Beauty Queens and the Political Economy of Sugar in Northeastern Brazil, 1940–50

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 9:10 AM
Columbia Hall 1 (Washington Hilton)
Amanda Hartzmark, University of Chicago
In the 1940s, members of the Brazilian sugar industry held competitions for a “rainha” or queen of sugar to present as an image not only of beauty, but also of vitality of the sugar industry in the Northeastern region of the country.  The rainha helped greet representatives from an important state regulatory agency that controlled the sugar industry, while promoting an image of a successful industry at banquets, lectures and other events.   The paper discusses which features of the rainha were emphasized by congress participants and compares these traits with the words and images used to describe the sugar industry.  In this case, regional beauty symbolized by the rainha reflected the economic goals of local industry leaders, highlighting the ability of a discourse about regional aesthetics to influence business decisions and politics.