Carvalho Júnior, among others. Furthermore, he used documentary sources, such as G. Barléus and George Marcgraf, as well as the Annals of the National Library and Cartography of the Captaincy of Pernambuco (1807).

This intellectual basis justified the statement by Epifânio Dórea, in the Revista do Aracaju (1962, p. 178), that the author possessed “vivid and penetrating intelligence,” as verified in his contributions to the Sergipe press, such as the Correio de Aracaju, Jornal do Povo, O Estado de Sergipe, and Jornal de Notícias, as well as in the Revista Brasileira, from Rio de Janeiro.

Its narrative is linked to the colonization project, describing the occupation of the riverside territories of the lower São Francisco with a view to exploiting their assets and subjugating the natives (Bosi, 1992, p. 19). There is a long digression on the discovery of the river, using the works of Varnhagen, Capistrano de Abreu, Cândido Mendes, Hugo Jobim, and Aníbal Mascarenhas, associating it with the expedition of Américo Vespúcio. On the other hand, he praised the population action of D. João III, king of Portugal, in 1526, “by sending Cristóvão Jacques to deal with the colonization of our country,” as well as the arrival of the Jesuits to catechize the Indians. In this first century, it was described as the hunting of aborigines and the “lack of civilized people” in the Baixo São Francisco region (ASSIS, 2020: p. 41 and 56).

Next, he dealt with the Dutch occupation (1624–1654), using Batavian sources, such as G. Marcgraf, G. Barleus, and Pierre Moreau, to compose the geographical descriptions of the region. We noticed a certain sympathy with the actions of Maurício de Nassau regarding the arts, literature, physical, and natural sciences in his administration.

Quilombo dos Palmares stood out in the history of lower São Francisco in the 17th century, but from the perspective of the colonizers. According to him, despite its main headquarters being located in Serra da Barriga (Alagoas), the village of Penedo was present in the fight against the Quilombolas until its end with Domingos Jorge Velho. According to the writer, the dawn of the 18th century was one of relative calm in the north of Brazil, highlighting the catechetical work of the Jesuits, especially D. Domingos de Loreto Couto, in the domestication of the indigenous people of lower São Francisco (2020, p. 78).

There is a strong concern for describing the landscapes and places that go from the Paulo Afonso waterfall to the mouth of the São Francisco river using available geographic maps, such as the Cartografia da Capitania de Pernambuco (1807) and the works of Francisco Antônio de Carvalho Júnior, História dos limites entre Sergipe ee Bahia (1918), and Ivo do Prado, A Capitania de Sergipe e suas ouvidorias (1919).

Paulo Afonso Waterfall (1850) by E. F. Schute Photo: MASP/João Musa

The writer commented on the presence of the Phoenicians in Brazil, mixing scientific data with fantasies about lost civilizations present in the historiography of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is worth noting that, despite being scientifically discredited, this myth persisted in being reborn in writings throughout the 20th century. One of its defenders, Ladislau Neto, who was director of the National Museum, was criticized by the Sergipe writer Sílvio Romero, calling him an “anthropological Bedouin” (Martin, 1996, p. 10–15).

It is unforgivable not to know this reference before describing the myth of the Phoenicians in Brazil. But the author’s objective was, following other contemporaries, to describe the river’s potential for economic development in agriculture and industry, which, “unfortunately, has not yet been explored as it should be.”. The modernizing impulse would overcome the still-current colonial spirit. As an example, he listed the potential for electricity production from the Paulo Afonso waterfall, and the steamboats, which crossed the river from Penedo to Piranhas, were seen as vehicles of civilization and the trade of goods produced in lower São Francisco (ASSIS, 2020: p. 103 and 104).

As “drought is the fear of the backlands,” he suggested the modern system of green silage to supply livestock feed instead of storing dry rice leaves. In the same sense, he highlighted the need for maritime and river dredging for the development of the region. Finally, he imagined the tourist potential of lower São Francisco with its natural beauty (p. 109, 111, and 116).

Therefore, we can associate it with the contemporary work of the historian and geographer Francisco Henrique Moreno Brando (1875–1938), linked to the main cultural institutions in Alagoas, such as the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico and the Academia Alagoana de Letras. Also born in Pão de Açúcar in 1875, this historian published, in 1905, proposals full of hope in defense of education, progress, and science for the lower São Francisco region (BRANDÃO, 2015).

When he died in 1939, the writer was unable to see his manuscript published in a book, but it is now available to the public interested in the history of lower São Francisco, the city he loved so much. He regrets that the manuscript is drastically interrupted on the final page with an unfinished paragraph. Therefore, so that we can evaluate his contribution more broadly, it would be essential to carry out a commented and revised edition.

