FGV CPDOC receives unique journal by Getúlio Vargas about his “exile” in São Borja

Vargas’ entire collection, including the almost 600 letters he exchanged with his daughter Alzira, as well as his “farewell letters” is in the possession of FGV CPDOC.
Social Sciences
05 December 2023
FGV CPDOC receives unique journal by Getúlio Vargas about his “exile” in São Borja

Getúlio Vargas’ granddaughter, Celina Vargas, has gifted Fundação Getulio Vargas’ School of Social Sciences (FGV CPDOC) a unique journal kept by the former president about his time in self-exile between 1945 and 1949 (he was deposed in 1945, although between 1946 and 1949 he served as a senator). The journal was kept by Celina’s mother, Alzira Vargas, for decades.

A message written by Alzira on the journal’s cover reads “This notebook written from 1945 to 1949 is excellent, but rather ‘hot.’ Read and use it carefully. These are the notes of an angry and conscientious man. Some entries were never published and others were turned into speeches.”

Vargas’ entire collection, including the almost 600 letters he exchanged with his daughter Alzira, as well as his “farewell letters” (the first one written in 1945 and then the one in 1954, written on the day of his death), is in the possession of FGV CPDOC. This unpublished journal, which Vargas did not intend to be made public, shows an authentic man who makes blunt criticisms and sets out his plans to return to power, which happened after the 1950 elections. 

According to Professor Marco Vannucchi of FGV CPDOC, there are some important aspects to the journal. One of them is the personal and political context in which Vargas wrote, during his years of self-exile, after being deposed. He was isolated on his family’s farm in São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul. His wife and children were in Rio de Janeiro while he had a few relatives around him in São Borja. It was a transitional moment for him, as he observed the world’s transformation to mass democracy. He began to understand these changes during this period, when he was preparing to make a political comeback in the context of mass democracy. At this time, he was a senator, but he was not very active, seldom going to Rio.

The dethroned dictator was coming to terms with being a politician in a mass democracy, having to live with a free press, elections, political parties and democratic institutions. The journal shows his reflections in this new context in which he wrote.

The journal’s tone is somewhat confessional, sometimes quite harsh, including personal attacks. His frankness is a highlight. He was especially harsh toward the press, which was the great “opposition party” in the final years of the “New State” regime. He knew he couldn’t count on the mainstream press, which was against him.

Vargas also took stock of his 15 years in power and reflected a lot on this. He praised himself a lot, arguing that he did a good job for the people. He analyzed the current situation and was particularly critical of the Dutra government and the Social Democratic Party, which he helped create. In fact, he was more critical of this party than of the National Democratic Union Party, which directly opposed him.

The role of the military in politics, especially the Army, is another theme in his notes. He believed in the non-partisanship of the Army but knew that there were military men trying to take advantage of the Army for their political ambitions. He picked up on an old theme in his speeches and writings, related to the inadequacies of liberal democracy in guaranteeing workers’ well-being. He didn’t believe in liberal democracy as a way of providing this well-being.

“In his writings, he soon began to talk about the possibility of returning to the presidency. At first, he doubted it, thinking that his return would never be possible. After that, he wrote about what he would do if he returned. At a third moment, he was already plotting his candidacy and making plans for a future administration, which came to pass when he won the 1950 elections,” says Professor Marco Vannucchi. 

To find out more about the Getúlio Vargas Archives, click here.

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