Brazil and "Quilombos".....more after effects of slavery.

Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2006 05:41 am
This story from Al Jazeera.net caught my eye, and led to me doing a bit of hunting.

Who knew that Brazil had the largest black population in the world after Nigeria?

(Probably the same number as know that Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city outside of Athens!)

Anyhoo, the more I read about these people, the more interested I became.

Man, Brazil is an interesting country.

Brazil's slave descendants seek justice
By Gibby Zobel in Sao Paulo

Tuesday 29 November 2005, 5:44 Makka Time, 2:44 GMT

Quilombos are descendants of African slaves brought to Brazil

Brazilian descendants of runaway slaves, known as quilombos, are hoping a new law will finally give them the right over their own land.

Last week, they marched on the capital, Brasilia, with other black groups demanding racial equality.

The march, called Zumbi+10 Against Racism and for Equality and Life, was the second modern mobilisation of the largest black population in the world after Nigeria.

According to the federal police, an estimated 7000 people participated in the march which was backed by the Roman Catholic Church, trade unions, the landless and several political parties, notably the governing Workers' party.

At the end of the march, black leaders met the heads of both parliamentary chambers and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In 1995, a similar march commemorated the 300th anniversary of the killing of Zumbi, the iconic leader of Quilombo dos Palmeres, a community of 30,000 people quashed by the military.

Racial democracy

The proposed racial equality law is expected to bring together a host of measures for Afro-Brazilians, including combating illnesses that effect only the black population, introducing quotas in private and public education, and recognising the quilombos' rights to their settlements.

Currently, only 119 of more than 1000 Afro-Brazilian communities have been given titles to their land.

Portrait of Zumbi, icon of Afro-
Brazilian resistance to slavery

Aldo Rebelo, President of the House of Deputies, said he hoped the statute for racial equality would be voted on as soon as possible during November, the month of black consciousness.

"I have an absolute conviction that Brazil will only be a true, profound and enduring democracy when it is a political, social economic and also racial democracy.

"When all Brazilians, independent of their colour, their social condition, culture or religion have access to citizenship," he told Aljazeera.net.

Quilombos, who are descendants of three million African slaves brought to Brazil, formed their own communities in remote parts of Brazil, keeping their own distinct traditions and culture.

Segregated, many of these communities have not changed in centuries living on subsistence agriculture and self-medication from passed-down knowledge of preparing herbs. Language, religion and culture survive from their African roots.

Land rights

In the past decade, quilombos have been linking up with black non-governmental organisations and pressure groups to press for rights, winning their first land recognition in 1995 in Oriximina in the northern state of Para, covering 665,000 hectares of Amazonian forest.

Maria do Carmo de Oliveira de Jesus, 42, a quilombo mother of six, says the land victory led to other progressive moves, such as the setting up of a women's rights group.

"There I go to search for my rights, I didn't know I had them and I didn't know them"

Maria do Carmo Oliveira de Jesus,
Quilombo mother of six

"There I go to search for my rights, I didn't know I had them and I didn't know them. Now I go certain that I will know much more," she said.

More quilombos have started to integrate with the rest of Brazilian society, like the simply-named Quilombo in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The first of only two in the state to win their land rights, the community has a shop to sell artists' crafts and to teach visitors of their rich history.

Brazils' blacks in general suffer from extreme inequality - on average earning half of their white counterparts, and illiteracy rates of 33% compared to 7% for whites.

Blacks also have 87% more chance of being assassinated, according to IBGE, the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics.

Race-poverty link

Half the country's 180 million people are of African descent. The correlation between race and poverty is all too evident - 70% of those living below the poverty line, principally in favelas, or slums, are black.

Since it became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888, Brazil has prided itself in evolving into a racial democracy, an idea the holds fast today. But black organisations are few and far between and debate about racism is rarely heard.

Blacks make up 70% of those
living below the poverty line

Only 6% of Brazilians consider themselves black, most opting to be described as mestizo, or mixed race.

In a 1991 census when asked to describe their colour, the government documented more than 300 different hues in the responses.

"I think it is a lie about racial democracy because the powerful still have an interest in this idea. It's a kind of fantasy and a kind of camouflage," says Joni Anderson, who set up a black model agency, Agencia Noir, in 1998.

