To the gentle strains of a bossa nova and the tangy aroma of salgadinhos, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) launched its new Brazilian Studies Program last week. In addition to the festive reception, the May 1 event was marked by a lecture by University of São Paulo historian Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, with more than 250 students, faculty, members of the Brazilian community, and friends attending. Director of DRCLAS and Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs John H. Coatsworth called the occasion a splendid mixture of Brazilian past, present, and future.
Schwarcz’s talk focused on the visit of Brazilian emperor Pedro II to Harvard in 1876 – the first reigning monarch to visit the University – and on his longstanding relationships with several Harvard luminaries of the period, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with whom he dined at the poet’s Brattle Street home.
The current Harvard luminary who will direct the new Brazilian Studies Program is history professor Kenneth Maxwell. “Maxwell,” said Coatsworth, “is one of the pre-eminent scholars of Brazil in the U.S. [His] books are as well known in Brazil as they are here.” Coatsworth also introduced Jason Dyett, the new program director of the Harvard Brazil Office in São Paulo and a former DRCLAS staff member with an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and six years of experience working in Brazil for the Economist Intelligence Unit and other firms.
The program will coordinate Brazil-related activities at DCRLAS and work closely with the Brazil Office in São Paulo. Newly named Director of the David Rockefeller Center Merilee Grindle said: “I am delighted to see this initiative. Brazil needs much more attention, and Harvard is moving aggressively into Brazilian studies in a way unmatched elsewhere in the U.S. The combination of the Brazil Program here and the Brazil Office in São Paulo will enormously facilitate the work of faculty and students.”
Around 30 to 40 faculty are engaged in Brazil-related projects, and this summer at least 10 students will travel to Brazil with funds from the Lemann endowment. A new Lemann Fellowship Program will also begin this year, allowing Brazilian students to attend the Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, building expertise among professionals in the Brazilian public sector.
– Gabriel de Avilez Rocha, a research assistant working with Professor Kenneth Maxwell, director of the DRCLAS Brazilian Studies Program