Brazil Report – Slavery

Sensitivities exist about the word holocaust.  Many think that 11 million dead should guarantee Jewish people copyright. Humans, though, have a genocide tradition.  Think about this statistic.  4.9 million slaves were imported into Brazil in the 19th Century.   1.8 m arrived in Rio de Janeiro.  This is the past, and some people want to remember.

Brazilians have always believed that the country has a future, retained a conviction that something marvellous awaits its people.   While gloomy Europe thought about Socialism the Brazilians created Positivism, a philosophy based on planning and science.  It led to the creation of the modern capital Brasilia.  The Brazilians talk and smile like optimists.  Horror is compartmentalised, probably because it has to be.

Rio de Janeiro is being rebuilt. Locals can be inspired by a Museum Of Tomorrow, congratulate Donald Trump on the skyscraper that will be branded in his name and nod approvingly at the luxury gated communities being built for visiting Olympic officials.

Not as intended, perhaps, but the necessary building excavation has led to discoveries.  Valongo Street was previously neglected, crumbling buildings occupied by squatters who are mostly descendants of the original slaves.   Excavation for the new museum, though, revealed the Ceméterio dos Pretos Novos.  Not all the slaves arrived in Rio in the best of health.  Diseased and emaciated children were sold in boutiques but Ceméterio dos Pretos Novos was required for the dead.  4.9 million slaves meant that the entrepreneurs were kept really busy.  Like the Nazis that followed in Europe, the municipal authority had a problem, especially if it wanted to help relax all those harassed entrepreneurs.  Ceméterio could not be expanded, the city needed to be something other than a grave.

Fortunately, they had slaves who had survived.  There is always an ideas man, and somebody had the cute notion of using diggers to crush the bones of the dead from the previous shipload.  Not as efficient as gas but definitely a space saver.

Historians have suggested that rather than build vanity projects for the rich and powerful the Mayor should think about a museum to remember slavery.   The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has been mentioned.   The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro is not enthusiastic.  In Brazil, Black Consciousness Day is observed on November 20th.  The Mayor did not attend the last event.  He is very busy, has to wine and dine the powerful rich like Donald Trump and Sepp Blatter.  The latter, or Latter Blatter if you prefer, has decided that there will be no speeches at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony.  He hopes that the World Cup will quell social protest in Brazil, that is stop the poor from thinking too much.

The black families who live around Valongo Street think that they have title to their homes.  1.8 million slaves and a mass grave qualifies as interest free mortgage.  The properties are owned by the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church.  The Order, who did not resist slavery, objects to the claims by residents.


If you want to read more about Brazil click here.

Howard Jackson has written about Brazil in his book, Innocent Mosquitoes.