White Man in the Tropics: Authorship and Atmospheric Blackness in Gilberto Freyre

  • Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Part of the New Concepts in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


In his white-authored Poemas Negros (1947), Jorge de Lima eroticizes master/slave relations and projects the young master as the symbolic progeny of enslaved African women. Gilberto Freyre’s Casa-Grande e Senzala (1933) casts this same child-master figure as the emblem of African cultural incorporation during slavery. The pages that follow analyze Freyre’s “Preliminary Note” to the Poemas Negros to unravel his strategies for sustaining Lima’s authority to “write black.” Freyre is invested in Lima because his “black poems” sustain both the premise and the narrative authority of Casa-Grande e Senzala. In addition to emphasizing the mutual erotic impulse that underlies master/slave relations and the young master’s formative childhood interactions with black nursemaids, the northeastern seigniorial perspective of Lima’s “poemas negros” mirrors the point of view of Casa-Grande e Senzala, wherein Freyre not only insists upon but textually performs the masterful arrogation of blackness: he is the white northeastern descendent of plantation masters who consumes and “gives voice” to the experience of African slaves.


Black Woman African Descent Black Blood Black Identity African Theme 
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© Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond 2008

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  • Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond

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