Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Racial Repercussions

Rio de Janeiro favela
This idea of slavery based on race materialized in Brazil in the 1500s and would meet its demise in 1888 under the Golden Law However, while it was in place it instilled a long lasting class system based on race. This caste system has created racial tension in Brazil that is still present today. One example of this underlying racial tension is the story of Bus 174. 
This is the story of Sandro Rosa do Nascimento, a young man who born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. At a young age he witnessed the murder of his mother and then became a vagabond on the streets. During this time he witnessed the murder of his friends, street children like himself, by police at the Candelaria church massacre. Sandro's life only went down from there. Failed by the Brazilian system he hijacked Bus 174 on June 12, 2000.
Sandro is proof of the social and economic issues that still plague Brazil today. The majority of these problems stem from racial issues dating back to the introduction of slavery in Brazil. 

Links to Bus 174 documentary parts on YouTube.com below:

Jesuit Expulsion and Legacy

Jesuit protection of slaves and natives was unfortunately short lived, only lasting only a little over 200 years, before their expulsion by the Marquês de Pombal.  Marquês de Pombal was the head authority within the Portuguese-Brazil empire, in the name of José I, from 1750-1777.[1] Up until this point the Catholic Church and its monastic branches had not truly felt the power the crown held over them, until his rise to power. The Marquês held a special hostility towards the church, particularly the Jesuits, and quickly turned his sights on ending their power in the Portuguese colonies. He condemned them for acts of smuggling, as well as being foreign spies and causing the unrest that was currently plaguing Portugal.  Finally, he accused the Jesuits of attempting an attack on José I life, and by 1759 he had a royal decree removing them from all of Portugal’s lands. This held a heavy price for the Jesuits as their lands, schools, slaves, and all other property was confiscated by the crown.  In the end the Marquês de Pombal succeeded in removing not only Jesuits from the Brazilian lands but also amassing wealth from other monastic orders in the Portuguese territory as well[2].
A painting of the Marquês de Pombal, 
depicting his expulsion of the Jesuits from the Portuguese territories.
The Jesuit expulsion from the Portuguese colonies left lasting effects on the lives of the Africans and Indians enslaved and living in Brazil. Up until their expulsion they had been running some of the finest schools within Brazil, and education of not only blacks and Indians suffered after their departure. Along with that, Indian villages were now left without protection and organization. The Marquês de Pombal  was then able to step in amplifying the governments control over their education and care[3].  The number of aldeias shrank under Pombal’s orders and exploitation of the Indian’s continued.  The lives of African slaves were not improved with the expulsion of the Jesuits either; instead they were forced under the monarchy’s control and to colonialist owners[4].  The Jesuits played an important role in the lives of Brazilian colonist, and their removal from the area had detrimental effects on those who depended on their protection and guidance.

African Slavery

The plantation owners were not fans of the Jesuits and criticized them for their interference and obstruction of their labor supply, yet in the end it did not matter[1]. The Indian’s, not understanding the capitalist lifestyle, refused to comply with the work the Portuguese demanded of them causing the colonialist to turn towards another source of labor, slavery. At first the use of African slaves was quite minimal within the Portuguese of Brazil. However, colonials quickly found that the indigenous labor, which their sugar economy was founded on, held high death rates and frequently abandoned plantations[2]. This made Africans the ultimate choice for slave labor, “establishing one of the most enduring slave systems in the history of the world.[3]

African slave life in colonial Brazil.

            Many Jesuit monasteries in the new world from the beginning had been using African and native slave labor to run and make profit off their large land holdings within the new world. To legitimize this offense they followed the lead of the Catholic Church and monarchy, claiming it legitimate because the slaves were gathered in a “just war.” The acts of Jesuit monastic members varied from region to region, but it is easy to see why theological and political debate varied so widely on the subject of slaves[1]. There was no easy answer on what was right or wrong, but the overall actions of Jesuit members still had a deep impact on the lives of the African and native slaves. 
The Jesuits also affected slavery with some of the institutions they erected in the Portuguese model, one such institution was the confraternity. The confraternities were founded by Jesuits for the elite as well as for African slaves. Through these confraternities the Jesuits were able to ensure that the newly baptized blacks would attend mass and join in religious training. However, for the African slaves the confraternities held a more vital role by easing them into life as a slave. At these meetings blacks were able to find other Africans who spoke their language, or understood their cultural traditions, helping the frighten transition. Along with that slaves were able to incorporate their old traditions into the religious festivals and processions held by the confraternities. The establishment of African confraternities by the Jesuits is seen as one of the main sources of Afro-Brazilian Catholicism and shows that the Jesuit influence had lasting effects on the Slave population of Brazil[2].

Father António Vieira

Father António Vieira
One Jesuit that was particularly dedicated to the protection of the Brazilian natives was Father António Vieira. After his ordination in 1653, he took up the charge of defending Indian’s against the Portuguese settlers. He often preached to the colonialist about their abuses, and one sermon in particular enraged them, in this speech Father Vieira stated,
“All of you are in mortal sin; all of you live in a state of condemnation [for living off the blood of enslaved Indians] and all of you are going directly to Hell. Indeed, many are there now and you will soon join them if you do not change your life.[1]
Because of this quote, and many like it, Father Vieira was run out of Brazil by the colonials and back to Portugal when he continued his work for the natives at the royal court. Eventually he was able to return Brazil where he spent the rest of his life fighting for the protection of the Indians[2]. Father Vieira is an example of the lengths in which the Jesuit missionaries went to in their fight for the humane treatment of the native Brazilians during their time in colonial Brazil.

