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UCLA Brazilianists Launch Center
Jose Luiz Passos (right) is director of the UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies and one of three curators of an exhibition on Rio de Janeiro at the Charles E. Young Research Library. It will be on display through June. (Photo by Margaretta Soehendro)

UCLA Brazilianists Launch Center

The UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies holds its inaugural event in conjunction with the opening of an exhibition on the last two centuries of urban change in Rio de Janeiro. The Latin American Institute now has a member center devoted to the Southern Cone of South America and will launch a Center for Mexican Studies in the spring.

Margaretta Soehendro Email MargarettaSoehendro

Continuing a process of restructuring, the UCLA Latin American Institute launched the second of three new area studies centers, the Center for Brazilian Studies, on Feb. 5, 2009, at the Charles E. Young Research Library (YRL). A center focusing on the Southern Cone of South America got its start last October, and another devoted to Mexico will launch in April. This month's event did double duty as the opening of a YRL exhibition, "Rio de Janeiro: Two Centuries of Urban Change, 1808-2008," curated by José Luiz Passos, who directs the new center; Ludwig Lauerhass Jr., librarian emeritus; and Stephen Bell, an associate professor of geography.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) is a landmark and lookout for Rio de Janeiro.

"The creation of the new center for Brazilian studies offers intellectual space and institutional support to students and faculty with interests in Brazil," said Passos. "UCLA gathers one of the largest academic communities in the U.S. whose research and teaching have engaged or currently focuses on Brazilian issues."

Passos, who works on literature in Portuguese, said the center would sponsor courses, working groups, and, over two academic years, public lectures on "Brazil in Global Networks: Continuity and Change." The center also plans a colloquium on film and television, with special focus on Globo TV and Globo Filmes, and an online publication of working papers that presents new research and unpublished works by visitors, graduate students and faculty.

For the exhibition, the three curators selected roughly 50 items out of the more than 50,000 records in the UCLA Research Library Department of Special Collections. These books, periodicals, photographs, manuscripts, maps, film clips, artworks, and ephemera illustrate Rio de Janeiro's urban growth and modernization.

"We set the central theme to be two centuries of urban change so that the city could be seen in a dynamic context and not just in a sporadic, hit-or-miss basis," said Lauerhass.

Items in the exhibition are grouped into clusters such as a series of panoramic views, old and new cityscapes, the persistence of nature, the royal and imperial periods of Rio's development, and modern diversions and lifestyles. For the panoramic views, the curators selected an 1844 lithograph by Federico Gatti and Gaetano Dura, an 1880 albumen print by Marc Ferrez, a 1925 sepia-toned photograph from Album do Rio de Janeiro by Hübner & Amaral Cia., and a 2005 digital photograph by Helmut Battista of Guanabara Bay.

There is also a display case of nine black-and-white postcards from 1910 from the store Maison Chic. The photos include Praça Floriano Peixoto, a major public square; Palácio Monroe, the former house of the Brazilian Senate that was demolished in 1976; Avenida Rio Branco, a Parisian-modeled avenue built in the early 20th century, with few original buildings remaining; and the landmark lookout Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain.

"We hope that the exhibit opens a vivid window both on the collections on Brazil and Rio, here at UCLA, and on the history and images of the city itself," said Lauerhass.

The exhibition in the lobby of the YRL runs through June.

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