Along with the additional readings, Gabriela serves as a window into the inequalities and injustices that were prevalent in Latin America in the early 20th century. During the 19th century, world civilization was experiencing a social change due to the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent rise of the middle class. However, liberal progress throughout the world came in many different patterns and paces. Countries like Brazil, with deep rooted traditional ideologies, were slower to progress socially than places like Europe because they lacked significant economic development. Consequently, the social structures in Brazil at the time and the inequalities they embraced were simply accepted as customary.
The movie Gabriela begins with Nacib, the bar owner, looking for a cook in what he called, “a slave market” where he finds Gabriela, later his wife. When Nacib picks Gabriela to be his cook it serves to expose to the audience the social level that women were placed, which was as the property of men. Unfortunately for women, social inequalities not only made women the equivalent to slaves but also gave their male counterparts justification to murder if their wife committed an act of adultery. As Susan Besse noted on page 654, these “crimes of passion” began to be challenged by a team of four prominent lawyers in 1925. The lawyers created the CBHS, or the Brazilian Council on Social Hygiene, to combat the backwards ways of the traditional Brazilian society. The lawyers advocated for an end to leniency for crimes of passion. Unfortunately, social equality was not the purpose of the CBHS. It would appear that the CBHS was more concerned about modernizing the family image within Brazil. Besse noted in her writing how the CBHS was concerned about improving the “social hygiene” of the culture.
Throughout the film Gabriela the societal changes from a movement to modernize can be seen. The film begins with a adulterous women and her male counterpart being found murdered. The dishonored Colonel’s actions were celebrated at Nacib’s bar later that night as it was customary to do. The movie periodically mentions the efforts underway to build a harbor to connect them to the outside world. Nacib eventually finds Gabriela committing adultery and divorces her in a more modern way (compared to a more traditional way of murder). The movie concludes with Nacib rejoining Gabriela and the harbor finally complete which reveal the dawn of a modernized Brazil.