Sidelines and Sessions

2009/06/20

History Fishing 2009/06/19: Os Confederados

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 12:45 am

Every college student knows about the Civil War and, to some extent, about Reconstruction. North and South argue, South tries to leave, North pwns South, occupies South, South sets up Jim Crow when North leaves due to resentment.

The Civil War (or whatever you’d like to call it) is intensely welded to the American consciousness. History being what it is, what we know is usually missing a few pieces.

One of those pieces is Os Confederados – 4000-10000 Confederates who left the re-United States and settled in Brazil around the present-day cities of Sao Paulo and Americana rather then stay in defeated Dixie. The cotton-based economy of the South was shot, leaving experienced farmers and plantation owners destitute. Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, offered Southerners passage and cheap land if they would emigrate to Brazil. While Robert E. Lee implored Southerners not to go, an estimated 4,000-9,000 Southerners took Dom Pedro up on his offer as early as 1867

Most of these “Confederados” came out of Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina and settled around the city of Sao Paulo and the nearby town of Americana, growing cotton and other crops with the help of native laborers (slavery was legal in Brazil until 1888. The sources I found, however,  suggest that these workers were paid – more cost-effective) Many Confederados returned to the US (up to 60 percent.) Those that stayed clustered around American.

The Confederate community had some advantages in staying close-knit. They were primarily English-speaking Protestants in a Portuguese Catholic country. Due to Brazillian laws outlawing Protestant burials in public graveyards, the Confederados buried their dead together.

While the backlash of Reconstruction fed American racism, the Confederados began to mingle after a few generations – while the population of Americana is lighter as Brazillians go, “Confederados were marrying whomever they fell in love with, including Indians, blacks, Arabs, Italians and Germans.” The question of race is a little different in Brazil, and perhaps the example of the Confederado speaks to the questions of Radical Reconstruction and its role in creating a Jim Crow, anti-miscegenation backlash.

Today, Confederados are a distinct current of Brazil’s population. Americana has the highest rates of education and  income  in Brazil (arguably due to the emigre’s focus on it) and retains some ties to their Confederate cousins -the Sons of Confederate Veterans have a Brazillian camp and a re-enactment hosting program for Confederate-Brazillian teens to go to Georgia, while the city of Americana has ante-bellum dress and quarterly picnics organized by the Associação Descendência Americana.

In short, the Confederados today maintain their distinctly American past while throughly participating in Brazil’s present, providing little known stories about that most American of pursuits – moving to a new land and making good.

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