A guerra paulista is the fifth in a series of works that Hélio Silva has written on the internal military-political troubles of Brazil since World War I. He started the series in 1964 with the publication of Sangue na areia de Copacabana, dealing with the revolt of the tenentes in the middle of 1922. In 1965 A grande marcha was published, relating the dramatic two-year (1924-1926) march over much of Brazil by an “army” under Luís Carlos Prestes, as a defiant demonstration for reforms. In 1966 Hélio Silva added two volumes, A revolucão traída, about the start of the Vargas régime in 1930, and Os tenentes no poder, about the young military officers whom Vargas used as interventors to replace the state governors. It was their lack of political experience and ability, coupled with the questionable constitutionality of Vargas’ rule, which caused dissatisfaction and the 1932 revolt in São Paulo. That revolt is the theme of A guerra paulista.
There is a basic coherence to the pattern of this series so far, although the internal organization of the volumes leaves much to be desired. All of the crises were at least partly caused by reform, constitutional procedure, and military interests. A guerra paulista attempts to show each side of the struggle and partly achieves its goal by contrasting the idealism of the paulista revolt with the ultimate practicality shown by Vargas in suppressing it.
The part of A guerra paulista easiest to understand is the chronology preceding the introduction. The work itself is a hodge-podge of information not readily available in this country, and many of its facts are important, but others are of doubtful value. Footnoting is frequently incomplete or lacking. As a plus value, this volume leans heavily upon documents from the archives of Getúlio Vargas, and the papers of Gaspar Dutra and Adhemar Barros are also used. The appendix contains pertinent documents (letters, proclamations, decrees, agreements, appeals, manifestos, and depositions) of great value to the historian, and the index is very helpful. As a reference work for the period that it covers, there is nothing available to compare with it; its virtues far outweigh its faults. For example, the author’s obvious leaning toward the revolt and its key figures is offset by his use of official documents which show, among other things, the maneuvers that isolated São Paulo’s rebellion and doomed it. These are given in detail and with a clarity that is unfortunately lacking when he enters the realm of ideas.
In summation, as a compilation of pertinent data, A guerra paulista is invaluable. As a history or even as a literary work, the author’s version of the forest is confused by his own opinions and his preoccupation with his favorite trees.