With Short Story Month in the rearview mirror, we are excited to share our second essay of 2019. “Tropical Fascism,” Gabriella Monico’s first publication, explores the history of Brazil’s dictatorship, and how sexual politics have led to the return of populism and Bolsonaro’s election. “My maternal grandmother, Vovó Lourdina, is in love with a Fascist, and not just her husband.”
I wonder if Bolsonaro reminds Vovó of my grandfather: commanding, gruff, domineering. Perhaps in the President elect she sees a reflection of her husband, of her father, of her son, of every man that has ever cared for her. She never sits down, never interrupts, never speaks first. In fact, I soon direct my questions to my grandfather it which seems to make her more comfortable.
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”
It now appears that the dictatorship in Brazil, which began with the military coup of 1964, never really ended. Its official expiration date is April of 1985, the year of Brazil’s first democratic elections, but in retrospect we can now see that the dictatorship merely shapeshifted, nibbling at the edges of our unstable democracy like a house-rat that evades the trap, but still eats the cheese. The simile is mine but the assertion was Arthur’s, the only other Brazilian in our Politics of Brazil class and a semi-closeted neo-liberal. Arthur and I had just watched a pro-Bolsonaro demonstration on YouTube, shortly before the election. It was perhaps the most festive display of fascism I’d ever seen, a flash mob wearing the green, yellow, and blue of the flag, the number seventeen emblazoned on their foreheads and wrists, printed on banners and t-shirts, and chanted incessantly. The choreographed song and dance was mesmerizing, featuring face glitter and finger guns. Tropical fascism.
“This is the gayest pro-fascism demonstration I’ve ever seen,” Arthur said.
“It’s a whole new level of crazy,” I added.
“Or we just keep forgetting the old crazy.”