Cruz e Sousa


December 8, 2021

João da Cruz e Sousa (Nossa Senhora do Desterro, 24 November 1861 — Curral Novo, 19 March 1898) was a Brazilian poet. Nicknamed Dante Negro or Black Swan, he was one of the main representatives of symbolism in Brazil. According to Antonio Candido, Cruz e Sousa was the "only eminent writer of pure black race in Brazilian literature, where mestizos are numerous".


He was born on November 24, 1861, the son of freed slaves Guilherme da Cruz, master mason, and Carolina Eva da Conceição. Since he was a child, João da Cruz received the tutelage and a refined education of his former master, Marshal Guilherme Xavier de Sousa-from whom he adopted the family name, Sousa. Guilherme Xavier de Sousa's wife, Mrs. Clarinda Fagundes Xavier de Sousa, had no children, and started to protect and take care of João's education. He learned French, Latin and Greek, in addition to being a disciple of the German Fritz Müller, with whom he learned Mathematics and Natural Sciences. In 1881, he directed the newspaper Tribuna Popular, in which he fought slavery and racial prejudice. In 1883, he was turned down as Laguna's prosecutor because he was black. In 1885, he released his first book, Tropos e Fantasias, in partnership with Virgílio Várzea. Five years later he went to Rio de Janeiro, where he worked as an archivist at the Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil, also collaborating with several newspapers. In February 1893, he published Missal (poetic Baudelairean prose) and in August, Broquéis (poetry), beginning the symbolism in Brazil that lasts until 1922. In November of that same year, he married Gavita Gonçalves, also black, with whom he had four children, all prematurely killed by tuberculosis, driving her mad.


He died on March 19, 1898 in Minas Gerais, in the locality of Curral Novo, then belonging to the municipality of Barbacena. In 1948, the town was emancipated and was renamed Antônio Carlos. Cruz e Sousa was in Curral Novo because he had been rushed away, beaten by tuberculosis. He had his body transported to Rio de Janeiro in a wagon destined for the transport of horses. Upon arrival, he was buried in the São Francisco Xavier Cemetery by his friends, including José do Patrocínio, where he remained until 2007, when his remains were then housed in the Cruz e Sousa Palace, the former government palace of the state of Santa Catarina and current Santa Catarina Historical Museum, in the center of Florianópolis. Cruz e Sousa is one of the patrons of the Catarinense Academy of Letters, representing chair number 15.

Analysis of the work

His poems are marked by musicality (constant use of alliteration), individualism, sensualism, sometimes despair, sometimes appeasement, in addition to an obsession with the color white. It is true that there are many references to the white color, as well as to transparency, translucency, cloudiness and shine, and to many other colors, all always present in his verses. an amalgamation that converges waters of Charles Baudelaire's Satanism with spiritualism (and within that, Buddhist and Spiritist ideas) linked both to current aesthetic trends and to the phases in the author's life. Although almost half of the Brazilian population is non-white, there were few black, mulatto or indigenous writers. Cruz e Sousa, for example, is accused of omitting himself on issues relating to the black condition. Even though he was the son of slaves and received the nickname "Black Swan", the poet João da Cruz e Sousa could not escape accusations of indifference to the abolitionist cause. The accusation, however, is unfounded, since, despite the fact that social poetry is not part of the poetic project of symbolism or of its particular project, the author, in some poems, metaphorically portrayed the condition of the slave. Cruz e Sousa did militate against slavery.

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