Only one black woman has won the title of Miss Brazil in 50 years......[/b]


A story about one Quilombo community:

Brazil 'ex-slaves' recover tradition

By Isabel Murray
Sao Paulo, Brazil

The quilombo aims to recover traditions
Property speculation is threatening the stability of 30 families who live in a "quilombo" - a community established by runaway slaves located in Brazil's richest state, Sao Paulo.

The Brotas Quilombo lies on the outskirts of the town of Itatiba, and is just 89 kilometres from the state capital, the modern mega city of Sao Paulo, but stepping into the quilombo is like taking a trip back in time.

Located alongside the dirt roads, which have no public lighting, the old houses are home to 127 people who are trying to maintain the historical traditions of their ancestors who arrived here from Africa.

The task they face is an uphill one.

Brazil is generally regarded as one of the last countries to have abolished slavery, which it did in 1888.

Paulo's ancestors were freed slaves
Prior to this, many slaves had already been freed.

And many of those who remained slaves, refused to obey the orders of their white masters, and fled to live in the quilombos, which were hidden deep in the forests.

Brazil currently has 743 quilombos that are already officially recognized or asked to be recognised by the federal government. However, the unofficial estimate is that there are around 2,000 such communities.

Our priority is the recovery of our traditions, of the connection between Brazil and Africa

Paulo Sergio Marciano, Communications Director for the Brotas Quilombo

"My ancestors were freed slaves," recounts Paulo Sergio Marciano, Communications Director for the Brotas Quilombo. "Some time around 1850, they sold everything they had, the crops they had planted and harvested and the animals they had raised, and bought this property, which was already the site of a quilombo, with the proceeds.

"For the people who sold them the land, it was good deal, as by doing so, they managed to get rid of land that was being squatted on."

Poor community

"Today, eight generations later, most of the residents of the quilombo are of mixed race," Paulo adds. "But our priority is the recovery of our traditions, of the connection between Brazil and Africa."

The community is a very poor one, and very few of the residents have any sort of professional training. Some of them work in the nearby town and others look after the community's vegetable garden.

Paulo wants to change this reality and has plans to set up a museum within the quilombo, and establish an eco-tourism site.

Visitors come to the Brotas Quilombo's cult-house
At present most of those who visit the place are people on their way to the cult-house of the Afro-Brazilian religion "umbanda", which holds its ceremonies in one of the local houses.

According to Paulo, this cult is frequented by a number of important Brazilian politicians, and even on occasion by foreigners, in search of "good vibes".

The smallholding, which covers just over 42 acres, is surrounded by the native tropical vegetation and borders an area that is being split into lots and sold off as part of a property development.

The deeds from when the quilombo was purchased do not provide exact details as to the area included. For this reason, it is proving hard to demonstrate that the original quilombo covered a far larger area than it currently does, and that a substantial part of its land has been occupied by the construction project.

The Quilombo houses are basic forest-dwellings
"We had to lay pipes under the neighbouring property because it was necessary, but we had authorisation from the president of the quilombo," claimed Luciano Consolini Filho, who is one of the owners of the site that is being turned into a condominium.

"In exchange, we were going to carry out some improvements in the quilombo, but the state's environment department has not yet given us the go-ahead," he explained.

The solving of this confusing situation will depend on the opinion of the State of Sao Paulo's Land Institute, the government department that is going to undertake a proper mapping of the area.........

Full BBC Story

And more:

As Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, BBC Brasil's Paulo Cabral travels through remote mountains, arid countryside and deep jungle to find out what 21st Century politics mean in the Brazil that normally goes unreported.

High in the mountains of Pernambuco State, with only a single, precarious access road, is the village of Conceicao das Crioulas.

Its isolation is not accidental. The community started life as a quilombo - a settlement formed by escaped black slaves out of the reach of the farmers.

The quilombos were formed by escaped slaves

But in the past 20 years the "quilombolas" - those from the quilombos - have come out of their isolation to fight for the legal right of possession of land that was once occupied by their ancestors - a right that is now guaranteed by federal law.

"In the past this place wasn't involved in politics - candidates only came every four years seeking votes," says Aparecida Mendes, the president of the Quilombola Association.

"But, from the 1980s on, some people here began to look outside and see the strength of the quilombos and black movements across Brazil," she says.

