Curran's Cordel Connection
CORDEL: ITS VALUE FOR “OTHER” BRAZILIANS
the poets and their readers cordel is entertainment, news and a moral
guide. The rest of the Brazilians
and interested foreigners may share such purposes with the humble cordelian
public, but probably for the former, cordel has other values.For Brazil
in general it represents the best written document of the traditions of the
humble class (but shared often by all classes) of the Northeast.
It is a part of the national cultural heritage.
There are many cinematic and televised recreations of the bandits of the Northeast and of “religious fanaticism” in the stories of Antônio Conselheiro, Padre Cícero or even Frei Damião. Glauber Rocha of “New Cinema” fame was especially aware of the tradition and used it in many of his films, including Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol and Antônio das Mortes. Northeastern pop singer Elba Ramalho also used verse from the cantadores as inspiration for “Nordestinadas.” Luís Gonzaga, O Rei do Baião, although not directly related to cordel, shared many of its themes. The myth of the northeastern migrant who flees the drought, but longs to return with the next rains became the Northeast anthem in Gonzaga’s Asa Branca. And in a different but ingenious way, Chico Buarque de Holanda retold the myth in “Pedro Pedreiro.”
Samico and Brennand also borrowed from the popular tradition in their painting and woodcuts. The famous clay dolls [boneca de barro] of Caruaru and other fairs in the Northeast share the same themes as cordel in their depiction of life in the region, relying heavily on Father Cícero, Lampião, and the northeastern cowboy.
These are the “old-timers.” An
entirely new generation of artists continues to blend northeastern themes,
borrowings from cordel and recreation of the same today.