Constitutionalist Revolution

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Constitutionalist Revolution
From top to bottom and left to right:
  • A Schneider-Canet 150mm cannon used by São Paulo
  • Rebel armored flamethrower car
  • Government Renault FT tanks advancing towards the Itaguaré sector
  • Minas Gerais troops entering the town of Cruzeiro
  • São Paulo soldiers entrenched near the southern sector
  • Colonel Lerí Santos, commander of the Minas Gerais southern brigade
  • Mantiqueira rail tunnel taken by Minas Gerais troops
  • One of the armored trains built by the São Paulo insurgents
DateJuly 9 – October 2, 1932

Legalist victory



 São Paulo


  • Volunteer rebels
Rio Grande do Sul Gaúcho United Front



Commanders and leaders
São Paulo (state) Pedro de Toledo
São Paulo (state) Isidoro Dias Lopes
São Paulo (state) Bertoldo Klinger
Mato Grosso do Sul Vespasiano Martins
São Paulo (state) Euclides Figueiredo
São Paulo (state) Júlio de Mesquita
São Paulo (state) Marcondes Salgado
Rio Grande do Sul Borges de Medeiros
São Paulo (state) Artur Bernardes
Brazil Getúlio Vargas
Brazil Góis Monteiro
Brazil Valdomiro Lima
Brazil Augusto Cardoso
Brazil Eduardo Gomes
40,000 soldiers (Police, Army and volunteers)
30 Armored Vehicles
44 artillery
9–10 aircraft
100,000 soldiers (Army, Navy and Police)
90 Armored Vehicles
250 artillery
58 aircraft
4 Warships (Naval blockade of the Port of Santos)
Casualties and losses
2,500 estimated dead
unknown number of wounded
1,050 estimated dead
3,800 wounded

The Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932 (sometimes also referred to as Paulista War or Brazilian Civil War[1]) is the name given to the uprising of the population of the Brazilian state of São Paulo against the Brazilian Revolution of 1930 when Getúlio Vargas assumed the nation's Presidency; Vargas was supported by the people, the military and the political elites of Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraíba. The movement grew out of local resentment from the fact that Vargas ruled by decree, unbound by a Constitution, in a provisional government. The 1930 Revolution also affected São Paulo by eroding the autonomy that states enjoyed during the term of the 1891 Constitution and preventing the inauguration of the governor of São Paulo, Júlio Prestes, in the Presidency of the Republic, while simultaneously overthrowing President Washington Luís, who was governor of São Paulo from 1920 to 1924. These events marked the end of the First Republic. Vargas appointed a northeasterner as governor of São Paulo.

The Revolution's main goal was to press the provisional government headed by Getúlio Vargas to adopt and then abide by a new Constitution, since the elected President Prestes was kept from taking office. However, as the movement developed and resentment against President Vargas and his revolutionary government grew deeper, it came to advocate the overthrow of the Federal Government, and it was even speculated that one of the Revolutionaries' goals was the secession of São Paulo from the Brazilian federation. However, it is noted that the separatist scenario was used as a guerrilla tactic by the Federal Government to turn the population in the rest of the country against the state of São Paulo, broadcasting the alleged separatist threat throughout the country. There is no evidence that the movement's commanders sought separatism.

The uprising began on July 9 1932, after four protesting students were killed by government troops on May 23 1932. On the wake of their deaths, a movement called MMDC (from the initials of the names of each of the four students killed, Martins, Miragaia, Dráusio and Camargo) started. A fifth victim, Alvarenga, was also shot that night, but died months later.

In a few months, the state of São Paulo rebelled against the federal government. Counting on the solidarity of the political elites of two other powerful states, (Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul), the politicians from São Paulo expected a quick war. However, that solidarity was never translated into actual support, and the São Paulo revolt was militarily crushed on October 2, 1932. In total, there were 87 days of fighting (July 9 to October 4, 1932—with the last two days after the surrender of São Paulo), with a balance of 934 official deaths, though non-official estimates report up to 2,200 dead, and many cities in the state of São Paulo suffered damage due to fighting.

In spite of its military defeat, some of the movement's main demands were finally granted by Vargas afterwards: the appointment of a non-military state Governor, the election of a Constituent Assembly and, finally, the enactment of a new Constitution in 1934. However that Constitution was short-lived, as in 1937, amidst growing extremism on the left and right wings of the political spectrum, Vargas closed the National Congress and enacted another Constitution, which established the so-called Estado Novo after a coup d'état.

July 9 marks the beginning of the Revolution of 1932, and is a holiday and the most important civic date of the state of São Paulo. The Paulistas (as the inhabitants of São Paulo are known) consider the Revolution of 1932 as the greatest movement of its civic history. It was the first major revolt against the government of Getúlio Vargas.

