The Color of Modernity: São Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil
Barbara Weinstein is the Silver Professor of History at New York University. She is the coeditor of The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in São Paulo, 1920-1964.
How did the emerging paulista elite make sense of the rapid changes in the region’s fortunes? This chapter explores the precocious formation of a discourse of paulista exceptionalism that began with the post-1870s coffee boom. This boom fueled a vision of São Paulo as uniquely inclined to modernity and undergirded the paulistas’ rise to political dominance. Drawing on the colonial figure of the bandeirante, paulista elites fashioned a regional identity that, combined with the influx of European immigrants, led to the whitening of the paulista population. The chapter then discusses paulista “modernity” as envisioned by visitors from abroad, new political factions, and the literary and artistic circles associated with modernism.