Marquez on Kraay, 'Bahia's Independence: Popular Politics and Patriotic Festival in Salvador, Brazil, 1824-1900'

Hendrik Kraay
John C. Marquez

Hendrik Kraay. Bahia's Independence: Popular Politics and Patriotic Festival in Salvador, Brazil, 1824-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2019. xiv + 416 pp. $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7735-5748-2.

Reviewed by John C. Marquez (University of California, Irvine) Published on H-LatAm (March, 2020) Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz (Johns Hopkins University)

Printable Version: 

On July 2, 1823, members of the Exército Pacificador (Pacifying Army) expelled remaining Portuguese forces from Salvador, effectively consolidating Brazilian national independence as it unfolded in Bahia. Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822, but it was not until the second of July that following year that Bahians took control of the city of Salvador. For this reason, Bahians from the nineteenth century to the present commemorate Dois de Julho (second of July) as a marker of independence, alongside the more familiar date of September 7 celebrated throughout Brazil. As Hendrik Kraay describes, the “bedraggled patriots who marched in Salvador on 2 July 1823 likely knew they were participating in momentous events, although they could not have known that their actions would soon be symbolically re-enacted, year after year” (p. 43).

Bahia’s Independence: Popular Politics and Patriotic Festival in Salvador, Brazil, 1824-1900 comprehensively explores this symbolic reenactment in the civic ritual known as Dois de Julho, particularly as it mapped onto and shaped the province’s nineteenth-century political culture. Civic rituals and public celebrations following Brazil’s independence offer historians a unique window into social beliefs and political customs throughout the empire and the tensions that surrounded them. Based on more than twenty years of research, and building off his previous work that explored Brazil’s “days of national festivities,” Kraay sets out to understand the invention and reinvention of Dois de Julho and popular mobilization around Bahians’ distinct remembrance and celebration of national independence. Kraay argues that Dois de Julho celebrations in nineteenth-century Salvador, rather than embodying a “regional identity project,” provided Bahians a living ritual through which to articulate distinctly Bahian narratives of independence (p. 9). Indeed, Dois de Julho “celebrates independence not in a nation-state but in one of its constituent parts” (p. 7). In turn, Kraay demonstrates that civic rituals celebrating July 2, 1823, mobilized popular support and participation among Bahians across the long run of the Brazilian Empire. The meanings of such civic rituals, however, varied among its participants, making it a key site for understanding political life, exclusion, and popular struggles over citizenship in Bahia’s public sphere.

To trace Dois de Julho’s evolution across the nineteenth century, Kraay expertly pieces together various sources, including memoirs, provincial correspondence, plays, and newspapers. Reading across these sources, Kraay finds contradictions and errors in surviving accounts of nineteenth-century Dois de Julho, making it challenging to paint a full picture of early celebrations. Kraay engages the work of folklorists like Manoel Raimundo Querino, reading their accounts against surviving newspapers in order to challenge the “official histories” that those writers generated. The result is a new history of Dois de Julho and Bahian political culture that is sensitive to broader historical shifts and that corrects common misconceptions of the celebration still present today.

Bahia’s Independence is organized chronologically and thematically across six chapters. The first half of the book traces key shifts in Dois de Julho celebrations within Bahia and Brazil’s social and political context. Chapter 1 describes the invention of Dois de Julho in 1824 by Exaltados (radical liberals) who adapted and reworked old-regime civic rituals into new expressions of radical liberalism. While “official” histories of Dois de Julho frame its origins as a popular movement belonging to the “povo” (people), Kraay charts how Exaltados took their politics “into the streets,” politics which included identification with the pátria (homeland) and lusophobic nativism (pp. 45, 66). Kraay also identifies the use of indigenist allegories in these early celebrations, consistent with appropriations of indigenous people as symbols in the wider empire at the same time. Following the Sabinada Rebellion (1837-38), Dois de Julho underwent a period of repression by the province’s conservative administration, though it was slowly restored by radical liberal supporters of the festival. Chapter 2 traces Dois de Julho’s mid-century evolution from a political civic ritual promoted by Bahia’s Exaltados into a broader popular festival that marked Bahians’ sense of national identity. Key to this evolution was the emergence of patriotic battalions who marched on the evening before July 2. This Noite Primeira procession garnered a wider participation of Bahians in Dois de Julho festivities. Ultimately, both Dois de Julho organizers and political administrators fearful of the povo’s disorder repressed the Noite Primeira festivities in the early 1860s. Between the decline of the Noite Primeira festivities and the creation of Brazil’s republic (1889), Dois de Julho retained its popular elements while also becoming a flashpoint for partisan politics. Dois de Julho celebrations prompted new neighborhood celebrations, widening the geography of local patriotic celebration and popular participation. Celebrations also became a site of debate between Liberal and Conservative politicians, who used Dois de Julho’s festivities to conduct politics. Indeed, as Kraay reinforces, “Dois de Julho celebrations were serious politics, albeit wrapped in a festive and celebratory culture” (p. 167).

