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The Person of African Descent in the Culture of Portuguese America

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series

Abstract

Those cultural traits of African origin which survived in the New World did so only in the face of a consistent official policy aimed at the eradication of any and all such carryovers. The Portuguese constructed a framework of civil laws, theological dicta, and custom, which were brought together in a determined effort to extirpate all things African, or those carryovers — be they cultural, behavioural, or linguistic — perceived by the white authorities as challenges to the norms which had been so carefully brought by the Portuguese to Brazil, there to be nurtured through the unremitting efforts of kings, viceroys, governors, and colonists. This policy was to be expressed primarily in the following three ways: outright repression and suppression of African manifestations; total eradication, or substantial curtailment of all factors which indirectly or directly were essential to the continuation of an African tradition; adoption of a series of social mechanisms ranging from friendly persuasion or the offering of bribes to coercion and to physical brutality, by which the Portuguese sought to assimilate traditions believed to be of African origin — and here any trait which was not part of the Portuguese norm would be regarded as deviant, and thus suspect — into the dominant white culture with the avowed aim and hope that such alleged Africanisms would be finally eradicated.

Keywords

African Descent African Origin Early Nineteenth Century Colonial Period African Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    ‘… Faltava remediar no Cerro do frio o erro em q’ ainda hoje selhes consente la, que nas suas festas aclamem e coroem os negros Reys e Raynhas, acto e solemnide que como tão repugnante com a condição humilde de escravos em q’ se devem conservar, ha tempo selhes prohibio em todas estas outras Minas, e porq’ importa mto fazellos reconhecer a sugeição sem a menor liberde e q’ nem pella memoria lhes passe este estimullo e incentivo de mayoria e superioridade que elles no q’ a affectão bem mostrão o mto q’ a dezejão, portanto ordeno q’ selhes não permita daqui em diante este genero de celebride‘, bando of 20 May 1720, APMSG, vol. 11, fol. 288v. The election of kings and queens was widespread in communities of African descent in Latin America: see Fernando Ortiz Fernãndez, La antigua fiesta afro-cubana del ‘Dia de Reyes’ (Havana, 1960);Google Scholar
  2. Carlos M. Rama, Los afro-uruguayos (Montevideo, 1967) p. 29. In Brazil they were in the brotherhoods (Bastide, The African Religions, pp. 345–6; António Lopes, Os palácios, pp. 194–7) and quilombos (Bastide, op. cit., pp. 87–90; APMCMOP, vol. 54, fols 114v–19v; Revista do Archivo Público Mineiro, VIII (1903) 619–21).Google Scholar
  3. See also K. Antonil, Cultura e opulencia, bk 1, ch. 9. On 10 September 1728 viceroy Sabugosa wrote to the king on the general theme of ‘abuses in Bahia’: in his reply of 14 April 1729 the king referred to these, ‘e entre elles vos parecerão mais perniciozos o Reynado dos Negros, e o viverem em cazebres sendo captivos, e os seus folguedos’; by July Sabugosa had acted to stop these abuses, APB, ‘Ordens régias’, vol. 24, docs 46, 46a.Google Scholar
  4. See also René Ribeiro, Religião e relações raciais (Rio de Janeiro, 1956) pp. 68–9. The prevention of festivities formed part of the charges of the capitães do mato, APMCMOP, vol. 32, fols 210–12. On the ‘festa do imperador’ (which still exists) in Salvador, see Ott, Formação e evolução, vol. 2, pp. 111–14.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Vilhena, Recopilação de notícias, vol. 1, p. 135; royal order of 22 March 1814, Rio de Janeiro, APB, ‘Ordens régias’, vol. 116, fols 128–30. The royal prohibition of ‘os ajuntamentos de negros chamados batuques’ was repeated in an aviso of 6 June 1814; governor Arcos had notified the king on 29 May of possible opposition, and the king referred to this in his letter of 12 July referring to ‘os principios e sentimentos de humanidade dos Senhores…’, ibid., fol. 228. Despite the enormous expenditure of ink by scholars on persons of African descent in Brazil, there is no systematic study of these repressive policies to remotely compare to the superb study of suppression of indigenous religious beliefs in colonial Peru by Pierre Duviols, La lutte contra les religions autochtones dans le Pérou colonial. ‘L’ extirpation de l’idôlatrie entre 1532 et 1660’ (Lima, 1971).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    K. Ruth and Seth Leacock, Spirits of the Deep: A Study of an Afro-Brazilian Cult (New York, 1972), p. 45 and p. 50, n. 4.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    On the Orisa, see Pierre Verger, Note sur le culte des Orisha et Vodoun à Bahia, la Baie de tous les saints au Brésil et l’ ancienne Côte des Esclaves en Afrique (Dakar, 1957); Bastide, O candomblé da Bahia (São Paulo, 1961).Google Scholar
