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New Issue | Bicentenary of Independence - Presence of Correios

About the Stamps

This Independence Bicentennial set features the presence of the postal service in the delivery of mail, containing news and information about the whole scenario that was unfolding. On the left side of the stamp is a drawing of a character in colonial garb handing over a suitcase containing envelopes, and on the right side, two indigenous people — following the historical narrative that they traveled the road in pairs — wandering through the forest. Just above the character who hires the delivery service is a drawing of a building with the name Correios, pictured here in a symbolic way. The technique used was manual illustration with colored pencils.

Correios and the Independency

In 1798, a postal reform initiated by the Portuguese Crown would change the functioning of long-distance communication, then done by letters, in a substantial way. From then on, the right to organize the mail transport service and to earn profits from this activity would belong directly to the royal jurisdiction. Before, Correios was a monopoly of one family, which explored the activity privately, both in Portugal and overseas, since the 17th century. From that moment on, the royal representatives in Portuguese America were in charge of setting up an entire administrative structure (nonexistent until then) responsible for sending, receiving and distributing letters. This postal system, although not centrally organized and not very cohesive, expanded and was maintained until the first years of independent Brazil.

Correios established on the eve of the break with Portugal, however, was not the only way to send mail and parcels. This is because, since before 1798, there were other systems in place that circulated information at a distance: from trading ships that carried and brought letters by sea, to way travelers and muleteers who brought written news and parcels overland. All this structure did not cease to exist during the reform period, and Correios then instituted represented only one of several possibilities for the literate population to send written papers. And this variety of communication media played an important role in Independence when then political discussions and multiple projects of social organization circulated in periodicals, books, and manuscripts, which could pass through the Correio, but also outside it.

The very delivery of the letter that culminated on the September 7—the date of Brazil’s Independence—is an example of this multiplicity. Paulo Emílio Bregaro was a character who greatly marked the later projected memory of the Correios’ participation in Independence. He has been highlighted in other commemorations of the same date, such as the sesquicentennial in 1972. A military officer, Bregaro was the one who took the correspondence from the Court of Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo to notify D. Pedro I of the updates on the situation with Portugal. However, although Bregaro was a “postmaster” (that is, an officer who delivered letters, not necessarily connected to the Postal Administration), he was not part of the Correio Geral Rio de Janeiro, and was therefore not an employee of the institution. At this and other times, it was common for the military to carry communication at a distance, in parallel with the services of the General Correio. The construction of the memory around Bregaro, already in the 20th-century commemorations, demonstrates the effort to insert Correios in the official state history about Independence, focusing on the elite core that articulated this political movement. Little is revealed to us, therefore, about the post office structure of the time actually operating, how it was set up, and what its role was at this time.

In this year of the bicentennial of Independence, the motto of some postal issues on this motif turned to a broader understanding of the emancipatory movement, trying, whenever possible, to bring to light imagined arts based on information about other participations in the political context of the time, besides the elite. With this in mind, the stamp about the Correios participation in Independence highlights the structure of letter delivery in the first half of the 19th century, from the perspective of how the Correios institution, formed only a few years earlier, in 1798, functioned with the work of people from diverse environments, which then integrated the society of the time. This artwork, which features elements such as the Postal Administration, its officer in charge, and the indigenous letter carriers, seeks to fulfill this role. It is worth remembering, however, that art made from historical information is never (and never intends to be) an exact retelling of the past, but rather a representation about the meaning of historical events for the present moment. Historiographical references, as well as the artist’s vision and creativity, come together to build a new memory of the Post Office’s participation in Independence.

The indigenous people are important characters when we think about Portuguese America. The history of the various ethnic groups that lived here before the arrival of the Europeans was marked, after contact, by various types of resistance and survival strategies. The struggle to remain on the land and the violent expulsion by the Portuguese was a common theme throughout the colonial period, and also afterwards. Another type of strategy was also the integration of indigenous people in the colonial structure, with some of them working in the administrative organization that the Portuguese Crown built in American territory. This was the case with communications, specifically the delivery of letters and packages, since the indigenous people have always been very knowledgeable about this vast territory. In the specific context of the years after Independence, sources relating to Correios point to the activities of the indigenous people hired to carry, on a weekly or fortnightly basis, letters to towns and cities in captaincies such as Ceará or Pernambuco. These employees were part of the official postal structure of the time and were carriers of written communication, a role very similar to the one played by Paulo Bregaro in the context leading up to September 7. However, the “indigenous postmasters” did not just participate in the eventual delivery of a letter considered important. They were responsible for keeping the distance communication going on a daily basis. Through the written documents of the time, we can also note that they petitioned for better wages and working conditions, indicating the tension between this social group and the administrative apparatus in Portuguese America. Due to the fact that this documentation was written by the postal institution, little is known about these indigenous people, because specificities such as the ethnicity to which they belonged were always left out of the notes.

Thus, in the Bicentennial of Independence, Correios sought to highlight other individuals who participated in postal history, who are not always remembered on stamps, but who are gaining more and more space in historical studies on the subject and now also gaining prominence in the philatelic area.

Mayra Guapindaia, Ph.D.

Historian - Correios Museum

Technical Details

Stamp issue N. 15

Art: Taisa Borges

Print system: offset

Paper: gummed chalky paper

Sheet with 12 stamps

Facial value: 1st class rate for domestic mail

Issue: 96,000 stamps

Design area: 35 x 25mm

Stamp dimensions: 40 x 30mm

Perforation: 11.5 X 12

Date of issue: October 9th, 2022

Places of issue: Brasília/DF, Belém/PA and Rio de Janeiro/RJ

Printing: Brazilian Mint

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