Skip to main content

In this sampling, the oldest document is a letter dated April 13, 1891, written by Oswaldo Cruz when he was a college student pining for his young fiancée Emília (nicknamed Miloca), who was on vacation in the spa town of Caxambu, Minas Gerais. The collection ends with another letter posted from Petropolis on February 27, 1915, this one to Miloca as his wife, in London with their children and son-in-law. This last missive contains a humorous description of the year’s Carnival: “shamefully indecent,” songs with “obscene lyrics” abounding, and people walking around practically naked. Cruz was particularly struck by a costume of the Kaiser and another of a woman in a one-piece bathing suit “with a huge dog stuck to her derriere!” He also mentions the carriage accident in Petropolis involving former President Hermes da Fonseca and his wife, Nair de Tefé.

During his expeditions to distant corners of the country and on his international travels as a representative of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute and the General Directorate of Public Health, Cruz maintained diligent communications with his wife. These letters illustrate behavior that can be considered unusual for its day—for example, Cruz asked his wife’s advice before making decisions about his career or about strategies related to public health issues. The careful researcher will also discover that some excerpts of these letters are also found in the reports submitted at the close of each scientific expedition. Of special note is a small set of letters and postcards mailed between the months of November and December of 1907, when Cruz, who was returning from Berlin, was asked to go to Mexico to attend the 4th Latin American Sanitary Convention and to the United States as well, where he was to visit Washington and New York. While in New York, Cruz expressed his delight about American habits, the comfort of the hotels there, and the busy streets: “All of their street cars are electric, and they move along at a frightening speed. In addition to the street cars, which rush by one after the other, forming a nearly unbroken line, there is an underground train and a number of elevated ones, so when you are walking down the street, over your head a train quickly speeds by, while under your feet there’s another one. The noise is unbearable and it’s all busy as a beehive”.