One of Brazil’s most important journalists, Ivan Lessa, has died at the age of 77. While Lessa made a global name for himself as a correspondent for the BBC, he was also one of the founders of O Pasquim, one of the main underground newspapers of the military dictatorship era. When doing dissertation research, I worked with the O Pasquim collection, and was always impressed not only by its wit, intelligence, and reason, but by the fact that it was able to survive as long as it did during the military regime; indeed, the periodical began in June of 1969, just as Brazil’s dictatorship was entering its most repressive phase and its greatest levels of censorship, and yet O Pasquim survived into the 1990s. Along the way, it provided to those living through the regime (and, decades later, to scholars wanting to look at society and opposition movements and discourses during the regime) an invaluable source and commentary on politics, society, and culture that ran counter to the officialist rhetoric not only of the military regime, but of conservative cultural and social mores generally. For this alone, Lessa is a major figure in Brazilian journalism and letters, and his later work (including the bon mot that “every 15 years Brazil forgets its last 15 years”) only cemented his reputation. He helped to provide an important arena for the social, cultural, and political opposition to make its voice heard in Brazil, and for scholars to hear that voice years later, and for those reasons, he will be missed even while his importance to twentieth-century Brazilian history is never forgotten.
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