The Paulistas and Federal Forces[edit]

Paulista propaganda poster during the time

According to García de Gabiola, when the revolution began the Paulistas only swayed one of the 8 divisions of the Brazilian Army (the 2nd Division, based in São Paulo), and with half of the Mixed Brigade based in the southern part of Mato Grosso. These forces were reinforced by the Força Pública Paulista (the military police of São Paulo state), and the MMDC militias. In all, there were some 11,000–15,000 men at the beginning of the conflict, later joined by thousands of volunteers.[2] In fact, according to authors such as Hilton, São Paulo equipped some 40 battalions of volunteers, but García de Gabiola states that he has identified even up to 80 of them, of some 300 men each.[3] At the end, taking into account that in the São Paulo state armory's there were only between 15,000 and 29,000 rifles depending on the source, the Paulistas were never able to arm more than 35,000 men maximum.[4] Additionally, the Paulistas had only 6 million cartridges, failing their attempts to acquire some additional 500 million, so, for an army of some 30,000 men fighting for 3 months, it represented a mere 4.4 cartridges a day per soldier.[5] Against them Brazil equipped approximately 100,000 men, but taking into account that a third of this amount never went to the front (they were kept to protect the rearguards and for security purposes in the other states), their numerical superiority was of some 2 to 1.[6]

Course of the conflict[edit]

Rebel soldiers entrenched in the outskirts of Amparo

The main front was initially the eastern Paraíba Valley that led to Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of Brazil. The 2nd Division, revolted and advanced against Rio de Janeiro, but was stopped dead by the loyal 1st Division based there under the command of general Góis Monteiro, on the border between the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. According to Hilton,[7] general Tasso Fragoso, the chief of staff of the Brazilian Army, tried to oppose the deployment to the 1st Division in the valley, for being friendly to the rebels, but according to García de Gabiola[8] he was likely just trying to protect the government based in Rio de Janeiro in case of a similar revolt happening there. In any case, Góis finally imposed over Fragoso and the 1st Division was placed there just in time to block the Paulista advance. In the Paraíba, Góis Monteiro created the East Detachment, reaching some 34,000 men, against some 20,000 Paulistas, but after 3 months of trench warfare and despite advancing some 70 km, the government forces were still some 150 km far from the capital São Paulo when the war ended.[9]

In the south of São Paulo state, the government forces created the South Detachment, made of the federal 3rd and 5th divisions, 3 cavalry divisions and the gaucho brigade of Rio Grande do Sul reaching 18,000 men against just 3-5,000 Paulistas depending on the date. The federals broke through the rebel defensive line in Itararé on July 17, producing the largest advance in the war, but they were still very far from São Paulo when the war ended.[10] Finally, the decisive front was the Minas Gerais Front, that was only active after August 2. The 4th Federal Division, based there, with the Police of Minais Gerais and other states' troops, broke through the rebel defensive line in Eleutério (a district of Itapira) on August 26, advancing some 50 km towards Campinas, adding 18,000 soldiers against some 7,000 Paulistas. In any case, there were just some 70 km to São Paulo. The Paulistas surrendered in October 2 to general Valdomiro Lima, uncle of Getúlio's wife, Darci Vargas.[11]

Naval Task Force and naval blockade of São Paulo[edit]

The cruiser Rio Grande do Sul of the Brazilian Navy

In the naval theater of conflict the Brazilian Navy had designated a naval task force to blockade the main port of the state of São Paulo, the Port of Santos, aiming to cut the only supply line of the rebels by sea.

On July 10 the destroyer Mato Grosso (CT-10) left the port of Rio de Janeiro. The next day, the cruiser Rio Grande do Sul escorted by two destroyers, Pará (CT-2) and Sergipe (CT-7), also left. To support the mission, the Naval Aviation sent three Savoia-Marchetti S-55A (numbers 1, 4 and 8) and two Martim PM (numbers 111 and 112). These five planes left Galeão on July 12. All were provisionally based at the coves of the Island of São Sebastião, near the village of Vila Bela (current Ilhabela). The Navy also intended to send some Vought Corsair O2U-2A for Vila Bela, but the Naval Aviation did not trust them to operate as floatplanes from the coves of the island, so it decided to expand the small airstrip next to the village so that they could operate with landing gear.

Aviation in the Constitutionalist War[edit]

Government plane shot down by rebel troops

Aviation played a role in the 1932 Revolution, although both sides had few aircraft. The federal government had approximately 58 aircraft divided between the Navy and the Army, as the Air Force at this time did not constitute an independent branch. In contrast, the Paulistas had only two Potez 25 planes and two Waco CSO, plus a small number of private aircraft. In late July, the rebel government acquired another device, brought by lieutenant Artur Mota Lima, who deserted the field of Afonsos, in Rio de Janeiro. The vermelhinhos (English: little red ones), as the federal government aircraft were called, not only acted in the front lines, but were also used to bomb several cities in São Paulo, including Campinas, which caused major damage. They also served as a propaganda weapon, dropping leaflets on enemy cities and local concentration of rebel troops. Already the aircraft of Units Constitutionalists Airlines (UAC) known as "hawks plume", little could do.