Click here to read Paulo's answers to your questions about his trip
Two years ago, the 4,000 inhabitants of the quilombo secured the legal ownership of the land they lived on, after long anthropological studies confirmed the origin of the village.

But rural worker Andrelino Antonio Mendes explains that the problem is still far from solved.

Environmental damage

The farmers that have been occupying lands in the area since the beginning of the 20th Century have not left yet, he says.

"The best lands are under these farmers' fences. The quilombolas can only plant on the hills," says Andrelino.

The community has secured the rights to the land it inhabits

"As well as the fact that the land is not good, this damages the environment," he adds, comparing the current farmers to the owners of sugar farms before slavery was banned in 1888.

The quilombo of Conceicao das Crioulas is said to have been founded in the 18th Century by six black women and one black man.

They may have fled a farmer or even another quilombo, but there is no documentation about where they came from and popular folklore sheds little light on it.

In 1808, the "crioulas" managed to buy the lands they were occupying, and the proof of this agreement was one of the most important issues when the current inhabitants sought the possession of the land.

Female leadership

Women still play a leading role in the running of the community.

"The men know that the quilombo was founded by six women and only one man and that the women are the real leaders," said craftswoman Valdeci Maria da Silva, laughing.

"No one gets upset about that. But today there are a lot of men working with us."

Presidential election
First round: 6 October
Run-off: 27 October
Key candidates
Key presidential candidates:

Jose Serra - ruling centrist coalition
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Workers' Party
Ciro Gomes - centre-left Labour Front coalition
Anthony Garotinho - Socialist Party candidate

The main representative of the quilombo outside the village is Gilmaria Silva, a councillor in the city of Salgueiro, of which Conceicao das Crioulas is a district.

"She is the first black woman to become a councillor in Salgueiro," many inhabitants of Conceicao das Crioulas told me proudly.

Community members meet once a month to discuss their problems.

"There's still a lot to be done and achieved. Sometimes it gives us a sense of desperation, but we already have a very good group of people that are concerned and that take part in the life of the community," said the councillor, Gilmaria......

Full BBC story

Brazil's 'Africans' seek equality

Most of Brazil's poor neighbourhoods are black

By Tom Gibb in Sao Paulo
Brazil has often been described as a country that has managed to achieve racial harmony.

However, today there is a growing black movement arguing that Brazilians of African decent are grossly under-represented and are barred by poverty from many of the privileges enjoyed by those of European descent.

Three hundred years of slavery, 300 years of submission - it's hard to teach people to change that mind-set

Father Alexander Coelho

At the centre of the movement are communities originally founded by former slaves - which are now demanding titles to their land.

The small fishing community of Camburi lies on an isolated white sandy beach surrounded by thick tropical forest. In past centuries, this made it a perfect place for a hideout for runaway slaves - or Quilombo - as such settlements are called.

Brazil - racially varied, but divides remain

Genesio dos Santos, aged 74, was born here and remembers his relatives talking about how the village was founded. Today he is leading the villagers' demands to be given land.

"My uncles, like Uncle Fernando, lived to 105. My mother lived to a 103. So we can trace our family back more than three hundred years," he says.

"But today, we are not able to use the land as we would like. I'm sure however that my wife and others that follow will have that liberty to live here as they please," he adds.....



Analysis: Brazil's 'racial democracy'

Indigenous groups are holding a counter celebration

By Jan Rocha
Brazil is celebrating its 500th anniversary: 500 years since "discovery" or "invasion", depending on whether you were a Portuguese explorer or one of the millions of indigenous peoples who already lived there.

The date has made Brazilians think about their origins, the racial mix of Indians, Africans and Europeans which has produced today's population, and the claim that Brazil is a racial democracy.

No other country outside Africa has such a large black population, about half the total of 160 million, yet blacks are almost totally absent from positions of power - from all levels of government, from congress, senate, the judiciary, the higher ranks of the civil service and the armed forces.

In Brazil what counts is appearance. If you look white, or white-ish, then you are white.

Even in Salvador, the capital and major slave port for nearly 300 years, where blacks make up more than 80% of the population, very few are to be found in government.

And incredibly, up until the 1970s even Salvador's carnival parade was for whites - blacks could only push the floats, not dance around them. That situation only came to an end when a group of blacks set up their own black-only Carnival group, Ile Ayie, meaning big house in Yoruba.