The Catholic Church, who had questioned the enslavement of native Indians, accepted the enslavement of Africans as long as they were Christianized. Jesuits, such as António Vieira, would eventually speak out against the brutality that the black slaves faced at the hands of their masters[4]. As he did when faced with Indian enslavement Father Vieria spoke out against the practice, asking in one sermon,
“Can there be a greater want of understanding, or greater error in judgment between men and men than for me to think that I must be your master because I was born farther away from the sun, and you must be my slave because you were born nearer to it?[5]
Along with Father Vieira, Portuguese André João Antonil and Jorge Benci also wrote pleas the monarchy to enforce better treatment of the African slave. The crown, as always, answered with edicts, but their enforcement was short lived. Slavery was the route of the colonial economic system and António Vieira, André João Antonil, and Jorge Benci’s protest against the brutality slaves gave the Jesuits a voice against the inhumane acts taking place[6].

The Influence of the Monarchy

The Portuguese monarchy overall agreed with the thoughts of the Jesuits and their interference in the enslavement of Indian Natives. Through a papal grant it was made clear that the Indians were now subjects of the monarchy and “that the monarchy must Christianize, civilize, and protect the Indians[1].” The Jesuits became the most active missionary order in executing the commands of the crown. They continuously protected the Brazilian natives as well as kept a check on the crown and their actions, going as far as the directly address the king if issues came up. They were always reporting the exploitation and enslavement of his native subjects to his majesty[2]

King Phillip III
The Jesuits were lucky, as the monarchs tended to side with them on many of their cases, and their actions led to several rulings passed by the kings in their favor. Only 11 years after the discovery of Brazil, King Manuel I, declared that no one was to hurt his native subjects under the threat of receiving the same punishment as if they had hurt a European. Along with that King João III demanded “tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness toward the Indians,[3]” as he wanted affairs with them to be diplomatic so they could be Christianized more easily. However under his dictation a ruling in favor of the planters was created allowing for the capturing of any Indians that fought against the Portuguese colonist. King Sebastião in 1570 continued this theme, in which he banned the enslavement of natives except those taken in a “just war”[4]. This verdict was confirmed by King Phillip III during his reign twice over where he stated that “all Indians, weather Christian or heathen, were by nature free, and could not be forced to work,” but succeeded to the planters that the Indians could still be captured as prisoners of war[5]. These declarations by the Portuguese Kings caused theological and legal questions over the slavery of native Indian and weather there was such a thing as enslaving them in a “just war.[6]

Aldeias System

Jesuits teaching in a Brazilian aldeias.
It was quickly realized in the new colonial Brazil that the native Indians were the only source of workers readily available for European control. While Jesuit actions through the aldeias system aided the Indian enslavement, members of this group were quick to stand up against the practice[1]. A heated battle quickly began against the planter class, who through the use of three different techniques tried to bring the natives under their control, they were: “first as slaves, second as a type of indigenousness “peasantry” through the detribalization and acculturation in the aldeias, and third as wage earners slowly integrated into the capitalist system.[2]” Jesuit missionaries, along with other Church members swiftly voiced their opinion on this practice, sighting it as, “contrary to Christian intentions of the king.[3]” To counteract the planter’s actions they began using the aldeias system to gather and protect the Indians both physically and spiritually.

Church in the New World

With the expansion of Portuguese control in the new world, so did the expansion of the Catholic Church. Salvador quickly became the religious capital of Brazil throughout the colonial period, and there was set up a European style Church hierarchy. This new Church system quickly expanded its dominance and power in the new world clashing with the burgeoning colonial. The most proactive missionary branch within Brazil quickly became the Jesuits, until their expulsion 1759. During their time in Brazil the Jesuits became fearless fighters against the enslavement and abuse of the native Indians, as well as the newly arrived African slaves.

Pedro Alvares Cabral, after his discovery of Brazil in 1500, with native Indians.

Looking into the religious history of Brazil it is quickly found that the most defining religious institution of the colonial period was the Jesuit order. Although they were not the only representatives of the Christian clergy, their hands were far reaching, having more impact than others[1]. The Jesuits were drawn to the Portuguese territory because of the large number of native populations harbored there[2]. This native population soon became one if the first major challenges they faced within Brazil, the Indians conversion to Christianity.

Jesuits preaching to native Indians in 1600s.

They took on this challenge by gathering the natives into villages, or aldeias, where they could be easily watched and taught. Through the aldeias system the natives were taught, cared for, and Christianized by the Jesuit priests. However it is also believed that these native villages later allowed for their exploitation. This is because under the Jesuit control the Indians were made to act and worship like Europeans, even contributing to their economy through their laborious work. Consequently the Indians participating in this system were brought under the control of the Portuguese empire by the Jesuit missionaries[3].