Building destroyed by loyalist aerial bombing in Campinas
Rebel infantry advancing under government air attack

Still, they performed two notable feats: on September 12, in a surprise attack on Mogi Mirim (already in the control of Eurico Dutra), managed to disable five of the seven federal aircraft stationed there before they could take off; on the 24th, three rebel Curtiss Falcons attacked the cruiser Rio Grande do Sul, at anchor in Santos, in order to relax the blockade of the local port. In this attack one of the aircraft exploded in the air, killing the pilot and co-pilot. The other two machines, however, managed to accomplish the mission. Two months earlier, on July 23, Santos Dumont, depressed by the use of aircraft as a weapon of war, committed suicide in Guarujá.

At the beginning of hostilities, the government aviation was better served by aerial means. Military Aviation were mobilized: the Joint Aviation Group, with twelve Potez 25 aircraft TOE observation and bombing and five Waco CSO aircraft armed with machine guns and bombs; the Military Aviation School, with an Amiot 122 bomber, one Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 72 and eleven Havilland DH 60T Moth trainers, updated in connection missions, observation and adjustment of artillery fire.

The Naval Aviation mobilized the 18th Division Note with four aircraft Vought O2U Corsair and the Flotilla Joint Patrol Aircraft Independent three planes Martin PM and seven Savoia-Marchetti S.55. To link tasks, reconnaissance and observation, was also available twelve De Havilland DH 60, two Avro 504.

Curtiss Falcon, main vector of the rebel aviation

If the first step was to mobilize existing resources, the second, both loyalists as Constitutionalists, was acquiring complementary means necessarily imported, since the local industry was unable to produce them. Contracts negotiated by the federal government, only one, on the purchase of thirty-six Waco C90, materialized quickly enough to allow for operational use in the conflict. Of the thirty-six, only ten were mounted in time to have effective participation still with particularity. The intention was to use C90 Waco primarily as fighter aircraft, and secondarily as bombing and observation. The contract specified the installation 7mm machine guns, with the purpose of using ammunition ever made in the country for weapons of the same caliber used in the infantry. However, because air munitions and land have distinct characteristics, the machine guns of Waco C90, often jam after the first bursts. The aircraft then went to meet primarily bombing and observation missions, and the few whose guns accepted the autochthonous ammunition were intensely ordered and commuted to the three fronts, primarily performing fighter missions.

For the rebels, difficulties in material procurement were significantly higher. The negotiations in New York City, for example, with Consolidated Aircraft for the purchase of ten aircraft Fleet 10D, when nearly completed, were aborted by direct intervention of the Brazilian government with the Department of State.

Only even through triangular operation in Buenos Aires in order to circumvent provisions of the Havana Treaty, it was possible to acquire ten aircraft (only 4 arrived in rebel aviation) Curtiss Falcon in the assembly plant of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Los Cerrillos, Chile, the amount of US$292,500. Were robust aircraft equipped with engine Curtiss D-12 435 H. P., top speed of 224 km / h, action radius of 1,000 km and a ceiling of 4,600 m, capable of carrying out bombing attacks. Without a doubt, were the most improved aircraft that participated in the air battle.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

The Revolution plays a key role in the setting of Peter Fleming's book Brazilian Adventure, an offbeat portrayal by a foreigner caught in the midst of the fighting.


See also[edit]


Silva, Herculano. A Revolução Constitucionalista. Rio de Janeiro. Civilização Brasileira Editora. 1932.

García de Gabiola, Javier. 1932 São Paulo en Armas. Historia y Vida 535. October 2012. Barcelona. Prisma Editorial. Planeta.

Hilton, Stanley. A Guerra Civil Brasileira (The Brazilian Civil War). Rio de Janeiro. Nova Fronteira, 1982.


  1. ^ Hilton, Stanley (1982). A Guerra Civil Brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira.
  2. ^ For the units involved see García de Gabiola. For the strength of the units see both Hilton and Garcia de Gabiola
  3. ^ See Hilton and García de Gabiola
  4. ^ See both Hilton and García de Gabiola.
  5. ^ See both Hilton and García de Gabiola. The calculation of the 4.4 cartridges has been made by Garcia de Gabiola
  6. ^ See García de Gabiola
  7. ^ Stanley Hilton. A Guerra Civil Brasileira. Río de Janeiro. Nova Fronteira, 1982.
  8. ^ Javier García de Gabiola. 1932, Sao Paulo en Armas. Historia y Vida 535. 2012
  9. ^ See both Hilton and García de Gabiola for troop strength, Silva for details of the operations, and Garcia de Gabiola for a summary of them
  10. ^ See both Hilton and García de Gabiola for troops strength, Silva for details of the operations, and Garcia de Gabiola for a summary of them and for military units
  11. ^ See both Hilton and García de Gabiola for troops strength for the gen. Waldomiro Lima, uncle of the Getulio's wife, Darcy, Silva for details of the operations, and Garcia de Gabiola for a summary of them and for military units
  12. ^ "O emprego do avião na Revolução Constitucionalista de 1932". Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2016.