Honorific orders are awarded to an exceptional person or entity whenever it is deemed that they have performed distinguished services to that country in a specific field. In this article we will take a look at Brazil’s main honorific orders.
Different types of honorific orders
There are three special types of honorific orders in Brazil: National, Civil and Military.
The Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul, which cannot be awarded to Brazilians is the highest honorific order that the President of Brazil can award to a foreigner who has contributed significantly to Brazil in a specific field of expertise. Its origin dates back to 1822, when Brazil declared independence from Portugal. Dom Pedro I appropriated himself of all Portuguese honorific orders. Its concession takes place by means of a presidential decree, setting up an act of Foreign Relations. The grand master of the order is the President of the Republic, followed by the Minister of Foreign Relations. Amongst others, foreigners who have been awarded with the Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul:
- Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria
- Nicolas Sarkozy, former President of France
- Alberto Fujimori, former President of Peru
- Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom
- Josip Broz Tito, former President of Yugoslavia
- Che Guevara, one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution
- Yuri Gagarin, first man who traveled to space
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, former President of the United States of America
The Ordem de Rio Branco was created in 1970 and can be awarded to either Brazilian, foreign individuals or entities. This honorific order is given to those who deserve recognition from the Brazilian Government for lifetime achievements and contributions to the government. Foreign Relations ministers, diplomats and former Brazilian presidents are usually awarded this medal.
The Ordem do Congresso Nacional was created in 1972 and is awarded to individuals who have provided outstanding services to Brazil, particularly to the Legislative Power. The grand master of the order is the President of the Republic and its vice grand master of the order is the President of the Chamber of Deputies.
The Ordem do Mérito Cartográfico was created in 1970 and rewards cartographers who have provided outstanding services to Brazil.
The Ordem Nacional do Mérito Científico was created in 1993 and is granted to individuals in recognition of their scientific and technical contributions to the development of science in Brazil.
The Ordem do Mérito Médico was created in 1950 and aims to reward doctors that have provided outstanding services to Brazil or to authors who have contributed relevant papers for medical studies.
The Ordem do Mérito do Trabalho was created in 1950 and aims to reward employers and employees who, by their activities in the fields of labor, production and welfare are worthy of national gratitude.
The Ordem do Mérito Educativo was created in 1955 to reward individuals that have made outstanding contributions to Brazil in the field of education.
The Ordem do Mérito Judiciário do Trabalho which was created in 1970, rewards individuals who have distinguished themselves in their profession and have made outstanding contributions to communities as well as those that have contributed to Labor Justice or any other branch of the Judiciary. Lawyers can also be honored.
The Ordem do Mérito Desportivo Universitário was created in 1962 to reward individuals that have provided exceptional services to college sports, or where an individual was an exceptional college athlete.
The Ordem do Mérito das Comunicações which was created in 1982, is given to individuals as a way to recognize the importance of their services in the field of communications.
The Ordem do Mérito Cultural was created in 1991 and rewards individuals for their contributions to Brazilian culture.
The Medalha do Mérito Mauá was reinstituted in 1999 to reward individuals that have contributed to the development of the Transport Sector in Brazil.
The Ordem do Mérito Militar which was created in 1934, is to reward militaryand civilian institutions who have provided outstanding services to the Brazilian armed land forces.
The Ordem do Mérito Naval was created in 1934 and rewards Navy officers who have distinguished themselves in their profession and civil entities and also individuals that have performed outstanding services to the Navy.
The Ordem do Mérito Aeronáutico was created in 1943 and rewards Air Force officers as well as civil corporations and individuals who have provided outstanding services to the Air Force.
The Ordem do Mérito da Defesa which was originally called Ordem do Mérito das Forças Armadas, was created in 2002 and rewards individuals and entities who provided distinguished services to the Armed Forces.
The Ordem do Mérito do Judiciário Militar which was created in 1957, aims to reward members of the Military Justice apparatus as well as foreign individuals and entities who performed outstanding work in favor of the Military Justice.
The Ordem do Mérito do Ministério Público Militar was created in 1999 to reward those individuals and entities who provided distinguished services to the Military Prosecution Office in Brazil.
The Medalha da Vitória was created in 2004 in recognition of the efforts made by the Brazilian military who acted in defense of freedom and world peace, especially the Brazilian Expeditionary Force during World War 2. Those who provided outstanding services participating in missions that reflected the best interest of Brazil, as well as those who participated in peacekeeping missions are also rewarded with this medal.
The Medalha do Mérito Tamandaré was created in 1957 and is awarded to those who have contributed with outstanding services disseminating or strengthening the traditions of the Brazilian Navy.
The Medalha do Mérito Santos-Dumont was created in 1956 and is awarded to those who have contributed with outstanding services in spreading or strengthening the traditions of the Brazilian Air Force.
The Medalha do Pacificador was created in 1953 and is awarded to those who have provided outstanding services disseminating or strengthening the traditions of the Brazilian Army.
As always, giving honorific orders to some individuals may generate controversy, especially when the highest honor a country can award to a foreign individual is given to someone who attracts international attention. This is the case of Brazilian presidents awarding the Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul to individuals like Che Guevara, Josip Broz Tito, Alberto Fujimori and Bashar Al-Assad.
Che Guevara receiving the Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul in 1961 was controversial as Brazil was technically allied with the United States of America in the Cold War and Che Guevara helped Fidel Castro in his pro-soviet Cuban Revolution.
Giving the Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul award to Josip Broz Tito in 1963, to Alberto Fujimori in 1999 and to Bashar Al-Assad in 2010 also raised controversy due to their reputation as dictatorial leaders.