1 - Preliminary

In spite of the historical important facts, the Northeast and specially the Sertão - backwoods (a region with dry weather most part of the year, eight of the nine states that make the Northeast region are in the Sertão area), was called exotic until the twentieth century. The land and the people were lost in time and place, a national tiresome.

October 4th, 1897. Only 20 warriors remain, starving and thirsty, in a trench: there was a grave dug out by them. Not for pride but fighting for their rights, the sertanejos (the backwoodsman), in spite of bombs, machine gun and an English canon named Withworth 32, didn't give up. With precarious armaments, like stones and wood and without war strategies, they fought against the killer men (people that cut off the head from the body) and chose to die for an ideal.

October 5th, 1897. The place was called Arraial de Canudos in Bahia and the last defenders died: " There were only four people: an old man, two men and a child. In front of them, five thousand soldiers were waiting to kill them".

October 6th, 1897. The country, especially Ouvidor Street (everything happened at Ouvidor Street, this street was in Rio de Janeiro. It was the place where important and studious people could be found), the church and the army were celebrating the Republic's "victory' against Antônios, Severinos, Josés, Pedros, Josefas, Franciscas, people from Arraial de Canudos.

December 2nd, 1902. A classic book from Euclides da Cunha, reports the atrocities that happened in Canudos' war, or in other words, a true massacre, extermination and crime. " It was not a war; it was a savage revenge". It was a revenge book named "Os Sertões" and it is a mixture of novel, disclosure, scientific explanations about the earth, the men, the war. "Os Sertões" narrates the Canudos' tragedy, a Brazilian tragedy, where many soldiers died and lots of civilians were killed.

Based on these facts, the Social Communication Department, through the Experimental Agency of Public Relations, join other Brazilian institutions to celebrate Euclides da Cunha and this important book - Os Sertões. The structure of the project, named "Olhares Sobre Os Sertões Pernambucanos" (Looking through the backwoods of Pernambuco), was based on the three parts of the book: The land, The men, The war. "Olhares…" has specific names for each part: The Mother, The Children, The Survival, guiding us through this fascinating book.

2 - A Re(li)gion Called Sertão (Backwoods)

The mother (land) is stubborn, but have hope in her children… A female structure, that is able to create, germinate and support a mystery. In theory and lots of suppositions, is explained by theologians and scientist: the life. The land, a human subsistence producer, until now, even with some sign of infertility, with the right care she could germinate and be fruitful.

Everything in the backwoods burns: the sun, the cactus' thorn, the nettles, the animals, the sandy land, especially the love and respect of backwoodsman for their land. This kind of earth can be called white bush - the Caatinga, because in the period of dry season or when the rain never comes, the bushes becomes gray.

The fauna shows us: Big birds, like Siriema (Cariama cristata) (with her loud sound), or the short ones, like Juritis (Leptotila), Asa Branca (Columba picazuro) (the hope symbol); Reptiles; Rodents; Bats and big felines, like Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Suçuarana (Puma concolor) and Jaguar (Panthera onça). From the water, in spite of many bones the Traíra (Hoplias malabaricus) and the legendary Surubim (Pseudoplatystoma coruscans).

Pernambuco is one of the nine states of the Northeast Region and has 184 boroughs. 2/3 of Pernambuco's territory belongs to a region called Sertão (Backwoods) and has a temporary river that when the rain comes it becomes full of water and helps the plants grow.

The Northeast has 18,20% of the National Territory. It is the third biggest region of Brazil, it's almost a 1.000.000 km²: this area is bigger than any other Brazilian state, with exception of Amazonas and Pará. 3/4 of this area is formed by a society of myths, mysteries and predestination: o sertão (the backwoods).

The Northeast of Brazil has nine states and eight of them have dry weather, stony land and the vegetation has thorns instead of leaves, it means that this kind of plants had to be adapted in the backwoods.

In backwoods, specially, at Caatinga, when the rain doesn't come or in dry season, the ones who stay suffer twice. They suffer for the people who stayed and for those who had left the backwoods. Cowboys and midwives are the special ones, they don't surrender unless for the work of the Holy Spirit.

Even the "green" money of the sugar cane or the dream called São Paulo (another Brazilian state) can't stop the backwoodsman who left the backwoods, when they hear about rain in that place, they come back.

The stubbornness and the hope bring out the survival (The Fight) and the work. The backwoodsman is strong, the power of his work,his faith and his culture are preserved or adapted like any other society, in spite of the problems that come from inside and outside of his land, such as: sandy land, dry weather, politicians and other regions that have better weather conditions.

3 - Victory

It wasn't fiction, it was pure reality and necessity of interacting the many adversity, ambiguity, antagonism, contradictions, ambush, paradox ... passion … about this inhospitable earth, with lots of fascination and mystery that rouse the curiosity and lots of studies made by researchers, curious about a single piece of land in the Earth, the Brazilan northeast's backwoods.

Journalism, Public Relations and Tourism had active participation in this presentation process and realization with ideas to this project. It was confirmed with 23 exclusive researches, presented to the society, among articles, panels, laboratory newspaper, pictures, Cine Club especial edition, institutional campaigns, videos, cordel (Popular Literature based on verse), opinion research and bibliographic research to complement the Center Library collection, developed by students, ex-students and teachers of the Social Communication Department.

The project was divided in two parts: the first one, from November 25th to December 13th, 2002. The second one, named RetroPercepções: olhares de outros olhares - (re)perceptions: looking through the others, from of November 18th to 29th, 2003.

To the realization of the project and their subprojects, apart from a lot of titles researched among didactic books, biographies, romances, poems, compositions, mass-book, interviews, web research and videos, many trips to know some places of backwoods were made from July, 2002 to March, 2003.

This project was not based only on books. The research group visited the Capital to find some information but it was unsuccessful. So 25 trips happened through 14 cities and some villages around the cities in the countryside. Here are the names of all the cities and villages that were visited: Afogados da Ingazeira, Albuquerque Né, Arcoverde, Buíque, Carnaíba, Cruzeiro do Nordeste, Custódia, Caiçara, Exu, Flores, Iguaracy (Canafístola Farm), Salgueiro, Samabaia, Sertânia, Serra Talhada, Serrita, Solidão, Triunfo.

On these trips, visual records were made about The Mother (the land), The Children (The backwoodsmen) and The Survivor (The fight) with more than 6.000 pictures, in black and white, colored and chromo, professional, semiprofessional and amateur images. However, the quality and the interest of learning and the participation in the expedition were fascinating, not only for the scenery but for the great hospitality of the backwoodsmen. It was a global passport of research and college extension.

In this on line version of this project you will find the researches of the two parts of "Olhares". Some of them will be found in a complete version, others will be found in a summary version. All of them have translations to English, French and Spanish.

Alfredo Sotero Alves Rodrigues
Project Coordinator


Às Avós do Sertanejo
Antônia Alves Barbosa
Francisca Simões da Silva (in memoriam)

À Irmã do Sertanejo
Alane Giselle Alves Rodrigues

Aos Pais do Sertanejo
Creuza Alves Rodrigues
Ademir Rodrigues da Silva

E... por elas
As Filhas do Sertanejo
Amanda Gonçalves Rodrigues
Júlia Gonçalves Rodrigues


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