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Popular Cultura Movement (MCP)

The MCP had various influences, especially from the works of French authors.

Popular Cultura Movement (MCP)

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Last update: 27/03/2020

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The Popular Culture Movement (MCP) was created on 13 May 1960 as a non-profit institution during the first term of Miguel Arraes as Mayor of Recife. Its headquarters were in Sítio da Trindade, the former Bom Jesus Ranch, located in the Recife neighbourhood of Casa Amarela.

The MCP had various influences, especially from the works of French authors. Its name was taken from the French movement Peuple et Culture (People and Culture). Its initial activities were fundamentally designed to increase awareness to the masses through literacy and basic education.

It was made up of university students, artists and intellectuals and its objective was to carry out a communitarian action of popular education from a plurality perspective, with emphasis on popular culture, as well as forming a political and social consciousness among workers, preparing them for effective participation in the Country’s political life.

As highlighted by one of its founders, Prof. Germano Coelho (later Mayor of Olinda):
      [...] The Popular Culture Movement was born out of the misery of the people of Recife. From its mutilated landscape. From its mangroves covered with ‘mocambos’ (shacks built on stilts). From the mud of the hills and swamps, where illiteracy, unemployment, sickness and hunger grows. Its roots drown in the wounds of the degraded city. They are staked in arid lands. They reflect their drama as a “dramatised synthesis of the entire social structure”. The drama of other underdeveloped areas as well. Of the Recife with 80,000 children aged from 7 to 14 without schooling. From the Brazil with 6 million. From Recife, with thousands and thousands of illiterate adults. From Brazil, with millions. From the world we live in, in the middle of the 20th century, with over a billion men, women and children incapable of reading, writing and adding. The Popular Culture Movement represents, in this way, an answer. The answer of Mayor Miguel Arraes, of the councillors, of the intellectuals, of the students and of the people of Recife to the challenge of misery. An answer that becomes dynamic in the form of a Movement that begins, in the Northeast, a new experience of Popular University.
Administratively, it was divided into three departments: the Education and Culture (DFC); the Documentation and Information (DDI) and the Diffusion of Culture (DFC).

Of the three, the Department of Education and Culture was the most active during the existence of the MCP, functioning according to the Statute (art. 15): 1 – to interpret, develop and systemise popular culture; 2 – create and spread new methods and techniques of popular education; 3 – to graduate people able to transmit culture to the general population. It was made up of ten divisions: Research, directed by Paulo Freire; Teaching; Visual Arts and Handicrafts, whose director was Abelardo da Hora; Music, Dance and Song; Cinema; Radio, Television and Press; Theatre; Brazilian Culture; Collective Well-Being; Health; and Sports, which all functioned through special programmes and projects.

As one of the basic purposes of the MCP was the education of adults, in September 1961, radio schools were created looking to target this educational segment that greatly needed it. In 1962, teachers and intellectuals drafted a primer entitled Livro de leitura para adultos ou Cartilha do MCP (Reader for Adults or MCP Primer) to teach adults to read and write. The radio programmes were transmitted by the radio stations Clube de Pernambuco and Continental. The classes were held at night and the adult students shared the same spaces that children and adolescents used during the day, but it was necessary to open new facilities and acquire more radio equipment. The development and transmission process was coordinated by a central group, with the help of monitors, orientations from the Guia do alfabetizado (Guide to Illiteracy) and the support of universities lecturers.

Owing to the proximity of the elections for the Pernambuco Governor in 1962, the Movement was faced with a lot of political pressure. Newspapers printed various pieces and articles criticising its operations. To respond, the directors of the MCP released a detailed notice, entitled Do Movimento de Cultura Popular ao povo (From the Popular Culture Movement to the People), in which they reported on all of their activities and rejected the accusations. Signed by its President Germano Coelho and all the directors, it was published in the Jornal do Commercio, Recife, on 2 September 1962 (p.29), partly transcribed below:
[...] The concept of the MCP is implemented in such a form today, at the national level, that not even the narrowness of the obscurantists, the primary nature of the ignorant, the frustration of those incapable of building and the slander of professional defamers can reach it. It is Anísio Teixeira, director of the National Institute of Pedagogical Studies, who asserts the  indispensability of the MCP in the current Brazilian situation, considering its book “Reading for Adults” has the greatest existing work in the genre today in the country. It is Darcy Ribeiro, from the Brazilian Centre of Educational Research, currently the Dean of the University of Brasília, who cites the MCP as a model institution of education and culture for the people in successive conferences held in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Rio and Brasília. [...] all the people of Recife know that the MCP is first and foremost above all idealism, self-denial, honesty, technical competency and voluntary spirit of the public, intellectuals and students: there have been 201 schools installed in less than three years, with 626 day, evening and night classes; there are 19,646 child, adolescent and adult students receiving primary, supplementary and basic education. [...] Attacks of this planned coordinated and closed nature against the MCP on the eve of the elections have only one objective: to belittle, with shadowy motives, the serial, patriotic and apolitical administrative work which, according to the testimony of some of the leading Brazilian educators, honours the cultural traditions of Recife. [...]
Despite encountering pressure and criticism from opponents to the Miguel Arraes government, the MCP developed greatly. At the end of 1962, it had close to 20,000 students divided into over six hundred classes, distributed across two hundred schools; a network of radio schools; a centre for visual arts and handicraft, with courses in pottery, tapestry, weaving, basketry, woodcutting and sculpture; over 450 teachers and 174 monitors of fundamental, supplementary and artistic education; a school for motor mechanics; five cultural plazas with libraries, a cinema, a theatre, music, a tele-club, pedagogic orientation, recreation and physical education; the Dona Olegarina Cultural Centre, in Poço da Panela, which, in partnership with the Casa Forte Parish, offered courses in sewing, literacy and basic education; cultural circuits; an art gallery (the Galeria de Arte do Recife); a theatrical troupe, which performed among others things, various plays such as A derradeira ceia by Luiz Marinho and A volta do Camaleão Alface by Maria Clara Machado.

Well-known intellectuals and artists participated in the MCP like Francisco BrennandAriano SuassunaHermilo Borba Filho, Abelardo da Hora, José Cláudio, Aloísio Falcão and Luiz Mendonça. The movement also had the support of left-wing political institutions such as the National Union of Students (UNE) and the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), among others.

Due to the political climate of the time, the MCP had national repercussions, serving as a model for similar movements created in other Brazilian states.

The Popular Cultural Movement of Recife was terminated by the military coup in March 1964. Two tanks were parked on the lawn outside its headquarters in Sítio da Trindade. All the documents of the Movement were burned, objects of art destroyed and the professionals involved were persecuted and removed from their positions.

Recife, 29 July 2008.
(Updated on 31 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.

sources consulted

MOVIMENTO de Cultura popular: memorial. Recife: Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 1986. 341 p. (Coleção Recife, v. 49).

MOVIMENTO de Cultura Popular. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 8 jul. 2008.

SILVA, Maria Betânia e. Refletindo sobre o movimento de cultura popular: espaço para a arte? Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 8 jul. 2008.

SOUZA, Kelma Fabíola Beltrão de. Abordagem sobre a cultura popular utilizada no Movimento de Cultura de Popular de Pernambuco. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 18 jul. 2008

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Popular Culture Movement (MCP). Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.