References

ASSIS, Antônio Xavier de. Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco. Aracaju: EGBA, 2020.

ASSIS, Carlos Pinna de, and SANTOS, Gilfrancisco Dos. Antônio Xavier de Assis: vida e obra. Aracaju: Editora Diário Oficial do Estado de Sergipe (Edise), 2020.

BARROS, Luitgarde Oliveira Cavalcanti. Sobre o pensamento social brasileiro: Em torno de algumas contribuições alagoanas. In: SANTANA, Luciana; CAVALCANTI, Bruno César e VASCONCELOS (org.). História e Memória das Ciências Sociais em Alagoas. Maceió: EDUFAL/Imprensa Oficial Graciliano Ramos, 2017.

BRANDÃO, MorenoHistória de Alagoas seguido de O Baixo São Francisco: o rio e o vale. Maceió: EDUFAL, 2015.

DÓRIA, Epifânio. Intendentes e Prefeitos de Aracaju. In: Revista de Aracaju, Ano XIX, n. 7, 31/12/1962.

TENÓRIO, Douglas Apratto. Metamorfose das Oligarquias, 3ed. Maceió: EDUFAL/Editora CESMAC, 2018.

[A obra resenhada não possui sumário]


Reviewer

PhD in History from the University of Brasília (UnB), professor at the Department of History and the Master’s Degree in History at the Federal University of Sergipe, and editor of Ponta de Lança– Revista Eletrônica de História, Memória & Cultura. He published, among other titles, Rio Sem História. Leituras sobre o Rio São Francisco (2018) and Entre sertões e representações: ensaios e estudos (2021). ID LATTES: http://lattes.cnpq.br/4761668150681726; ID ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6496-4456; E-mail: [email protected].


To cite this review

ASSIS, Antônio Xavier de. Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco. Aracaju: Prefeitura de Aracaju; Salvador: Empresa Gráfica do Estado da Bahia, em 2020. 238p. Review by: SÁ, Antônio Fernando de Araújo. Memories of a river. Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n.12, Jul./Aug., 2023. Available at <https://www.criticahistoriografica.com.br/en/memories-of-a-river-antonio-fernando-de-araujo-sas-ufs-review-of-esboco-historico-e-geografico-do-baixo-sao-francisco-by-antonio-xavier-de-assis-organized-by-car/>


© – Authors who publish in historiographical criticism agree to the distribution, remixing, adaptation, and creation based on their texts, even for commercial purposes, as long as due credit for the original creations is guaranteed. (CC BY-SA).

 

Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n. 12, Jul./Aug., 2023 | ISSN 2764-2666

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Memories of a river — Antônio Fernando de Araújo Sá’s (UFS) review of “Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco”, by Antônio Xavier de Assis, organized by Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos

Antônio Xavier de Assis | Image: EvidencieSe

Abstract: Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco is the publication of the manuscript of the same name, written by Antônio Xavier de Assis and organized by Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos. The work, from a geographical and historiographical perspective, addresses life around the São Francisco River between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Keywords: São Francisco River, Lower São Francisco, Colonization.


On the initiative of Carlos Pinna de Assis and Gilfrancisco dos Santos, the publication of the manuscript by Antônio Xavier de Assis (1870–1939), Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco, by the city hall and Aracaju, capital of Sergipe, through Empresa Gráfica of the State of Bahia, in 2020, represented a tribute from the city to the sesquicentenary of the birth of the journalist, teacher, and printer from Alagoas, who was its steward between 1904 and 1905, after being elected on September 1, 1903. The objective of the manuscript is to biograph the old chico, although the backdrop was to recover the “honorable past” of the Brazilian Northeast in the formation of nationality, “when Brazil most needed to belong to Brazilians” (p. 9, 31).

Born in the city of Pão de Açúcar (AL), on June 15, 1870, the writer can be associated, amid the misery of Alagoas education, with a certain expansion of printing houses in the capital and in the largest cities in the interior, such as Penedo and Viçosa, where more than two dozen newspapers were published throughout the state, such as A Tribuna, Gutemberg, Jornal de Debates, Evolucionista, Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Viçosence, and O Libertador, among others (Barros, 2017, p. 32; Tenório, 2018, p. 34).

According to the author’s own account, his cultivation of graphic arts and journalistic writing arose from his acquaintance with Aquiles Balbino de Lélis Melo (1831–1902), when he collaborated with the newspaper O Trabalho, published by him in Pão de Açúcar (AL), and then, in Penedo (AL), in the newspapers O Estímulo and Tribuna Popular and in the literary magazine A Palavra (p. 20).

