The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil

The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil

The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil

The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil

Synopsis

Of all the colonies founded by former Confederates in Latin America, the most important was established by William Norris at Americana in southeastern Brazil. For 125 years the people in Americana have held on to their language and customs, while prospering within and contributing to the larger Brazilian economy and society. The original settlers came from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina, and some of them returned home for visits from time to time. Much has been written about these people, but there has been relatively little scholarly inquiry into the historical context and the events of the migration itself, the cultural impact that these confederados exerted on their host country, and the ways in which the original settlers and their descendants fit into the larger Brazilian society. Most immigrant nationalities arriving in Brazil were quickly absorbed by the surrounding culture. Although the Confederates numbered but a few thousand and appeared earlier than most of the groups from,other nations, they maintained distinctive traits, and many of their descendants still speak English as a first language. The editors provide an excellent scholarly examination of the confederados that is unique in its approach. This volume focuses on the Norris settlement, near present-day Americana, and makes clear the ways in which the Americans influenced Brazilian culture beginning in the 1860s and continuing to the present.

Excerpt

A curious event occurs at a site a few miles outside of the town of Santa Bárbara, Brazil. As often as four times a year, people from throughout the country gather at a small chapel and cemetery situated amid the sugarcane fields, where, dressed in costumes of nineteenth-century America, they sing old Protestant revival hymns and listen to a sermon. After the worship service, the people share a traditional dinner on the grounds, which includes biscuits, gravy, and Southern fried chicken. Some of those eating do not look Brazilian. They have red hair, freckles, and blue eyes. The older ones spend the afternoon in conversation, catching up with news of family and friends. They talk, not in Portuguese, but in a quaint English dialect. The younger ones dance, play, and listen to the oft-told stories of their elders.

The periodic gatherings are reunions of the confederados, descendants of Americans from the South of the United States who, dissatisfied with the outcome of the Civil War, packed or sold their belongings and moved to Brazil in the 1860s and 1870s. Although the saga of discontented Confederates sailing to new homes across the seas has been told before, there is much concerning this event that remains obscure. Details of the story have faded with time, and some aspects are clouded by romantic attachment to the Southerners or by misperceptions concerning the emigrants' motives.

Oftentimes, American and Brazilian visitors to the Campo (field) cemetery at Santa Bárbara search for familiar names among the tombstones. Among those buried there are Carltons, Cobbs, Greens, Moores, Norrises, Owens, Smiths, Steagalls, and scores more--all common names in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Inscribed on the headstone of one of the founders of the community are the words "Soldier rest! Thy warfare o'er. Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking, Days of toil or nights of waking." "Nearby, another marker claims that an early settler "died in perfect peace."

Who were the ancestors of these people who still speak English and gather periodically near Santa Bárbara? Where did they come from? Why did they leave the United States? And what led them to settle in that particular region of Brazil?

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