Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, University of Minnesota
Abstract: In 1967, the Brazilian military dictatorship inaugurated its sweeping developmentalist politics in the Amazonian city of Manaus with the Zona Franca, a vast network of manufactures, a bolstered port and military base, a free trade zone, agricultural land, and an ecological reserve for biotech research. Along with reorienting the political and economic topos of the Western Amazonian region of Brazil, the Zona Franca stimulated large demographic and labor shifts not seen in Manaus since the Ciclo da Borracha [Rubber Boom]. It is from within the inner workings of this shift in the mode of production in postcolonial capital, from extractivism to industrialized production of watches, TVs, radios, and motorcycles that Márcio Souza and Milton Hatoum narrate their short story collections A Caligrafia de Deus (1993) and A Cidade Ilhada (2009). In this presentation I analyze the baroque and neobaroque elements that characterize A Caligrafia de Deus and A Cidade Ilhada as constituting an alternative modernity in the Brazilian Amazon conscribed to productivity and utility. The baroque and neobaroque manifestations in Latin America are often characterized by the aesthetic of excess and ornamentation, along with decadence, ruination, and counter-conquest. And while other readings of Amazonian literatures have suggested the presence of an out of place baroque texture, I suggest that Souza and Hatoum highlight the very affinity of baroque and neobaroque aesthetics to shifting modes of production brought about by the Zona Franca within the complex urban and hydrological environs of Manaus.