  8. A popular description is in Donald Pierson, Negroes in Brazil: A Study of Race Contact at Bahia (Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1967) pp. 275–317. See also Bastide, African Religions. Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    On the Egúngún, see the exhaustively researched studies of Juana Elbein dos Santos and Deoscoredes dos Santos: ‘Ancestor Worship in Bahia: The Egun-Cult’, Journal de la Société des Americanistes, LVIII (1969) 79–108,Google Scholar
  10. and Juana Elbein dos Santos, Os Nagô e a morte. Pàde, Asèsè e o culto Egún na Bahia (Petrópolis, 1976). I am deeply indebted to the Dos Santos for permission to use unpublished material based on their extensive researches; they inform me that the priest of the first cult of Xango in Bahia was a slave.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Lange, Archivo de música religiosa de la ‘Capitania geral das Minas Gerais’ (siglo xviii) Brasil: hallazgo, restauración, y prólogo (Mendoza, 1951): ‘La música en Villa Rica (Minas Gerais, siglo xviii)’, Revista Musical Chilena CII–CIII (1967–8): ‘As danças coletivas públicas no período colonial brasileiro e as danças de corporações de ofícios em Minas Gerais’, Barroco 1 (1969) 15–62 and sources there quoted; see also José Ferreira Carrato, ‘O povoamento e a música religiosa em Minas Gerais no século xviii’, RHSP, xxxi: 64 (October– December, 1965) 415–26:Google Scholar
  12. Renato Almeida, ‘A música brasileira no período colonial’, Anais, Terceiro congresso de história nacional, v (Rio de Janeiro, 1941) 363–422.Google Scholar
  13. On K. Cuiabá, see ‘Notas sobre festas em Cuyabá no século passado’, Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de São Paulo, iv (1898–9) 219–42. José João Teixeira Coelho referred to mulatto musicians harshly: ‘Aquelles mulatos, que se não fazem absolutamente ociozos se empregão no exercicio de muzicos, os quaes são tantos na Capitania de Minas que certamente excedem o numero dos que ha em todo o Reyno. Mas em que interessa ao Estado esta aluvião de muzicos?’, in his ‘Instrucção para o governo da capitania de Minas Gerais, 1780’, in Revista do Archivo Público Mineiro, VIII: 1–2 (January–June 1903) 399–581, especially 561–2.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Studies of the Aleijadinho are too numerous to enumerate, but reference should be made to Germain Bazin, Aleijadinho et la sculpture baroque au Brésil (Paris, 1963) and Antonio Francisco Lisboa, o Aleijadinho published by the Directoria do Patrimonio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, no. 15 (Rio de Janeiro, 1951) and the many articles in the Revista of the same department. For complete bibliographies see Hélio Gravatá, Bibliografia sôbre Antônio Francisco Lisboa, o Aleijadinho, separata from Barroco, II (1970) 37–155 which lists some 1140 titles, and the suplemento in Barroco, III (1971) 49–54 which lists a further 36 titles; incredibly James E. Hogan was unaware of Gravatá’s study when he claimed in 1974 that his own contribution of 112 listings was the ‘first annotated bibliography of Aleijadinho produced since 1939’, ‘Antônio Francisco Lisboa, “O Aleijadinho”: An Annotated Bibliography’, Latin American Research Review, IX: 2 (Summer 1974) 83–94.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Nair Batista, ‘Pintores do Rio de Janeiro colonial (notas bibliográficas)’ Revista do Patrimonio histórico, III (1939) 103–21; for instances of black artists in New England in the eighteenth century,Google Scholar
  16. see James E. Porter’s essay, ‘Negro Craftsmen and Artists of pre-Civil War Days’, in James E. Newton and Ronald L. Lewis (eds.) The Other Slaves. Mechanics, Artisans and Craftsman (Boston, 1978) especially pp. 211–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. R. Russell-Wood 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins UniversityUSA

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