The Baron of Rio Branco

The Baron of Rio-Branco was the most important Brazilian diplomat of all times and his work in posts abroad and as Minister of External Relations earned him the title of patron of Brazilian diplomacy. Among the various special missions he led, Rio-Branco defended the Brazilian rights, during the culminating phase of the multi-secular dispute between Brazil and France, concerning the border between Brazil and French Guyana. The final phase of this litigation took place in Berne, where the Baron resided for almost two years, in order to monitor closely  the progress of the judgment of the defenses presented by the two countries to the Swiss Federal Council (arbitral authority chosen by mutual agreement between the two Parties). During this period, in addition to the difficult and delicate requirement to always remain available to clarify doubts that might arise during the trial and to monitor the complex unfolding of the arbitration authority’s work, Rio-Branco was also led to engage in an intense entertainment activity, and, at his residence in Berne, he used gastronomy as a complementary diplomatic tool, to always maintain alive the sympathy he was able to garner by involving the Swiss authorities, the Bernese society as well as the residente foreign diplomatic in that capital. This intense parallel social activity won him general admiration and goodwill. The present work seeks to describe the way in which the Baron added gastronomy to his arsenal of diplomatic instruments. Naturally, it was not by making use of gastronomy that led Brazil to obtain the favorable arbitration award, but the facts laid out in this work show that its contribution did not fail to play an important role in the decision that resulted in Brazil’s definitive incorporation of 260,000 square kilometers into its territory.

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