The second half of the book explores several themes that shaped the meanings of Dois de Julho celebrations throughout the nineteenth century. The metaphors of freedom and liberty that patriots deployed to describe Bahia’s contribution to Brazil’s independence, Kraay notes, were “never intended to apply to slaves, who were not part of the nation” (p. 172). Slavery and race presented glaring contradictions in Dois de Julho celebrations, even as patriots endeavored to maintain silence on the matter. As Kraay argues in chapter 4, Dois de Julho patriots and their celebrations reinforced racial exclusion by foregrounding Bahian and Brazilian citizenship, which did not extend to Africans or their enslaved descendants. Afro-descendants in Bahia nevertheless attributed their own meanings to Dois de Julho, though discerning these meanings is difficult given limited and biased press accounts. Chapter 5 brings readers into Salvador’s São João theater, where mid-century Dois de Julho celebrations incorporated plays to stage Bahia’s centrality to Brazilian independence. Simultaneously accepting indigenismo while silencing slavery and race from the national landscape, these plays foregrounded a liberal vision of Brazil’s independence that rooted it less in the actions of Pedro I in Rio de Janeiro and more in the actions of Bahian troops. The creation of the Brazilian republic (1889) transformed Dois de Julho celebrations. To explore this transformation at the turn of the twentieth century, the book’s end point, Kraay focuses on debates surrounding the construction of a monument in 1895. Through this monument, organizers hoped to offer a “modern, respectable way to commemorate the patriots’ 1823 victory,” as well as to manage the association of the cabocla/o as an indigenist symbol of Bahian independence (p. 246).

By using a popular civic ritual like Dois de Julho as a window into politics and society in nineteenth-century Bahia, Kraay’s analysis offers several insights. Kraay’s larger argument that Dois de Julho patriots were “far from regionalists, if by this is meant an ideology that contradicts loyalty to the national state,” contributes to a larger revision of the theme of regionalism in Brazil (p. 195). As Dois de Julho celebrations evolved in the nineteenth century, Bahians who celebrated the provinces’ contributions to national independence continued to see themselves as Brazilians. One wonders what the larger implications or tensions of this were, given that Kraay suggests that Dois de Julho “sat uncomfortably alongside Brazil’s other days of national festivity” (p. 192). Furthermore, Kraay’s analysis is attentive to exclusions and silences. He illustrates how indigenist symbols in the figure of the cabocla/o and the near silence on matters of slavery, despite a reliance on the metaphor of liberty, made Dois de Julho another site of exclusion and selective inclusion. More challenging, however, is understanding the meanings of national or subnational rituals to Afro-descendants. Kraay’s argument that Dois de Julho represented an avenue for “engaged citizens” simultaneously reminds us that such engagement happened alongside formal and informal exclusions, raising questions of what “popular” can truly mean in this period (pp. 9, 167).

This is a well-researched book that significantly broadens our understanding of political culture, regionalism, and Brazilian national identity in Bahia. Kraay affirms our understanding of the silences and exclusions that undergirded Brazilian independence, and identity in the nineteenth century and lays the groundwork for further research into the ways ritual, race, gender, and exclusion shaped popular political mobilization in Bahia and beyond. It will be of special interest to undergraduate and graduate students and scholars studying independence, popular politics, and ritual in Brazil and Latin America.


Citation: John C. Marquez. Review of Kraay, Hendrik, Bahia's Independence: Popular Politics and Patriotic Festival in Salvador, Brazil, 1824-1900. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2020. URL:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.