The construction of a new capital of Brazil, named Brasília, has been discussed since the revolutionary movement struggled for full independence from Portuguese colonial power and creation of a Brazilian republic. The capital of Rio de Janeiro was a symbol of Portuguese rule and exploitation. The construction of this new metropolis attracted a tremendous workforce flow from all parts of the country, living in tent, board and clay barracks. The squalid living conditions and the unbri-dled exploitation of the construction workers in Brasília were covered up by inten-sive government propaganda that trumpeted nationalist ideas of development. It was there and at that time, that Paulo Freire and his collaborators first investigated their concept of the “vocabulary universe” (universo vocabular). The pilot campaign in Brasília was the only finished practical experience of the famed National Plan for Alphabetization having been put forward by the reformist government of João Goulart. Paulo Freire was personally involved in the management of the pilot where his system and methods were to be employed the first-time on a national scale. This ex-post analysis is able to highlight the political and pedagogical challenges and di- lemmas Freire, his then wife Elza, and his team from Recife, encountered in their innovative approach to overcome illiteracy.
Keywords: Paulo Freire, Literacy, Brasilia – Pilot Campain, Praxis, Critical The-ory, Liberatio