In 1899, the writer migrated to Sergipe, coming to work with Josino de Menezes and Padre Olímpio Campos on the official newspaper, O Estado de Sergipe. According to him, it was his involvement with Sergipe politics that prevented him from writing the book about the São Francisco River. In addition to his commercial activities, such as managing the Livraria Brasileira, he assumed a public position as intendant of Aracaju in 1904 and 1905, as well as, in the state’s educational administration, as director of school groups and school inspector (p. 18).

The motivations for writing the book were “to be useful to my homeland” in the sense of being “sincere” and “avoiding literary flourishes.”. As “his life’s work,” his empirical knowledge about the river, which “I have always sailed on,” was fundamental to the construction of the small work on such a vast topic as the São Francisco River. It is against the gap between the south and north of this country that the author placed himself in the recently published manuscript (ASSIS, 2020: p. 9 and 31).

The São Francisco River stood as a representative of “national unity and regional fraternity, as an example of the connection between the sea and the backlands where the most authentic nationality has been forged” (p. 22). Thus, we can insert it in the mapping of the river carried out by several engineers, doctors, geographers, photographers, writers, and military personnel, which produced a significant discursive set of symbols of national and territorial unity.

At the same time, it was associated, in part, with the historiographical and geographical perspective of the first decades of the 20th century by using pioneering authors of human geography, such as João Capistrano de Abreu, and national and regional historians, such as Francisco de Adolfo de Varnhagen, João Capistrano de Abreu, Cândido Mendes, Manuel Diégues Júnior, Hugo Jobim, Aníbal Mascarenhas, Ivo do Prado, and Francisco A. de Carvalho Júnior, among others. Furthermore, he used documentary sources, such as G. Barléus and George Marcgraf, as well as the Annals of the National Library and Cartography of the Captaincy of Pernambuco (1807).

This intellectual basis justified the statement by Epifânio Dórea, in the Revista do Aracaju (1962, p. 178), that the author possessed “vivid and penetrating intelligence,” as verified in his contributions to the Sergipe press, such as the Correio de Aracaju, Jornal do Povo, O Estado de Sergipe, and Jornal de Notícias, as well as in the Revista Brasileira, from Rio de Janeiro.

Its narrative is linked to the colonization project, describing the occupation of the riverside territories of the lower São Francisco with a view to exploiting their assets and subjugating the natives (Bosi, 1992, p. 19). There is a long digression on the discovery of the river, using the works of Varnhagen, Capistrano de Abreu, Cândido Mendes, Hugo Jobim, and Aníbal Mascarenhas, associating it with the expedition of Américo Vespúcio. On the other hand, he praised the population action of D. João III, king of Portugal, in 1526, “by sending Cristóvão Jacques to deal with the colonization of our country,” as well as the arrival of the Jesuits to catechize the Indians. In this first century, it was described as the hunting of aborigines and the “lack of civilized people” in the Baixo São Francisco region (ASSIS, 2020: p. 41 and 56).

Next, he dealt with the Dutch occupation (1624–1654), using Batavian sources, such as G. Marcgraf, G. Barleus, and Pierre Moreau, to compose the geographical descriptions of the region. We noticed a certain sympathy with the actions of Maurício de Nassau regarding the arts, literature, physical, and natural sciences in his administration.

Quilombo dos Palmares stood out in the history of lower São Francisco in the 17th century, but from the perspective of the colonizers. According to him, despite its main headquarters being located in Serra da Barriga (Alagoas), the village of Penedo was present in the fight against the Quilombolas until its end with Domingos Jorge Velho. According to the writer, the dawn of the 18th century was one of relative calm in the north of Brazil, highlighting the catechetical work of the Jesuits, especially D. Domingos de Loreto Couto, in the domestication of the indigenous people of lower São Francisco (2020, p. 78).

There is a strong concern for describing the landscapes and places that go from the Paulo Afonso waterfall to the mouth of the São Francisco river using available geographic maps, such as the Cartografia da Capitania de Pernambuco (1807) and the works of Francisco Antônio de Carvalho Júnior, História dos limites entre Sergipe ee Bahia (1918), and Ivo do Prado, A Capitania de Sergipe e suas ouvidorias (1919).

