An embalmed heart will mark Brazil's 200th independence day

brazil brought home a special gift commemorating 200 years of independence from Portugal: the embalmed heart of Dom Pedro I, Brazil’s first emperor and defender of representative government. The preserved organ is on display for a ceremony today ahead of the important event; he arrived in Brazil on Monday after being flown from Portugal on a military plane.

“The heart will be received as a head of state, will be treated as if Dom Pedro I still lives among us,” said The Chief of Protocol of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry Alan Coelho de Cellos. “The National Anthem [will be played] and the hymn of independence, which, incidentally, was composed by Dom Pedro I, who, besides being an emperor, was a good musician in his spare time.’

Reports earlier today said the ceremony would include a cannon salute, a guard of honor and full military honors.

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After the event, the Brazilian audience will be able to see it in a foreign ministry building before being returned to Portugal on 8 September. According to his will, Pedro’s heart was kept in Porto – preserved in a formaldehyde glass vase in a church.

Deputy Luis Philippe de Orléans Braganza, a member of the former royal family of Brazil, said in an interview with a radio station Jovem Pan on Monday that “We’ve lost a little bit of our background on Brazil’s founders, what they were, what they thought, what they hoped for Brazil. It’s very important to give some of that back.”

Some historians have criticized intentions to show the heart, arguing that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is appealing to nationalism in his re-election campaign ahead of the Oct. 2 general election. “It will be a farce from Bolsonaro welcoming this heart as a visiting dignitary,” historian Lilia Schwartz, who has written books on Pedro I and Brazilian independence, said The Guardian. “We have to ask what this way of thinking about history is—a dead history stuck in time, like the suspended organ of a dead emperor.”

Read more: Interview with Lula about Ukraine, Bolsonaro and the future of Brazil

Pedro, who lived from 1798 to 1834, also ruled as King Pedro of Portugal. He was part of the royal family of Portugal who fled to Brazil when Napoleon’s army invaded their country. Pedro resisted efforts by the Portuguese Parliament to keep Brazil colonized and return to his native country, instead helping to lead Brazil to independence on September 7, 1822, after which he was proclaimed emperor.

Although he is fondly remembered by Brazilians for his role in liberating the country, his rule proved relatively harsh. He dissolved the Brazilian assembly as they were in the process of creating a liberal constitution and exiled the radical leader Jose Bonifacio de Andrada y Silva, who was also instrumental in helping Brazil achieve independence. Local uprisings eventually led Pedro to abdicate his throne and hand it over to his son in 1831. He then returned to Portugal.

Pedro died at the age of 35 from tuberculosis. While his heart lives in Porto, his body remains in São Paulo.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor c [email protected].

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