Indianism is a Brazilian literary and artistic movement that reached its peak during the first stages of Romanticism, though it had been present in Brazilian literature since the Baroque period.

While in the European continent the romantics idealized the medieval knight, in this indigenous nation, since in Brazil the historical one did not experience the Middle Ages.

The Indianism of Castro Alves brings the anti-slavery poetry, valuing the singing of nature and the Indian. Black poetry in Brazil, especially, had its apex with Cruz and Souza and Jorge de Lima. With the work of José de Alencar romantic indianismo is epic expression associated with the lyric in mythical dimensions. It criticizes the society of Rio de Janeiro, where it grew up, raising up the negative aspects and bourgeois customs. In these works, there is the predominance of the characters of the high society, with the remarkable presence of the female figure. The poor or slaves are reduced or have little or no relevant role in the plots. The work of Gonçalves Dias refers to a case of nativist feeling; even becomes synonymous with independence in its modality of romantic Indianism. The Romance indianista typically Brazilian, was one of the major trends of our Romanticism. The prestige of Indianism – which brought the Indian and Indian customs as literary focus – to the public was broad and immediate. Several factors contributed to its implementation. Among them we mention:

The ideas of the enlightened and pre-romantic thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau. According to him the man was originally pure, but is corrupted when he comes into contact with civilization. Therefore, Rousseau saw in primitive man the model of being human.

In Brazil, these ideas found full acceptance among the artists and the public, since our Indian could be identified as the good savage of Rousseau; because we do not count on the rich medieval adventurous matter of European romanticism: the medieval knight represented the figure of the romantic hero, just faithful, courageous, strong and ethical.

In Brazil, the knight hero could not exist, since there was no Middle Ages, so the Indian came to represent the purity, the innocence of man not corrupted by society, and resemble medieval heroes. Brazil itself, recently independent, came to be seen as a kind of “American paradise” safe from the cultural decay of Portuguese and European civilizations in general.

In Romantic contexts, it is called “the first generation of Brazilian Romanticism”, being succeeded by the “Ultra-Romanticism” and the “Condorism”.

Historical context
After the independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822, a heavy wave of nationalism spread through the Brazilian people. Inspired by this, poets and writers began to search for an entity that could represent and personify the newly created Brazilian nation.

Since there was no Middle Ages in Brazil, it could not be the knight, as in the European chivalric romances; it could not be the Portuguese man either, since Brazilians still held resentment for the years of colonization; it could not be the black man either, since the mentality of the time did not allow it. Influenced by Enlightenment ideals, especially works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the “noble savage” myth, the authors chose the Brazilian Indian to represent the new nation.

One of the facts that stimulated the emergence of romanticism in Brazil was the proclamation of independence in 1822, which, in turn, began to define the Brazilian identity. Known also as nativists, they populate their novels and verses of Indians who run free in their natural and beautiful surroundings. It is important to remember that the romantic concern was not to reconstitute a historical truth, but to find presentable values for its readership, which in Europe was the medieval knight, and in Brazil, the Indian.

Thus, the first wave of literature and philosophy about Brazilian nationality (which we can call “nationalist” or “Indianist”) is marked by the exaltation of nature, a return to the historical past, influences of romantic medievalism, creation of the national hero in the figure of the Indian, from where the denomination “Indian generation” appeared. Sentimentality and religiosity are other features present. Among the main authors, stand out José de Alencar, Gonçalves de Magalhães, Gonçalves Dias and Araújo Porto.

Globally, romanticism and indianism define and explain themselves as two coordinates whose point of intersection is nationalism. Being an Indianist is a way of practicing Romanism, rooting it in the Brazilian context:

“Regardless of Rousseau’s primitive man’s goodness theory and even of the roots of Indianism, the Indianism that arises with Romanism in Brazil is profoundly a nationalist manifestation. It is true that we can put it in correspondence with European medievalism, as we shall see in conclusion.

Indianist works are characterized by always having an Indian as the protagonist. The poetry is very patriotic and nationalistic, exalting Brazilian fauna, flora, riches and people.

Major proponents


José de Anchieta (1534-1597)

Basílio da Gama: O Uraguai (1740-1795)
Santa Rita Durão: Caramuru (1722-1784)

José de Alencar: novels O Guarani, Iracema and Ubirajara (1829-1877)
Gonçalves Dias: narrative poem I-Juca-Pirama, epic poem Os Timbiras, and poetry books Primeiros Cantos, Segundos Cantos and Últimos Cantos (1823-1864)
Gonçalves de Magalhães: epic poem A Confederação dos Tamoios (1811-1882)

Victor Meirelles (1832-1903)
Rodolfo Amoedo (1857-1941)
Antônio Parreiras (1860-1937)

Source from Wikipedia