They also started a school to teach black children their own history - about the many slave rebellions, uprisings and quilombos (free territories) set up by runaways - usually excluded from official schoolbooks.

Slave trade

Up to eight million Africans from all over the continent were brought to Brazil between 1540 and 1850, when the traffic was stopped, although slavery was only finally abolished in 1888.

Most freed slaves were then turned out to become vagrants, homeless, jobless, penniless, while the authorities, alarmed that the majority of the population was now black or mixed race, did everything to encourage European immigration to "whiten" Brazil.

This policy lasted well into the 20th century, until the writings of influential sociologist Gilberto Freyre in the 1930s showed that the country's racial mixture could be seen in a positive light and the idea that Brazil was an example to the world in racial harmony was born.

The Portuguese arrived in Brazil 500 years ago

But in 1946 a Unesco study revealed that while most Brazilians approved of racial tolerance, in practice racial discrimination was widespread.

Fifty years later in 1999, a report by the Minority Rights Group International showed that discrimination had continued: black and mixed race Brazilians still have higher infant mortality rates, fewer years of schooling, higher rates of unemployment, and earn less for the same work.

Black men are more likely to be shot or arrested as crime suspects, and when found guilty, get longer sentences......

BBC story continues here


Interesting contrasts...and similarities, and fascinating upkeep of traditional lore....

Oh well, I was interested...lol!
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Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2006 08:02 am
Re: Brazil and "Quilombos".....more after effects
dlowan wrote:
Who knew that Brazil had the largest black population in the world after Nigeria?

Hmmm...doubt it very much!

It leads to the definition of "Black"

I've been in Rio for a while and just checked some figures right now:

Percentage of "completely" black people : 11%
Percentage of "Mixed" (more than 1/8 black blood) 22%
Percentage of white people: 55%
(The missing percentages are Amerindians and mixed Indians)
Total population of Brazil: 186 Million.
Total population of Nigeria: 127 Million.

0 Replies
Reply Tue 3 Jan, 2006 02:52 pm
That is odd to Australian ears these days (it didn't used to be in the heady days of world eugenics).

Here, people self describe as Aboriginal when they are blonder than I....there is no talk of what mix they are.

I am assuming the article was looking at "mixes" as well.

I have no idea if the figures are correct...but to tell, you'd have to look at populations betweem Nigeria's and Brazil's...if there are any.

But hey, at least you dropped in!
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 06:37 am
There was a great Brazilian telenovela about five years ago called Xica De Silva about a historical figure who was a slave girl who rose to power. Also the writer Jorge Amado has frequently treated the subject of blacks and African religious influence in Brazil.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 06:50 am
He writes novels?

Are they good?
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 02:59 pm
The novels of Jorge Amado such as Doña Flor And Her Two Husbands are wonderful and they're all available in English. Many have been made into movies as well (not in English).
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:05 pm
By the way, Pitter, I've seen Xica da Silva but it was ten years ago.

And Jorge Ben has a terrific song about her...
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:05 pm
Arrr...I shall look them up.

I find novels to be a wonderful way of learning about a culture, and Brazil's seems fascinating.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:11 pm
Deb, it is...
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:12 pm
Amado's Gabrielia, Cloves and Cinnamon is wonderful.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:32 pm
Yes, Noddy, when I read about that girl I almost can smell those scents...
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 03:55 pm
Francis was it that long ago? Oh well. I watched it (in Spanish for the rest of Latin America and the US)) for about a year. Really enjoyed it. Another one that came after that was called "Pantanal" I think, also terrific. The Brazillians seem to produce great telenovelas. The big favorite in Colombia right now is Colombian made "Los Reyes" a kind of Colombian "Beverly Hillbillies". My wife loves it. I miss a lot of the jokes but the caracters are very funny. No where near the caliber of the Brazillian novelas though.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 04:00 pm
Pitter, Xica da Silva was the only one I watched, not being that much in telenovelas, because of it's historical connotation.
But I remember the madness of the people around the time it was broadcasted, what an addiction!
0 Replies
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2006 05:25 pm
So...Francis...you understand Portuguese?
0 Replies
Reply Sun 8 Jan, 2006 04:11 am
Yes, Deb, it's one of the languages I speak rather fluently...
0 Replies

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