Paulo Afonso Waterfall (1850) by E. F. Schute Photo: MASP/João Musa

The writer commented on the presence of the Phoenicians in Brazil, mixing scientific data with fantasies about lost civilizations present in the historiography of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is worth noting that, despite being scientifically discredited, this myth persisted in being reborn in writings throughout the 20th century. One of its defenders, Ladislau Neto, who was director of the National Museum, was criticized by the Sergipe writer Sílvio Romero, calling him an “anthropological Bedouin” (Martin, 1996, p. 10–15).

It is unforgivable not to know this reference before describing the myth of the Phoenicians in Brazil. But the author’s objective was, following other contemporaries, to describe the river’s potential for economic development in agriculture and industry, which, “unfortunately, has not yet been explored as it should be.”. The modernizing impulse would overcome the still-current colonial spirit. As an example, he listed the potential for electricity production from the Paulo Afonso waterfall, and the steamboats, which crossed the river from Penedo to Piranhas, were seen as vehicles of civilization and the trade of goods produced in lower São Francisco (ASSIS, 2020: p. 103 and 104).

As “drought is the fear of the backlands,” he suggested the modern system of green silage to supply livestock feed instead of storing dry rice leaves. In the same sense, he highlighted the need for maritime and river dredging for the development of the region. Finally, he imagined the tourist potential of lower São Francisco with its natural beauty (p. 109, 111, and 116).

Therefore, we can associate it with the contemporary work of the historian and geographer Francisco Henrique Moreno Brando (1875–1938), linked to the main cultural institutions in Alagoas, such as the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico and the Academia Alagoana de Letras. Also born in Pão de Açúcar in 1875, this historian published, in 1905, proposals full of hope in defense of education, progress, and science for the lower São Francisco region (BRANDÃO, 2015).

When he died in 1939, the writer was unable to see his manuscript published in a book, but it is now available to the public interested in the history of lower São Francisco, the city he loved so much. He regrets that the manuscript is drastically interrupted on the final page with an unfinished paragraph. Therefore, so that we can evaluate his contribution more broadly, it would be essential to carry out a commented and revised edition.

References

ASSIS, Antônio Xavier de. Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco. Aracaju: EGBA, 2020.

ASSIS, Carlos Pinna de, and SANTOS, Gilfrancisco Dos. Antônio Xavier de Assis: vida e obra. Aracaju: Editora Diário Oficial do Estado de Sergipe (Edise), 2020.

BARROS, Luitgarde Oliveira Cavalcanti. Sobre o pensamento social brasileiro: Em torno de algumas contribuições alagoanas. In: SANTANA, Luciana; CAVALCANTI, Bruno César e VASCONCELOS (org.). História e Memória das Ciências Sociais em Alagoas. Maceió: EDUFAL/Imprensa Oficial Graciliano Ramos, 2017.

BRANDÃO, MorenoHistória de Alagoas seguido de O Baixo São Francisco: o rio e o vale. Maceió: EDUFAL, 2015.

DÓRIA, Epifânio. Intendentes e Prefeitos de Aracaju. In: Revista de Aracaju, Ano XIX, n. 7, 31/12/1962.

TENÓRIO, Douglas Apratto. Metamorfose das Oligarquias, 3ed. Maceió: EDUFAL/Editora CESMAC, 2018.

[A obra resenhada não possui sumário]


Reviewer

PhD in History from the University of Brasília (UnB), professor at the Department of History and the Master’s Degree in History at the Federal University of Sergipe, and editor of Ponta de Lança– Revista Eletrônica de História, Memória & Cultura. He published, among other titles, Rio Sem História. Leituras sobre o Rio São Francisco (2018) and Entre sertões e representações: ensaios e estudos (2021). ID LATTES: http://lattes.cnpq.br/4761668150681726; ID ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6496-4456; E-mail: [email protected].


To cite this review

ASSIS, Antônio Xavier de. Esboço Histórico e Geográfico do Baixo São Francisco. Aracaju: Prefeitura de Aracaju; Salvador: Empresa Gráfica do Estado da Bahia, em 2020. 238p. Review by: SÁ, Antônio Fernando de Araújo. Memories of a river. Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n.12, Jul./Aug., 2023. Available at <https://www.criticahistoriografica.com.br/en/memories-of-a-river-antonio-fernando-de-araujo-sas-ufs-review-of-esboco-historico-e-geografico-do-baixo-sao-francisco-by-antonio-xavier-de-assis-organized-by-car/>


© – Authors who publish in historiographical criticism agree to the distribution, remixing, adaptation, and creation based on their texts, even for commercial purposes, as long as due credit for the original creations is guaranteed. (CC BY-SA).

 

Crítica Historiográfica. Natal, v.3, n. 12, Jul./Aug., 2023 | ISSN 2764-2666

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